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Friday, November 18, 2011

The King of Coupes That Never Was (Until Now)

Deep in the rural Wisconsin countryside lies a modest shop run by Karl Middelhauve, known to Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts as the only doctor to call when your 600 Pullman is sick. While Karl built a reputation on restoring and maintaining the eponymous 600 sedans and Pullman limos, seen wafting the world's Dictatorial elite from one African village to the next and even sporting a starring role as Satan's own ride in "The Witches of Eastwick", he is also regarded as a bit of a tinkerer. Sure, you and I may attempt to fix a broken stopwatch, or a garden tool that needs a new handle, but tinkering has a whole other meaning in Karl's world. You see, Karl is not just an enthusiast, but he also has a close relationship with the original designer of the 600, Paul Bracq, which affords him a special ability to bring unrealized designs from the annals of Mercedes-Benz history. Bracq is also revered as the design mastermind behind the Pagoda SL, the W111 Coupe, and the concept predecessor to the BMW M1 as well.

Early projects included the Benzomino and El Benzo, both El Camino styled variations of the 600, as originally envisioned by Bracq. Karl formed such a good relationship with Bracq on these designs that they collaborated again in 2010 to create the 2002 Grand Mercedes SL600 Silver Arrow. The Silver Arrow concept is based on a new design provided by Bracq on Karl's request for a coupe version of the 600. It is known that a handful of 600 coupes were indeed designed and delivered as gifts to high ranking friends of the factory, but they more closely resembled a shortened sedan than a bespoke coupe suited to the trendy tastes of stylish buyers. Starting with a 2002 R129 Silver Arrow special edition, the Wisconsin team set about stripping the body panels from the SL then re-fitting panels from a donor 600 with great care and attention to detail. The location of everything from axles to hood hinges had to be carefully considered and test fit over and over, to be sure this car would meet the expectations of all who would see, and envy, her when completed.

The design was finalized in winter 2009 with initial construction beginning in February 2010 and completed just a few short months later in July. The final car rather successfully pairs the bold fenders and hood of the 600 with the extra sleek lines of the panoramic roof. The front hinged hood is a novel addition that works well with the original body cut lines. Overall the profile has some resemblance to the Rolls-Royce Camargue, another uniquely penned vehicle with designer genes. The V-12 engine is surely an upgrade in performance and we are left with no doubt that Karl and his wife will enjoy until the next secret 600 project is ready for the road, and we're told there are several ideas vying for their chance to become more than just a passing thought or a few lines on a napkin, but another real and authentic addition to the history of bespoke Mercedes motoring.

Be sure to see all the construction and finished product photos here at Karl's site: MBGrand600.com

Photo copyright www.MBGrand600.com

Photo copyright www.MBGrand600.com




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