Mercedes W107 Profile

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Mercedes W107 General Information

The project code should actually be C107 for the SLC coupé here or R107 for its SL cabriolet sister. However normally these Mercedes codes start with a W. And since for the 1981 WRC Mercedes had already an R107 hardtop cabriolet ready on the same basis as the group2 C107, I do combine it to W107. The code C/R107 is essentaially the coupé & cabrio sister to the most classic S-Class limousine W116. Even front (bar the grille), rear, dash and engines are the same. It is kind of strange that Mercedes used different codes, as the successors to these models had the same codes for limousine and coupé, i.e. the successor to W116 is W126, the successor to C107 is also W126, with W140 following on both, too. Never mind, the 107 is an extremely characterful car especially in its coupé version. Its small rear side windows are in 2 parts with the rear part looking like a curtain. The rally version added in character through the round US twin headlights in the rectangular Euro light frame, surrounded by big bull bars. Even though most of the following text seems negative, it really is a gorgeous car.

Mercedes was a team that absolutely didn't want to fit into the WRC. First the choice of car was a weird one. The 450SLC was absolutely the biggest thing Mercedes had on the market at the time. In fact it was a lovely car and it was good in endurance and African style events. But that was all it was any use at. The 450SLC was HUGE, HEAVY, and these words have to be written in capitals, because many cars could be claimed as too big and too heavy but the Mercedes topped them all! And they used a 5.0 V8 engine, which was powerful, but what a heavy lump that was. And it had automatic transmission, not sequential or anything fancy, automatic transmission like on granddad's road car - in a rally car! The whole package just was insane for its purpose, in a way a proof that Mercedes didn't understand what rally was all about!

And the way Mercedes acted on the events was the next issue. They had the biggest car with the biggest engine and they made everybody feel Mercedes money was a currency on its own. At times when Ford and co were winning World championships with relatively simple, straight forward cars, Mercedes invented service by helicopter! The servicing layout Mercedes had in place probably cost more than all cars of all teams in the WRC together! Several times it was reported that the budget Mercedes had per event was more than Ford and Fiat had for the whole season. And Mercedes' motorsport boss at the time, Erich Waxenberger, was a bit of an extrovert. Everything had to revolve around him and the make he represented. In the Acropolis 1980 one of his cars got stranded in a stage, so Waxenberger got into the service van, broke through the barriers, drove down the stage(!) to rescue his car as if no other team was existing in this event, and he subsequently crashed head on into the competing Escort of Jorge Recalde! (Though for compensation Recalde got a works Mercedes for Argentina and Bandama.) During the Safari 1980 when Arne Hertz injured his hand, everybody around told Waxenberger that a navigator could not be replaced. But Waxenberger wasn't having any of this, he got into Arne's seat, told Hannu Mikkola to get moving, and as Mikkola didn't dare to argue the strong character that Waxenberger was, the regulations did the talking and at the finish line of the next stage the obvious and easily avoidable disqualification was executed!

The eventually best trick of Mercedes came when they wanted to compete for the WRC titles in 1981. They wanted a star line up and signed the reigning World Champion Walter Röhrl and Ari Vatanen for a full program - amazing team, really. Then with days to go before the first event of the season, when in a phone call Röhrl informed the Mercedes Stuttgart bosses that in rallying wins are not always guaranteed, Mercedes pulled the plug and - while Ari could return to his old, private team - the reigning WRChamp Röhrl was stranded without a drive as a result.

Mercedes claimed the withdrawal was a result of not getting the marketing effect they wanted, getting bad press and they were unfairly treated by everybody. They had a point because in WRC terms they were a very young team and, as unlikely their rally car may have been, they got some decent results. Although in the African and long distance events, Bandama, Argentina, Peugeot gave them a hard time, Mercedes was a podium finisher on the Safari, they won the Bandama twice and the (non-WRC) Argentina once. Not bad for a pretty new team. It was just this attitude of Mercedes that led to the problems. They were the richest team by far, throwing millions at the sport and the opposition and press was enjoying the fact that this didn't guarantee them wins, often for basic mistakes. When Mercedes serviced by helicopter, delivering a brand new rear axle to the break down scene of a Mercedes and the new rear axle would fall and shatter into pieces as soon as it hit the ground, the whole rally World was rolling on the floor for laughter and pointing fingers at Mercedes with huge satisfaction. The same would happen when Mercedes entered the 1980 Rally Portugal and finished 44 minutes off the pace and when Mercedes entered the 1980 Acropolis with a 4 car team, only one would finish and that would be down in 14th place. If this was Skoda or Hyundai in their early days it would be bad enough, but this was big cash big words Mercedes and that made failure even better!

For everybody involved in the sport it wasn't quite clear if you should be happy or not with Mercedes' presence. On one side they tried to kill the sport with their money, on the other hand they turned the laughing stock for everybody. Rally New Zealand 1980 was probably the best example for the mixed emotions Mercedes created. It is no good to have one flood light equipped helicopter per car to light out the night stages if you forget to put petrol into the cars - as happened to Mikkola for SS1! On the other hand the situations came to that extreme that you had to feel sincerely sorry for Mercedes and their after all very enthusiastic team boss. On the same Rally NZ Björn Waldegaard had an off, really minor stuff, hardly worth a mention, had Björn not collected a prick wire fence in the process. The barbed wire wrapped around the front rim and the rear driveshaft and caused both right hand wheels to block. Erich Waxenberger came in with the helicopter and ripped the prick wire off with his bare hands! Ouch! Waxenberger's face was covered in pain, but it was not physical pain, it was the pain of the most heart moving desperation you could imagine! However, in the summary of things, despite Waxenberger's 11/10 score for enthusiasm, the satisfaction that money could not buy results was the overriding feeling for everybody, and exactly that was made very public!

No wonder Mercedes didn't enjoy their stay in the WRC. The 450SLC was actually a characterful, big, unusual and somehow lovely sight on the rally stages, but you can rest assured that nobody is really missing them after their display between 1978 and early 1981.

Contradiction: I hate arrogance. And even as a German, I hate German ignorance even more. And in many ways Waxenberger fitted the frame representing Mercedes in rallying. But you know what? If the reasons are right or wrong, the Rally NZ 1980 prick wire story or the Safari 1980 navigator story, this is the only story in this database where a team boss gets an obituary. Erich Waxenberger died on 18th July 2017 aged 86 after illness, and even if just a short story a long time ago, rallying lost a real character with him! And that in a way explains the Mercedes stint at rallying. If Mercedes would ever rally, in 99% of cases Mercedes would be an arrogant, rich team. But, even if Waxenberger fitted Mercedes well, his emotions and enthusiasm overrode bureaucracy and sanity and that is rare to find in modern sports, never mind in a German!

Mercedes W107 Related Content

Mercedes W107 Evolutions

Model & Evo. (Activity)
Mercedes W107 450SLC 5.0 (78-80) 310/5400 430/4000 4750.1750.1330 1430 (4.6) RWD (2820)

Random Mercedes W107 Photos

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Mercedes W107 Results

This is an unofficial Car Results list and may be incomplete.

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego hh:mm:ss
4th. 1980 WRC Rallye de Portugal B. Waldegaard H. Thorszelius #4 [UNKNOWN] 9:29:22
5th. 1980 WRC Rallye de Portugal I. Carlsson C. Billstam #17 [UNKNOWN] 9:40:22
3rd. 1980 WRC Safari Rally V. Preston Jnr. J. Lyall #15 [UNKNOWN] 5:07:00
6th. 1980 WRC Safari Rally A. Cowan K. Kaiser #5 [UNKNOWN] 7:03:00
10th. 1980 WRC Safari Rally B. Waldegaard H. Thorszelius #3 [UNKNOWN] 7:33:00
14th. 1980 WRC Safari Rally J. Singh P. Stevenson #8 [UNKNOWN] 12:16:00
14th. 1980 WRC Acropolis Rally V. Preston Jnr. M. Doughty #19 [UNKNOWN] 14:41:09
2nd. 1979 WRC Safari Rally H. Mikkola A. Hertz #14 [UNKNOWN] 7:15:00
6th. 1979 WRC Safari Rally B. Waldegaard H. Thorszelius #10 [UNKNOWN] 9:19:00
1st. 1979 WRC Bandama Rallye H. Mikkola A. Hertz #6 [UNKNOWN] 3:23:00
2nd. 1979 WRC Bandama Rallye B. Waldegaard H. Thorszelius #4 [UNKNOWN] 3:58:00
3rd. 1979 WRC Bandama Rallye A. Cowan K. Kaiser #10 [UNKNOWN] 4:10:00
4th. 1979 WRC Bandama Rallye V. Preston Jnr. M. Doughty #3 [UNKNOWN] 4:17:00

Mercedes W107 Retirements

This is an unofficial Car Model Retirements list and may be incomplete.

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego Reason
Ret. 1980 WRC Acropolis Rally B. Waldegaard H. Thorszelius #1 [UNKNOWN] SS48 brakes, head gasket
Ret. 1980 WRC Acropolis Rally B. Danielsson S. Andreasson #24 [UNKNOWN] SS50 steering
Ret. 1980 WRC Safari Rally H. Mikkola A. Hertz #7 [UNKNOWN] SS44 disqualified - navigator swapped
Ret. 1979 WRC Bandama Rallye A. Pfuhl . UNKNOWN #27 [UNKNOWN] SS99 suspension
Ret. 1979 WRC Safari Rally V. Preston Jnr. J. Lyall #6 [UNKNOWN] SS23 sump