These are your favorite automotive urban legends

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

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

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

In less than a year, a team of just 11, consisting primarily of the all-new SRT team, created the Chrysler ME Four-Twelve: an aluminum and carbon fiber mid-engine supercar using a heavily Mercedes V12 engine. modified with 4 turbochargers. The thing made 850 horsepower, weighed less than 2900 pounds, used a 7-speed DCT, did the 1/4 mile in 10.6 seconds at 136 mph, and had a top speed of 248 mph. *In 2004.* At the time, it would have been the fastest and most powerful production car ever, eclipsed by the Veyron shortly thereafter.

“But, Cody,” I can hear you say, “it was just a concept car, they could do whatever they wanted, they weren’t going to build it!” Ah, my personal little strawman, that’s not quite right. This is where the urban legend part begins. You see, Mercedes actually wanted the ME 4-12 to go into production. They thought it would be fun to see Americans struggling to build a true European-style supercar, and didn’t expect big things. They reportedly told the SRT skunkworks team to have a car ready for production in mid-2004, it was to be symbolic of their merger and, as far as everyone on the project knew at the time, they were working on something they thought was going into production.

Legend has it that when Chrysler delivered the final production-ready prototype, it was so good it offended Mercedes executives. From their perspective, they were a master craftsman 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. entirely in lego sitting in their hearth. Not only was the ME 4-12 objectively better than any car Mercedes itself could put into production, but it quite possibly set itself to be one of the greatest supercars of all time. They didn’t want Americans showing them, especially using Mercedes parts, so they ended up canceling 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 executives didn’t weren’t sure of its quality.

Sounds like the kind of story Chrysler engineers really have want to be true, more than the kind of story that is true. If anyone knows where to pick up this Lego Statue of David kit, let me know.

Submitted by: Cody Stewart

About Frances R. Smith

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