Big things with little cars
Big things with little cars
Illustration for article titled Teutonic Tuesday: Winged Wonders of the 70s

What is it with ze Germans and Gullwing Doors? Ever since the original 300SL, Germany has produced a range of such cars. Heck, even Communist East Germany got in on the act with the Melkus!

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Illustration for article titled Teutonic Tuesday: Winged Wonders of the 70s

Both of these cars fueled my childhood fantasies - back then, I fully believed that one day everyone would be driving around in something like this. It didn’t quite turn out that way. But that doesn’t matter. What matters for me is that 1970s Concept Cars were just the coolest. And these are the best German ones from that era.

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Illustration for article titled Teutonic Tuesday: Winged Wonders of the 70s

The Mercedes C111 actually wasn’t just one Concept Car - it was a series of concept cars. The first one was completed in 1969 and featured what was supposed to be the engine of the future - a triple-rotor Wankel engine.

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Illustration for article titled Teutonic Tuesday: Winged Wonders of the 70s

The version shown here is the re-designed 1970 version, with a four-rotor engine putting out 370hp and a top speed of about 290 kph. That’s the stuff dreams were made of back then.

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Illustration for article titled Teutonic Tuesday: Winged Wonders of the 70s

But what mattered even more to me than the engine was the design. It looked awesome. It was the first Gullwing Merc since the 300SL. Production versions seemed a possibility for a while, until Mercedes abandoned their Rotary engine plans.

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Illustration for article titled Teutonic Tuesday: Winged Wonders of the 70s

Later C111s served as test beds for Turbo Diesel engines and broke speed records, but Turbo Diesels just never fire the imagination in the same way. At least not mine, even if they turned out to be far more practical and popular than any Wankel engine ever could.

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Illustration for article titled Teutonic Tuesday: Winged Wonders of the 70s

But on to the BMW, and as it turned out, the BMW Turbo had a far bigger impact on the future than the C111 did.

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Illustration for article titled Teutonic Tuesday: Winged Wonders of the 70s

Both in terms of design and technology, it showed the way to the BMWs of the future. Designed by Paul Bracq and built in 1972, it was unveiled to celebrate the Munich Olympics. Sadly, the ‘72 Olympics also foreshadowed the future in an unfortunate way. But enough of that.

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Illustration for article titled Teutonic Tuesday: Winged Wonders of the 70s

The car was built on a modified BMW 2002 chassis with the then brand new Turbo engine installed behind the seats, producing 280hp. The interior was described as “futuristic” - but the way it was angled towards the driver would look familiar to anyone who has ever driven an early 5-Series.

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Illustration for article titled Teutonic Tuesday: Winged Wonders of the 70s

Two cars were made, one with the enclosed rear-wheels on this model, and one with normal rear-wheel arches. Turbo engines back then really didn’t seem too promising. They were fragile, had horrible turbo lag, and generally looked just like a temporary patch until something revolutionary like the C111’s Rotary engine was ready for the masses.

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Illustration for article titled Teutonic Tuesday: Winged Wonders of the 70s

We couldn’t have been any more wrong in our predictions if we tried. Both the earliest Turbo cars of the ‘70s (the 2002 turbo and the Porsche Turbo) seemed crude and rude machines at the time, and weren’t all that well regarded by the motoring press.

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Illustration for article titled Teutonic Tuesday: Winged Wonders of the 70s

Design elements from the BMW Turbo found their way into 8-Series coupes, the M1 of course, and perhaps a bit into the Z1 as well. The shape of the dashboard became standard BMW practice for many years.

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Design elements of the C111s carried on to another Mercedes Concept Car - the CW311. Mercedes themselves had no interest in putting that one into production either, but a man by the name of Eberhard Schulz did. And he produced a run of 30 examples of these cars under the name of Isdera Imperator.

So parts of both cars’ design ended up in production after all, even with long delays and a few detours.

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Illustration for article titled Teutonic Tuesday: Winged Wonders of the 70s

Both models are from the Schuco 1/66 range of diecast, and were made in Germany not too long after the real cars were presented to the public. And both have been with me since they were new, and I had to scrape together my pocket money and get on my bicycle to get them. So they are no longer mint, but definitely well loved.

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Illustration for article titled Teutonic Tuesday: Winged Wonders of the 70s

The truck is a Büssing from the same Schuco series, though I only found this one a few years ago. Unfortunately it is suffering from some sort of corrosion of the metal base. That is very unusual for a Schuco.

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That’s it for this week - but here’s a tiny preview if next week’s model for Teutonic Tuesday. It just arrived in the mail today and I’m over the moon with it. See if you can guess what it is...

Illustration for article titled Teutonic Tuesday: Winged Wonders of the 70s

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