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Monday, May 29, 2023

The forgotten car prototypes of three-pointed star

Forgotten ONES The sportscar makers in the 1960s was being in transition era to shift from the front-mounted drivetrain layout towards to the mid-mounted ones. As we all know, the realization of those idea into reality was first pioneered by the small-time Italian company ATS through the ATS 2500 GT in 1963, while others like Lamborghini directly applied it to its production versions of sportscars, the Miura in 1966.
The Mercedes-Benz SLX prototype while sat on display at the Techno Classic in Essen back in 2019, as it clearly visible is the questionable style feature of the large rear air intake. (Picture from: Roarington)
Meanwhile, many other automakers also apply it to their racing cars that compete in various world-renowned races, such as Ferrari were already racing using its mid-engined 250 LM racers, Porsche with its 904 and Ford later joined on the fun with 1964's GT40. So where was Mercedes-Benz at that time? As history tells us, Mercedes-Benz wanted a seat at the table to kick back and relax away from the serious business of producing the world's best luxury sedans. But is it really so?
The Mercedes-Benz SLX featured with a sleek body with arched fenders, pop-up headlights, and an oversized three point star on the nose, and in pictured while sat on display at the Mercedes-Benz Museum. (Picture from: Roarington)
As quoted from Roarington, the real fact is not so, Mercedes-Benz management at that time had also thought in that direction, considering since the company retired after the tragedy at Le Mans back in 1955, only the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL 'Gullwing' known as the last-remaining triumphed symbol of this German's three-pointed star company in the world's motor sports arena. By taking inspiration from the sportscar makers mentioned above, the German company top brasses decided to study in advance what styling, as well as what technology should be adopted by a Mercedes-Benz rear-engined sports car dedicated to road use.
The evolution of the first SLX idea in 1965 began with a 1:5 scale model. Here, the designers Paul Braq (right) and Giorgio Battistella who created the model. (Picture from: Roarington)
By 1962, Mercedes-Benz was seriously handled the notion of building a mid-engined sports car, and pointed Paul Braq, who had designed the Pagoda and Giorgio Battistella, an Italian designer once worked for OSI the Turin-based coachbuilding company to design the car. In terms of style, creating a model that could rival to the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL legendary model was a tough tasks. The distinguishing element of this model is the mass distribution, with a shorter nose and a longer, tapered tail to accommodate the engine.
The very smooth line of the SLX with its generous front fenders made possible by moving the engine to the rear. (Picture from: Roarington)
The car also introduces several innovations, including pop-up headlights and a bumper which is integrated into the car body wraps all the way around the vehicle on the sides and rear, coupled with its massive front grilles were dubbed as the most Mercedes part of the prototype. On the contrary, what it's definitely not a Mercedes is the rear with massive side air intakes and a slightly arrow-shaped tail. Later, the car was called the Mercedes-Benz SLX Concept, and was intended to be featured in a tier above the SL in Mercedes-Benz's lineup.
The model of the SLX in the wind tunnel with the classic “wool tufts” that confirm the efficiency of the design. (Picture from: Roarington)
It turned out that it took more than four years to turn the design sketches into a 1:1 scale model featured with a sleek bodywork, and shown an extraordinary wind-tunnel test results. After finishing in 1966, they presented to the board. Unfortunately, they had no luck, despite positive tests in the wind tunnel, the board turned down the design, only because there was a change in the technical direction of the company which, in those years, was more concentrated on innovative forms of engines such as the Wankel
The Mercedes-Benz SLX posed alongside the C111 models that took over between 1969 and 1978. (Picture from: Roarington)
More sadly Mercedes-Benz to opted out of the project entirely, without ever thinking about adapting the car model to those innovative Wankel engine. Instead, they decided to put all-their resources into developing the new C101 followed then C111 projects in the 1969. Since that day the SLX was shelved as a design study, but the rolling chassis still exists within the Mercedes-Benz Museum until today.
Can you imagine how the performance would be if the Mercedes-Benz SLX was fitted with an engine equivalent to an LS V8 coupled with a ZF transaxle at time. Maybe it will be exciting to see this car run fast and cross the finish line of the 24-Hours Le Mans race as a winner back then in the 1960s. Who knows? 

Although this visionary project was shelved, but in fact, it paved the way for a series of prototypes that have played a real role in the development of the brand as we will see in subsequent future models as you can see recently on the Mercedes-AMG ONE. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | ROARINGTON | SECRET-CLASSICS | TOPSPEED | OBSCURE_CARS_DAILY ]
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