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2003 Frankfurt Show, Part III

2004 Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT

2004 Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT

2003 Frankfurt Auto Show Index by TCC Team (9/8/2003)

Mercedes-McLaren Partner for SLR

2004 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren

2004 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren

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It’s been a long time coming, but Mercedes-Benz has finally shown the super sports car it has developed in collaboration with Formula 1 constructors McLaren. It’s a 200 mph-plus supercar with a supercharged 5.5-liter V-8 that will carry it from zero to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds. Interestingly, nowhere in the Mercedes press material does it mention price – this is going to be one of those products where if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.

Officially it’s the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, but Mercedes had better get used to it being referred to as the Mercedes-McLaren – or worse, the McLaren-Mercedes. McLaren originally had the lead role in developing the car, and they will produce it in a purpose-built factory in England, but as the car has progressed through it lengthy gestation period the role of Mercedes’ F1 partners has been overlaid with a healthy coat of Mercedes technology. The F1 influence is still there, with a body made almost entirely from carbon-fiber and ceramic brake discs, but as the project has progressed the emphasis has changed from today’s Grand Prix cars to the Mercedes-Benz sports racing cars of the 1950s. Hence the emphasis on the ‘SLR’ name, which comes from the German words for ‘sports, light, racer’ that were applied to the legendary gullwing Mercedes sports cars of the mid-Fifties. The new car has swing-up doors that are reminiscent of those of fifty years ago, but there is also a nose treatment that puts one in mind of current F1 cars. A feature that’s straight out of the SLR history book is an airbrake that raises itself behind the cockpit to aid high-speed braking.

One aspect of the new SLR that should approach F1 standards is safety. It is fitted with new kneebags and sidebags, adaptive airbags, and seatbelt tensioners, and its body structure is built to the highest crash-test standards.

Paul Halata, CEO of MBUSA is enthusiastic about the new car, but it will present him with problems – of the best possible kind. The U.S. will receive around 100 of the worldwide annual production of approximately 500 SLRs, and that’s not enough according to Halata. “America is the market for it” he said, pointing out that in spite of low speed limits, Americans buy more ultra-high performance sports cars than any other market. He is therefore negotiating with head office in Stuttgart to get a bigger slice of the cake. For those who want to join the line for the 100 – 100-plus if Halata has his way – he says the U.S. price will be $400,000–ish. He would not be drawn on what “ish” implied.

Lambo Builds Racing Murcielago

2004 Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT

2004 Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT

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Lamborghini used the show to announce the fact that it is going racing with its Murcielago coupe – and that it will build cars for customers at a price of 500,000 Euros (approx. $500,000) per car. To comply with international Grand Touring racing regulations and those that govern the Le Mans 24-Hour race, the coupe will be converted from the four-wheel drive of the production version to rear-wheel drive only. The fact that the car will be eligible for Le Mans means that it will also be able to compete in the American Le Mans (ALMS) endurance race series in the U.S.

Developed by race specialists Reiter Engineering, the Murcielago R-GT will use the 6.0-liter V-12 engine of the production car, fitted with the air restrictors are required for the racing rules. Lamborghini’s plan is to sell cars to customers – many of whom have already inquired about the possibility of a race-prepared car – and to provide trackside service at races.

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