The Red Pig
Icon: AMG 300 SEL 6.8
What It’s All About
In the ‘70s, European sports car racing was dominated by the small and nimble. Large sedans were nearly non-existent on the track because of their abundant use of heavy steel, which made the lumbering sedans the antithesis of a successful racecar. At the Red Pig’s maiden race, the 1971 running of the 24 Hours of Spa, the pit lane was peppered with lightweight
Granted, the race cars of yesteryear were significantly less fuel efficient and were lacking in engine life and overall mechanical integrity. But the principal for success in endurance racing has always remained: less time spent in pits means more laps on the track, which earns a better shot at victory. The Red Pig guzzled gas so fast it made oil rig fires look economical.
Mercedes-Benz’s engine and chassis archive is a torrent of alphanumeric soup at best, but tracing the Red Pig’s lineage is actually quite easy. In 1966 the 300 SEL started life with an anemic 2.8-liter straight six from the factory, giving it only 170 horsepower to play with. At the other end of the stable, Mercedes was producing the luxurious range-topping 600, fitted with a 247 horsepower 6.3-liter V8, but
After increasing the SEL’s displacement to 6,835cc, Melcher set about tinkering with engine internals the old knuckle-busting way — new camshafts, rocker arms, piston heads, intakes, exhaust, anything that could make more power was bolted in. It was proper hot rodding stuff. What they ended up with was an unprecedented 428 horsepower and 448 lb-ft of twist. That power was a necessity. Having retained the rear bench seats, air suspension, panel doors and elegant wood trim, the Red Pig was one of the most luxurious race cars on track — but also one of the heaviest.
Its Place in History
Going into the 1971 24-hour race at Spa, AMG looked as if they were going to fall flat before they had even found their footing. As it turned out, it was David versus Goliath, only with an ironic twist in the story. By stunning all who doubted them and finding success at the Belgian race, AMG arrived at the doorstep of the pantheon of motorsports. In the decades to follow, AMG would adhere to the same ideals of clever engineering and intelligent design that shone in the 300 SEL 6.8. In the ’80s, Mercedes-Benz recognized the talent in the small tuning firm and employed them
On track, AMG have gone on to win races in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) and GT racing, and it just clinched the 2014 F1 World Championship with one of the most dominant F1 cars in the sport’s history. AMG’s stratospheric rise to the pinnacle of motorsports can only be attributed to that mountain-moving 1971 300 SEL 6.8, the Red Pig.