Icon founder Jonathan Ward is a frequent visitor to Jay Leno’s Garage. This time he brought the latest of his company’s Derelict projects, a purposefully distressed 1971 Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3 with an LS heart, along with Steve Rulewicz, the client that commissioned it.
Unveiled for the 2022 SEMA show, the Mercedes Derelict follows the pattern of previous Icon Derelicts, which have ranged from a 1958 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud to a 1952 DeSoto wagon, by combining external patina with internal performance upgrades.
Beneath the weathered paint, the Mercedes is a full-on restomod. The car left the factory as a unibody, though the original body shell now rides on a separate Art Morrison chassis that includes four-wheel adjustable coilovers and independent rear suspension. The car also has Brembo brakes with Wilwood power-assist hardware, as well as an Icon-designed power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering setup.
The 300 SEL 6.3 was a forerunner of modern Mercedes-Benz AMG performance models. Mercedes took the 6.3-liter V-8 from the gargantuan 600 sedan and dropped it in the smaller 300 SEL, creating a sort of German muscle car. This was a pure factory effort dreamed up by engineer Erich Waxenberger, as AMG was then a completely independent tuner, although it did race a 300 SEL 6.3 called the Red Pig.
The Red Pig, and the general look of these sedans, inspired Rulewicz to commission this build. As for why the rare 6.3 model was used as a basis instead of a more common 6-cylinder model, Ward said the higher-end interior fittings and other small details justified the decision. The donor car had sat in San Bernardino, California, so it was relatively free of rust.
The Derelict is still powered by a V-8, but it’s now the supercharged 6.2-liter LS9 from the C6 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. The engine makes 638 hp at the crank in the ZR1, and about 500 hp at the wheels in the Mercedes. Installing the LS9 required a custom firewall and front inner fenders, and the car now sports “6.2” badging instead of the stock 6.3 badge.
Purists may scoff, but Ward was committed to the GM engine swap for its reliability, power, and sound. Check out the full video and have a listen for yourself.
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