18th Jan 2023
Wednesday One-Off: 2005 Maybach Exelero
by Collecting Cars
When a car manufacturer wants to make a car go faster the usual course of action is to shed weight at every conceivable point. Rafts of carbon-fibre, magnesium wheels, and no heavy electrics or unnecessary luxuries. It’s certainly the solution where outright performance is the goal, but when the brief calls for phenomenal speed and the heaviest weight possible, you enter the regions of the truly unusual.
This was the brief set way back in 1938 by the German tyre company Fulda, who wanted to test their latest high-performance tyre, the Carat Exelero. The coachbuilders Dorr & Schreck were initially approached for the task, and they chose to work with Maybach Motorenbau and the aerodynamicist Frelherr Reinhard Koenig Fachsenfeld. The resultant project, called the W38 Stromlinlenfahrzeug (literally translating to ‘streamlined vehicle’) was a heavyweight machine capable of sustaining a consistent speed of 124mph.
Fast-forward to 2003 and Fulda, now a German division of Goodyear, approached Mercedes-Benz with a very similar brief. It wanted a very heavy, very fast machine to test its newest and widest tyres ever. In response, Mercedes-Benz handed the project over to its ultra-luxury Maybach division – and so history was almost repeating itself.
The Maybach Exelero was revealed to the world in May 2005 at the Tempodrom in Berlin. It had been designed by Frederik Burchhardt, a student from the Pforzheim Design Academy, and was based upon the chassis of a Maybach 57S limousine. The Exelero looked like it had sprung from the pages of a Batman comic; it was physically enormous, with sweeping bodywork reminiscent of its 1930s streamliner predecessor, but presented in a slick black finish that gave it a sinister presence.
Powering this monumental two-door coupe was a unique 5.9-litre twin-turbocharged Maybach V12, which produced 691bhp and 737lb ft of torque. With its bespoke 23-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 315/25 Fulda Carat Exelero tyres it was ready to attempt its singular reason for creation.
By the time it was revealed to the public at Berlin’s Tempodrom in May 2005, the Exelero had already managed to achieve its goal, having been driven to a verified 218.3mph around the Nardo high-speed bowl in southern Italy by N24 and Le Mans winner Klaud Ludwig.
With its purpose fulfilled the only question left was what to do with such an outrageous car? Maybach offered the car for sale at a price tag of $5 million, and it was initially purchased by the diamond industrialist, André Action Diakité Jackson, who lent the car to Jay-Z for use in his ‘Lost One’ music video. European entrepreneur Arnauld Massartic was then reported to have purchased the car for an unknown amount, before it was put back on the market in 2011 for $8 million.
Infamously, rapper Birdman made it publicly known that he would be the next owner of the Exelero, even claiming that the car would undergo a full respray to bright red. However, it was never confirmed whether money ever changed hands. When it resurfaced in a video on Supercar Blondie’s YouTube channel, the car was seen again in its original sleek black finish, at which point it was in the care of Frank Rickert, the founder of renowned Mercedes-Benz specialist Mechatronik.
Whether the Maybach Exelero will ever see the open market again is impossible to say, but its extraordinary design and glorious twin-turbocharged V12 soundtrack have earned it an intriguing place in modern Mercedes-Benz history.