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Gullwing ready for take-off

Production possibility: Mercedes-Benz is on the verge of giving the production green light to its stunning Vision SLR.

Mercedes-Benz may throw down the gauntlet to Ferrari and Lamborghini with its super-potent Vision SLR

7 Jul 1999

MERCEDES-BENZ is believed to be on the verge of giving its breathtaking SLR concept car approval for production, which may cause Ferrari some concern. The outrageous gullwing sportscar was one of the star attractions at this year's Detroit motor show, although it was thought the car was purely a concept at the time. It is now believed a limited production run may enable up to 350 buyers to own the Benz bullet around 2002. Respected British magazine Autocar suggests the production car will retain the twin-supercharged, 5.4-litre V8 that powered the concept car. This engine cranks out 415kW and an eye-watering 720Nm, which should enable the silver arrow to rocket from standstill to 100km/h in around four seconds. Power will be relayed to the 20-inch rear wheels by a five-speed automatic transmission. It is believed the car may be built by the German car-maker's Formula One partner, British constructor McLaren. "We are thinking about who could build the car and the McLaren option is one way we could do this project," Mercedes spokesman Mr Hans-Gerd Bode was quoted as saying in Autocar. "It would take Mercedes on its own more than 24 months to produce the SLR but with a partner like McLaren this could be speeded up." If the car is built by McLaren it is expected to draw heavily on the firm's Formula One expertise by using a carbon fibre tub and an all-aluminium suspension set-up. Light weight will be one the car's key strengths with its expected kerb weight of around 1400kg undercutting the Ferrari 550 Maranello by about 300kg. But Mercedes may choose to build the car itself, in which case it could be based on the same platform as the new SL, due to be launched in Europe next March. This is likely to be a more cost-effective solution as relatively large-scale production of the existing platform and the associated steel and alloy panels would dramatically reduce development costs. Mercedes is said to be confident of usurping Ferrari as the doyen of supercar manufacturers, believing it is the only car-maker with the heritage, financial clout and technical expertise to do so.

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