Cinematic cars: Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 from "C'était un rendez-vous" (1976)
Happy new year! And what better way to ring it in than with a segment of Cinematic cars.
Anyone who follows the automotive blogosphere knows that references to this film had – for not terribly good reasons, in our opinion – been lighting it up recently. Pay no mind– like we said, we think it’s just noise. One of the things we like to think we do here is to filter out the noise from the good stuff. So we are going to wisely (we think) focus on the original– which looks (and sounds) very, very illegal. And very, very fun.
Without further ado (you want to turn your volume way up for this):
Just the very thought of using Paris as one’s personal road course boggles the mind. The fact that it was pulled off not once, but twice, remains virtually unfathomable. Some brief color about the film:
The film shows an eight-minute drive through Paris in the early hours of the morning (05:30hrs), accompanied by sounds of a high-reving engine, gear changes and squealing tires. The car is never seen as the camera seems to be attached below the front bumper.
Shot in a single take, the length of the film was limited by the short capacity of the 1000 foot 35mm film reel, and filmed from a (supposedly) gyro-stabilised camera mounted on the bumper of a Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9. A photo has surfaced that seems to reveal an Eclair cam-flex 35mm camera with a wide angle lens, and a typical “speed rail” hard mount – no gyros – on a Mercedes.
This model, which could reach a top speed of 235 km/h (146 mph), was only available with a 3-speed automatic transmission. Yet, one can hear gear changes up into 5th, as well as heel-and-toe down-shifting with a high-revving engine indicating speeds of well over 200 km/h. Calculations made by several independent groups showed that the car never exceeded 140 km/h (85 mph), while another estimated that the car had peaked at 220 km/h (136.7 mph). Lelouch himself claimed that the top speed achieved was over 200 km/h, somewhere between 230 km/h and 240 km/h. It is suggested that the soundtrack was dubbed with the sound of Lelouch’s Ferrari 275GTB, which has a corresponding number of gears and a similar engine note (source) (i.e., he did two runs- one with the big Merc, the other with the Ferrari).
Dark Roasted Blend has probably the most exhaustive single collection of information and resources related to the film (which we are not going to bother to recreate here), if you’d like to learn more.