1978 Mercedes-Benz CW311

Eberhard Schulz is a German car designer. In the 1960s he began to build the Erator GT in Ostfriesland. A modified Ford GT40 with gull-wing doors, 400 HP and a top speed of over 300hm/h. With this car, he got hired at Porsche in 1971, after applying for a job at Mercedes-Benz too.

By that time, Mercedes-Benz already launched the C111-I (1969) and C111-II (1970). Both cars were huge success but, unfortunately, Mercedes-Benz had no plans for mass production. Most of the potential buyers were very sad about this and, I guess, between those people was Eberhard Schulz too, because in 1972 he started working on a similar project. Eberhard Schulz had a close relationship with Stuttgart as he worked as design engineer at Mercedes for 5 years.

Much like C111, Eberhard Schulz’s vision should follow the history of the 300SL Gullwing from the 50s.
As a partner for this great plan, he found the tuner Rainer Buchmann whose company “B + B” Auto Exclusiv Service counted up to 60 people. Together they developed the based on Mercedes-Benz and Porsche parts CW 311 – an extraordinary flat but spacefull sport-car with futuristic design;

The name had a double meaning. On one side it resulted from the Cw value of 0.311 (the drag coefficient) and on the other side CW 311 was a nice number combination between the 300SL of the 50s and the 1969 Mercedes-Benz C111 supercar.

Mercedes-Benz_CW311_07Mercedes-Benz_CW311_1978_01 copy
The development period lasted from 1972 to 1978 and ended with the presentation of the prototype in 1978, which was presented at the B + B trademark of the public. The magazine Stern called the vehicle in a contemporary article simply “the bomb”.

The car had a steel-frame like the old 300SL or like the Group C Race cars at the time (917/962). The plan was that it should get a V8 engine from Mercedes-Benz and only the best parts should find their way under the futuristic looking fiberglass body. So he took the steering from the Porsche 911 and suspension parts from the 928. The tachometer and speedometer were taken from Porsche 911 G and the familiar Porsche ignition switch was on the left-hand side.

“The tail had the large rear lights taken from the SEL of that time. The tailpipes of the exhaust system were in front of the left rear wheel.  The heart was the engine of the 600, tuned by AMG, with the maximum possible power – almost 400 hp (375 hp/ 5200 rpm and 580 Nm at 3000 rpm).  “It was a derivative of the beefy 6.3-liter V8, M-100 engine of the 116 series, which met on a ZF five-speed gearbox.” CW 311 required 4.8 seconds for the sprint to 100 km / h, following 12.7 seconds for the car to reach 200 km/h and has a tested top-speed of 319km/h / 190 mph.

Eberhard Schulz tried to build a car which could be served at every local Mercedes Benz dealer or Porsche workshop. Also the car should be able to be used for all day use. It had a trunk with enough space for the luggage of two persons. He did not forget to place air-conditioning and designed the car with more space than it’s expected in a flat sports-car like this. In 1978 the supercar received the TUV approval.

Many innovative solutions are used. Like the ESV of the time, it uses as a unique periscope mirror. The lights are hidden by retractable doors made ​​of a translucent plastic, allowing the headlight flasher without lowering them. On the front cover, a movable flap helps regulate the air flow for cooling and increase support on the front wheels.

The windscreen and the side windows where designed in that way, that the driver had a perfect view outside, without being disturbed by the columns. Some said that was the perfect overview…
Instead of conventional mirrors he put a roof-mirror, which allowed the driver to have an unlimited view to the back. The concept of the mounted rearview mirror worked thanks to two targa roofs in the doors. The gull-wing doors were chosen, to resemble the predecessors and because of the tanks, which were below the doors, like in the old 300 SL.

The CW 311 was painted with pearlescent white, which was a new color provided by Merck. It was not until years later that the new pearlescent pigments were used in mass production on a large scale, so the CW 311 was a pioneer in this field. The car’s headlights were provided with body-colored covers. To use the headlight, the covers had to be removed.
Eberhard Schulz and Rainer Buchmann  put the Mercedes-Benz star on the car without asking for permission from the manufacturer; in view of the wide publicity but Daimler-Benz, being delighted by this concept, waived sanctions. Thus, the CW 311 is the only developed outside of Mercedes-Benz factory car that can carry a star up until today.

But how did it come to this fascinating vehicle? Eberhard Schulz says: “I was a Porsche man through and through but Mercedes was always the greatest.” Supercharger era, Silver Arrows, postwar Formula 1 and 300 SL inspired Schulz on his own idea of ​​a supercar. “Modern but not trendy. And my design had to beat all popular sports car brands in the performance. It should look like a Mercedes, even if no rating on the vehicle would be. Yes, he had to act like a Mercedes, even though he was not from the book “. Mid-engine concept, side exhaust pipes to the legendary 300 SLR, the Mille Miglia winning car with Stirling Moss at the wheel. “Even the cockpit vents from the 300 SL were not missing,” said Schulz.

The CW 311 is the star of the cinema movie “Car Napping” (1980 UFA), shot in Cannes. Some movie scenes were filmed at the Salzburgring, were during the tests, Niki Lauda was driving. The international newspaper mentioned the CW311 so this car remained a dream car for many generations.

Sadly, the whereabouts of this original concept are unknown.
Based on this concept Eberhard Schulz built the Isdera Imperator 108i. But that is another story which we will present in an upcoming post.