Mercedes Rally 500SLs A Very Rare Breed

Mercedes is recognized as a force to be reckoned with in most fields of motorsport. Its F1, DTM, Group C and other cars all made their marks in the circuit, bringing home race victories and innumerable trophies to date. But few know that Mercedes also campaigned in rallies for a time.


Mercedes had previously campaigned SLCs from 1978 to 1980. For 1981, the factory decided that it would run the W107 500SL. Not a lot of build data is known, but it's been reported that the hardtop was welded onto the body, which also used alloy panels. No carbon fiber yet at that time. As part of the standard prep for a competition car, the interior was stripped, a rollcage installed and racing seats (Recaros) replaced the leather ones. The race prep resulted in a car that weighed 2930 pounds, which was more than 400 pounds lighter than the SLCs of previous years.


The 5-liter V8 was prepped to produce 380 horsepower, and although some accounts report that a manual transmission was used, other people claim that the 4-speed automatics of the time were used, with 1st gear locked out and setup to change gears in manual mode only. Effectively, it was a clutchless 3-speed manual. Horsepower calculations reveal a power-to-weight ratio equivalent to a Porsche 996 GT3 for these factory rally cars.


It's said that these cars represent the last of the true in-house racing cars, where everything from design, to engineering and then production was done by factory engineers and technicians within factory facilities. Less than 5 were made and one is confirmed to have been wrecked in testing.  It's too bad that this batch of cars don't even have competition records to their name as they were pulled out of the Monte Carlo rally after the recce, when the team manager was told that the cars had no chance of winning.

Source for this post here.
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