The C111 development prototypes are unlike any other Mercedes-Benz, and lucky devil Jay Leno got to drive the one that blew his mind as a teen back in 1970.

Pop-up headlights, gullwing doors and flying buttresses at the back two years before the Maserati Merak dared to have them. The 300SL’s spiritual successor was quite something despite not making into production.

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Mercedes certainly started the project with the intention of turning the C111 into a proper road car. At first, the 1969 prototypes used twin-rotor Wankel engines before they got replaced by three and four-rotor units. The car had a lightweight fiberglass body with very little drag thanks to all those wind tunnel tests, but numerous speed records later, Mercedes still had to abandon the rotary idea for numerous reasons, only and jam their 3.5-liter V8s in their place to use the upgraded C111s for suspension- and rigidity tests.

The final two cars used diesel power to demonstrate what an engineering powerhouse Mercedes is, with a working radio and air-conditioning in the cabin. A luxury prototype, that is.

Jay Leno was 19 when the first C111 hit the tarmac. What was the craziest car when you were at that age?

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Photo credit: Jay Leno’s Garage


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