The striking image that appears on the featured 1939 stamp is of two sports cars of the era battling it out on the track. It is one of three stamps that were issued in February 1939 for the Berlin Automobile and Motorcycle Exhibition, also known as the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung (IAA). The event became a target for Nazi propaganda prior to World War II and the 1939 event would be the last to be hosted in Berlin. However, the stamp issue commemorates a number of notable motoring achievements.
The first IAA was held in the German capital of Berlin on 30 September 1897. At this first event, just eight motor vehicles were on display from Benz Velo, Lutzmann, Diamler and Kühlstein; the latter a manufacturer of electric cars between 1898 to 1902. The 23rd IAA in 1939 was inaugurated by the new German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, who used the event to announce major road construction and state-funded motorsport. The event became a showcase for German engineering and was attended by more than 825,00 visitors. However, this would be the last IAA event to take place in Berlin as a result of World War II, although it would eventually reappear in Frankfurt in 1951.
The featured image is of two racing cars models of 1938 dubbed the Silver arrows – a nickname given to Germany’s dominant Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union Grand Prix teams between 1934 and 1939. These two German teams dominated Grand Prix racing until the outbreak of World War II. The Auto Union Type D won the Italian Grand Prix in 1938 and the French Grand Prix in 1939. The Mercedes Benz W154 won Grand Prix in France, Germany and Switzerland in 1938 as well as Belgium, Germany and Switzerland in 1939. The Silver Arrows nickname remains to this day in reference to the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team.
The 12pf + 8pf stamp was accompanied by two other stamps, one denominated 6pf + 4pf featuring an image of Benz and Daimler motorcars of 1886 and another denominated 25pf + 10pf featuring an image of a vehicle introduced as the KdF-Wagen, later to become more popularly known as the Beetle.
Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz are widely recognised as pioneers of automobile manufacture. Interestingly, Daimler and Benz never met personally but simultaneously developed the world’s first automobiles in Stuttgart and Mannheim respectively in 1886. It took several years before the automobile was commercially popularised and not until 1926 before predecessor companies were merged to form Daimler-Benz AG.
The KdF-Wagen was designed by Ferdinand Porsche following an order from Hitler to develop a people’s car or Volkswagen, insisting that it should transport two adults and three children at 100 km/h and would be available to German citizens through a purposely arranged savings scheme. Ironically, early production was limited due to World War II and only a handful of KdF-Wagen were produced primarily for the Nazi elite. Today, the Beetle as it would come to be known, is acknowledged as the longest-running and most-manufactured car ever made.
To view postal issues of Germany, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.