It was one of the most eagerly awaited test drive opportunities of 2003, but when Mercedes-Benz finally decided that their new sports supercar was ready to be unveiled to a carefully selected group of journalists, the location they chose was South Africa's Cape peninsular.
Never mind that the very few cars that had been produced were all left-hand drive, and South Africa is a right-hand drive country, the choice of location made a lot of sense. Not only could the Mercedes rely on the strong logistical backup of its South African subsidiary; but also, while Europe was entering its winter months, the weather in South Africa would be ideal. After some fast motorway stretches leaving Cape Town, most of the roads are two-lane blacktops passing through the Cape National Park's stunning scenery. Juxtaposed with the ocean, the sparse and rugged backdrop would provide perfect photographic locations to show the new car in its best light, and the roads an excellent means of demonstrating the car's performance.
If the new Mercedes-Benz is going to sell to South African customers any of the 3,200 cars they plan to produce, then there's a good chance they'll go to homes on the Cape peninsular where can be found some of the most expensive real-estate in Africa. Here you'll find as many millionaires' mansions as in California's Beverly Hills or Monaco's Monte Carlo, and SLR owners are going to need to be wealthy. The price of this new car is [euro]375,000 plus local taxes--but even if they can afford this, they'll still need to be patient. If they place their order now, they are promised delivery of this new car in early 2006. However, the wait should be worth it. What will be delivered is a 630bhp 5.5lt V8 sports car, capable of 200mph plus, and featuring much of the cutting edge technology that goes into building today's Mercedes-McLaren Formula One race cars.
While this new car is very much of the 21st century, what Mercedes terms 'a 21st century Gran Turismo', the new SLR carries all the spirit of the legendary SLR (sports, light, racer) Silver Arrow race cars of half a century ago. In the mid 1950s, Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Karl Kling, and other Mercedes' team drivers achieved spectacular victories with the Mercedes-Benz 300SLR, dominating all the world's major road races such as the Le Mans 24hrs, Mille Miglia, Targa Florio, the Tourist Trophy and the Carrera Panamericana. And just as the Silver Arrow racing machines...