From some angles, the age of driving seems to be fizzling out. Despite significant numbers still commuting to work and families owning more cars per household than they ever have done, an engaged and active driving experience is not synonymous with the modern quotidian. All the features of modern cars are there to make your experience relaxed and comfortable, but not engaged. With the stereo perhaps, or with the Active Lane Departure, but not the road, the lines of the bends or the scenery through which you are passing.
The SLSHOP way of life is built around the latter. It is the circle of enjoyment provided by engaging with your classic Mercedes-Benz, your journey, and fellow owners. SLSHOP has always believed in extending this way of life to accommodate the wilder personalities of an owners’ petrolhead traits.
Our SportLine models aim to accommodate these personalities by pushing the boundaries of what the R107 SL was and is capable of. We’ve built upon the significant impact the R107 made on the performance rally landscape, as well as the already established SportLine concept of the 1990s, to offer owners more from their SL. SportLine is a new wave of ownership.
What is Project Mikkola and what does the name refer to?
Project Mikkola is the vision of two long-standing SLSHOP customers who have imbued their trust in our workshop team to achieve their specific goals for their car: to create a usable, functional, reliable and unique performance-focused vehicle that is quintessentially R107; with a twist. The twist is that there is no other car on the road like this 450SL, and almost nothing like it during the era Mercedes-Benz produced this car.
An R107 SLC of this ilk was driven by Hannu Mikkola and his co-driver Arne Hertz, amongst others. In 1979, the two drove a 5.0 litre 450SLC (R107 number 6) in the Rallye Côte d’Ivoire – a car that was not built with such treacherous winding roads in mind. Their car was essentially a stock SLC – the slightly longer coupe cousin of the R107 SL, featuring a pillarless roof, four seats as standard, a curved rear window and distinctive louvres positioned in front of the C-post. The SLC is mechanically the same, with the same engine variants offered up until it was phased out of production in 1981.
The SLC can do it: the eventual winners Hannu Mikkola / Arne Hertz (start number 6) with a Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC 5.0 rally car during the 11th Bandama Rally, Cote d’Ivoire, December 9 – 14, 1979. Image courtesy of Daimler Press Office.
Fortunately for Mikkola and Hertz, the man in charge of Mercedes-Benz’s rally programme commissioned them a new batch of SLCs with the M117 E50/117.960 series engine. This engine not only offered more capacity but was 40kg lighter due to its alloy composition. With a mechanical injection system, the block produced 300bhp with peak torque listed as being 310lbft at 4000rpm. The power was delivered through a 3-speed automatic transmission, allowing masses of torque to propel them through the mud and potholes of the Ivory Coast. Aluminium panels and alloy wheels also ensured the Panzerwagen 450SLC was lighter in form. In April 1979, the 450SLC was homologated as a Group 4 car. The only obvious non-road going traits were the obligatory roll cage, bucket seats and rally time-keeping devices. Otherwise, this was a ‘Wolf in Sheep’s clothing.’
Project Mikkola is inspired by the spirit of Hannu Mikkola, the Mercedes-Benz team of drivers, engineers, technicians and the operation behind the brand’s presence in the WRC. This project aims to keep the driving experience raw, harking back to the golden era of traction-controlless driving.
Who are the owners?
Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown are loyal friends and customers of SLSHOP. The pair formerly commissioned a 450SLC in which they won the Peking to Paris rally; they have also tackled Nepal and India in the same car. This was several years ago now; with the car regularly appearing in competitions around the world, while living amongst an eclectic collection of cars during its time off. Project Mikkola is a chance for the two to own an R107 SL convertible rally car.
What are the upgrades they have specified?
As with all SportLine commissions, we tend to emphasise the need for sympathetic adjustments to each owner. SLSHOP approaches each SportLine build with a small dose of the untameable; paired with the distinctive styling and character of the original classic Mercedes-Benz being reimagined. Whether R107 SL, W113 Pagoda or R129 SL, our commitment is to keep the spirit of these cars alive; with the added flare of each customer’s performance-orientated vision.
Starting from the side profile, this #SLReimagined has a bespoke roll cage constructed by our in-house fabrication expert, Tom, who has designed and implemented the cage to accommodate the original soft top mechanism. From the side profile, the roll cage isn’t immediately visible with the hood in place. This achieves a more subtle aesthetic to the car, almost taming the beast until the owner is ready to release the gallop of over 250 horses tuned by Simon’s team in the workshop. Driver and co-driver will be strapped into bucket seats, specifically tailored to their height and shoulder width. A winning setup.
Project Mikkola will incorporate progressive springs and bespoke dampers, tuned to the weight and feel of the car. Further upgrades include aluminium rear trailing arms with anti-squat links, Limited-Slip Deferential and performance brake discs, and pads. Ride height will be increased to account for rough terrain including dunes, mangrove swamps and anything else the world’s continents can throw at it.
Increasing torque is essential for the competitive rallying environment, particularly when ploughing through the dirt roads of Persia or Mongolia. With a lightened and balanced flywheel, re-engineered performance camshaft, modern ignition coil pack, and remapped ECU, Project Mikkola will be a terrain tormenting machine.
Unlike Mikkola’s 450SLC with a 3-speed automatic gearbox, Kieron and Phil have requested we convert the 450SL to a 5-speed manual, allowing full control over power delivery at any given moment. A revised injection system and ported and polished head will send buckets of charge to the wheels; to the sound of a bespoke stainless steel exhaust system.
Where does this specification fit into the classic car world?
SLSHOP has been restoring, selling, and racing SL models for years now, with the SportLine variant appearing only three years ago. During this time, the industry has witnessed the rise of coachbuilders and restomod brands, all looking to offer classic car owners a bespoke take on numerous iconic cars. We’re keen to stay true to our roots in classic Mercedes-Benz SL models. Their spirit and heritage. SportLine by SLSHOP reimagines the SL for the performance-hearted; to offer something unique and in-line with modern handling and power output. SportLine will revive your passion for the road and provide you with a deeply moving driving experience; one you’ve been missing up until now. SportLine is both sympathetic to the original car and unique to your needs.
Find out more about SportLine or alternatively contact Russell in our Owners Service team to discuss your dream:
Tel: +44 (0) 1789 337 070
SportLine Parts From SLSHOP
Our SportLine range enables you to upgrade the transmission, suspension, braking and handling of your classic Mercedes-Benz to make it drive, respond and brake as close to modern performance standards as possible. We also offer SportLine parts that will give your car a more aggressive and performance-orientated stance.