The Red Pig: Josh Stahl’s LS-Powered 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280SEL

As we each go through life, different things catch our eye or inspire us. For Josh Stahl, owner of Reviva Inc., a company in Minneapolis, MN, that rebuilds GM engines for national fleets, he was inspired by a car his father owned: a red Mercedes-Benz 450SL with wire wheels. Combining his day-to-day business, building LS engines, along with a vehicle he was fond of as a child, Josh decided it was time to create something German with a big American engine. And of course, it needed to be red.

Josh Stahl’s creation was inspired by his father’s red Mercedes-Benz and another red Mercedes, a 300SEL, built by German tuner AMG and raced successfully throughout Europe. The race-winning Benz was called The Red Pig. It was this car’s racing heritage that solidified the direction Josh wanted to go when building his dream car. He wanted the car to represent his business, Reviva (with a powerful LS engine), and he wanted it to be quick around the corners.

Josh started looking around for a Mercedes-Benz chassis that he could use to create his project car. AMG’s original Red Pig was a 1971 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL. The big luxury car won its first 24-hour race up against many naysayers’ opinions at the time, hence the derogatory name “The Red Pig.” This victory solidified AMG’s tuning ability and AMG was later adopted by the manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz, to create exotic and high performing Benz’s for years to come. Josh has owned a few AMG tuned cars, and he wanted his project car to have the exact same chassis that founded AMG –The Red Pig.

My dad’s red 450SL Euro Spec when I was growing up was a big influence on me, as well as the AMG original Red Pig. – Josh Stahl

“I have always been a Mercedes guy,” Josh said. “My dad’s red 450SL Euro Spec when I was growing up was a big influence on me, as well as the AMG original Red Pig. I wanted to build a resto-mod tribute to the original Red Pig and commissioned Vescio Customs for the build.”

He was looking specifically for an SEL W108 chassis because that was the long wheelbase version of the car. Eventually, Josh located a rusty 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280SEL on eBay in upstate New York which matched the chassis shape of AMG’s original creation. He purchased the car on eBay, and his project was on its way.

A 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280SEL came from the factory wearing small pizza cutter tires to handle the power of the stock, single overhead cam, 160 horsepower, straight six engine. The Red Pig, with its LS powerplant, needs a lot more meat under the fenders to handle more than 600 horses under the hood. Vescio’s Customizing created the steel flares that cover the wide Forgeline wheels.

Josh’s company Reviva could handle the build of the LS engine, but he farmed out the rest of the build to Bo Vescio of Vescio’s Customizing. The crew at Vescio’s got busy creating all of the details needed to take a rusty shell from ebay to the track weapon The Red Pig would become. To make this car work successfully on the track, an entirely new floor was constructed with integrated frame rails to tie the Art Morrison Suspensions front and rear independent units together. A custom-built dash was created with AutoMeter gauges. The body was painted Mars red, which is a 2010 Mercedes-Benz color.

The smallest details, like this race car-inspired switch plate in the interior, are what separate this build from your average LS-swapped project.

While the guys at Vescio’s Customizing were grinding away on the rusty chassis, the staff at Reviva got work on the engine. The original Red Pig in 1971 had 450 horsepower which was legitimate for racing at the time. Josh knew his company could do much better than that for his new resto-mod creation. They started with a 2007 LQ4 block and line-honed, square-decked, bored, balanced, and port-matched the engine. Tom Dokken at Reviva handled the machine work. They installed a Manley 4340 forged 4.000-inch stroker crankshaft (internally balanced 24 tooth), with Manley 4340 forged H beam 6.125-inch connecting rods and Manley 2618 forged +10cc dished pistons. ARP 8740 bolts hold things together for the engine set at a 10.5:1 compression ratio. On the dyno, the engine created 607 horsepower at 596 foot-pounds of torque. Those are the kind of numbers that will undoubtedly shoot this big luxury car out of the corners.

Starting with a 2007 6.7 liter LQ4 block, Reviva created a 607 horsepower, 596 lb-ft of torque monster powerplant for The Red Pig using LS3 heads and Comp Cams LSR camshafts.

The heads for the engine are LS3 68cc from Chevrolet Performance CNC ported by Reviva. The intake manifold is a stock GM LS3 along with a stock GM LS3 throttle body. For the fuel system, an Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump feeds the 42-pound injectors. The powertrain control module (PCM) is a stock GM P59 custom tuned by Tom at Reviva. The exhaust gases are routed away from the engine by custom headers into a custom 3-inch diameter stainless steel exhaust system built by Vescio’s with an H-pipe and Magnaflow mufflers. With this exhaust, it will be abundantly clear to anyone standing around this Mercedes when it starts: there’s a stout American V-8 under the hood of the German car.

This Lokar shifter selects the gears for the Tremec T56 Magnum transmission sitting underneath The Red Pig. The transmission was built by American Powertrain out of Cooksville, TN.

To put the power to the ground, a Tremec T56 Magnum transmission was installed with a McLeod RXT twin-disc ceramic clutch matched to a McLeod flywheel. No automatic transmission here: this car is built for track duty. A deeper 2.97 first gear ratio was added to the transmission. Denny’s Driveshaft created a 3-inch custom aluminum driveshaft for The Red Pig while Art Morrison Suspensions supplied the independent rear suspension setup for the car.

Forgeline LS3 wheels, 18×12-inch fronts, and 19×13-inch rears are wrapped with massive 335/30/R18 front tires and 355/30/R19 rear tires by Pirelli. The large Wilwood 6-piston brakes bring the classic Mercedes to a stop.

The extremely wide Forgeline wheels and Pirelli tires were just too big for the German chassis and needed to be covered. Vescio’s Customizing made the beautiful fender flares entirely out of steel.

“One of my favorite parts about The Red pig is the stance and the big rubber,” Josh says. “Also, the fact that there is almost nothing original left on this pig.”

They also did some minor smoothing to rear tail panel and heavily modified the engine bay to fit the GM LS engine. An aluminum chin spoiler was created for the front.

The interior is completely custom, with tan leather, four bucket seats, AutoMeter gauges, and a roll cage.

Because this car was built to go fast and be driven hard, a roll cage was installed winding its way through the custom leather interior. The AutoMeter gauges glow red to match the red paint of The Red Pig. A custom leather bucket driver’s seat will help Josh stay in the correct position as he rips through the autocross course.

Crow Enterprises 5-point harnesses help hold the passengers inside the custom bucket seats while The Red Pig slaloms through autocross courses.

To help this big German luxury vehicle (now resto-mod track beast) carve the corners, the guys decided to utilize a set of  Ride Tech coilovers. An adjustable sway bar was also added for tuning the setup at different courses. The Art Morrison Suspensions Bikini Clip was chosen as the front independent suspension. A DSE power steering rack was installed for ease of turning the massive front Pirelli tires. Wilwood 6-piston brake calipers were chosen to effectively slow the big car down.

The stance of The Red Pig means business. When this car fires up its healthy LS engine, everyone within a city block will know it means business, too.

Josh Stahl has always had an affinity for German cars. He designed and built this car to represent the abilities of his engine business, Reviva, but he also built it for zipping around autocross courses. The final creation of The Red Pig became the perfect culmination of what he wanted to create: a great luxury Mercedes with a serious heart under the hood.

The iconic Mercedes-Benz star adorns the stock grille (which is hiding huge radiators to cool the LS powerplant.) Josh plans on honing his skills killing cones and sliding The Red Pig around the tarmac at different autocross events. There’s no doubt The Red Pig will be a crowd pleaser at any event it attends.

 

Inside the wheel, you can spy the Wilwood 6-piston calipers and vented discs ready to slow down this big car down.

This build took time. Josh began scouring the internet and finally found just the right rusty tub on eBay in June of 2016 for his project. And now, after two and a half years of hard work, his dream car is finally a running reality. And it isn’t just running, it is running fast, it can corner, and it can stop. The performance numbers on this Mercedes are certainly better than anything the German manufacturer created in 1969.

Even with all of the performance that this car can provide, the level of detail, fit and finish on this custom Mercedes-Benz is incredible.

It has been quite a journey for Josh to build a car that is a resto-mod inspired version of AMG’s original 1971 The Red Pig. He pulled the project off beautifully.

Like a true race car, The Red Pig has a tow hook on the rear.

Josh plans on honing his skills killing cones and sliding The Red Pig around the tarmac at different autocross events. There is no doubt The Red Pig will be a crowd pleaser at any event it attends. With Josh’s dream car finally complete, it is time to kick the tires and light the fires and get to the autocross course to show the world what a German luxury car with an LS engine can really do. Short Answer: this pig can fly.

About the author

Rob Krider

Rob Krider’s mantra is “Race Anything, Win Everything” and is a multi-champion driver who currently competes in the NASA Honda Challenge series.
Read My Articles

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