Legends of the Autobahn is the non-Porsche show during Monterey Car Week. Literally, every German make is welcome, as long as it’s not a Porsche.
The best car at the 2019 Legends of the Autobahn was the Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL AMG, aka Silber Sau. I know because I drove it onto the Pasadera golf course myself. The Silber Sau (silver pig) is a cousin of Rote Sau (red pig), the legendary first ever AMG product. Former Benz engineers took an already pretty dang sporty Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3, embiggened the 6.3-liter M100 V-8 to 6.8 liters, then gutted the thing in order to take it racing.
After a brief but fruitful racing career (second place at Spa Francorchamps—not too shabby), the car was sold to Matra to test landing gear, and that was that. Until the Mercedes Classic Center built a re-creation of Rote Sau a few years back. Turns out the Classic Center created an even sportier alternative version, though they neglected to paint it red. Why’d they build it? Why not?
Pull the hood pins, lift the hood, and you’re treated to a beautiful sight—a four-pack of big, beefy Weber twin-barrel downdraft carbs with eight velocity stacks sticking straight up. Gone is the 50-year-old Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system, replaced with good old-fashioned Italian know-how (Weber is an Italian company). Silber Sau’s engine now displaces 6.7 liters.
Output was quoted to me as about 430 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. The nearly stripped out interior—leather remains on the door inserts and Alcantara is found on the dash along with a few pieces of wood—and missing rear seat means Silber Sau weighs in at 3,200 pounds. Not terribly light for a sports car even by today’s standards, but damn well miraculous for a W109 Benz.
A roll cage, racing seats, oil and differential coolers, plus racing brakes and a sweet-shifting manual transmission help complete the package. Fine, the gold wheels complete the package.
Did I mention the loud? Angry, shrieking, guttural—imagine setting a donkey on fire. Close enough. I should mention that I’m not convinced Silber Sau has front windows. The rear windows are made of plastic and have NACA ducts that feed the two cantaloupe-sized holes in the rear floor. Why? I have no idea.
But man, is this car loud! In a terrific way, yes. But loud all the same. Quick, too, as you might imagine. The pedals are oddly angled; all three are bottom-hinged but actually point slightly backwards. You have to drive with your toes pointed straight up. The brakes are strong and grabby and make all kinds of ill noises. Coming to a slow stop on a city street sounds like you’re pulverizing bricks. The steering and the handling are superb, no doubt because the roll cage adds a huge amount of stiffness. Still, the ride isn’t punishing in the slightest, even though it sounds like it is.
Years ago, for my first 24 Hours of LeMons race, my team stuffed a Ford 302 with a Borg-Warner T5 into a Volvo 240, stripped everything out, and caged it. I got to drive it around the not-so-mean streets of Danville, California, for a bit of a shakedown run, and I’ve been looking for that feeling—torque’d up V-8 grunt, stiffer than a diamond girder, great shifting manual—for more than a decade.
Well, guess what? Mercedes-Benz built it and I was lucky enough to drive it. Future plans now include driving it more. Much, much more. Good thing the Silber Sau’s going to be living near me in Southern California through 2021. Oh, and if you think I’m too involved with the car to authoritatively state that it was the best German car at Legends, that’s fine. We can just say that one of the two dozen or so BMW M Coupes can be the winner. Clown shoe for life, baby!
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