These Are Your Favorite Automotive Urban Legends

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Photo: pingping from San Francisco, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

TLDR: Mercedes-Benz killed the Chrysler ME 4-12 concept car off just before it reached production because their executives were pissy that simple American engineers could use Mercedes parts to build a better supercar than Mercedes themselves could.

When Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz merged at the turn of this century, the Germans wanted to see what the Americans were made of so they gave them open access to Mercedes’ resources and a more-or-less blank cheque to develop a supercar in a very limited window of time.

Over the span of less than a year, a team of just 11 people, who mostly comprised of the then-new SRT team, came up with the Chrysler ME Four-Twelve: a mid engine supercar made of aluminum and carbon fiber utilizing a heavily modified Mercedes V12 with 4 turbochargers. The thing made 850 horsepower, weighed under 2900 pounds, used a 7 speed DCT, would run the 1/4 mile in 10.6 seconds at 136mph and had a top speed of 248mph. *In 2004.* At the time it would have been the fastest and most powerful production car ever, eclipsed by the Veyron shortly after.

“But, Cody,” I can hear you saying, “it was just a concept car, they could make whatever claims they wanted, they weren’t going to build it!” Ah, my little personal strawman, that isn’t entirely correct. This is where the urban legend part starts. See, Mercedes actually intended for the ME 4-12 to go into production. They thought it would be amusing to see the Americans struggle through building a proper European style supercar, and weren’t expecting great things. They allegedly told the SRT skunkworks team to have a production ready car by mid 2004, it was to be symbolic of their merging and, as far as everyone on the project was aware at the time, they were working on something that they believed would be going into production.

The legend is that when Chrysler delivered the final, production-ready prototype, it was so good that it offended the Mercedes execs. From their perspective, they were a master artisan giving a toddler a set of lego blocks, leaving them alone for the afternoon then returning to find a perfect 1:1 recreation of Michelangelo’s David made entirely of lego sitting in their foyer. Not only was the ME 4-12 objectively better than any car Mercedes themselves could push into production, it was very possibly setting out to be one of the greatest supercars of all time. They didn’t want the Americans showing them up, especially using Mercedes parts, so they ended up cancelling the project. The official reasons given were more like “it was too expensive” but the urban legend is that Mercedes killed one of the greatest cars of all time while it was still in the womb because their execs were insecure about how good it was.

This sounds like the kind of story that Chrysler engineers really want to be true, moreso than the kind of story that is true. If anyone knows where to pick up that Lego Statue of David kit, though, let me know.

Submitted by: Cody Stewart

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