AMG’s First Race Car, the Mercedes ‘Red Pig,’ Flies Again

When one of your latest cars is so fast that its hubcaps come off, that’s a proper sign of performance dedication. And AMG has been doing that to Mercedes-Benz’s cars for decades, plus a brief dalliance with Mitsubishi. This legacy was kick-started by one very special sedan: the Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8, aka the ‘Red Pig.’ Which you can now buy—in replica form—for yourself.

The 1971 Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 ‘Red Pig’ helped establish AMG’s legacy

A maroon 1971 Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3 on a runway
1971 Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3 | Mercedes-Benz

The Red Pig’s story starts with the 1968 Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3. Erich Waxenburger, a Mercedes-Benz engineer, wanted to give the W109-gen sedan some extra speed. So, he ripped out the original six-cylinder engine and installed a 6.3-liter V8 from the 600 ‘Grosser.’ The resulting car was, at the time, the world’s fastest production sedan.

But Waxenburger didn’t want the Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3 to just be quick on the road, Automobile reports. He took it racing at the 1969 6 Hours of Macao, where he met AMG co-founder Hans Werner-Aufrecht. Waxenburger won the race, but when he wanted to pursue 24-hour racing, he discovered a problem.

The sedan’s tires wouldn’t last for an entire 24-hour race without wheel-arch extensions. And the engineer’s superiors, worried about safety, wanted to cancel the racing program, Hagerty explains. However, Waxenburger still wanted to race the 300 SEL. So, he and AMG got together and created the Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 ‘Rote Sau,’ aka the ‘Red Pig,’ Hagerty reports.

The sedan’s name comes from its extra headlights and its red paint. Also, even with the help of magnesium wheels and aluminum doors, the Mercedes Red Pig is a fairly heavy car, coming in at 3,604 pounds, Gear Patrol reports. Hence its reputation for rapidly chewing through its wider-than-stock tires.

The Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 AMG racing at the 1971 24 Hours of Spa
Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 AMG racing at the 1971 24 Hours of Spa | Mercedes-Benz

But the engine undoubtedly contributes to that, too. As its name implies, the Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 has a 6.8-liter V8 with 422 hp and 448 lb-ft, Car and Driver reports. And it comes with an extra oil cooler, modified intake, a full racing exhaust, and plenty of strengthened internal components. Plus, AMG beefed up the Mercedes Red Pig’s differential, upgraded the front suspension, and fitted stiffer air springs.

The Mercedes Red Pig’s size and weight meant it wallowed a bit in the corners. But even so, that V8 let it charge to second place at the 1971 24 Hours of Spa, Road & Track reports. AMG had arrived.

A German shop is now building Mercedes Red Pig replicas

A red 1971 Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 AMG 'Red Pig' replica
1971 Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 AMG ‘Red Pig’ replica | Arthur Bechtel Classic Motors

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As a result of its accomplishment, the Mercedes Red Pig became a brand icon. And over the years, it’s led to more than a few fan-created tribute cars, Bring a Trailer reports. The ones made by Arthur Bechtel Classic Motors in Boblingen, Germany, though, are proper replicas, Hagerty reports.

Bechtel Classic Motors starts with a 1968-1971 Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3 and completely restores it. The company then gives a fresh red paint-job and installs period-correct wheel-arch extensions and sponsor stickers. And buyers have a choice between a sports suspension or a restored version of the Red Pig’s air suspension, RobbReport reports.

The black-leather front bucket seats and real-wood-trim of a 1971 Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 AMG 'Red Pig' replica
1971 Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 AMG ‘Red Pig’ replica front interior | Arthur Bechtel Classic Motors

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The Mercedes Red Pig replica doesn’t have the enlarged 6.8-liter V8. However, you can pick from one of two manual transmissions or keep the original automatic. Plus, Bechtel adds black leather upholstery, front bucket sport seats, racing harnesses, and a roll cage.

The replicas aren’t cheap, but then, you can’t get the real thing

Admittedly, the Arthur Bechtel Classic Motors’ Mercedes Red Pig replicas are a bit pricey. The cars start at $400k, minus the cost of the donor 300 SEL 6.3, Hagerty reports. And a good-condition one of those goes for around $40k, Hagerty reports. Plus, the German restorer is only building five cars a year.

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However, Bechtel’s replicas are the closest thing anyone, including Mercedes itself, can get to a ‘real’ Red Pig. That’s because the original Red Pig doesn’t exist anymore, RM Sotheby’s explains. Mercedes sold it to aircraft manufacturer Matra to test landing gear, MotorTrend reports, and it was run into the ground. That’s why the 300 SEL 6.8 AMG Mercedes keeps in its collection is actually a replica its employees built, PistonHeads reports.

Anything to make that Red Pig fly again.

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