D ie Silberpfeile (the Silver Arrows) - the overwhelmingly powerful and astonishingly fast Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union Grand Prix racers of three-quarters of a century ago - shared a paddock once again this past summer at England's Goodwood Festival of Speed.
But rather than renew their on-track rivalry, the six Auto Unions were content to just bark old insults through their open exhaust stubs while the eight Mercs once again snarled supercharged challenges.
Back in the day, though - from 1934-39 - these silver racers howled around the narrow, tree-lined tracks of the era in epic wheel-to-wheel battles conducted at speeds reaching 200 mph (320 km/h) in the hands of drivers for whom the description "Titans" doesn't begin to do justice.
Viewing grainy, black-and-white historic clips of drivers - such as Auto Union's Hans Stuck, Bernd Rosemeyer and Italian Achille Varzi, and Mercedes-Benz team greats such as Rudolf Caracciola, Herman Lang and Britain's Richard Seaman - reveals them to be true motor racing maestros.
And very brave and hardy men indeed, running at modern Formula One straight-line speeds and cornering in four-wheel drifts, or a series of tail-out swoops, as they fought to get up to 600 hp to the pavement through tires about a hands-breadth wide - for a minimum of 500 km.
When the Silver Arrows appeared in 1934 in response to a new Grand Prix Formula calling for a maximum weight of 750 kg and with no displacement restrictions, they changed the face of top-level racing.
The new formula was created in part to reel in increasingly high speeds, but nobody had anticipated engines as powerful as those developed by newly formed Auto Union (now Audi) and veteran Mercedes-Benz could be fitted to cars that weighed so little.
Or that state sponsorship, in the form of an annual grant from Hitler's propaganda-hungry government, would help them develop this new breed of mechanically and materially advanced, lightweight, aerodynamic, ultrapowerful and wildly costly cars.
With the arrival of the Silver Arrows, top-flight racing, as is the case today with Formula One, also suddenly became extravagantly expensive. Figures show Auto Union spent 1.25 million Reichsmarks (2.5 RM bought about one U.S. dollar at the time) in its first season, which escalated to 2.5 million RM in 1935, or the equivalent of $40-something-million today. Budgets for top F1 teams in recent years topped $400-million.
In 1935, a racer cost 50,000 RM to build and a year later 70,000 RM and the race shop employed 60. Auto Union spent a total of 13.2 million Reichsmarks in those six seasons, and received 2.7 million Reichsmarks in grant money. Mercedes-Benz apparently burned through considerably more.
The original and radical mid-engined Auto Union was designed by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche along with its 4.4-litre, supercharged V-16, which produced 295 hp at 4,500 rpm. It had a five-speed gearbox, independent suspension, drum brakes and tall, narrow, treaded tires.
A year later, power was up to 375 hp and, by 1937, it was 520 hp from 6.0 litres. Fumes from the exotic fuels used were said to cause headaches among the pit-lane punters.
Mercedes-Benz's response was a more conventional front-engined design, also independently sprung and powered by a supercharged 3.4-litre straight-eight that by the end of 1934 was screaming out 390 hp at almost 6,000 rpm. Displacement and power quickly rose to 5.6 litres in 1937 and a staggering output of 640 hp - the most horsepower a racing car would boast until the Can-Am series arrived in the 1960s.
The aluminum bodies of the cars (from both factories) were left unpainted, leading to the "Silver Arrows" name they shared. Although a better story has it that, during scrutineering for the first event, the Mercedes was found to be slightly heavy and its traditional German racing colour white paint had to be stripped to meet the required number.
It must have been obvious to the opposition early on that these cars would dominate, although they didn't exactly get off to a brilliant start.
Both teams were set to debut their stuff at the fast Avus Ring outside Berlin in 1934, in an event attended by 200,000 spectators, but the Mercs were withdrawn with carburetion problems and only one of the three Auto Unions that started finished, in third place behind a pair of Alfa-Romeos.
Two weeks later, at the Nurburgring, it was a different story with a Mercedes-Benz driven by Manfred von Brauchitsch leading an Auto Union piloted by Hans Stuck across the line. After that, it was an unfolding story of increasing dominance and internecine rivalry, with stumbles here and there due to crashes and reliability issues provoked by valiant efforts from those driving Alfa-Romeos, Maseratis and Bugattis.
The biggest upset was the result of a display of driving brilliance and heroism by a diminutive but fiery Italian Tazio Nuvolari.
Both Silver Arrows teams were planning on taking home the cup in the 1935 German Grand Prix, attended by 300,000 fans and Nazi party heavyweights headed by Hitler himself. But Nuvolari, "The Flying Mantuan," dressed as always in yellow shirt, leather jerkin and blue pants, had other ideas, despite his Alfa-Romeo being down perhaps 100 hp.
By lap 10, he'd taken the lead, lost it after a pit stop and then, in a drive that ranks as one of the finest in the sport's history, fought his way back to second behind the Mercedes of von Brauchitsch. He then harried him so doggedly over the race's final laps that one of the German driver's overworked tires failed on the final lap, giving Nuvolari the win.
That was greeted with "deathly silence" from the huge German crowd, according to a contemporary British report, "until their innate sportsmanship triumphed over their astonishment" and they applauded a great win.
But from then until the start of the Second World War, the Silver Arrows had it pretty much all their own way, and in 1937 it was Silver Arrows uber alles with Mercedes' taking seven and Auto Union five of the 12 major races that year.
The Silver Arrows name resurfaced again in 1952 when Mercedes went racing with its 300 SL and again in 1956 when it fielded the W196 Grand Prix car. It was last resurrected in connection with the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-12 Formula 1 car of 1997.