There’s a huge gap in Mercedes‘ motorsport history starting from 1955. Following the horrific Le Mans disaster that year, which involved a 300 SLR, the German company pulled the plug on all racing activities and wouldn’t return in an official capacity until 1987.
It did dabble in motorsport unofficially however, via third parties. For instance, AMG, before it was acquired by Mercedes, built and ran the famed 300 SEL ‘Red Pig’, bagging second place at the 1971 24 Hours of Spa with it. One Merc racer from the ban period you’re far less likely to know about is this pleasantly angry-looking Trans Am car.
Built by DeAtley Motorsport, it looks like and is badged as an SL, but really, it’s nothing of the sought. It’s a ‘silhouette racer’ featuring an R107 SL-like fibreglass body on a tubular steel space frame. Providing propulsion is a single overhead cam V8 destroked from 5.0 to 4.5 litres to comply with Trans Am regulations of the time.
It’s a great-looking engine too, thanks to the dual Holley carburettors with velocity stacks sitting proudly on top. A large bonnet bulge is needed to clear them. On the subject of bodywork, the SL has a sizeable front splitter and a neat ducktail spoiler. The finishing touch comes via a set of gold/silver BBS split rim wheels.
The car was owned by a chap called Neat DeAtley, a Mercedes dealer from Lewiston, Idaho. The Merc was entered into the 1982 season and backed by sponsorship from the Michelob beer brand, with Loren St. Lawrence on driving duties. That year, the field was dominated with silhouette racers featuring more American shapes, much of the grid opting for the Chevrolet Corvette.
The SL must have stood out like a sore thumb, then. Unfortunately, it retired from most races that year due to various mechanical problems and one accident. St. Lawrence’s best finish with the Mercedes was a sixth-place finish at Road America.
Like it? Here’s some good news - you can buy it. It’s set to be auctioned at the same Mecum Kissimmee sale next January as the ex-Fast and Furious Mitsubishi Eclipse we featured a few weeks back. Included in the sale are various spare engine parts including a block and heads, plus many replacement body panels.
No estimate has been provided, and given how unusual this Mercedes is, it’s hard to judge how much it’ll go for. The only thing we have to go on is a 1978 Trans Am Jaguar XJS that RM Sotheby’s sold for $207,200 last year. That, however, was a title-winner, not an also-ran curio like the SL. So who knows, the Merc might be something of a bargain.