Mercedes-Benz 450SLC – World Rally Championships History


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.

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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.

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

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 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).

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.











History of the Mercedes – & The Go Mercedes Team Fueled Passion

Go is designed for the classic performance Mercedes enthusiast and collector.  We explore the exciting history of the Mercedes-Benz and also go on adventures selecting performance classic Mercedes throughout the country.

We are just as passionate about the Mercedes Benz brand as you are!  Everyone on our team at are long time Mercedes affecianados, collectors or restorers.

Mercedes collectors are inspired by a fierce loyalty. It’s hard to narrow it down to  exactly which qualities of the classic Mercedes cause us to be so obsessed. The older Mercedes of the past have that certain panache that seem unbeatable in the classic collector market.
classic mercedes magazine advertisement

When pressed to explain why we just have to have yet another Mercedes; it can be slightly hard to rationalize to family members.  Any hesitation is thrown to the wind though  when we focus our sights on a potential rare acquisition just a few hundred miles away. It seems when one gets the “Mercedes Bends”  as they say,  we can’t help ourselves.  Perhaps it is the impeccable engineering or absolute perfection in design that draws us in with unbridled enthusiasm.   The extreme attention to detail that Mercedes stylists and car builders of days gone by just seems to outshine other makes produced today.

Best in class engineering” is the Mercedes brand mantra. Stellar performance through perfection  stems from perhaps the founding pioneers themselves Benz and Dailmer.   Even Emil Jelinek drove the Dailmer company nearly berserk with his obsession for speed and perfection.   Both of whom  poured their savings and souls into their life’s work.

Carl Benz


Gottlieb Daimler 1890 photograph
Gottlieb Daimler

In curious synchronicity both men toiled a mere 60 miles away from one another in Germany in 1888 on their own  internal combustion engines.  Unbeknownst to each other their engineering efforts would literally propel the automotive world into the next century.

Excitement was in the air for Carl Benz on New Year’s Eve of 1879 .   On that evening he heard the first sounds of his two stroke engine sputter to life for the very first time.   For his newly developed Benz Patent Motor Car, in 1886 he was granted patent No. 37435 widely considered to be the official “birth certificate of the automobile.”
Benz officially unveiled his invention to the public on July 3rd, 1886, on the Ringstrasse (Ringstraße) in Mannheim. About 25 Patent Motorwagens were built between 1886 and 1893. The original cost of the vehicle in 1885 was $1,000 (equivalent to $26,248 in 2015).

1886 - Benz Motorwagen
1886 Benz Motorwagen

Drawings of the very first automobile developed by Carl Benz

Closeup of Drawings of the Very First Automobile Patent Developed by Carl Benz

Carl Benz Patent for First Motor Car
Benz Patent Motor Car, in 1886, Patent No. 37435

Carl Benz in his Benz Patent Motorwagen
Carl Benz (left) seated in the Benz Patent Motorwagen

Bertha Benz - Financier and first long distance driver of the Benz
Bertha Benz and her two sons with the Patent-Motorwagen in 1888.

Bertha Benz – Financier and First Distance Driver of the Patent Motorwagen

The world owes a debt of gratitude to Carl Benz’s wife Bertha Ringer Benz.   Benz later wrote in his memoirs after his marriage on July 20, 1872: “With this step, an idealist is at my side who knows what she wants, from the small and narrow to the grand, clear and vast.”

Supporting all her husband’s activities and sharing his pioneering spirit, Bertha Benz turns out to be a key factor in the success of Carl Benz.  A longtime financial supporter of Carl even before marriage, she helped save him many times from financial ruin. She helped to save an iron construction company he had jointly held with an untrustworthy business partner.   Eventually that company went down, but Bertha stepped up again with financial support and provided her considerable business acumen to help him form another manufacturing company called  Benz & Cie.   Through lean times, Bertha was always at the ready and provided enough financial support that  Carl was able to start his dream work of creating a motorized vehicle.

Carl finished his work on his first horseless carriage in December 1885 (he received a patent for it the following year). The single-cylinder, 2.5-horsepower car had three wheels—one in front and two in the back—and could reach a maximum speed of 25 mph.

Carl was apparently not a very good marketer.  In fact his first demostration terrified spectators as the driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a wall.  A notorious perfectionist he retreated from the public eye,  and although he had already developed two of the machines, was starting on a third.  He just didn’t seem to have quite the  confidence to showcase his new inventions to the public.

Bertha understood the dilemma and was becoming somewhat frustrated by Carl’s inability to act on his own.  She also noted that there was increasing pressure from a competitor, Gottlieb Daimler who had invented a horseless carriage of his own— the world’s first four-wheeled, high-speed automobile just a few miles away.

Bertha was a very smart woman who knew the power of marketing.  She instinctively knew that a long trip with the car would gather much attention from the public along the way.    She knew the publicity would help popularize Carl Benz’s latest invention—and likely saved him from professional and financial ruin.

Mrs. Bertha Benz
Bertha (Ringer) Benz – Driver and Mechanic for First Long Distance Automobile Trip

So in  early August of 1888, at age 39, Bertha penned a note telling her husband she was going to drive to her mother’s house.  She gathered her two teenage sons and climbed aboard the third Patent-Motorwagen vehicles her husband had assembled.   One can only imagine their excitement as the three drove from Mannheim through Heidelberg, and Wiesloch.  Just as anticipated, curious spectators gathered for miles to see the three driving about the countryside.   No doubt it was quite a bewildering  sight to see the first motorized vehicle rattling on byy.  Amazing as that was, the fact that the vehicle was being  driven by a woman must of been absolutely astounding.

The trip was in fact really no joy ride.  Bertha Benz was not only the driver, but also improvised as an ever resourceful mechanic.   Along the way a number of difficulties were faced.  An ignition wire short circuited.  Bertha actually used her garter to repair it.  When a fuel pipe got clogged, she used her hat pin to clean it out.  In addition, she was able to convince a blacksmith along the way to help mend a chain that had broken.  The car didn’t have a fuel tank so she carefully manuevered the car to towns with apothecaries that sold a petroleum based cleaning fluid called ligroin.  She put it into the carburetor to keep it running through the journey.  She also had to stop often for water to in order to cool down the engine.   The boys came in handy when the car needed pushing which was probably quite often.    If that wasn’t enough when the brakes began to wear down (basically just pieces of wood) the ever resourceful Mrs. Benz stopped at a local shoemaker to have them nail leather on the brake blocks.  So one can also say she actually was one of the first to invent brake pads as well.

Bertha Benz Formal Photo
Bertha Benz – Financier,  Adventurer and Integral to the Success of the Benz Motorwagen

Another plus came from Bertha’s trip.  Since she and her sons had quite a time going up hills with a 2.5 horse powered car, often resorting to manually pushing the car uphill.  Those difficulties convinced the inventor to make a crucial modification – the introduction of the world’s first gear system.

An Awesome Sight of the Motorwagen

The Motorwagen was a light three-wheeled vehicle, powered by a single-cylinder gasoline engine that got about 25 mpg.   Bertha went the entire distance of about 65 miles in about 12 hours. Around dusk she managed to pull into her hometown of Pforzheim.   She immediately sent a telegram to her husband that she had arrived safely at her mother’s home.  She spent the night at her mother’s house and returned home three days later.   Again another brilliant move on her part,  she chose another route and gathered even more spectators who were fascinated by the vehicle.  The trip covered 194 km (121 mi) in total.

By the time  she returned home, eyewitness accounts were pouring in from the trip.  The news was rushed into print in local newspapers. With Bertha providing a real living proof of concept, Karl immediately rushed one of his other models to a scientific exhibit in Munich.  All in all, she had driven over 120 miles at a time when no other automobile had traveled more than a few dozen feet. Her trip unleashed an avalanche of publicity and the couple began receiving orders for their newfangled contraption almost immediately.  The critics now knew of the vehicle’s reliability and the Benz Patent Motor Car was the talk of the town. The public loved the Motorwagen in Munich and orders began to rush in the door.

Within a decade Karl’s company, Benz & Cie., became the world’s largest automobile company with a full-time staff of more than 400 and annual sales of nearly 600 vehicles.

Benz Factory Photo

Benz Motorwagen Advertisement

Bertha Benz died in 1944 at the ripe age of 95.  She is indeed a heroine of the auto industry one to be celebrated.

Carl Benz with his wife in first automobile
Carl Benz with family



Mercedes-Benz W116SEL – 6.9 Class – a Performance Classic

1978 6.9 Mercedes W116 450 S

We here at 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 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.