Mercedes’ Futuristic Past

mercedes, testbed, 70s, car, sportscar, diesel, wankel, engine, AC, gullwingFrom the late 1960s through the 70s, engineers at Mercedes-Benz worked on an experimental engine technology program. Although many of their experiments never made it to production, the test bed for these experiments is a testament to good design and ambitious innovation.

Called the C111, Merecedes’ concept car was by all appearances designed for the future. Included among these experiments were tests for Wankel engines, high-performance diesel motors, and advanced turbochargers.

In 1969 the first model of the C111 was completed. Sporting an orange fiberglass body, the car was powered by a 280HP three rotor Wankel engine. A year later an upgraded 370 HP Wankel engine was added, pushing the C111 to an impressive 290 km/h (180 mph).

mercedes, testbed, 70s, car, sportscar, diesel, wankel, engine, AC, gullwingAlthough experiments with the Wankel engine were successful Mercedes’ engineers abandoned the design in favor of a diesel engine configuration. Over the course of two more models, Mercedes perfected their turbo-diesel technology.

By the time the C111-III was unveiled it was powered by a 230HP straight-5 turbo-diesel. During the C111-III’s lifetime it broke 9 diesel and gas powered speed records culminating its 1978 run where it reach an awesome 322km/h (200 mph).

In the late 1970s one further model of the C111 was produced. Armed with a 500 HP 4.8 L twin KKK-turbocharged V8 engine, the final C111 reached a top speed of 403 km/h (251 mph).

Beyond its engine tests, the C111 was also used as an automotive design platform. Gullwing doors, luxury interiors, and new air conditioning systems were all tested in successive iterations of the C111.

mercedes, testbed, 70s, car, sportscar, diesel, wankel, engine, AC, gullwingAfter years of experimentation, Mercedes finally produced a production car based on the C111. In 1991 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Mercedes debuted its C112, mid-engine sports car. Unfortunately, after only 700 deposits were offered for the 408 HP vehicle, Mercedes declined to produce any models.

If they still exist, all of the C111’s ever produced are in Mercedes-Benz’s possession. In my opinion that’s a pity because even today the C111 would turn heads and excite anyone with a pulse.

Watch a Video of the C111 in Action:

Images and Video Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz