50 years ago, Mercedes was still in the middle of a self-imposed motorsport ban that had been in place since the 1955 Le Mans Disaster. The brand’s cars could still race by proxy, however, something that happened via AMG, still a separate entity at that time.
To tackle the 1971 24 Hours of Spa, the young brand started with a rather unlikely subject, the 300 SEL 6.3. AMG bumped up the capacity to 6.8 litres, extracting 420bhp which was transferred to the tarmac via some fantastically fat tyres. Drastically extended wheel arches covered the widened track, resulting in a car some considered to be quite ugly. And so, it gained the nickname Rote Sau or Red Pig.
The car was effective where it mattered, however. A class victory and a second-place overall finish at Spa Francorchamps proved its performance, and on the 50th anniversary of that achievement, Mercedes wants to celebrate with not one but three new racing cars.
One of these ‘50 Years Legend of Spa’ models isn’t really new at all, however. It’s an SLS AMG, production of which stopped for road cars in 2014 and GT3 racers a year later. To make it, Mercedes dusted off the final unused SLS Gullwing shell, built it up in GT3 spec, and gave it the iconic red and yellow livery.
Next up is a 2016MY AMG GT3, which can be told apart from its newer sibling thanks to a much smaller grille. It still uses the 6.2-litre, naturally-aspirated V8 as the SLS - AMG never took its 4.0-litre twin-turbo GT3 racing.
The final car is a 2020MY AMG GT3, which is near identical to the vehicle Mercedes currently races, with a couple of differences. It has a new performance exhaust, and as with the other two cars here, there’s no air restrictor, meaning its V8 develops a whopping 650bhp.
None of these is merely for show: Mercedes is selling the lot. You’re looking at (excluding VAT) €500,000 for the 2016 GT3, €575,000 for the 2020 GT3, and €650,000 for the SLS.
Hopefully, these will have better fates than the original Red Pig. That car was sold to French company Matra for the purposes of aircraft tyre testing, a job which in time would destroy it.