Features from Octane UK:Mercedes-Benz C111

When the future really was orange

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The Mercedes-Benz C111 was one of the world’s longest-lived automotive experiments. Octane pilots the last drivable example to its final quarters.

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In the firmament of rare cars remembered from childhood, one star in particular has always, for me, shone a little brighter than most. Variously a safety car, a speed-record car and one that simply played with ideas about styling, engineering and aerodynamics, the acutely orange Mercedes-Benz C111 had me mesmerised at first sight.

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While all other Mercs of the era were resolutely saloonshaped (even the more sporting ones), the C111 combined dartlike, show-car styling with a mid-engined structure, and looked - still looks - slick and futurist. It’s difficult to believe that the chief pen-wielder was the same

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Bruno Sacco who so glacially evolved the company’s house style during a career from 1958 to 1999 (he was in charge of design there from 1975), and whose portfolio includes no fewer than three generations of S-Class limo, the R129 SL and - in his view, the most significant of the lot - the W201 190 saloon.

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Now, for the first time, nine survivors of the C111 test programme (14 were built; three prototypes scrapped, one car crashed in testing) are featuring in a special display at the Mercedes-Benz museum in Untertürkheim, Stuttgart. So far, those nine care are in captivity. This one is still on the loose...

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