Issue 3 ·2012
New Zealand Formula 1: backstage at Brackley The new A-Class
Style icon More than a coupe: the Shooting Brake
WINNER Interview with Nico Rosberg by request The AMG dream factory ExtremE Mike Horn’s adventures legendary A lap in the 300 SL Exquisite Rum from Guadeloupe
A u t o m o t i v e
As the mirror images show, the car that has evolved from the four-door coupe oozes style and spaciousness from every angle. words michael moorstedt
photos gulliver theis
A u t o m o t i v e
roadholding and handling are superb â€“ courtesy of the standard rear air suspension.
A u t o m o t i v e
the Shooting Brake is the ideal car for those seeking to stand out from the crowd and travel in style, without having to compromise on sportiness or load space.
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one of a kind
with panache: handcrafted perfection is fused with elegance and sophisticated details.
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coupe-like in its proportions, yet the Shooting Brake offers all kinds of possibilities thanks to its five doors.
hooting Brake: far from sounding like one of those unnecessarily pompous names that are occasionally dreamed up for cars, it has the ring of power and dynamism. And so it should, considering the origins of the CLS Shooting Brake: “brakes” or “breaks” were formerly carts that were used to break in wild horses. Light superstructures were mounted on them, capable of carrying just the bare essentials for hunting. Any vehicles of this kind that were taken out on fox hunts were referred to as shooting brakes. Once horse-drawn carriages cleared the way for motorized transport, the same principle was transferred to automobiles. This breed of vehicle became very popular in Great Britain in the late 1960s – sports cars that looked like a coupe at the front and a station wagon at the rear. They were conceived for the upper-class country gent who wished to carry rifles and other hunting paraphernalia with him, even when traveling on the motorway at speed. Not forgetting the pack hounds, of course, which was why a dog grille often came as standard. The concept has now shaken off its rural connotations thanks to the work of Mercedes-Benz – there is nothing remotely rustic about the suave and sophisticated Shooting Brake from Stuttgart.
Contemporary design Just as when the CLS family was first introduced in 2004, the Shooting Brake’s design idiom has really put the courage of the Mercedes-Benz design team to the test. But once again, the visionary qualities of an exterior that was initially met with such skepticism are firmly shining through. At the time, the motoring press was taken aback, claiming Mercedes-Benz had created a superfluous gap in the market. It wasn’t long before they changed their tune, however: suddenly experts and critics were proclaiming it “a form of expression with a future”. In the meantime, it has engendered an entire segment of graceful four-door coupes. The Shooting Brake once again sees Mercedes-Benz streaking ahead. “The new model is symbolic of the evolving Mercedes-Benz design idiom, which is 23 25
a u t o m o t i v e s tat s
cls Shooting Brake
The interior is a classy blend of hand-stitched leather and wood trim
CLS 250 CDI BlueEfficiency Engine / Output 2.2-liter 4-cylinder diesel, 150 kW at 3,800 rpm; max. torque 500 Nm (368 lbft) at 1,600–1,800 rpm Transmission 7G-Tronic Plus 7-speed automatic Aceleration 0–100 km/h (62 mph) in 7.8 s Top speed 235 km/h (146 mph)
underpinned by aesthetic and avant-garde principles,” notes Head of Design Gorden Wagener. Or, to put it another way: the car looks great. But what is the Shooting Brake exactly – a coupe, a
really a Coupe? The Shooting Brake assimilates the best of all genres.
station wagon, a sedan? Such classifications are
Fuel consumption urban: 6.4–6.3 l diesel/100 km (36.7–37.3 mpg) inter-urban: 4.8–4.7 l diesel/100 km (49–50 mpg) combined: 5.4–5.3 l diesel/100 km (43.5–44.3 mpg)
perhaps obsolete, as the CLS Shooting Brake as-
The newest addition to the range comes with the
similates the best of all genres: the rear is ample
very latest assistance systems, which are capable
CO2 emissions combined: 143–139 g/km (230–223 g/mi)
without being inelegant, and the tailgate takes
of parking the car for the driver, for instance, or
Energy class A
nothing away from the special charm of the CLS,
correcting its course if he is briefly distracted. The
combining as it does hatchback styling with four
interior appointments are a seamless continua-
doors. No trade-offs have to be made space-wise,
tion of the exterior’s visionary styling. In designo
either: despite its svelte rear, the CLS Shooting
guise, the luggage compartment features the
Brake can still accommodate 590 to 1,550 liters
kind of wood floor that wouldn’t look out of place
(20.8–40.6 cu. ft) of luggage, making it a surpris-
in a CEO’s office suite or on the deck of a yacht.
ingly practical travel companion into the bargain.
It is made of American cherry with smoked oak inlays and recessed aluminum protective rails. In
Equipment ahead of its time
the car’s standard specification, the floor is car-
“All true automotive legends appeal in equal
peted and the beltlines are trimmed just as in the
measure to both the heart and the head. A car’s
rest of the interior. And forming an intrinsic part
functionality is a basic must for the customer. But
of it, the designers firmly believe, is the luggage
fascination, that’s the magic extra ingredient,”
compartment. After all, there’s no reason why the
explains Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche. If that’s the
luggage under the power tailgate shouldn’t enjoy
recipe, the Shooting Brake would seem to have
the same supreme travel comfort as the rest of
everything it takes to become a legend overnight.
the vehicle’s occupants.
Trunk capacity 590-1,550 liters (20.8–40.6 cu. ft) The values stated were calculated according to the measuring methods specified in the currently applicable version of Directive 80/1268/EWG. The data do not relate to a specific vehicle and are not part of the specification, but are merely for the purpose of comparing different vehicle types. The figures are provided in accordance with the German regulation “PKW-EnVKV” and apply to the German market only. www.mercedes-benz.com
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Wish upon a star
Cowhide upholstery from your own cattle; an interior all in turquoise – unusual customer requests are all in a day’s work for AMG’s Oliver Kurz. But sometimes even he can’t avoid a sharp intake of breath. transcription christoph henn
i l l u s t r at i o n j a m e s daw e
as it simply a
Some purists might raise an eyebrow about the
reminder of home,
choice of color. But we always leave the question
a reassuring sou-
of taste to our customers. After all, there’s no ac-
venir of his ranch
counting for aesthetic preferences, which can dif-
while he was off
fer widely between different cultures, and even
between different age groups. For example, an
Germany? No, that wasn’t the real reason the Ar-
American customer once ordered an SLK entirely
gentinian farmer turned up at the AMG showroom
in pastel pink – both outside and in – as an 18th
toting a swatch of cowhide – as we soon found out.
birthday present for his daughter. For some of our
After checking out some of the models, he laid his
staff, this was rather an unusual request – but
sample on a table. “I want the leather to be from my
they carried it out to the letter.
own cows,” he explained, adding that he also wanted the hides fitted so that his farm’s logo, which was
Painted in gold dust
branded into the hide, would be clearly visible and
Somewhat more subtle, yet equally flamboyant,
positioned exactly in the center of the seat.
was the request of one customer from the Arab
Although this particular request – to have your
market. He came into our office and explained
own cattle used as seat upholstery – must rank
that he wanted to adorn the paintwork of his car
as one of the more unusual ones AMG has re-
with 500 grams (16 oz) of gold dust. I want you
ceived in its time, the desire to make one’s car
to use it on my car.” We were momentarily taken
literally the only one of its kind is something we
aback before turning to the question of how to
come across all the time. In some cases, people
apply the gold dust.
simply want to get themselves noticed. In oth-
As with every special request we get, this one,
ers, it may be a desire to celebrate something of
too, was forwarded to the relevant departments
unique personal significance.
for technical assessment. The first step before
The ultimate custom feel
we give a quote and get to work involves answering two all-important questions. Firstly,
The Argentinian rancher definitely fell into the
do we actually want to do this? For example,
second group. And so did a married couple who
we always decline on principle any request to
came to see us shortly after returning from a
modify a vehicle that would make it look like
dream honeymoon in the Maldives. “Every morn-
another model – if it would give an E 200 the
ing, when we went into our bathroom, we were
appearance of the considerably more expensive
greeted by this amazing vista of turquoise blue
E 63 AMG, say. We have to protect our brand –
water and turquoise blue sky,” they reported.
and also our customers who have paid a lot of
Even the hotel towels were in the same shade of
money for an original AMG model.
turquoise. Sure enough, the couple had brought
The second question is feasibility. Some requests
one along so we could use it as a sample – and
just wouldn’t work – like when a customer
customize the entire interior of their 463 kW
wanted us to fit just half of the two-part
CL 63 AMG in that very same honeymoon shade. It was a challenge, but our leather supplier had soon got the color spot on. The whole process through to installation of the finished turquoise leather seats and trim in the car took just nine weeks. The newly-weds were prepared to overlook the costs – provided they could step into a distinctive interior that would always remind them of those first days of wedded bliss.
as a present for his daughter’s 18th birthday, one customer requested a roadster entirely in pastel pink. 31
A u t o m o t i v e Almost anything is possible – from a pink SLK to paintwork made from gold dust
Das beste am Auf-
wachen direkt neben dem Nürburgring: Statt zwitschernder Vögel begrüßte mich das Aufheulen der V8-Motoren.
aerodynamics package for the C 63 AMG Black Series. The client was very taken with the bumper canards at the front, but wanted to dispense with
SOME SPECIAL REQUESTS are so popular, they cross over into the regular AMG options list.
the rear spoiler. However, that kind of modification would have fundamentally altered the car’s
Some of the more exotic customer requests can
the time we have finished, the child seat may
aerodynamics. After all, we do prefer our custom-
cost a lot of money, of course, since any job we
be worth as much as a top-quality tailored suit.
ers’ cars to remain firmly on the ground, and it
take on must meet our high quality standards.
There are also cases where a special request
goes without saying that all our vehicles have to
But many customers are so committed to their
proves so popular that it actually crosses over
meet certain quality and technical certification
personal project that they will go to great lengths
into the official AMG options list. As an example,
to visit us in person. Sometimes we have even
we had a lot of requests for a leather-trimmed
The gold dust request got the thumbs up, though:
had to request the use of the local sports ground
instrument panel in the current C-Class, and
as the gold was as fine as the particles in metal-
in Affalterbach as a helicopter landing pad.
so we decided to include this feature among the
lic paintwork, it could simply be mixed into a
AMG Performance Studio options.
clear coat, then sprayed onto the car. This was a
Perfect down to the smallest detail
memorable job in more ways than one. Because
When customers spend a lot of money for a
ian rancher’s request wasn’t feasible even as a
the material was so valuable, and the particles
uniquely customized car, they expect the result
one-off. We only use certified automotive-grade
so tiny, the painting was carried out under the
to be perfect. And that means getting the small-
leather in our cars, which must be tear- and
supervision of security guards. Elaborate and
est detail right as well. A customer may not
crack-resistant, and must not shrink or sag. The
time-consuming the project may have been, but
be content just with having the interior of his
hides must also be free of insect bites. But this
the results were impressive. Towards evening
CL 65 AMG fully trimmed in quilted brown
customer still went away highly satisfied: he
or in dull weather, the car appears black, but as
leather: he may want a fully matching child
decided to opt for seats in regular leather, and
soon as it catches a ray of sunshine, it is trans-
seat as well. That means having to dismantle a
rather than his personal logo being branded into
formed into a sparkling and glittering jewel.
standard child seat, then reupholstering it. By
the hide, it was embroidered on instead.
At the other end of the scale, the Argentin-
Ciao, bella! Lake Comoâ€™s combination of towering hills and Mediterranean flair gives the new compact Mercedes-Benz an alluring stage on which to display its abilities â€“ and put a smile on the faces of driver, passengers and onlookers alike. words jo clahsen 34
photos jann klee
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Outlook fine: a brief stop is usually worth it 35
a u t o m o t i v e
A pleasant surprise: the A-Class proves to be an instant hit
The new compact model sticks to its line even through tight corners
grille, a front splitter-style spoiler and wide door sills – lends our A-Class the presence to command a separate zip code. Indeed, the rear end, with its two exhaust tailpipes sandwiching a honeycomb grille, justifies a hearty “bellissima!” on its own. It’s an expression that says it all, and that also comes instantly to mind when your eye turns to the carbon-look elements, Alcantara/leather trim and flat-bottomed leather steering wheel in the interior. Red stitching for the seats and the inside of the steering wheel rim and gearshift paddles behind the wheel are joined by a display that stands out like an icon from the center of the dashboard. The
Shining light: narrow roads pose little danger
air vents are pleasing to the touch and glide smoothly within their mounts. I sense an inquisitive look from my female companion. Was my pause as I noted the lack
ellagio is a name that promises much but
of a gear lever that obvious?
also delivers on that promise. The caffè al volo at Bar Carillon is excellent, while the
hustle and bustle of the piazza is exactly
The Falcone docks with a slight clunk
how you imagine (and want) Italy to be. Lake
against the harbor wall and it’s time to dis-
Como – the “lago”, as it is generally known
embark. A press of the A-Class’ starter but-
in these parts – glistens in the sunlight,
ton triggers an understated response from
the richly decorated façades on the water’s
its engine. Perhaps this modest fanfare is an
edge telling equally colorful stories. Poised
attempt to conceal its power. I nudge
impatiently under the deep-azure sky, the A 250 is straining to finally turn a wheel, to finally be driven as its maker intended. First, though, we must board the ferry – and make sure we’re in pole position at Varenna harbor when the boat docks. The drone of the vessel’s diesel engine provides an unlikely drum roll for the A 250. Even before we’d left the quayside in Bellagio, its wow factor was in rude health. Young Italians had flocked around the silvery gray car, all sweeping hand movements, “bellas” and “benes”. The AMG sport pack – including honeycomb inserts in the air intakes, a large three-pointed star on the radiator
All clear: passengers also enjoy a good view of the display
the selector lever into D and drive down off the boat, out of Varenna and up into the hills towards Castello di Vezio. My surprise as we accelerate out of the town must have been visible; I glance to my side to be met by a mischievously twinkling pair of eyes that not even dark lenses can conceal. But still she says nothing. The A 250 is genuinely rewarding; my steering commands are followed directly, impressive roadholding allows me to maintain good pace through the corners. But is that as far as it goes? We start our first climb into the hills. I tap an inconspicuous button bearing the letters E, S and M; an S (for Sport mode) appears in the display in front of me. Sport tickles another 500 rpm from the engine and lifts the curtain on its full 155 kW. Full power had previously remained under wraps in E (Economy) mode, the engineâ€™s byword for sustainable mobility. S, though, is a seri-
Hit the apex of the bend and straight back on the gas
ous game-changer, rousing the hairs on the back of the driverâ€™s neck. The 2-liter gasoline powerplant stokes the fires immediately, responds in the blink of an eye to word from the shift paddles, and rises majestically to the challenge of the ascent.
climb up into the hills. The display is showing S for Sport, and that draws an extra 500 rpm from the engine.
I jump on the brakes into the first hairpin and flick the left-hand paddle; the A-Class
distracts me only for an instant; this journey
gathers itself with a brief blip of the throt-
in the A-Class has now become a pleasure de-
tle. The smile beaming out from my right
manding full concentration. Despite the wave of propulsion, the car retains impressive stability and ease of control as it skims through the narrow streets in the manner of a two-seater. An unavoidable pothole gives the suspension a chance to highlight the depth of its talents.
Incredible precision I push the selector lever once more and call up manual mode. The display shows the seven gears I now have responsibility for navigating, Formula 1 style. I canâ€™t help but admire the inHappy days: a drive in the A-Class is good for the spirits
credible precision with which the A-Class goes about its business. It is in dynamically taken corners like these that you understand why the steering wheel has that slightly sawn-off
a u t o m o t i v e
Italian charm and Stuttgartâ€™s newcomer make a good match
Park up? Thanks, but no thanks
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s tat s
A-Class A 250 BlueEfficiency Engine / Output 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, 155 kW at 5,500 rpm; max. torque 350 Nm (258 lbft) at 1,200–4,000 rpm Transmission 7G-DCT 7-speed dual clutch transmission Acceleration 0–100 km/h (62 mph) in 6.6 s Top speed 240 km/h (149 mph)
The new A-Class boasts a flawlessly executed design
dles sit under your fingers in pursuit of extra speed. There is barely a grumble as the engine spins towards its red line; a twitch of
THE SHIFT Paddles sit nicely under the fingers and usher in a handy turn of speed.
a finger and the next gear goes to work. A sign urging drivers to “Rallentare” (slow
Energy class C
down) with a warning of “Dosso Artificiale”
Back towards Bellagio, and S mode appears
(speed bumps) soon brings me back to saun-
to have stepped back into the fray all by it-
tering pace. These purpose-built speed re-
self. The truth, of course, is that my finger
strictors in the road are easily high enough
could hardly wait to issue the command.
to take a chunk out of the spoiler. Even so, it
The road is plunging downhill now, but the
is with a heavy heart that I slip back from S
A-Class shows no weakness. Brake into the
to E. The A 250 BlueEfficiency immediately
corner, change down, then back on the accel-
settles down to the quiet life once again,
erator through the apex of the hairpin. After
even turning the engine off completely when
another caffè in Bellagio, we cruise back to
we draw to a standstill. This is what you
Como in E mode. The roads here are too tight
might call interactive sustainability, with
to use the paddles constructively, as we are
the emphasis on ease and efficiency.
reminded by every oncoming bus and truck. They are so tight, in fact, that on occasion
Lake Como serves as a fleeting distraction from the main event of the day
the exterior mirrors need to be folded in. But none of this detracts from the pleasure of the journey. The transmission moves through the gears quickly but calmly, fuel consumption drops markedly, and you realize that the A-Class is really three cars in one: a glider, a sportsman, a car for the demanding driver – one whose strengths are given a fitting showcase by the AMG sport pack.
CO2 emissions combined: 145–143 g/km (233–230 g/mi)
Trunk capacity 341–1,157 liters (12–41 cu. ft) The values stated were calculated according to the measuring methods specified in the currently applicable version of Directive 80/1268/EWG. The data do not relate to a specific vehicle and are not part of the specification, but are merely for the purpose of comparing different vehicle types. The figures are provided in accordance with the German regulation “PKW-EnVKV” and apply to the German market only. www.mercedes-benz.com
hair & make- up: alex ander hofmann / ARTISTGROUPMIERAU.COM, St yling: Wu Yu / frel ancer.it
profile and appreciate how neatly the pad-
Fuel consumption urban: 8.4–8.3 l premium/100 km (28–28.3 mpg) inter-urban: 5.0–4.9 l premium/100 km (47–48 mpg) combined: 6.2–6.1 l premium/100 km (37.9–38.5 mpg)
Le Mans Classic
Arise number 2!
The 300 SL Gullwing was content to stay in the background at the start
p e r f o r m a n c e
When classic racing car aficionados met up in northern France this July, the party went on for three days. Attention focused on the anniversary of the 300 SLâ€™s legendary one-two victory in the 24-hour race. words marc deckert
photos jan friese
p e r f o r m a n c e
Car number 3 was the 300 SL with chassis number 5. At the wheel: Hans Herrmann
he Le Mans rain is getting heavier. “I’ve lined up here 14 times,” recalls Hans Herrmann, “and every time it has rained at some point.” Will our start time get put back again? “Well, there are still a few cars on the track,” says Herrmann, his eyes screwed up behind his spectacles. We’re sitting in a small silver car looking at a red light, waiting for a green one, our tiny windshield wipers flicking back and forth. I’m the co-driver today, blessed with an extraordinary opportunity to race over the legendary Le Mans 24-hour course. As if that wasn’t enough, there are various other special factors to consider. My driver won the 24-hour race in 1970 but is now 84 years old, and two minutes earlier he admitted he didn’t know the track all that well. Indeed, a few chicanes have been added to the circuit since 1970. “But don’t worry,” he said. “We’ll be following Jochen Mass out and he knows his way around.” What of our 60-yearold car? Mr. Herrmann’s not on first-name terms with that either, but it feels good, apparently.
Three days of classic motorsports The Le Mans Classic is a festival of three days and three nights that draws in hordes of classic car racing fans. The event, which takes place Not long before the start: a press of the ignition button, and the engine roars into life
every other year and was held for the sixth time in 2012, rekindles the atmosphere and style of the legendary Le Mans races.
24 hours without rain? Not likely at Le Mans. On track is a Lotus Elan
Racing cars and sports cars from the 1960s and 70s are particularly well represented. Pictured here is a Ford GT; on the facing page a Porsche 911 flies down the start/ finish straight
p e r f o r m a n c e
Among those at the wheel are former winners
heralded the return of Mercedes to motor rac-
car has to be towed away by a new one – to gen-
of the 24-hour race like Herrmann and Mass,
ing and was a crucial result for the company.
erous applause from the stands – like an injured
plus other well-known figures such as former
60 years on, Mercedes is back on the Le Mans
soccer star being carried off after giving his all.
French Prime Minister, François Fillon. The
track with two original SL models, one of which
By Saturday morning, the fields around the cir-
cars, meanwhile, range from cigar-shaped
is the oldest surviving example of this classic.
cuit are already bathed in bleary-eyed euphoria.
1920s Bugattis and Bentleys and elegant racers
“I woke up this morning to the sound of 4.5-liter
from the 1950s and 60s to the brutally powerful
Number 2 survived in a box
Bentleys,” beams a young British fan, taking
machines that pounded the Mulsanne straight
At Le Mans, every car has a voice of its own. In-
a break from his doorman’s duties at a private
at up to 400 km/h (249 mph) in the 1970s. The
deed, the assembled machinery can already be
campsite. The Le Mans Classic is perhaps the
races take place over exactly 24 hours from Sat-
heard loud and clear before the race on the start/
only place you’ll find cars worth half a million
urday over to Sunday, with each group of cars
finish straight in front of the main grandstands.
euros parked next to a humble tent on a camp-
in circulation for a few hours. Off the track, live
V-8 Corvettes and fellow American models roll
site. Many of the British enthusiasts have trav-
bands pump out 60s soul and Mod rock, shops
past with a deep rumble. Old Talbots and De-
eled down with friends in convoy. A man from
sell leather racing driver hats and tweed caps,
lages roar, Austins rasp, Ferraris emit a theatri-
the Triumph Club proudly tells us how he and
while auctions and beauty contests compete for
cal howl, Cobras thunder. Against this backdrop,
his two brothers all managed to squeeze into his
attention with the noise and the whiff of gaso-
the modern-day sports cars mingling in among
delicate old car.
line. This year, however, there is also a special
their classic counterparts during the free laps al-
The din from the engines should ensure nobody
anniversary to celebrate: 60 years ago, in 1952,
ways come across as faintly disappointing, their
here gets a wink of sleep tonight, either; indeed,
two Mercedes prototypes of a newly-developed
engines sounding more like electric motors by
the crowds are hardly fresh as daisies as it
racing car were entered in the Le Mans 24-hour
comparison. Having said that, it’s unlikely you’ll
stands. But it’s all part of the occasion. Of course
race under the name “300 SL” – and duly roared
find a genuinely quiet car anywhere in Le Mans
the 24-hour drivers of yesteryear got tired,
their way to a much admired one-two victory. It
this weekend. From time to time, a beautiful old
too. Mike from Leicestershire leans against
his 1930s Riley, which he found in a barn and
SOMETIMES a beautiful old car has to be towed away by a new one – to generous applause from the stands – like an injured soccer star being carried from the field after giving his all.
of them again,” explains Vincenzo Carlucci, a
restored with his own hands. His friend Andy
mechanic at the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center.
bought his Riley for 8,000 pounds. The original
It was no easy task, as the car was to be rebuilt
logbook contains the name of only one previous
exactly in its original image. Only parts subject
owner: a Royal Air Force officer named Snowdon.
to wear, such as wheel bearings and seals, were
The first thing you pick up when you visit Mer-
replaced. Peculiarities like the slightly asym-
cedes at Le Mans are numbers. The two W 194
metrical, extremely thin hand-built aluminum-
cars are known by everybody simply as “Num-
magnesium body were not smoothed out, and
ber 2” and “Number 5”. Number 2 is the old-
the unusual matte silver paintwork – known as
est surviving SL, never saw race action, and
“silver bronze” at the time – was replicated us-
was employed merely as a test car by the rac-
ing a new, less toxic formulation.
ing department. While many of its successful
This SL consequently lacks some of the spar-
siblings came to grief in accidents, number 2
kle of conventionally restored cars. A French-
survived under the radar as an everyday run-
speaking man of a certain age stopped by to
ner – “to pick up the shopping”, as a member of
praise this “beautiful car”, but remarked that
the Classic team put it – until its worth gradu-
the paintwork let the side down. This, says Vin-
ally gained appreciation. In 1997, the car was
cenzo Carlucci, betrays a lack of understand-
stripped down to its individual parts, and num-
ing, since the car was not intended to be perfect
ber 2 was to languish in a box for 14 years.
but to look exactly as it had done 60 years ago.
“Last year, we were reminded that we still had
One other idiosyncrasy of the number 2 car
the oldest surviving SL stacked up somewhere
also stands out: the rather unusual door open-
in parts, and please could we make a car out
ings at beltline height. Larger doors, you 61
p e r f o r m a n c e see, would only have compromised the rigidity
counter; and the minor instruments showing
water is still collecting in the cracks between
of the structure. Using a visionary space frame
water temperature, fuel pressure, oil tempera-
the door seals and roof and it splashes down
made of triangular elements, designer and de-
ture and oil pressure are arranged lower down.
onto us. I can’t believe I’m sitting in a Mer-
velopment chief Rudolf Uhlenhaut succeeded in
There is also a centrally-mounted stopwatch.
cedes where the rain gets in! “It’s a racing car,”
keeping the prototypes’ weight down to around
Gert Straub passes us the final piece in the jig-
shrugs Straub. “It was built to be fast, not dry,”
1,000 kg (2,200 lb). And to impressive effect:
saw through the open Gullwing door: “Have a
adds Herrmann, dryly.
the 300 SL racers may have had only 170 hp
steering wheel,” he says with a grin.
Finally, it’s time to go and we head towards
under the hood, but they put clear air between
the start. Herrmann thumbs the ignition but-
them and their rivals to finish second and
Is it a 384 km/h sort of day?
ton and the engine rumbles into life. There’s
fourth in the Mille Miglia and follow it up with
Hans Herrmann glances over at the tempera-
no soundproofing inside the cabin (due to the
a 1-2-3 in the Bern sports car race, as well as a
ture: “Just over 60.” We haven’t made it onto
extra weight). On the outside, the car's prettily
clean sweep of the top four places at the Nür-
the track yet and are still in the midst of the
proportioned curves reveal its inherent racing
burgring. However, the rules for Le Mans re-
crowds. Bystanders duck under our open
car character. “A little less gas!” Straub calls out
quired the sports cars to have “normal” doors,
Gullwing doors as the intensity of the rain in-
as we pull away. Herrmann smiles indulgently.
and so the openings were made larger – and
creases. Cameras are snapping away. Straub is
The green light means it’s time for the driver to
the SL’s hallmark Gullwing doors were born.
passing the time by kicking small stones out
show his true character, too. And the courteous
“Please don’t pump the accelerator,” requests
of the car’s path, what with that rather nice
84-year-old duly roars into the right-hander
engineer Gert Straub, as Hans Herrmann levers
paintwork to preserve. We close the doors, but
like a scalded cat. Once a racing driver, always
himself into the blue-checked bucket seat of number 5. “I know, I know,” replies Herrmann in his Swabian tones. Straub is the custodian of Mercedes-Benz’ fleet of historical racing cars and has been known to worry about them on occasion. There may not be a lot of room inside the number 5 car, but it is surprisingly cozy. You are greeted by carpeting and dashboardmounted velour sun protectors as you climb in; the driver looks out over a speedometer and rev
a racing driver.
THE NOISE inside the car says you’re doing 300 km/h (186 mph), but the speedo shows just 130 km/h (81 mph). We’re getting faster, though.
Now we’re really building up a head of steam. Through the Dunlop Chicane and into the Tertre Rouge corner. “It’s all new to me!” shouts Herrmann, who’s clear enjoying his trip to pastures new. Given the noise inside the car, I could have sworn we were doing 300 km/h (186 mph), but the speedo is showing a paltry 130 km/h (81 mph). We’re getting quicker, though, despite the jerky attempts of the tiny wipers to clear the
The night belongs to the endurance kings, like this Riley. Cars are on track for precisely 24 hours 62
Le Mans 24 hours The endurance race was run for the first time at the Circuit des 24 Heures in 1923. The 13.5-kilometer (just under 8.5-mile) course was once notorious for its long straight, which saw the cars reaching speeds of up to 400 km/h (249 mph). In 1990, however, two chicanes were added, taking away some of the danger. The Le Mans Classic has been held every two years since 2002. Away from the racing, historic sports car owners get together in the town of Arnage to the south of the circuit for an unofficial beauty contest celebrating their cars’ splendor, the sound of their engines, and themselves in general. The party goes on late into the night. www.mercedes-benz-classic.com
screen. Before I know it, we’re on the Mulsanne straight and pushing 200 km/h (124 mph). “I was clocked at 384 km/h (239 mph) here once,” recalls Herrmann. Is he in the mood for similar speeds today? He’s certainly driving like it. In the 1969 race, he pulled off some frankly insane passing moves on his rival Jacky Ickx in this part of the circuit. On the final lap alone, the race changed hands three times. We brake hard as we hurtle towards the Michelin chicane, a post1970s addition to the track. Does my driver know where we are? There’s little time to wonder. Back in 1958, Herrmann suffered an unimaginable accident, his brakes failing during a race at the Avus circuit and his BRM flipping over 17 times. The driver emerged with nothing more than a few scratches – having been flung out of the car early on – and the nickname “Hans im Glück” (Lucky Hans) to show for his trouble. Hopefully, I find myself thinking, there’s some fortune left for his co-drivers. We howl through the chicane, before Herrmann opens the taps
Classic Magazine. Printed fascination.
once again. “I’d have to do that 10 or 15 times,” he says, “to really master the circuit again.” The party continues into the night with an unofficial parade in Arnage. Number 2 and number 5 have already turned in for the night. Their work here is done.
The street party in Arnage, south of Le Mans, brings together locals and visitors from around the world
The current issue is available at wellstocked newspaper stands or by subscription. Please contact tel. 0800 0 01 00 01 (from Germany) or +49 711 72 52-268 (abroad). Please visit our website: www.mercedes-benz-classic.com/ magazine
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BLUE SKY MOTORING
Open seasons The cabriolet for all seasons is no longer just wishful thinking. Thanks to some bright ideas and inspired engineering, this soft-top two-door Mercedes-Benz makes the dream come true. words christof vieweg
p h o t o s/c g i s c h รถ t t g e r
Topless composure: the four-seater cabriolet from Mercedes-Benz
Built-in safety: seven standard airbags and crashresponsive head restraints protect the occupants
soft materials and superior fittings deliver what many others only promise: luxury.
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of freedom is unforgettable and the urge to get back behind the wheel overpowering.
The soft top can be lowered at speeds of up to 40 km/h (25 mph); it vanishes into the trunk in just 20 seconds 69
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Summer sensations: with the integrated Aircap and Airscarf, open-top motoring is almost always an option 70
This is a breath of fresh air in the middle of a working day. Blue sky, the open air, and to cap it all, a car that helps me make the most of the good weather: the E-Class Cabriolet. The trip to my next meeting on the edge of town is only short, but those 45 minutes are quite enough to send my spirits soaring from office-standby mode to the height of delight. A gentle breeze wafts through my hair as I cruise across town. I catch a few chords of music from a street cafe, then the sound of laughter, and even the cyclist at the next red light gives me a friendly nod. “Alright?” Very much so. There’s birdsong from the park, soundbites of conversation from the roadside, children’s laughter, the smell of fresh bread from a bakery… You’re driving by, but at the same time you’re at the heart of things. Open-top driving is relaxing,
ALL IT TAKES is a short trip with the roof down to send your spirits soaring.
soothing even, good for the soul. And yet it does have one downside: it’s addictive. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll never forget the sense of freedom – and the urge to get back behind the wheel can soon become overpowering. That could have something to do with the feelgood factor inside an E-Class Cabriolet. Ergonomically designed seats, top-quality trim, soft, supple materials and warm colors deliver what many others only promise: real luxury. My gaze wanders across the wealth of refinements in the cockpit and onto the center console, over the buttons and switches for the various functionalities, over the automatic airconditioning and the controller. A place for everything and everything in its place. But still there’s something missing. Where’s the soft-top release? Then I notice the lid on the hand 71
mode r n stats
Air and space: even with the roof down, you still have 300 liters (10.6 cu. ft) of space in the trunk
E-Class E-Class Cabriolet Output range 125 kW–300 kW Fuel consumption urban: 12.9–6.4 l/100 km (18.2–36.7 mpg) inter-urban: 6.9–4.4 l/100 km (34.1–53.4 mpg) combined: 9.1–5.1 l/100 km (25.8–46.1 mpg) CO2 emissions combined: 213–135 g/km (342–217 g/mi) Energy class E to A The values stated were calculated according to the measuring methods specified in the currently applicable version of Directive 80/1268/EWG. The data do not relate to a specific vehicle and are not part of the specification, but are merely for the purpose of comparing different vehicle types. The figures are provided in accordance with the German regulation “PKW-EnVKV” and apply to the German market only. www.mercedes-benz.com
rest, aft of the controller. It opens like a jewelry
the level of airflow over the car by 6 cm (around
thanks to the ingenious cabriolet designers at
case to reveal a chrome-set lever. Pull it, and the
2.5 in.), substantially reducing the air move-
Mercedes-Benz for this patented stroke of ge-
insulated fabric roof comes to life, opening in a
ments in the interior of the E-Class Cabriolet.
nius. Airscarf has already won its spurs in the
wonderfully choreographed sequence of moves.
Aircap benefits not only the driver and front-seat
Stuttgart-based manufacturer’s roadsters. But
Folded up, it vanishes into the trunk. The trans-
passenger, but everyone in the car. Here again,
the combination of Aircap and Airscarf in the
formation takes just 20 seconds and can be acti-
Mercedes-Benz has lived up to its claim to make
E-Class Cabriolet makes a winning duo of in-
vated on the fly at up to 40 km/h (25 mph).
open-top driving a delight for everyone on board.
genious inventions. While Aircap deflects the
But there’s more than one gem in the jewelry
It’s getting late. My meeting took longer than
airflow upwards, Airscarf emits warm air from
case: the second switch makes for the perfect
expected, and the sun is dipping towards the ho-
the two front head restraints, air that wraps itself
open-top experience by activating a world-first in
rizon. Time for all those soft-top drivers to raise
around your neck like an invisible scarf.
the shape of the Aircap, available for the E-Class
the roof. All those other drivers. Because, while
This pleasant, comforting sensation serves up a
Cabriolet as part of the optional Comfort pack-
your average cabriolet driver reaches for the roof
precious, perhaps invaluable gift by adding two
age. At the touch of a button, a wind deflector
controls to shut out the cool evening air, the roof
seasons to the open-top driving year, seasons
emerges from the upper edge of the windshield
of my E-Class Cabriolet stays right where it is,
which formerly were largely off-limits to cabrio-
and at the same time a draft-stop is raised be-
in the trunk. With Airscarf to maintain a pool
let fans. Here’s a clue: think falling leaves and a
tween the rear seats. The wind deflector elevates
of warm air inside my car, I whisper a word of
hint of snow.