What is it?
This is the Mercedes SLR Stirling Moss, created as a parting gesture in the road car collaboration between Mercedes-Benz and McLaren. It costs a breathtaking £660,000. And for that vast amount of cash you don’t even get a windscreen or a roof.
Such luxuries have been deleted in a programme that has pared 200kg off the Merecedes SLR’s kerb weight, bringing it down to 1551kg. The basis is the standard SLR roadster’s carbonfibre monocoque. It has been further developed with beefed-up sills which, together with an extra crossmember behind the seats, make the Mercedes SLR Stirling Moss one of the most structurally rigid open-top cars ever.
Those sills make climbing in rather tricky, but once you’re there, the view is like nothing else, with a long bonnet sweep that plunges away out front.
The two-seat cabin has been pared back to essential basics, all trimmed in a mix of carbonfibre and leather. Should you expect more for £660k? Possibly, but I doubt potential owners will complain.
The Mercedes SLR Stirling Moss receives the same engine as the SLR 722, with 641bhp and 604lb ft. It endows the car with truly colossal performance; Mercedes claims 0-62mph in just 3.5sec.
What’s it like?
The great thing is, this pace is just a nudge of the throttle away. With a five-speed automatic ’box sending drive to the rear wheels, there’s no tricky clutch to contend with as you fire the SLR Stirling Moss from the line. Traction control working overtime, it lifts its nose ever so slightly, squats at the rear and catapults forward with the sort of abandon you’d expect from a street-legal race car.
You sit exposed to the elements, so the ever-present roar being thrown back from up front enters your head and doesn’t leave. Passing beyond a high-pitched mechanical whine at low revs, it shifts into a deep exhaust blare nearer the redline. The blast of wind rushing over the bonnet (enclosed goggles are a must) accentuates the feeling of speed.
As you accelerate hard up to and beyond 100mph, wind buffeting and various vibrations begin to blur your vision. On the motorway, you can call up 150mph without any hint of strain from the engine – and there’s still a further 67mph to come.
Directional stability is good by open-top standards. The set-up is inherently firm, but there’s still sufficient travel in the suspension to stop it from being thrown off line by bridge expansion joints. However, larger irregularities send nasty jolts through the chassis, so you need to choose your back roads with caution.
The steering, compromised by a 12.2-metre turning circle and a penchant for tramlining, is not whip-crack fast, but with measured inputs it proves confidence-inspiring enough. There is a faint trace of body roll, but it’s not going to upset the cornering line to a great degree.
The lack of a windscreen and roof structure have lowered the centre of gravity dramatically, translating to sharper turn-in and an ability to carry greater speed through corners than you get in the standard SLR.
Building up to the limits of adhesion takes time. But I’m not sure my nerves would have been up to the job of sending £660,000 of motor car into a smoky drift – not on public roads, at any rate.
However, a spell alongside former F1 star Mika Hakkinen in the car showed that there is a good deal of progressiveness once the grip limit is breached. By then you’re really travelling, but the colossal brakes and a brake flap (which shifts the centre of pressure towards the rear) help to wipe off speed.
Should I buy one?
Some will see the SLR Stirling Moss as nothing but a marketing folly. It initially comes across as a throwback to a bygone era. But there is a good deal of substance here, too. Aggressive and involving, this car possesses the singularity of focus that we had all hoped the original SLR would contain.