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Limited to 300 Units
Mercedes-Benz didn’t bring its upcoming Formula 1–engined road car to the Detroit auto show—we’ll have to wait until the fall to see it—but the company’s executives did tease us with some more details about the new beyond-mega car, including a name, for now at least, with confirmation that the car is currently known internally as Project One. The car is being built to celebrate AMG’s 50th anniversary and will use a version of Mercedes’ championship-winning 1.6-liter Formula 1 engine and KERS assistance system. We don’t know how this will be retuned for road use, although we’re imagining it will have much more low-down torque than its racing counterpart, with AMG boss Tobias Moers having previously indicated it will deliver around 1000 horsepower.
The Detroit show also brought confirmation that production will be limited to no more than 300 units—a number that still represents more than double the production scheduled for the similarly outrageous Aston Martin AM-RB 001. There’s no official word on price, but we can safely anticipate a seven-figure price tag, one that may start with a 2. Yet, as we discovered when we spoke to Mercedes’ R&D boss, Ola Källenius, the company is confident that it will have more potential buyers than cars. “The interest is huge, as you can imagine,” Källenius told us. “The key here is to take care of our very best customers and try to please everybody, even if we then run out. We will have to have a very careful allocation between the different markets as well, not get all the cars into the market that screams first. There will be overdemand, I think it’s pretty obvious, but it’s not the first time we’ve done limited editions, so we will handle it in an intelligent manner.” Källenius also told us something of how the unlikely project had come about: “It was Tobias Moers and Andy Cowell, who runs our Formula 1 powertrain outfit. The two of them came to us [the board] and said, ‘We have an idea…’ ”
“The combination of the heart saying yes and the engineer in everyone saying yes and then the rational side following means we’re now doing it.” — Ola Källenius, Mercedes-Benz
Did he laugh at the prospect of something as outlandish as a road car with a Formula 1 engine? “I was more in awe than laughing,” he said. “Once you get your mind around something like this—and we are car people through and through—it’s like: Wow, why? And then: Because we can! Then you have to do it in a sensible economic way and present a business plan around it,” Källenius said. “The combination of the heart saying yes and the engineer in everyone saying yes and then the rational side following means we’re now doing it. It was one of those moments, if you have the opportunity to do something really special, then why not?” Källenius confirmed that the project will pay for itself but also said that, if it’s adjudged a success, it may well give AMG a taste for similar “ultimate” models. “It’s not something that we do like a C-class: model, successor, model, successor,” he told us. “These will be rare moments in time, so if you’re looking for one, then now is the time. Will we ever do something like this again? Possibly, but at the moment we’re focusing exclusively on this.”
We can expect to see the production version of the Project One at the Frankfurt auto show in September, with buyers able to find out for themselves how a Formula 1 engine feels in a road car shortly afterward.