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Mercedes Home Country: Germany
The Mercedes story is quickly told. It all started sensibly in the 1950s and 1960s with their old models, in particular the 220SE, 230SL & 300SE (see also makes/model section "_ancient_, Mercedes W111” for all early Mercedes rally models). That early program was actually more initiated by the drivers Walter Schock and Eugen Böhringer, but the cars soon carried Stuttgart number plates and surely Mercedes themselves were involved when Rauno Aaltonen and lady driver Evy Rosqvist joined the team. Actually, very first rallies were with the W187 before the W111 was launched. But 90% of the time the big S-Class predecessor W111, depending on engine 220SE or 300SE, was used. The light, short hardtop coupé 230SL (W113) remained the exception, while curiously the smaller saloon 219 (W105) was only seen on the tough Safari Rally. Such the program had quite some interesting curiousities, because the smaller cars seemed to be used more for marathons, if at all, while the ERC successes were near all down to the big SE models. These cars won the ERC in 1955, 1956, 1960 & 1962, but already in these days the Mercedes name became more identified with long distance, marathon style rallies, such as Argentina and the Liége-Sophia-Liége Rally which the team won in 1962 & 1963. But then it became quiet again around Mercedes and as before the make concentrated more on circuit racing. Maybe already in that first stint at rallying Mercedes showed their character that made people overjoyed when things went wrong for them. The 1960 ERC title looked like firmly in Citroën's hands until their driver crashed on the last rally, RAC 1960. In an embarrassing display of bad sportsmanship Mercedes withdrew mid event, having the title secure now.
By 1977 Mercedes was back and incredibly the story was not inspired by the works team but by the British Mercedes importer preparing a 280E (W123), even UK registered ULL 772R, and winning the London-Sydney Rally 1977 with it. Mercedes then entered four 280E on the Safari 1978 as full works cars, the result was however an embarrassment. So on their second works event, the non-WRC Grand Premio Sudamericana (turn Rally Argentina) 1978, they entered some huge 450SLC (W107) alongside the 280E and here the 450SLC proved faster and won. So for future years 280E & 280CE models only started occasionally as some kind of a B-team entry. 450SLC & 500SLC were basically the same car, reasoning and details you find in the according chapters. Curiously the "initiators" Mercedes UK importers went the opposite route, as they turned to the slightly smaller and lighter 280E only after an embarrassing test start of Tony Fowkes in a 450SLC on the 1976 Tour of Britain.
Anyway, following the 450SLC success in Argentina 1978, Mercedes turned to a proper and very serious WRC program. But all they proved was that they really had the wrong ideas about rallying. Just before the start of the 1981 season Mercedes pulled out and was never seen again. With the introduction of group A rallying a few 190E 2.3-16 (W201) appeared, which was actually a well handling, although underpowered RWD car, but these were in no case works supported and soon disappeared again.
Why Mercedes had the wrong attitude, why their WRC program was regarded as an embarrassment and why they pulled out very suddenly in disgust is already in detail described in the description sheet to the very characterful Mercedes 450SLC (group 4), so please look there for more detail and the wider, fairer picture.
OK, a key situation we describe to you already here: For 1981 Mercedes planned a full WRC season and they signed Walter Röhrl and Ari Vatanen both for 5(!) years. During the testing for Monte Carlo 1981 the Mercedes bosses phoned Röhrl and asked: "Is there any chance that we might not win this rally?". You and me, like everybody who remotely understands rallying, know too well that you never ever can predict anything in rallying, so Walter's answer was an obvious one - yet Walter's answer was enough for Mercedes to pull the plug on their rally program! Be honest, if that is the attitude "we won't do sport if wins are not always guaranteed", aren't you glad they buggered off?
COLOURS & TYRES:
Not much fantasy on this part. You will find that in the 1960s about every car make had their bonnets in a matt black, which was thought to reduce possible driver irritation through sun reflection. Mercedes still had that feature in the late 1970s. Otherwise the cars were just plain silver. Or more accurately silver or white, but with silver plus black bonnets being the more official colours. White with black bonnets were only the 280E saloon cars until Safari 1979 and the 500SL Monte 81 Röhrl test car. The 1980 280CE and the other 500SL prototype were silver again.
Except experimenting with Pirelli tyres on Rally Argentina 1980, Mercedes used Dunlop tyres throughout.
As described the project was inspired by the UK Mercedes importer winning the 1977 London-Sydney Rally with a 280E. This being an importer's car, it was accordingly registered ULL 772R, with the L as the 2nd digit of the 3-letter-block identifying London. Altogether there were 3 UK registered "hidden-official" Mercedes. Everything that followed were proper works cars and accordingly registered in Stuttgart, Germany, indicated by areal code S before the dash. The "S-" is followed by 2 letters and a 4-digit number. This must have been a new size reg plate for Stuttgart at the time. Stuttgart is big, but by far not as big as i.e. München "M". In our database, as new Mercedes are joining in, you can see a sequential order in these reg plates ("DP", "DV", "DX", "EH"), which in the German registration system is very unusual indeed! There also are some Mercedes appearing with reg plates starting KS. This stands for Kassel and the cars actually belong to Scuderia Kassel, a motorsport minded Mercedes dealer.
|Mercedes W107||Group 4|
|Mercedes W107||Group 2|
|Mercedes W123||Group 2|
|Mercedes W201||Group A|
|1980 WRC||Open||66th.||Mercedes (29pts)||12|
|1979 WRC||Open||8th.||Mercedes (35pts)||12|
|1978 WRC||Open||15th.||Mercedes (12pts)||11|