Vintage Mercedes Prototypes

Three old Benz concepts that we wish saw the light of day

As a recent guest at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, I fostered a new understanding and appreciation for the brand and its history. Inventors of the automobile, Daimler is constantly innovating and exploring new solutions for safety, comfort and performance. During the tour there were three prototypes that really caught my eye.


An evolution of the iconic 300 SL gullwing, this 1955 300 SLR hardtop was developed for the 1956 racing season, but was never used in competition. Fortunately for Rudolf Uhlenhaut, the company’s head of product testing, it became his daily commuter despite not even being street legal.


Originally presented at the 1969 Frankfurt International Motor Show, the C111 series was developed to test various innovations like alternative combustion engines and air conditioned cooling. This wedge-shaped gullwing model, from 1970, uses a center-mounted rotary-piston Wankel combustion engine instead of a traditional cylinder-based one and was reported to produce 370hp and a top speed of 180mph.


The Auto 2000 was developed in 1980 to test methodologies for reducing fuel consumption. While the focus of the research was comparing three different engine concepts (petrol, turbo-diesel and gas turbine), the brutalist-esque ’80s approach to aerodynamic design is particularly charming.