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Mercedes-Benz 450SLC – World Rally Championships History

Source: WRC.com

Starting in 1973, the World Rally Championship (WRC) is considered the world’s most challenging motorsport in the world.   It pits drivers and production based cars against some of the toughest and most varied conditions on the planet.

In 2016, the roads on this epic motorsport adventure are spread across more than 15 countries, with 14 rallies on everything from snow packed forest tracks to rock-strewn mountain passes.”

How a Rally works

Each rally features a number (typically between 15 and 25) of timed sections – known as stages – run on closed roads.

Drivers battle one at a time to complete these stages as quickly as possible, with timing down to 1/10th second. Along the way, a co-driver reads detailed pace notes that explain what is coming up ahead. Competitors drive to and from each stage on public roads, observing normal traffic regulations.

Most rallies follow the same basic itinerary. This starts with two days of ‘reconnaissance’ where driver and co-driver practise the route, at limited speed, to make pace notes. It is followed by ‘shakedown’ – a full speed test of their rally car – with the competition proper running for three days from Friday to Sunday.

Because rallies go on for several days, competitors visit a ‘service park’ at pre-determined points to allow technicians to perform mechanical work on each car. Service time is strictly limited, with each stop being either 10, 30 or 45 minutes. At the end of each day’s competition, cars are held in a secure parc ferme.

Away from the service park, only the driver and co-driver can work on their car, using only tools and spare parts carried on board.”

1980 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC Rally Type Car
This is the Go-Mercedes restoration of the exact model 450SLC 5.0, 1979-1980 that was run in the following rallies.

1978 Rally of South America

1978 - WRC - World Rally Championship Route - South America

The SLC has a fascinating history on the international rally circuit.  One particularly epic rally was held for five grueling weeks In 1978 across the entire continent of South America.  The race featured four SLCs and four 280Es for an incredible 17,875 mile of 28,600 km.  The winners were Andrew Cowan and Colin Malkin who won the event with a 450SLC.  Another SLC finished in second place driven by Sobieslaw Zazada and Andrzej Zemrzuki.  Fourth place went to Timo Makinen and Jean Todt .

Andrew Cowan when asked what he thought of the 450SLC in competition, he said: “It’s very comfortable and most enjoyable!  I think the Mercedes has a major disadvantage because of its weight, but it’s very, very strong – it’s unbelievable how you can go over rough roads.”

Andrew Cowan making his way through a water splash, with another Mercedes 450SLC bringing up the rear
Andrew Cowan in his 450SLC working his way through a deep water splash, with yet another 450SLC Mercedes coming right behind him in the South American rally.

Zazada tackling the unbelievable conditions encountered on the Rally of South America in 1978
The Mercedes-Benz 450SLC sawing its way through incredibly rough terrain.  Drivers raced  across the entire continent of South America for five grueling weeks.  This car was driven by Sobieslaw Zazada and Andrzej Zemrzuki finishing the 17,875 mile in second place.

1979 Bandama Rally

Four Mercedes-Benz 450SLC 5.0 models started the race. The cars were:

Car #3: Driven by Vic Preston & Mike Doughty
Car #4: Bjorn Waldegaard & Hans Thorszelius
Car #6: Hannu Mikkola & Arne Herz
Car #10: Andrew Cowan & Klaus Kaiser

Team Mercedes Benz at Bandama Rally Race of 1979Team Mercedes-Benz on a brief maintenance stop at the Bandama Rally.  Note the cars coated from head to toe with dust from the Ivory Coast.

Mercedes-Benz Bandama Rally Photo Ivory Coast Night Time Service Stop
Nighttime service stop for one of the Mercedes in the Bandama Rally

 

Bandama Rally Race - 1979 - Ivory Coast Mercedes-Benz 45SL
Mikkola taking a fast moment to stretch during a service stop during the 1979 Bandama Rally.  The car on the left is a Mercedes-Benz W123 that was acting as a service tender.

The Mercedes-Benz team absolutely led the race from the very beginning to the end with all four cars in winning positions.  Hannu Mikkola & Arne Herz finished in first place.  Bjorn Waldegaard & Hans Thors azelius finished in second place.  Andrew Cowan & Klaus Kaiser finished in third place.  Vic Preston & Mike Doughty finished in fourth place.  Still a good two hours ahead of the next car which was a Toyota.

Mercedes-Benz-Bandama-Rally-Winners
The Mercedes-Benz team celebrate across the board wins from First to Fourth place in the Bandama Ivory Coast Rally of 1979.

The Mercedes-Benz 450SLC 5.0 was the first 8-cylinder car to win a World Rally Championship event, and also the very first to win with an automatic transmission.  Waldegaard’s second place win was enough to also give him the World Drivers’ Championship.

Mercedes Benz 450SL Team Celebrating Victory
Hannu Mikkola(right) & Arne Herz celebrating their victory

 

1979 Safari Rally – Africa

The Mercedes-Benz 450SLC 5.0 was homologated just in time for the African Safari Rally in 1979.    Just what does homologation mean? For motor racing sports,  it is the approval process that a vehicle is required to go through in order to be certified to run in a series.  In this case, the regulations and rules that must be met were set by the World Rally Championship sanctioning body.

The cars were outfitted with aluminum panels and also lighter gauge steel where it was safe to do so. There were three 5.-litre SLCs entered in the race.

Car #6 – Vic Preston Jr & John Lyall
Car #10 – Bjorn Waldegaard & Hans Thorszelius
Car #14 – Hannu Mikkola & Arne Hertz

They were supported by a large stockpile of spare parts, and even two spare cars a S-D1906 and a S-DP 1907.

Hannu Mikkoda - 1979 Safari Rally - World Rally Championships
Hannu Mikkola hammering it down to win second place in the 1979 African Safari Rally

African Safari Rally 1979 - Mercedes-Benz 450SLC
Bjorn Waldegaard making sure the servicing of his car is going well during the African Safari Rally of 1979.

Mikkola and Waldegaard were both in the lead at various stages of the 3144 mile event.  At the end of the rally in Nairobi, Mikkola finished in second, with Waldegaard coming in sixth, and Andrew Cowan in a 280E coming in fourth.

Mikkola Hannu
Car #14 – Hannu Mikkola – Mercedes-Benz 450SLC
Finished 2nd Place

Andrew Cowan
Car #16 – Andrew Cowan – Mercedes-Benz 280E
Finished 2nd Place

waldegaard-1
Car #10 – Bjorn Waldegaard – Mercedes-Benz 450SLC
Finished 6th Place

Mercedes-Benz Rare Rally Model Car 450 SLC 5.0 -1979-1980

img_2398 img_2406

Here is another member of the GoMercedes.com restoration lineup. This is a rare Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC – R107, 1980, one of only 300 ever brought into the United States with European bumpers and specs.  It is an official gray market car . At the time the  Mercedes-Benz SLC was one of the most expensive cars that had built.   To own one at the time really meant that you absolutely had made it in the world.

The 1979 models were introduced to the public in September of 1978.  The 450SLC was priced at $36,738.00.  For 1978 $100.00 = $366.23 in 2016.  That would mean the car’s sold in 1978 for an equivalent of $138,207 in today’s dollars.

It features pillarless windows which means no obstruction when the windows are down providing great visibility and air flow. (There are no upright structural supports to block the view.)   It also has louvre windows in the back. The trunk and hood are aluminum to reduce weight on the car. The subtle creases in the hood are beautifully molded which at the time was very difficult to make.

This particular car is the same type of 450SLC that was raced in the spectacular World Rally Championships.  Very few of the 450 SLC – R107 were made.  They were made specifically so that Mercedes-Benz could enter the model in the WRC.

The R107 itself though has the distinction of being the longest production run in the entire Mercedes-Benz history.   The R107 models were also the last series designed by the original team of engineers who had pioneered and nutured the modern Mercedes engineering and performance.

Mercedes-Benz Advertisement 450SLC

Mercedes-Benz 1979 450SLC Advertising
Mercedes-Benz 450SLC 5.0 1979-1980 Advertising Brochure

450 SLC Ad2
Mercedes-Benz 450SLC 5.0 1979-1980 Advertising Brochure

Video of World Rally Championships  (Note: The Safari Rally in Africa — Mercedes-Benz 450SLC portion begins at 3:04)

Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach

Gottlieb Daimler

Gottlieb Daimler

Gottlieb Daimler was a German engineer fascinated with creating engines to move vehicles of all types.

In 1882, he and his lifelong business partner Wilhelm Maybach worked together in a converted green house on Daimler’s property.   The workshop was an incubator for their ideas and dreams of creating  a movable universal drive system for vehicles on land, on water and in the air.

Wilhelm Maybach
Wilhelm Maybach
They toiled in secrecy and worked day and night on designing and building engines.   The neighbors became suspicious that the two might even be counterfeiting coins as they would  hear all sorts of odd noises in the evening.  They contacted the local police who paid a surprise nocturnal visit.  But the two officers didn’t find money making machines, but instead found the garden house to be full of tools, and parts and prototype engines.

Gottlieb Daimler's Greenhouse
Gottlieb Daimler’s Greenhouse

Daimler and Maybach were left to continue their inventions and project undisturbed.  In 1883 they started work on developing the world’s first high-speed four-stroke engine.  They also designed a horizontal cylinder layout compressed charge liquid petroleum engine that met Daimler’s desire for a high speed engine which could be throttled.  This made it useful for transportation applications. This engine was called “Daimler’s Dream”.
In 1885 they  created their famous “Grandfather clock engine” which was smaller and lighter.

Patent for World's First Motorcycle - Gottlieb Daimler
Gottlieb Daimler’s Patent Drawing for First Motorcyle 1885

The world’s first motorcycle, was Gottlieb Daimler’s four-stroke, single-cylinder engine, which he registered for patent on 3 April 1885. This was a milestone in the history of technology, since the unit was small and powerful compared with other combustion engines of the day for stationary operation.

Daimler’s priority, on the other hand, was the engine’s mobile application.

Two months later they were able to fit the engine into a four wheeled converted carriage.  Daimler applied for a patent for his riding car with “gas or petroleum engine,” as it was described in the patent specification, on 29 August 1885 (German Patent No. DRP 36423 was awarded on 11 August 1886).

grandfather-engine-daimler
Daimler and Maybach’s single cylinder engine the “Grandfather Clock”

The one cylinder engine developed by Daimler and Maybach was fitted into a variety of vehicles including:

1.  Two-wheeled riding car (1885)
2.  Motor boat called Marie (1887)
3. Four seat railway trolley (1887)
4. Waggonet (1887)
5. Wölfert’s motorised airship (1888).

Daimler Universal Engines
From the beginning, Gottlieb Daimler wanted his engines to be as universal as possible.

Gottlieb and Son in first motorized carriage - 1886
Gottlieb Dimeler (passenger) and his son Adolf on the motor carriage 1886.

In August 1890, Daimler shipped the first Wilhelm Maybach-designed four-cylinder engine to New York.

The First Operational Vehicle in the USA
Wilhelm Maybach, had been friends with piano manufacturer William Steinway since 1876.  Steinway had immigrated to America, but returned briefly to Germany inn 1888.  Maybach introduced Steinway to Daimler that year.

William Steinway
William Steinway

Steinway went on to commission the first vehicle engine in the US.   On September 29,  1888, piano manufacturer William Steinway was the first to represent Daimler’s interests in the US.  He established the Daimler Motor Company on Long Island, New York.

Daimler Office in New York Historical Drawing
The Daimler Company in New York

Daimler Motor Classic Ad
Daimler’s Motor Carriage Advertisement

Gottlieb Daimler's exhibitor passes for the 1893 World Expo in Chicago, USA.;
Gottlieb Daimler’s Exhibitor Pass for the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893

Promoting the Automobile
Gottlieb showed his first version of an American automobile at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893.  At the time Gottlieb was also on his honeymoon with his second wife.

Trivia fact:  Oddly enough Daimler who spent his entire career working on engines didn’t care for driving and was rumored to never have drove an automobile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mercedes-Benz W116SEL – 6.9 Class – a Performance Classic

1978 6.9 Mercedes W116 450 S

We here at GoMercedes.com welcome our newest car that will be given a thorough restoration by the team. It is a top luxury sedan with an ultra high performance engine.  It is a 1978 Mercedes-Benz limited-production 450 SEL 6.9.

This classic  provides a smooth ride with a self-leveling hydropneumatic suspension.  It is designed for long distance cruising in comfort with more than enough room for a chauffeur, and roomy backseat leg space.  It also has extraordinary performance output.  It can accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 7.4 seconds.

450-mercedes-selMagazine Advertisement for the 1978 450 SEL

 

 

The 6.9 M-100 engine is the largest most powerful V8 the company offered at the time and is factory rated at 140 mph.  The 6,814-cc V8 engines were hand built and  each bench tested  for 265 minutes, 40 of which under full load.  The engine generates an enormous output of 286 hp (210 kW) at 4250/min and a maximum torque of 56 mkg at 3000/min, providing the car with top-notch sports-car performance.

This fine example of German engineering was meant for the most discriminating of customers in the luxury market. There were only 7,380 of these cars ever built.  It’s formidable engine and luxurious options made it a favorite for tycoons, industrialists, politicans, and celebrities.  In 1978 the it’s last year of production in 1979 it sold for 81,247 DM or $45,703.33 US dollars.  In today’s dollars that equals $167,378.12.

At this particular level of wealth, often a subtle approach is the preferred means of travel.  The car could be ordered with option 261, which meant omitting the displacement figure on the trunk lid. This is exactly the case with this GoMercedes.com car as the 6.9 designation is not on the back. Those not in the know would never be able to detect the power the formidable engine that sits under the hood.

The W116 automobiles were the first Mercedes-Benz models to be officially called S-Class, although earlier sedan models had already unofficially been designated with the letter ‘S’ – for Sonderklasse or “special class.” The 450 SEL 6.9 W-116 was built on it’s very own dedicated assembly line by Daimler-Benz in Stuttgard, Germany.
The 6.9 also was the first car to debut the anti-lock braking system (ABS) – a safety system  that we take for granted today.

Press review of the Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9Automobil Revue, Switzerland, May 15, 1975:

“It is highly gratifying to see that at a time like this, a car appears that offers the highest levels of motoring enjoyment to the connoisseur – at all speeds. The 6.9 bears witness not only to the confidence those responsible have in the future but also to their courage to stand up for their beliefs.”

Car, England, June 1975:
“A car of such speed and weight must have demonstrably good roadholding and handling, and this one is no disappointment in anything from a hairpin to a three-figure bend: the suspension soaks up the bumps, the transmission is wonderfully smooth and admirably easy to control (either by a sensitive accelerator foot or a hasty hand at the lever), and the steering is servo-assisted in a way that highlights the nearly neutral responses of the vehicle.

Auto, Motor Und Sport, Germany, no. 21/1975:
“In measurements carried out by auto motor und sport on this, the most powerful German sedan, we recorded acceleration from standstill to 100 km/h in 8.2 seconds and 28.8 seconds for one kilometer from a standing start. We also registered a top speed of 234 km/h. While these figures are highly remarkable in themselves, the way in which they are reached in the perfect interplay of engine and automatic transmission is even more astounding. Notwithstanding the car’s weight, the overwhelming power of its quiet and smooth engine generates the highest levels of comfort and motoring pleasure.”

Britain’s Classic & Sports Car  – April 1999:
Ranked the Mercedes-Benz 6.9 fourth on their list of the “world’s greatest saloons.”

Mercedes Enthusiast May 2004:
Ranked the 6.9 number fifteen on their all-time top twenty list of great Mercedes-Benz automobiles.

The car’s top speed was factory tested at 140 mph, and weighs in at a substantial 4,200 lbs for comfortable Auto Bahn cruising. For stability it features an impressive self-leveling hydropneumatic suspension. The special hydraulic fluid required by the system is stored in a tank inside the engine compartment. The system is completely self-adjusting, and also ride height can be altered by a dash-mounted push-pull knob under the speedometer.  It can raise the car an additional two inches (50 mm) for increased ground clearance.

1978 6.9 Mercedes W116 450 S

The impressive M100 power plant with 6.9 litre displacement (417 CID) was made from cast iron, a V8 configuration with single overhead camshafts. It used sodium-filled valves (the kind found in piston-driven aircraft) against hardened valve seats on each aluminium alloy cylinder head.

Brock Yates an automotive journalist tested a factory issued 6.9 driving at street level speeds averaging around 72 mph from Manhattan to the Road Atlanta grand prix race track in Georgia.  When he arrived at the grand prix race track he drove it for an additional 40 laps (just about 100 miles).  The journalist reported no problems at all except just a bit of dust on the bodywork from the Michelin radial street tires.  Also the magnetic CB antenna blew off at 130 miles per hour.

 

Go Mercedes Team Road Trip: Operation Save a 1978 6.9 Mercedes


Go Mercedes Team: Search & Rescue Mission

Date: Sunday, September 18, 2016
Primary Mission:  Save a rare 1978 450 SEL  6.9 Mercedes Benz with Hydraulic Suspension from extinction
Challenge:  Car in the middle of a meadow near an abandoned soup factory and “ghost” 1931 vacation resort called Chalet Suzanne in Lake Wales, Florida
Super Challenge:  Trying to live through 100 degree heat,  a bizarre GPS that wouldn’t let us leave a “Bate’s” like motel, not much water and a whole lot of wasps.

 

Our primary Mercedes obsessionist, (I mean enthusiast), Angelo, had located the car about two months prior through his constant searches throughout the United States.  After connecting with the owner the proper arrangements were made and we were off to collect the newest found treasure.

The morning was bristling with excitement as the Go Mercedes team headed out to save this worthy classic  Mercedes from certain extinction.  We downed plenty of hair raising coffee at the local breakfast joint, gobbled down breakfast and quickly headed out for the central plains of Florida.

Moving quickly due east we headed through the sprawling horse country of Florida.  Upon arrival in Lake Wales our primary objective was to pick up a u-haul trailer to pick up the car.

motel on way to get mercedes

We pulled up to the Grove Motel which just happened to also double as the local u-haul rental establishment.  We nervously joked a little bit about  it’s “distinctive Bates motel ambience”.

As we waited for the u-haul manager to wake up.  It was afterall still 11:00 ish,  we busied ourselves with a little walk around.  We got some curious stares, as a little chihuahua scurred about, and a bored resident pulled wheelies on his bicycle in front of the place.  A little girl came running up excitedly to ask if we were going to move in.  “Naw sorry, we’re just here to rent a u-haul”, we replied.

batesroom

We were informed that the manager was in room 5 but alas he wasn’t answering the door.  Not sure what to do at that point we continued our informal walkabout.

no vacancy with bullet hole

The Grove Motel is quite popular.  Here’s their official “Sorry No Vacancy” sign.  For added effect, if you look real closely you will see a bullet hole over the “A” in “Vacancy”.  Hmm, not sure whether a guest was thwarted from a cozy night’s stay or someone just didn’t care for the room service.

pay-and-stay

This sign says it all about what it’s like to stay here.

Finally the u-haul manager appeared scratching his belly and yawning, muttering something about a busted water pipe in the motel.

At last we secured the keys to the u-haul and trailer.  But trying to leave the motel was somewhat like trying to get out of the Bermuda Triangle.  The GPS had the caravan turning around and around and we passed the same Grove Motel sign no less than three times until we figured out we needed to just use common sense to get out.  At last we turned left instead of just doing circles and we were hot on the trail with the fresh scent of a new Mercedes capture filling the air.

About 20 minutes later we had the car within sights.  But we needed to make a pitstop in order to procure essential provisions.  The list included one giant bottle of Orange Crush, licorice whips, and a Mountain Dew super sugar instant diabetes drink.  (Later the purchase did seem rather frivalous on our part.  The 100 degree heat and humidity later proved quite a challenge.  Water  would of been a lot more welcome then a hot orange crush bottle on the floor board of the truck.)

At last making our way down the country road, we pulled  up and got our very first glimpses of the hidden German beauty.

Mercedes 450
Viola, the target: a Mercedes 1978 450 SEL 6.9

There it was, at last.  A 1978 450 SEL 6.9 with hydraulic suspension nestled in the grass.  This particular model in the 1970’s was considered to be at the pinnacle of Mercedes engineering.   In it’s day only a couple of Ferrari’s could match it’s performance.  (Unfortunately weighing in at over 4,500 lbs,  it was introduced right in the middle of the gas crisis in the US.  Oops, so not exactly the best timing market wise.)

450 SEL 1978 Mercedes BenzH
Hidden Treasure:  The Green Bean

 

 

adam and angelo happy with their new mercedes find
Adam and Angelo posing with their new find

Figuring out the logistics of pulling the Mercedes 450 SEL onto the trailer
Contemplating the logistics of moving the car out

Adam working his magic to get the 450 SEL Mercede loaded
Adam working his magic to get her loaded.

Affectionately called by the code name “Green Bean” the car was found in a very unusual area. Sleeping for awhile, she was resting in a meadow in  Lake Wales, Florida right next to an old abandoned 1931 chalet style resort, restaurant and soup cannery called Chalet Suzanne.

Chalet Suzanne - Lake Wales, Florida
Chalet Suzanne built in 1931 

This quaint Swiss style hideaway  was once where the rich and famous of the 30’s used to come for gourmet dining and rest.  Complete with it’s own private airstrip, grape vineyard, shooting gallery and soup factory, patrons were once served by waitresses dressed as Swiss maidens.

1931 - antique sign for Chalet Suzanne - Lake Wales Florida
Chalet Suzanne’s carved wooden sign from 1931

This quirky resort was owned by the same family for 81 years.  It recently “retired’ along with its owners in 2014.   Today it sits quietly resting nestled in overgrown flowers and butterflies.

burner-areas-for-soup-factory
The abandoned boiler area for the soup factory.

The  Mercedes was in nice condition but just happened to  be a bit ornery when it came to being taken out of the meadow. Adam, aka “Atom Bomb” cranked in the hot sun for 2 1/2 hours to get her loaded up onto the trailer.  In addition, the tires were flat and the suspension was decidedly unsuspension-like which didn’t help much in getting it loaded.  But as luck  would have it, Angelo had his trusty Mercedes tire inflator that came standard with his AMG black beauty.   Adam and Angelo were able to jockey the car around using the cigarette lighter powered compressor to fill up the tires enough to get it on the trailer.

Mercedes ready to go
At last the car is loaded and ready to go

Mercedes Benz made it home for restoration
At last we are back at the Go Mercedes Ranch.
Ready for restoration!

Stay tuned for updates!

 


Extra Bonus Scenes from the Adventure at Lake Wales

more barn find cars
A Ford quietly napping near the barn and in the weeds

old classic car barn finds

Mercedes
Another Mercedes on the property.
Sadly the condition inside & engine is too far gone for restoration
classic car barn finds
View of sleeping beauties from inside the barn

battle-of-trees-and-barn
Trees vs Barn

air strip near where the mercedes was
Believe it or not this is an official FAA airport.  
Complete with freshly mowed runway.

Closeup of artwork from Chalet Suzanne
Closeup of exterior tile from Chalet Suzanne

Classic Ford Thunderbird
Classic Ford Thunderbird sitting in grape vineyard

classic car logo

 

Steering column of classic car
Steering column of Thunderbird

thunderbirdlogo2

old statue from days gone by
An elegant lady waiting patiently.
Reminder of the glory days of the chalet.

Hawk with a snake he just caught in the lake
A hungry hawk flew past the photographer with his freshly caught dinner from the nearby lake.   

Chalet Suzanne Abandoned Soup Factory - Lake Wales, FloridaA

Assembly line of abandoned soup factory

Distressed Door of Barn where old Mercedes was found
Distressed door inside barn where car was found