The 300 SEL in race trim, bored out to 6.8 litres and making around 420hp, caused a sensation by finishing the race in second place, in spite of its prodigious appetite for fuel and tyres. It was an auspicious start for M-B’s tuning arm, and set the tone for an engineering philosophy that hasn’t changed a lot since. So big Benzes married to mighty AMG-fettled V8s have given us knee-trembling thrills for nearly 40 years, and long may the relationship continue!
The ultimate fate of the Roten Sau is unclear, and this replica was built for the Geneva motor show by AMG in 2006. Apparently even finding a suitable base car was a trial, as the restoration team needed a car without a sunroof and aircon – and most of the 6500 300 SELs built between 1968-72 were luxuriously equipped. This car was found in Berlin, and new parts for the reconstruction were gathered from all round Western Europe with every panel being replaced apart from the front passenger door. The restoration/rebuild was completed in six weeks, which is the sort of progress you can achieve if you own a car company.
at the launch of the 5.5 litre S63, and a few of us got to take it for a spin around a disused airfield. A couple of minutes behind the wheel - with a stern instruction not to burn rubber - meant there wasn’t time to do much more than briefly bask in the (relatively) vintage atmosphere, revel in the sound of that gloriously unrestricted V8 and giggle quite a lot. But if you must have ‘driving impressions’, well on the airstrip’s smooth asphalt it felt much like any big Merc of the era, with ride and steering occupying that curious ‘twilight zone’ between classic and modern.
The slightly incongruous leather 'sports' wheel needed a bit of a twirl, and the four-speed auto box had an old-school ponderous feel, but we can’t really begin to imagine how the car must have felt at full chat on the circuit at Spa. Utterly heroic, or utterly insane probably, depending on your point of view.
(Apologies for the video quality – those V8s were making the ground shake.)