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Mercedes brings out famed C111 experimental car for rally in the Austrian Alps


Mercedes-Benz C111 equipped with V8 instead of rotary engine | Mercedes-Benz Classic
Mercedes-Benz C111 equipped with V8 instead of rotary engine | Mercedes-Benz Classic

One of the world’s most famous experimental vehicles, the Mercedes-Benz C111, returns to the roads this week when Mercedes-Benz Classic enters one of its C111s in the Silvretta Classic, an Alpine rally in Austria. The automaker’s classic car branch also is sending a 1928 Mercedes-Benz SSK and a 300 SL roadster to the event, along with “brand ambassador” and racing champion Karl Wendlinger.

“During this rally, the C 111, a 300 SL roadster and an SSK from the Mercedes-Benz Classic collection will travel the beautiful, high alpine roads of the Montafon valley as testimony to the outstanding feats of engineering and race successes of previous decades,” said Michael Bock, head of Mercedes-Benz Classic.

1928 SSK also raced in a recent Mille Miglia
1928 SSK also raced in a recent Mille Miglia

The Silvretta High Alpine Road and other roads in the Austrian Alps will be the site of the rally for vintage cars, which has been held since 1998, and also for the fifth annual Silvretta E-Car Rally.

“The fifth Silvretta E-Car Rally is taking place at the same time on the same route,” Bock added. “This event is for the latest vehicles with alternative drive systems. Mercedes-Benz is thus supporting a unique platform for dialogue between the motor car’s fascinating past and its exciting future.”

Some term the Silvretta the “summit conference” of motorsports because of its mix of vintage and futuristic propulsion systems.

C111 maneuvers past the pylons
C111 maneuvers past the pylons

The C111 was an alternatively powered experiment back in the 1969, when the first C111 was unveiled with a three-rotor Wankel engine behind its cockpit. Not only was the car striking for its engineering and high-speed runs, but for its wedge-shaped design and gulling doors.

In 1970, Mercedes put four-rotor Wankels in its C111 fleet and also rolled out a second-generation C111 with the company’s new 3.5-liter V8 engine.

Between 1969 and 1979, Mercedes would build three generations of C111 vehicles and used them as speed record-setting test beds for development of rotary, V8, five-cylinder diesel and normally aspirated and turbocharged V8 engines. The initial three-rotor engine propelled the car to speeds of nearly 170 miles per hour. The four-rotor boosted top speed to nearly 190, which is the 300 kph mark now accepted as the qualification for any car to receive global supercar status.

The C111 that will be participating in the Silvretta Rally this week, the car’s first outing in 45 years, is based on that second-generation C111 and powered by the V8 from the original 1970 chassis.

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Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


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