Porsche’s idea of producing winning racing cars with rear engines during the 60s – think of the 550 RS – was copied by many car manufacturers both for the track and for the road. Ferrari, with the 250 P, Abarth with its small Sports cars and Ford with the GT40, as well as Porsche itself with the 904, got the Mercedes technical management thinking too. After retiring from racing after the tragedy at Le Mans in 1955, the 300 SL, the famous “Gullwing”, was the last-remaining symbol of the sportiness of the three-pointed star.
The evolution of the first SLX idea in 1965 began with a 1:5 scale model. Here, the designers Paul Braq (right) and Giorgio Battistella who created the model
It was a question of understanding what style, as well as what technology, a rear-engined sports Mercedes dedicated for road use should adopt. By 1962, a team led by the famous designer Paul Braq, who had designed the Pagoda and the Italian Giorgio Battistella who came from the Turin-based OSI, had already drawn up the first sketches that took four years to become a 1:1 scale model, which they presented to the board. Unfortunately, they had no luck, despite positive tests in the wind tunnel, also because of recent changes in the technical direction of the company which, in those years, was more concentrated on innovative forms of engines such as the Wankel.
The model of the SLX in the wind tunnel with the classic “wool tufts” that confirm the efficiency of the design
In terms of style, creating a model capable of competing against the 300 SL was an arduous task. The distinguishing element of the model is the distribution of the masses, with its shorter nose and a longer, tapered tail to accommodate the engine. The car also introduced several innovations, including retractable headlights, and the bumper that was integrated into the car body and wraps all the way around the vehicle on the sides and rear, and the generous front grilles that are the most “Mercedes” part of the prototype.
The very smooth line of the SLX with its generous front fenders made possible by moving the engine to the rear
What is decidedly not Mercedes is the rear section with the large side air intakes and the slightly arrow-shaped tail. The visionary project was shelved, but in reality, it paved the way for a series of prototypes that have played a tangible role in the development of the brand as we will see next Saturday.
A photo of the SLX in its public appearance at Techno Classic in Essen in 2019. Clearly visible is the questionable style feature of the large rear air intake
The elegantly profiled arrow-shaped rear. Curiously, the car does not adopt any of the stylistic characteristics that contributed so much to the success of the 300 SL
The SLX alongside the C111 models that took over between 1969 and 1978