Maxximum Attakk! – Mercedes A160 Formula Hakkinen Edition

Having a special edition named after you is normally something of a compliment. But there’s an exception to every rule.

1999 žMercedes A160 Formula Hakkinen Edition. Image: mercedesclass.net

The world of Formula One is brutal and uncompromising. Few make it to its pinnacle, fewer still achieve greatness. Double World champion, Mika Häkkinen appears to have been one of Grand Prix’s more pleasant individuals – famously taciturn when fixed in the camera’s glare, but said to have been considerably better company once they were turned off. Quick too – perhaps the only driver of his era who gave seven-time champion, Michael Schumacher a genuine run for his money.

Mika attained motorsport’s ultimate accolade in 1998, when he took his McLaren Mercedes MP4-13 to the World Championship – the Swabian’s first since the fabled ‘Silver Arrows’ era. This was a matter of some historical significance to the Stuttgart-Untertürkheim car giant, so what better way to commemorate this event than by producing an appropriately performance-oriented limited edition model.

This car was for sale last year. It might still be. Image: germancarsforsale

If the W168 A-Class was very much the wrong answer to a question that really shouldn’t have been posed in the first place, this special edition magnifies the elk-fearing wheelie bin’s failings to levels both unprecedented and grotesque. What Mr Häkkinen made of it remains unrecorded, but one can imagine the expletives that issued from his lips.

Basically a standard 1.6 litre A-Class with a fancy red leather interior, a full-length sunroof and a set of AMG wheels, painted in a similar livery to that of the contemporary grand prix McLarens, the A160 Formula Häkkinen Edition to all intents and purposes resembled nothing so much as a four wheeled packet of West cigarettes. It’s difficult to imagine exactly who this cynical device was aimed at, because lets face it, even the most ardent Häkkinen fan would have baulked at driving something as tawdry as this – especially at the prices Mercedes were charging.

Image: germancarsforsale

250 commemorative Mercedes-Benz A160’s were produced in total, but you may be interested to note not all were to ‘maximum attack Mika’ specification. An undocumented number had David Coulthard’s name emblazoned on both driver and passenger doors. As Häkkinen’s team mate, sidekick and second violin, it’s likely the Scotsman is perhaps the only person alive who knows how many bore his name – (or cares for that matter).

Everybody wants to be remembered for the right things. Doing well by doing right, acting with integrity; hopefully, with a modicum of grace. Mika Häkkinen seems to have been a decent individual in a world of sharks, one who attained the highest accolade in the ‘sport’ on two occasions before walking away to get on with his life. Surely he deserved a more fitting accolade than this?

Image: germancarsforsale

Mercedes’ Jurgen Hubbert was also said to have been a man of some integrity – a modest individual who reputedly put the interests of others above his own, so perhaps it’s not entirely charitable to take cheap shots. But the A-Class is nevertheless hard to absolve – as indeed is the direction he took the business. Dieter Zetsche, (Mercedes’ then head of marketing), on the other hand was directly responsible for this monstrosity, so it’s just as well he isn’t running the show now… Oh crap.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. [Dis]content Provider.

8 thoughts on “Maxximum Attakk! – Mercedes A160 Formula Hakkinen Edition”

  1. With Zetsche being appointed big boss after this (as well as a row of unimpressive Chryslers – Crossfire and Pacifica, anyone?) and Gorden (sic) being promoted on the strength of having turned engineering-led Mercedes-Benz into purveyors of Manga style motoring (he himself penned the W221 S-class and the still highly grotesque SLR), I’d like to send one General Jack D. Ripper on a mission to find out about the long-term effects of water fluoridation in the Stuttgart region.

    1. “I think you’re some kind of deviated prevert. I think General Ripper found out about your preversion, and that you were organizing some kind of mutiny of preverts.”

    2. Fear not children, the blessed one’s essence is now and ever shall be pure. Praise his name.

  2. Formula 1 drivers (and most highly paid elite sportsmen/women in general) aren’t widely known for their good taste. Plus you often see drivers riding scooters painted in team colours at race tracks, which this special edition seems to echo. So I very much doubt Mr Hakkinen would have been offended.

  3. I mean, there are two ways to look at special editions like this, aren’t there? I have a soft spot for mega-obscure special edition tat and twenty years after the fact, I’d quite happily smoke around in one of these. But paying full list for one of these new would have been madness, and unspeakably embarrassing.

    On the resemblance to a fag packet – I was reading quite recently that one of the factors that got Walter Röhrl fired from Opel was that he flat-out refused to do any promotional work for Rothmans. One can imagine how that conversation went down, especially since Röhrl never was especially big on being told what to do.

  4. Oddly enough, the W168 had more than one F1 connection. My German sources tell me that in the aftermath of the famous elk test, and once Mercedes engineers had improvised a fix, former F1 champion, Nikki Lauda was retained to demonstrate the A-Class’ new found large, hairy and be-antlered quadruped-avoidance capabilities. This was duly filmed and screened simultaneously across all German terrestrial TV channels – a piece of crisis management which probably saved the model’s commercial prospects.

  5. My sources are telling that there were 125 Hakkinen and 125 Coulthard cars built.
    The W168 was probably the least suitable Mercedes to make such a Formula-1-Edition out of it. Wasn´t it the only mercedes without an AMG-version, or some body-parts from AMG ?
    They should make a revival of this idea and build a Mercedes Citan Edition Bottas….

    I remember that, at that time, Mercedes was extremely proud of their Formula-1 victories. There were several news telling Mercedes was painting now much more cars in silver. And – in their own special swabian clumsy manner – they tried to adopt adopt the Formula-1 nose at some sporty car to pronounce the benefit of the Formula-1 for their production cars. A stupid and ugly idea – the SLR and the SLK 2nd generation have to suffer a lot from this idea. The Vision SLA shows this hype in its purest shape…

    1. I’ve tried my best over the years to forget the SLA, so thank you, Markus!

      Swabians should never try and be ‘kewl’. They’ve got other traits they can exhibit in much more convincing fashion. Any attempt at being up-to-date, Stuttgart style, inevitably ends up resembling something Alan Partridge would describe as ‘sports casual’.

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