Monday, August 2, 2010

Taking a Luxury Car Racing

This post is straight-up due to Motoring Con Brio and the post about "A Smattering of Racy Mercs." I was particularly fascinated by picture of the C107 500 SLC shown below.

I like the fact that someone took a car like the 500 SLC and managed to take it racing and be quite competitive at that. Little did I know until watching this mini documentary below and doing some research that the SLC has a bit of racing pedigree in it. Keep in mind, the SLC was designed to waft executives and rich housewives around Beverly Hills or the Alpine Pass with grace and ease - not glide sideways across a rain-soaked rally stage.

Ironically, the same man behind the Red Pig that shocked the world at the 1971 24 Hours of Spa was behind the racing C107 - Erich Waxenberger. Waxenberger was a Mercedes-Benz engineer who thought up the original 300SEL 6.3 and then cooked up the recipe for the 500 SLC as a rally entry though having to take it out as a privateer car prior to Benz officially signing off on a program for it.

Waxenberger took the idea that the now obvious(and perhaps somewhat moot looking at their current state) Mercedes reliability could return dividends in long, reliability-driven racing. As a result, power was bumped up over the standard model, though most of the car was kept close to road-going spec, and the SLC began winning races. As early as 1977 the SLC was entered by Waxenberger with a quick win in the London to Sydney Rally in 280E guise, the 500 SLC was introduced by 1979 and competing in rallying across the world. The interesting fact was that the 5.0L V8's were homologation specials built by Mercedes in just enough quantities to satisfy homologation requirements. It is rumored that less than 100 of these SLC's exist for road-going consumption though nobody quite knows how many were made.

While this the SLC represents merely a blimp on the radar that is Mercedes motorsport involvement, it is great to see a big, illogical car competing in and actually winning in major events like the Paris-Dakkar rally. This car literally makes no sense for such application yet here it is - winning races. Perhaps the successes of the SLC were the inspiration behind the original design for the 190E's racing application?

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