1980s / German / Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes highlights the stillborn 500SL (r107) rally car

Mercedes-Benz is shedding light on the 500SL (r107) that was developed to compete in the world’s most grueling rally events. Fitted with a hardtop, the purpose-built SL was extensively tested during the early 1980s but it never made it to the starting grid of a race. We’ll let Mercedes’ archives department tell its story.

“During the course of its rally activities with the SLC (r107) from 1978 to 1980, Mercedes-Benz also envisaged entering the shorter and more agile Roadster. Four vehicles were prepared for the 1981 season. The top-class driver Walter Röhrl was recruited for rally events and carried out extensive test drives.

The rally 500 SL was configured for fast acceleration with a lower top speed. To transfer the power of the uprated 320-horsepower V8 engine to the road, the drive axle was given a locking differential with an 80-percent locking effect, which led to spectacular drift angles. The M117 engine is particularly known for its great reliability and long operating life. Another impressive attribute is the weight reduction from 1,586 kilograms to 1,350 kilograms (3,496 pounds to 2,976 pounds), an essential measure for motorsport, despite the safety cage made out of tubular aluminium, the auxiliary headlamps, and the other rally equipment. As a further noticeable feature, there is an upright parking brake lever which makes it easier to “line-up” the car ahead of bends.

The car was never used for racing, however, as Mercedes-Benz discontinued its rally activities before the season began.”

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