Mercedes-Benz C 111, the concept with a Wankel heart

Mercedes-Benz C 111 concept.
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At the Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA) in September 1969, Mercedes-Benz presented the C 111. The world gathered to see this weird looking concept with its wedge-shaped body and upward-opening gullwing doors, but few knew what was waiting under the bonnet.

If the “rose wine” colour received by the Mercedes-Benz C 111 prototype did the right job in attracting the curious eyes of the public, the technical specifications of the C 111 did an even better job in quickly drawing the attention of enthusiasts and fans alike.

The C 111 served to test the Wankel engine. A three-rotor unit developing 280 hp provided the propulsion power and permitted a top speed of 260 km/h, a rather impressive value at that time.

A few months later, Mercedes-Benz presented a heavily revised version of the C 111 at the Geneva Motor Show. This time, the concept featured a four-rotor Wankel engine with an maximum output of 350 hp. The car accelerated from standstill to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds and reached a top speed of 300 km/h.


However, too little was heard after about the Wankel engine, as diesel technology now became the focus of research and record-breaking C 111 versions started to create a lot of buzz around Mercedes-Benz.

On the first record run, the C 111-II D, almost unchanged on the outside in comparison with 1970, was powered by a thoroughly revised five-cylinder diesel engine displacing 3.0 litres which developed 190 hp.


In 1978, the C 111-III developed and output of 230 hp with an additional intercooler. But this record-breaking car now had little in common with the original C 111.

The last iteration was the C 111-IV version of 1979, which came with further aerodynamic refinements, additionally featuring distinctive spoilers, a changed front end and two tail fins. Its propulsion unit was a 4.5 litre V8 engine from regular production, enlarged to displace 4.8 litres and generate 500 hp.