“Red Pig 2” – Josh Stahl’s 1969 Widebody Mercedes
Just like Shelby Cobra’s and Hemi-stuffed Fiat Topolino’s, American power in a foreign platform has always been a potent hot rod recipe. Josh Stahl’s 1969 Widebody Mercedes 280SEL is just a different spin on that formula.
Josh is a Mercedes guy. He got it from his dad, who had a Euro-spec 450 SL when Josh was young. It had red-spoke wheels and Josh thought it was the coolest car ever. Josh is now in the business of selling modern engines with his company, Reviva, which rebuilds GM 4.8-, 6.0- and 8.1-liter engines, and diesel engines, for fleet vehicles. Reviva recently developed a line of spec performance engines coming in at 450-, 550-, and 600-plus horsepower.
Josh wanted to build an attention-grabbing car to showcase the Reviva engine line. “After doing a little research, I honed in on the Red Pig – a 1971 300 SEL that was the first AMG Mercedes-tuned race car,” Josh said. “They bored the block out to 6.8L and power came in at 420hp. I wanted to build a tribute to that car and commissioned Vescio’s Customs for the build.”
Bo Vesico and his team at Vescio’s Customs in Minnesota understood Josh’s dream and nailed it precisely. When we spotted this widebody Mercedes cruising into Texas Motor Speedway during the 2019 Goodguys Spring Lone Star Nationals in March, people took notice. Industry-leading builders, show participants, and swarms of spectators surrounded the car all weekend. People dug it!
Josh plans on AutoCrossing his Mercedes, so the Viesco’s team ordered Art Morrison independent front and rear suspension clips, building a custom intermediate frame section to tie them together. Forgeline 18-inch wheels were wrapped with Pirelli tires – 335s up front and 355s out back – and backed with Wilwood six-piston disc brakes.
The Reviva 6.7-liter LS engine measures 408c.i. and sends 607 dyno-tested ponies to the rear wheels, with torque reaching 596 lb.ft. The LQ4 block was bored, stroked, and stuffed with a forged bottom end, H-beam rods, and a bigger cam, and then topped with CNC-ported LS3 heads. It breathes through custom headers and Magna Flow mufflers. A Tremec T56 transmission sends power to the Strange 3.54 gears stuffed in the rear end.
The Mercedes 280SEL W108 body was just what Josh wanted because of the longer wheelbase. Vescio’s hand-fabbed the steel wheel flares, which required redesigning the rear door seams. A custom belly pan, sheet metal engine compartment, and new floors were also crafted. Valspar 2010 Mars Red was applied in-house at Vescio’s Customs.
Performance-themed styling inside includes tan leather stitched over ProCar seats by Premier Upholstery, paired with a roll bar, five-point harnesses, and race-style controls. The original dash was fitted with AutoMeter gauges and Vintage Air, while a tilt column was topped with a Momo wheel.
In the end, about the only thing German left on this Benz is the sheet metal and emblems. The early-season feedback is all positive. Different isn’t bad – in this case, it’s badass.
Photos by Steven Bunker & Todd Ryden