The Mercedes-Benz C111 celebrated its half-century recently and you’ll struggle to find a better looking 50-year-old sport classic anywhere…
Presented at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show, the futuristic Mercedes-Benz C111 that sparked worldwide interest can still turn heads quicker than the Exorcist, and just imagine the kerfuffle it would cause if it was reimagined sporting a modern electric powertrain!
This is an automotive disco-dancing pensioner that doesn’t need TikTok to gain attention. Looks alone mean the elderly Mercedes-Benz C111 was an influencer then and, could still be now if it ever returned. Yes, it was vertically challenged, measuring in at only 1120 mm high, but let’s face it, there’s not much to grumble about in the styling department, apart from those hideous gull-wing doors that serve no purpose to anyone entering or leaving the car.
The concept was developed from fibreglass reinforced plastic (GFRP) which meant it was relatively light, wouldn’t dissolve in the rain and could easily reach an impressive top speed of around 190mph. Unfortunately, it’s now relegated to the Fascination of Technology exhibition section of the Mercedes-Benz Museum where the German superstar remains a major attraction for motoring nerds visiting Stuttgart, leaving them with a cheesy grin on their faces for the rest of the week.
The C111-II was developed on the basis of the C111, introduced just before winter 1969 and was equipped with one of those magical Wankel Rotary engines that you could rev to infinity without catastrophic failure. Improvements were also made to its design including the driver’s field of vision which was dubious at best, door handles, fuel cap location and aerodynamics were radically improved by reducing that dimensionless quantity called ‘air resistance coefficient’ by 8% compared to its predecessor.
The end result was a car the Board of Directors at Daimler-Benz AG had always dreamed of and therefore decided it would be unveiled to the public between 11 – 21 September 1969 at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt.
Following its popular debut, the C111 was then showcased at numerous high profile exhibitions including the Paris Motor Show, London Motor Show (October 1969), Turin Auto Show (October / November 1969), Jochen Rindt Show in Vienna (November 1969), Essen (December 1969), Brussels International Motor Show (January 1970) and Chicago Auto Show (February 1970). The younger C111-II version debuted in Geneva in March 1970.
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By this time, wealthy enthusiasts were queuing in an orderly fashion armed with blank cheques; one German businessman even offered to pay up to half a million Deutsche Mark for the model. As usual, the stubborn Germans stuck to their principles and made it abundantly clear that this experimental vehicle was most certainly not for sale and would be aimed specifically at a ‘younger audience’ and below the SL “Pagoda” (W 113).
The C111 at the 1969 London Motor Show
Fifty years ago, in Geneva, visitors were not only amazed by the C111-II, but also by what Mercedes-Benz brought to the event with two out of a total of five experimental vehicles showcased at the motor show. The first C111-II was even given to the press for test drives at Circuit de Monthoux, near Geneva.
In December 1970, an alternative bulletproof 3.5-litre Mercedes-Benz V8 engine was transplanted into the C111-II, replacing the mischievous Wankel Rotary engine and to this day remains star attraction at any major events it happens to attend.