The Terrific Benz RH Tropfen-Wagen

Enthusiasts know Edmund Rumpler as one of the unsung heroes of automotive history. His pioneering experiments with aerodynamic efficiency and independent suspension by way of a swing axle were years ahead of their time. Among those who were quick to recognise their merits, however, was the management of Benz. It abandoned its initial thoughts of taking out a licence to sell Rumpler Tropfen Autos, but it persisted in developing a racing car incorporating similar principles.

The Terrific Benz RH Tropfen-Wagen

The Benz RH Tropfen-Wagen was a magnificent creation, shaped like a one-man rocket from a Flash Gordon comic. With the driver fully encased within the bodywork and the experimental dohc straight-six located right behind him, it was like nothing else ever witnessed in Grand Prix racing. Its tapering tail was covered in pronounced louvres, but its most striking feature was the thick arc of radiator core, which protruded through the bodywork, with a shining streamlined header tank mounted atop it.

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The first three prototypes made their début at the 1923 Monza Grand Prix, where they outpaced all the unsupercharged cars. An attempt to turn the RH into a road-going sports car in 1924 resulted in an outrageous creation with great, aquiline wings, but not one of the four RHs made has been seen or heard of since the 1930s.

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Karl Ludvigsen introduces ‘the most radical racing car the world had yet known’ in the February issue of The Automobile, on sale now. Find out more 

Words by Zack Stiling for
Photographs from the Karl Ludvigsen archive


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