Mercedes-Benz 500 SL Rallye (R 107), 1981

Mercedes-Benz Classic with 500 SL Rally at the 2013 ADAC Eifel Rally Festival

  • Prepared for the 1981, but never raced
  • Björn Waldegård to put the car through its paces on the event’s testing stretches 

Stuttgart – Mercedes-Benz Classic will be fielding a rally version of the 500 SL at this year’s ADAC Eifel Rally Festival (25 to 27 July 2013). It will be driven by Björn Waldegård, who won the Bandama Rally at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz 500 SLC in 1980. According to the motto “Rallying up close,” the emphasis will be on fun for participants and spectators alike.

Photos taken in 2012 at the Ascari Racetrack, Spain. At the wheel Jochen Mass.

Photos taken in 2012 at the Ascari Racetrack, Spain. At the wheel Jochen Mass.

The rally variant of the 500 SL based on the Roadster was intended as the successor to the coupés that Mercedes-Benz was deploying in international rallying at the time. It was prepared for the 1981 season. The shorter wheelbase was designed for added agility and handling benefits. Mercedes signed up top driver Walter Röhrl, who also carried out extensive test drives. The vehicle never raced, however, because Mercedes-Benz discontinued its rallying activities before the season got under way in order to focus on the development of series production vehicles.2008DIG29872

Björn Waldegård will put the vehicle through its paces in fitting style on the various testing stretches at the 2013 ADAC Eifel Rally Festival. Born in 1943, the Swede was actively involved in international rallying from the 1960s until the 1990s. He was three-times winner of the Swedish Rally and the Safari Rally in Africa. He also won the Monte Carlo Rally twice and the high point of his career was his 1979 World Championship title. Waldegård raced to victory for Mercedes-Benz in 1980 at the wheel of a 500 SLC in the Bandama Rally – known officially as the “Rallye Côte d’Ivoire,” after having finished as runner-up the year before. Today, he participates regularly in historic rallying.Mercedes-Benz 500 SL Rallye (R 107), 1981

165 historic rally vehicles from five decades are set to turn the small town of Daun in Germany’s Eifel region into a mecca of historic rallying. Over 40,000 visitors are expected. The demonstration drives will be carried out on cordoned-off special test tracks according to FIA standards (Féderation Internationale de l’Automobile). Although the drives will not be timed, a highly enjoyable rallying event is no doubt in store.

Mercedes-Benz 500 SL Rally (R 107), 1981Mercedes-Benz 500 SL Rallye (R 107), 1981

In the wake of its rallying activities with the SLC Coupé of the 107 model series in 1979 and 1980, Mercedes-Benz also considered competing with the shorter and more agile Roadster. Four vehicles were prepared for the 1981 season. Top driver of the time Walter Röhrl was recruited for the planned rallying activities. Röhrl carried out extensive test drives with a Mercedes-Benz 500 SL corresponding to this vehicle.

500 SL Rallye (R 107) with former employee Erich Waxenberger. He led the building of the car for the 1981 season. But it never saw any rallye participance.

500 SL Rallye (R 107) with former employee Erich Waxenberger. He led the building of the car for the 1981 season. But it never saw any rallye participance.

For the planned rallying outings the vehicle was provided with a lower final drive ratio, designed for high acceleration at the cost of a lower top speed. In order to apply the power of the uprated 320 hp (235 kW) V8 engine to the road, the drive axle featured a differential lock with an 80 percent locking effect, resulting in spectacular drift angles. Special characteristics of the M 117 engine were its great reliability and durability.Mercedes-Benz 500 SL Rallye (R 107), 1981

Also impressive was the weight reduction – crucial for motorsport use – from 1586 kilograms to 1350 kilograms (3497 to 2976 lbs), despite a safety cage made of tubular aluminium, additional headlamps and other items of rally equipment. A striking feature was the parking brake operated by an upright lever, which helped in “lining up” the car properly ahead of bends. The vehicle never actually competed in any rallies, however, because Mercedes-Benz discontinued its rallying activities before the season got under way.

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