Whilst we are all anticipating the arrival of the mid-engined Mercedes-AMG Project ONE, what is less well known was that Mercedes-Benz was already working on a similar concept in the early 1960s.
The intention was to fit the engine behind the passengers, ensuring the centre of gravity was as low as possible. Designers Paul Bracq and Giovanni Battistella created the Mercedes-Benz SLX as a study. The idea behind this motor car was a successor to the legendary 300 SL (Super Light).
In the mid-1960s, when the trends amongst sportscar makers pointed towards a transition to the rear, mid-mounted layout, Lamborghini in 1966 launched the Miura. Still, others had already developed the idea, including a low production company ATS (Automobili Turismo e Sport), an Italian automotive constructor. Ferrari was already racing mid-engined race cars, and Ford joined in on the fun with 1964’s GT40.
Mercedes wanted a ‘slice of the action’. The first sketches for the’ SLX’ are dated May 1962.
Mercedes’ interests in this potential market were confirmed when they acquired a Porsche 904, Porsche’s first purpose-built, mid-engined racer. The sketches previewing the SLX showcase a decidedly Italian-looking car, and that’s no coincidence as it was Italian Giorgio Battistella (fresh from coachbuilders OSIOfficine Stampaggi Industriali) who aided Frenchman Paul Bracq in the design studio after joining Mercedes in 1964.
Sadly, before Bracq could think of the oily bits, the project was shelved.
A last-gasp attempt to help the board entertain the idea of a mid-engined halo car took place in 1966 when Mercedes built a full-scale wooden model. The model featured no interior, nor were there any details about an engine. Unfortunately, those in charge were less than satisfied with the appearance of the SLX, and Bracq had to move on to luxury car design.
The project’s demise means the Mercedes-AMG One thus becomes the first mid-engine sports car with the Mercedes logo since World War 2.