The Experimental Mercedes-Benz C111 That Never Got to Hit the Road

Even though it took the 70s by storm, only 16 cars were produced of the iconic model.
Irmak Bayrakdar

Back in 1969, Mercedes-Benz unveiled an iconic sports car — called the C111 series — but much to everyone's dismay, it never hit the market as a mass-produced product.

The Orange-colored car was a winged dream for sports car enthusiasts, but sadly, it wasn't up to snuff for Mercedes-Benz's expectations in terms of reliability.

Mercedes-Benz's C111 car was a dream come true

The engineering and design teams behind the C111 series initially worked on this idea throughout the 1960s. Eventually, Mercedes-Benz's concept was unveiled at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Germany.

The Experimental Mercedes-Benz C111 That Never Got to Hit the Road
The C111 in the making during the 60s. Source: Mercedes-Benz

The team worked to achieve the ultimate sports car. These automobiles' bodies were made of fiberglass-reinforced plastic, which is riveted and glued to a steel-frame floor. This made the car lighter, enhancing acceleration.

The Experimental Mercedes-Benz C111 That Never Got to Hit the Road
The promotional image for the C111 in 1969. Source: Mercedes-Benz

While the car was expected to be a success, its fame even surpassed the company's expectations. Thanks to Mercedes-Benz's then-head of styling Bruno Sacco's influential vision, the car eventually became a major style icon of the 1970s. 

The Experimental Mercedes-Benz C111 That Never Got to Hit the Road
A German newspaper from 1969. "The ‘big hit’ of the IAA is not for sale." Source: Mercedes-Benz

The "super" sports car featured gullwing doors and a three-rotor Wankel rotary engine with 280 Hp, making it the industry's new kid on the block. The C111 could hit a top speed of 167.7 mph (270 km/h).

Notably, the C111 series is also considered to be the inspiration behind the gullwing doors in the automotive industry.

The Experimental Mercedes-Benz C111 That Never Got to Hit the Road
A Wankel engine. Source: Mercedes-Benz

Initial success inspires second-coming: the C111-II

After the massive success of C111, Mercedes-Benz rolled out the C111-II as its successor. The new C111-II could go from 0 to 60 mph (100 km/h) in less than 5 seconds with a top speed of 186.4 mph (300 km/h). What's more, it featured a four-rotor Wankel rotary engine with 350 Hp.

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With its superior features and vibrant design, C111-II ruled the auto market in the pivotal decade.

The Experimental Mercedes-Benz C111 That Never Got to Hit the Road
C111 with gullwing doors up. Source: Mercedes-Benz

While the series was very well-received by both the press and the public, it still wasn't enough for mass-production. The Wankel engines used in these cars are known for their compact power and lightweight nature.

Even with the Wankel engines, the C111 series was reportedly not approved by Mercedes-Benz in terms of reliability and durability.

The Experimental Mercedes-Benz C111 That Never Got to Hit the Road
The promotional image for the C111 in 1969. Source: Mercedes-Benz

Test Circuit Duty

After Mercedes-Benz decided to keep the car off the roads, they decided to use C111 series for the world's test circuits during the oil crisis of the 1970s.

A team of researchers even fitted a C111-II car with a three-liter five-cylinder diesel engine. Later called C111-II D within the company, the car went on to set 16 world records within 60 hours — 13 of which were for diesel vehicles — and the remaining three were for cars with any type of engine.

The Experimental Mercedes-Benz C111 That Never Got to Hit the Road
The C111-II D on-duty. Source: Mercedes-Benz

The C111 series is still in use — but only for research and development purposes. As the epitome of the 1970s dream car, this model has remained the best of the best for many car enthusiasts around the world — for over 50 years. But sadly, this experimental design will probably always stay a dream since the Mercedes-Benz never released further news on one of the most beautiful designs in history.

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