The best or nothing: ever since the automobile was invented, the Mercedes-Benz brand’s history has been shaped by strong values and ideas. Mercedes-Benz Classic is demonstrating this with its appearance at this year’s Rétromobile exhibition in Paris between 4 and 8 February 2015. For the 40th edition of this specialist show devoted to classic cars, the slogan is “The Past Still Has a Future” (French: “Le passé a toujours un futur”). The continuity of major brand values puts Mercedes-Benz Classic centre stage.
Vehicles from all different eras will be shown, but they all share common strengths. Between them, the Mercedes-Benz 540 K Streamliner (W 29) and the Mercedes-Benz S 63 AMG Coupé (C 217) showcase a tradition of innovative engineering, power and travel in superlative comfort. Illustrating the unique history of innovating sports cars and intense interaction between motorsport, research and production are the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing prototype (W 194), the Mercedes-Benz C 111 experimental vehicle and the latest Mercedes-AMG GT (C 190) high-performance sports car.
These two themes highlight how lasting values, ideas, innovation and vision make up the Mercedes-Benz brand. The result? Cars that have been setting standards for almost 130 years – both in their time and far beyond.
Built in 1938, the Mercedes-Benz 540 K Streamliner is a unique vehicle with outstanding attributes. The most striking is the skilfully drawn streamliner body, which is perfectly aerodynamic. For decades, its drag coefficient (Cd value) of just 0.36 was the top value for a road vehicle. In conjunction with a powerful supercharged engine, this enables the vehicle to reach a top speed of 185 km/h. It also set benchmarks in long-distance travel comfort. The Streamliner’s current equivalent is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupé. It transports the values of innovation, design, aerodynamics, drive system and travel comfort, all at the highest level, to the modern day and age.
All three sports cars shown at Rétromobile 2015 are the product of Mercedes-Benz’s distinctive culture of innovation. Completed in 1953, the 300 SL racing prototype with its aluminium body, space frame and gullwing doors evolved from the successful racing car of 1952. The revolutionary vehicle concept from the early post-war period stands out for its lightweight construction, aerodynamic advantages, fuel efficiency and great reliability. Dating from 1969, the futuristic C 111 was used to test new powertrain systems and materials. It has a rotary engine based on the principle developed by Felix Wankel. A single specimen was built with a V8 reciprocating engine in order to explore the potential of this technology in the high-performance sports car. Painted in a striking orange shade known as “weißherbst” (rosé wine), the body is made of lightweight glass-fibre-reinforced plastic. The C 111 caused quite a stir and subsequent versions set various world records. However, it never entered series production. Unlike the Mercedes-AMG GT unveiled in 2014: this dream car is already available. Delivering a first-rate performance on the racetrack, it is also suitable for everyday use and is highly efficient. Like its famous predecessors, the GT sets the highest aesthetic standards for sports cars.
At Rétromobile, more than 500 vehicles will be on show in Hall 1 of the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre across 46,000 square metres of space. Once again, the organisers are expecting approximately 100,000 visitors this year. Auctions of classic cars by leading international auction houses such as Artcurial are one of the highlights of the extensive programme.
Rétromobile 2015: Mercedes-Benz Classic vehicles
Mercedes-Benz 540 K Streamliner (W 29, 1938)
Built in 1938, the Mercedes-Benz 540 K Streamliner was the pinnacle of the aerodynamically optimised vehicles developed by Mercedes-Benz in the 1930s. Based on the Stuttgart-based brand’s top sports car model, this unique vehicle set benchmarks both in technical and aesthetic terms. It allowed Mercedes-Benz to take the lead in a development that occupied the entire automobile industry at that time: the rapid pace of technical change and the growing network of fast roads enabling higher potential cruising speeds. Consequently, the aerodynamics of powerful passenger cars became increasingly important with regard to efficiency too. With its aluminium body’s flowing lines and low silhouette, minimal sources of disturbance on its surface and underbody cladding, the Streamliner applied research findings in an exemplary way, giving it a sensationally low drag coefficient (Cd value) of 0.36. In 2014, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the vehicle to the public once more following lavish restoration.
Technical data for the Mercedes-Benz 540 K Streamliner (W 29)
Cylinder arrangement: 8/in-line
Displacement: 5401 cc
Output: 85 kW (115 hp) or 132 kW (180 hp) with belt-driven supercharger
Top speed: 185 km/h
Mercedes-Benz S 63 AMG Coupé (C 217, 2014)
The S 63 AMG Coupé epitomises the highest level of luxurious sportiness. Introduced in 2014, the top AMG model in the S-Class Coupé family is powered by a 5.5-litre V8 biturbo engine boasting an output of 430 kW (585 hp). Features such as the AMG sports suspension based on MAGIC BODY CONTROL with Active Body Control (ABC), curve tilting function and ROAD SURFACE SCAN deliver outstanding handling. The S 63 AMG Coupé’s extensive equipment reflects Mercedes-Benz’s Intelligent Drive philosophy, which enhances safety as well as driving comfort. Aesthetically speaking, a stylish and clear design idiom for the bodywork reflects the top model’s leadership claim.
Technical data for the Mercedes-Benz S 63 AMG Coupé (C 222)
Cylinder arrangement: V8
Displacement: 5461 cc
Output: 430 kW (585 hp)
Top speed: 250 km/h (electronically limited)
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing prototype (W 194, 1953)
Early 1953 saw the appearance of a revised version of the 300 SL racing car that had been driven from victory to victory in 1952. Thanks to direct petrol injection, this new racing sports car had access to 215 hp (158 kW) for the 1953 season, a good 40 hp (29 kW) more than before. Reducing the vehicle’s width also lowered the wind resistance. Other highlights included the single-joint swing axle deployed for the first time and jointed at the differential in a transaxle configuration – measures resulting in a balanced axle load distribution and excellent driving characteristics. Due to the angular front section of the redesigned body, this innovative and unique vehicle was also known internally as the ‘Hobel’, the German word for a wood planing tool. Although it was not used for racing (planning a return to Formula 1 in 1954 tied up all related capacity), this vehicle was an important intermediate step on the way to series production of the 300 SL sports car.
Technical data for the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing prototype (W 194)
Cylinder arrangement: 6/in-line
Displacement: 2996 cc
Output: 158 kW (215 hp)
Top speed: 250 km/h
Mercedes-Benz C 111-II experimental vehicle (1970)
Mercedes-Benz presented the C 111 at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in September 1969. With its extreme wedge shape and gullwing doors, the research vehicle had a glass-fibre-reinforced plastic body and was powered by a three-rotor Wankel engine with an output of 206 kW (280 hp). This futuristic sports car could reach a speed of up to 270 km/h. The following year, the revised C 111-II version was shown at the Geneva Motor Show – except now with a four-rotor Wankel engine delivering 257 kW (350 hp). This version could accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds and reach a top speed of 300 km/h. It was this second version of the research vehicle that served as the basis for a V8 variant of the C 111 containing the M 116 production engine (147 kW/200 hp), which Mercedes-Benz engineers and technicians used for the purposes of comparison with the rotary-engined sports car. Despite numerous orders, the C 111 remained a purely experimental vehicle and never entered production. Mercedes-Benz instead went on to develop a series of record-breaking vehicles based upon it: the C 111-II D (1976) and the C 111-III (1977–1978, both with a five-cylinder turbodiesel engine) and the C 111-IV (1979, V8 petrol engine with turbocharging).
Technical data for the Mercedes-Benz C 111-II
Cylinder arrangement: Four-rotor Wankel engine
Chamber volume: 2400 cc
Output: 257 kW (350 hp)
Top speed: 300 km/h
Mercedes-AMG GT (C 190, 2014)
The Mercedes-AMG GT appeared in 2014 and was the second sports car to be developed entirely under Mercedes-AMG’s own direction. The coupé stands out for its front mid-engine concept with a transaxle transmission configuration and intelligent aluminium lightweight construction. Here the sporty performance for which Mercedes-AMG is renowned is based on the new AMG 4.0-litre V8 biturbo engine with the turbochargers mounted inside (‘hot inside V’) and dry sump lubrication. There are two versions of the engine: a GT generating 340 kW (462 hp) and a GT S rated at 375 kW (510 hp). The new GT delivers driving dynamics and superlative performance on the racetrack combined with efficiency that sets new standards in this segment. What is more, the sports car exhibits a high level of day-to-day practicality thanks to the structure of the luggage compartment, high level of comfort on long journeys and extensive equipment including Mercedes‑Benz Intelligent Drive assistance systems.
Technical data for the Mercedes-AMG GT / Mercedes-AMG GT S
Cylinder arrangement: V8
Displacement: 3982 cc
Output: 340 kW (462 hp) / 375 kW (510 hp)
Top speed: 304 km/h / 310 km/h (electronically limited)