Mercedes-Benz C111 Is the Most Italian Car They Ever Made, and Jay Leno Drives It

Late sixties and early seventies must have been the best period for European supercars. Just look at what Mercedes-Benz were doing, and this is a German company. Can you imagine what was going on in Italy at that time?
Mercedes-Benz C111 three generations 1 photo
Photo: Mercedes-Benz
The first such example that springs into mind when looking at this Mercedes-Benz C111 - due to its color, no doubt about it - is the De Tomaso Mangusta. Still, there’s more to this than just the chromatic resemblance - the two cars also overlay stylistically to some degree, with the Germans trying to beat the Italians at their own game.

And it has to be said they did a pretty good job. There were several generations of the C111 model - none of which was ever considered to enter production - over the course of a few years, with the first one shown at the 1969 Frankfurt Motor Show.

The car was actually a testbed for all sorts of new technology, ranging from the fiberglass body to the rear suspension (a precursor of today’s multilink system) and the multitude of engines that found their way under that hood.

The first generation of the C111 used a Wankel engine with three rotors, but only a few months later was a four-rotor engine used for the car showcased in Geneva. This second generation C111 developed 350 hp (as opposed to the 260 hp of the first) and could reach a top speed of 186 mph (300 km/h).

With the fuel crisis looming, focus shifted towards diesel power, so later models managed to break no fewer than nine diesel and gas speed records with a 230 hp 3.0-liter straight-five turbodiesel installed. That car went on to a top speed of 200 mph (322 km/h) while also impressing in the fuel consumption department: 14.7mpg (16 l/100 km) at 316 km/h (195.4 mph) over a 12-hour cruise.

The C111 is one of the secret gems that hide deep into Mercedes-Benz’s history and pop out now and then to take people by surprise. There were only 13 ever made and not even one of them was ever sold or alienated in any way from the mother company.

Mercedes-Benz actually came up with a successor in the form of the C112 that was introduced in 1991 also in Frankfurt. That car, powered by a 6.0-liter V12 engine, was supposed to enter production, but Mercedes-Benz later scrapped it - and all the better for it, considering it looked like a defective Ferrari F40.

If there was ever a car you can be sure there are one in a trillion chances you’ll drive, this is it. Unless, of course, your name is Jay Leno and you have your own online auto show. Then, by all means, open those gullwing doors and step right in.

Have a look at the video for some more interesting facts about the car and a very good look at it both inside and out.

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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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