Presented at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show, the futuristic Mercedes-Benz C 111 that sparked worldwide interest still looks spectacular 50 years later.
The innovative Mercedes-Benz C 111 sports car that was launched 50 years ago at the 40th Geneva Motor Show was both stylish and vertically challenged, measuring in at only 1120 mm high, with its now-familiar gull-wing doors and a wheelbase of 2620 mm.
The concept was developed from fibreglass reinforced plastic (GFRP) fastened to the lower body structure in sheet steel and boasted a top speed of around 190mph.
Relegated to the Fascination of Technology exhibition section of the Mercedes-Benz Museum, the superstar German still remains a major attraction for anyone visiting Stuttgart.
Mercedes-Benz C 111-II
The C 111-II was developed on the basis of the C 111, introduced just before winter 1969 and was equipped with a Wankel Rotary engine. Improvements to its design included the driver’s field of vision and the aerodynamics being improved by reducing air resistance coefficient by 8% compared to its predecessor.
It was the dream car that the Board of Directors of Daimler-Benz AG had always wanted and therefore decided it would be unveiled to the public between 11 and 21 September 1969 at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt.
Following its popular debut, the C 111 was showcased at numerous 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 C 111-II version debuted in Geneva in March 1970.
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Affluent enthusiasts were queuing in an orderly fashion armed with blank cheques; one German businessman apparently offering to pay up to half a million Deutsche Mark for the model. The marque stuck to its guns and made it clear that this experimental vehicle was most certainly not for sale and was to be aimed specifically at a younger audience and below the SL “Pagoda” (W 113).
1969 London Motor Show
Fifty years ago, in Geneva, visitors were not only amazed by the C 111-II, but also by what Mercedes-Benz brought to the event. Two out of a total of five experimental vehicles were shown at this motor show. The first C 111-II could be tested as part of the press demonstration at Circuit de Monthoux, near Geneva, on demonstration test drives.
In December 1970, an alternative 3.5-litre Mercedes-Benz V8 engine was transplanted into the C 111-II, replacing the Wankel Rotary engine. The beautiful C 111-II can still be driven today and still attracts attention at major classic events when present.