Small B-Class Receives Big V-8 (as One-off Project)

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Celebrating 125 years since Karl Benz was granted the patent for the automobile, Daimler-Benz is certainly not afraid to exhibit their finest vehicles. Through the storied brand Mercedes-Benz, the German auto company’s rise situates around the advancements made in performance motoring. When Mercedes-Benz fell short in the 1980s, than-outside tuner AMG supplied a high-speed infusion to the 300E sedan by shoehorning a 360 horsepower, 5.5 liter V-8 engine under the hood. Giving birth to the AMG Hammer, the performance tuner would eventually acquire by Mercedes-Benz as AMG has gone forth to be known as the most enhanced versions of the Germany automaker’s product lineup. Strikingly though, the latest high-performance car is not a AMG creation or a team of dedicated Mercedes-Benz engineers. The one-off Mercedes-Benz B55 inspiration and construction was a grassroots effort Karl Benz would admire with pride.

From concept to completed vehicle, the Mercedes-Benz B55 motivation and expertise came from personnel occupying the company’s Rastatt assembly plant. Masterminded by plant manager Peter Wesp, a donor Mercedes-Benz B200 CDI (a product manufactured at the Rastatt, Germany facility) served as the launch pad to a German-based tuner. Through the work of Andreas Wurz, a technical vocational training foreman, electronics foreman Matthias Rieger and 12 automotive mechanic trainees, the principle behind the modifying the Mercedes-Benz B-Class was simply to add V-8 power to the compact premium car.

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Requiring the vehicle to be completely disassembled, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class project vehicle would be carefully reconstructed around an unusual drivetrain. Beginning the chore of converting the B200 CDI into a B55 was the augmenting the standard front-wheel drive system to rear-wheel drive. A rear axle arrived from the last generation E-Class parts bin was accommodated under the Mercedes-Benz B55 through welding and forming of a new subframe section. While the 2011 Mercedes-Benz B200 CDI is equipped either with a CVT or 6-speed manual gearbox, this B55 has been modified to accept a 7-speed automatic transmission similar to the one found on the C-Class and above Mercedes-Benz range.

The crowning achievement of the Mercedes-Benz B55, a 5.5 liter V-8 engine trumpets 388 horsepower along with 391 pounds-feet of torque ushering the premium compact car through its unique rear wheel axle. Team foreman Wurz commented that the V-8 engine inclusion was “fitted amazingly” in the B200 vehicle. Though the engine installation was successful, the major complication was arranging the steering hardware. Mentioning that no performance tests have been conducted yet on what is sure to be a very hot Mercedes-Benz B55, the Rastatt team has estimated under 6 second 0 to 60 mile per hour acceleration times are within easy reach.

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B55 badging, dark-painted grille and smoked headlamps tells the true identity of the project Mercedes-Benz from a conventional B-Class car on the exterior. Beautiful 18-inch AMG sports wheels is placed over perforated and vented disc brakes. The entire B55 vehicle rides on a K&W coil-over suspension. The Rastatt project team had also dedicated themselves to presenting a subtle but noticeably more luxurious cabin. Decked with Alcantara and leather seating, a high-quality roof lining is fitted over the Mercedes-Benz B55 passengers’ head.

The overall changes added only 400 pounds to what was the Mercedes-Benz B200 CDI, the new B55 project was completed as a success. An amazing vehicle, the Mercedes-Benz B55 is unfortunately only a concept offering little chance of production. However, one Rastatt team member has already stated “We may have some surprises in store…”.

Information and photo source: Daimler AG