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Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 AMG «Red Pig»: An incredible story with a bad ending

PHOTOS MERCEDES 300 SEL 6.8 AMG «RED PIG»: RM SOTHEBY'S

Maybe the same thing happens to you too. Having had a teacher capable of stimulating doubt and curiosity among his students. Something that is always good to do with broad arguments, but also with maxims that simplify the message. One of them is the "The first general rule is that there is never a general rule". Followed by the everlasting "Every general rule has as its first general rule finding exceptions". Well, not only have the years proved that former schoolmaster right. Also the history of Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 AMG.

And it is that this heavy saloon is one of the greatest milestones in Mercedes competition. Or well, we should rather say in that of the AMG preparer, since those of Stuttgart always distanced themselves from the project. A project led by Hans-Werner Aufrecht y Erhard melcher, two engineers who decided to leave Mercedes if it definitively abandoned racing. Thus, from an inordinate passion for competition, the history of this coach was born at the beginning of the seventies. A story in which its first chapter would be the Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 AMG.

A car that represents very well that of which in every rule there are exceptions because, let's see. A huge high-end saloon successfully participating in endurance races against light sports cars? Even to this day it still seems far-fetched. However, the truth is that the Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 AMG achieved second place in the overall classification in the 24 1971 Hours of Spa. And from there it became a key player in the development of the supersonic Concorde aircraft!

mercedes 300 SEL Red Pig replica

A fabulous story like few others that, unfortunately, ended up in a scrapyard. One of those endings where you can only say "But how the hell did this happen?". Be that as it may, the truth is that there is nothing left of the Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 AMG. Nothing beyond memory and replicas like this one recently auctioned in Paris for RM Sotheby's. An attempt to do justice to "Red Pig", the nickname that German fans gave the car for the high-pitched screech that its huge engine threw on the straights of the circuits. Like a pig heading to slaughter.

MERCEDES 300 SEL 6.8: THE UNUSUAL START OF AMG

There is no doubt that one of the great brands in motorsports is Mercedes. However, the truth is that at the end of the seventies it seemed to be little interested in the circuits. In fact, its main objective was to manufacture sedans based on exceptional quality finishes. Something easily verifiable when you drive one of the Mercedes models launched during the seventies; hard as rocks. However, two engineers hired by the company disagreed with this business strategy.

They believed in the potential of Mercedes in racing. So much that decided to found AMG, a small company focused on sports preparations from Mercedes as standard. It was at this point that they reached what we call “The Ferrari dilemma”. And it is that, although the races interest you in an inverse relationship to the commercialization of serial products ... The truth is that only the massive sale of cars can finance winning teams.

Against this background, Hans-Wermer Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher decided to buy a 300 Mercedes 1969 SEL from the second-hand market. Was this going to be the basis for a racing car? A huge, heavy, luxurious saloon? Well yes, ua riskiest bet that even today still seems like a most incorrect choice. But anyway, do you remember the old professor? "The first general rule is that there is never a general rule". After all, the Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 AMG is a wonderful exception to the rules of motorsports.

AS LARGE AND HEAVY AS UNFORESEENLY FAST

With their eyes set on the great endurance tests, the AMGs began to devise the Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 AMG in an almost artisanal way. Thus, little by little they were modifying the heavy saloon to get all the sportiness possible from it. The first thing was to lighten it, because the 1761 kilos given by the street version were outrageous. Especially if you compared them with the proper range of their opponents: from 800 to 1100 kilos.

Aluminum doors, magnesium wheels ... An arsenal with which the Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 AMG lost to approximately 1500 kilos. Undoubtedly a significant reduction, but it still made it about 300 kilos heavier than rivals already heavy. Thus, the strategy was clear: the only way to make the car competitive would be power. If it had to be the heaviest, at least it was by far the most powerful.

And well, the truth is that in that aspect there were good results. Expanding the original displacement of the street version by half a liter -fixed at 6.3-, those of AMG got the V8 to reach 420CV. Although the Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 AMG was the most clumsy in the curves due to the inertia caused by its weight… On the straight line it was relentless. A locomotive capable of recovering in one part of the circuit what it lost in another. Something that was demonstrated in the 24 Hours of Spa in 1971.

FROM VICTORY IN THE 24-HOUR SPA TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CONCORDE

It doesn't take too much effort to recreate the faces of the public who watched the Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 debut at the races. Faces of indulgent disbelief. An indulgence that came as a surprise when in the 24 Spa 1971 Hours he achieved, against all odds and after somewhat disastrous tests, a second place in the absolute ranking. Something that accompanied the victory in his class, that of vehicles with more than three liters of displacement. A magnificent result not easy to achieve, as the weight did its thing, wearing the tires at an accelerated rate.

Unfortunately, the victories of the Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 AMG did not have much more continuity. In the 24 Hours of Nürburgring that same year a mechanical problem forced his abandonment, which was only the previous of what would happen in 1972 when he could even qualify for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, that same year he achieved his second and last circuit victory: the 200 miles of Nuremberg. When a few weeks the FIA ​​prohibited to exceed the five liters of displacement in the European Touring Car Championship… Our hero signed his death.

Or at least his death on the circuits, since AMG sold it to Matra. But beware! Not its motorsports division but its aviation division, which was interested in the Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 AMG for take-off tests related to the development of the Concordes. And is that this car had reached maximum straight of almost 290 km / h. Something that, added to its spacious cabin where you can mount all kinds of data recording equipment, made it a perfect vehicle for the Concorde supersonic aircraft runway tests.

FROM GLORY TO DISAPPEARANCE: THE REPLIES

Incredibly, the Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 AMG ended up lost. A car that was the beginning of AMG, one of the most unexpected sports cars of the seventies, a character in the history of the 24 Hours of Spa and currently valued as one of the most curious Mercedes of all time ... Lost in the mass of iron from some old junkyard. A pitiful fact that has been tried to alleviate with the manufacture of some replicas.

The most famous of all was the one that Mercedes herself made on its 40th anniversary. A nice way to close the circle to the contempt that the brand originally made of the creation of AMG, trying to get as far away as possible from a preparer who, ironies of history, would end up buying. Another one is that it is illustrated by the text you are reading, which is signed by Arthur Bectel Classic Motors.

Made for the South Korean manager James Goo Kim, this unit has traveled less than 800 kilometers. Although now perhaps she will do many more with her new owner, who took her at the auction than RM Sotheby's held in Paris on February 5. And by the way, if you're wondering the price… It really doesn't seem like the most important part to us. This replica must be taken as a tribute to a truly legendary car: "Red Pig".

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Miguel Sánchez

Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.

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