This crazy Mercedes concept had wobbly wheels for driving fun
The bold looking 2001 F 400 concept could tilt its outside wheels for added stability
What is this half-finished looking thing?
This is the Mercedes-Benz F 400 Carving concept, which was revealed to a slightly confused world at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show. The aim, said Mercedes at the time, was to test “novel dynamic handling systems”. Sounds scary.Advertisement - Page continues below
A bit crazy for a Mercedes, isn’t it?
It is a little bit racy, yes. The Carving name came not from the meat knife you might deploy at the Sunday roast, but rather from the skiing technique where you get on the edges of your skis for a faster turn. The F 400’s secret weapon was tilting the outside wheels up to 20 degrees on the way through a corner like a motorbike – or indeed a skier – for increased roadholding ability. Or something like that, anyway. The precise angle would be calculated by the car using onboard sensors to decide how much the wheels should keel over.
What was under the F 400’s bonnet?
The F 400 Carving enjoyed a 3.2-litre V6 engine under the bonnet, producing 215bhp and sending it all to the rear wheels. Nothing too novel about that so far, even if it does sound nice and spicy for an open-topped roadster. Of course, in this application it was fitted with a dry sump so as to ensure a plentiful supply of oil to the engine even during hard cornering.Advertisement - Page continues below
What was the F 400 like inside?
The designers didn’t phone it in on the inside like can sometimes happen with these things. The interior of the F 400 concept was meant to evoke stripped back racing cars of the 1930s, with bespoke metallic controls along the transmission tunnel. The dashboard was apparently designed to look like a wing, floating above the rest of the interior. As long as it doesn’t fly away with the steering wheel attached everything should be fine. Springs and dampers were fitted underneath the carbon seats for maximum comfort.
What about fancy tech?
The car also featured the standard-fit concept car butterfly doors, innovative drive-by-wire tech on the steering and brakes, and strange fibre optic headlights. Because of how thin the bodywork was where the headlights were located, Mercedes developed a system where the actual lightbulbs lurked somewhere under the bonnet, sending the light to the lamps using fibre optics. Clever stuff.
Any other crazy concept car touches?
The tyres on the F 400 were specially developed with extra grippy inside shoulders for when they were tilted – the car was designed such that if the driver engaged in a spot of emergency braking all four wheels would suddenly turn in on themselves for maximum grip. Which wouldn’t be alarming at all in a developing situation.
Why didn’t the F 400 go into production?
If we really squint at the front end of the F 400 then maybe there’s the teensiest hint of 2004 SLK about the bonnet, but overall the Carver concept is production Marmite. Complicated suspension? Two seats? No roof? It’s amazing that it was even economical to build a concept car. Sadly the sole purpose of the F 400 concept was to show off fancy technology that Mercedes had made just because it could. Or maybe potential buyers took one look at the weird helmets they made the models wear for the press photographs and scarpered.Advertisement - Page continues below
But what if I really wanted a tilting Mercedes?
You could go super cheap and find yourself something lurking at the back of a scrapyard with semi-collapsed suspension, or you could purchase a 2014 S-Class Coupe. That car was launched with a similarly jaunty angle through the corners, albeit achieved in a completely different way. The S-Class coop used onboard cameras and other such technologies to assess the road ahead, tilting the suspension on either side of the car up to 2.5 degress to allow the luxury barge to lean in to the corner. Sort of like a tiny Virgin Pendolino.