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Tony O'Kane | Mar 26, 2009

It's as if an SLK mated with a recumbent quadricycle, but Mercedes-Benz says it represents the labours of the next generation of automotive engineers.

It's the F-Cell Roadster, a design study-slash-training exercise that utilised the input of over 150 trainees from the German manufacturer's mechatronics, model-building, electronics, coating technology, manufacturing mechanics, product design, and interior appointments departments.

Mercedes-Benz F-Cell Roadster

Intended to showcase a future fuel-cell-powered two-seater while simultaneously giving the trainees hands-on experience in car development, the F-Cell Roadster also manages to cram a good deal of nostalgia into its spindly frame.

The wire-spoked wheels and wooden floor are a tip of the hat to the Benz Patent Motor Car from 1886 (Benz's first proper car), while that big central three-pointed star is an SL hallmark.

Mercedes-Benz F-Cell Roadster

The use of carbon-fibre is a link to the more modern SLR, while the fibreglass nosecone and front suspension arms are a homage to Benz's Formula One presence.

Mercedes-Benz F-Cell Roadster

There are elements that are a complete flight-of-fancy, however. The drive-by-wire system may be nothing new, but the joystick controller certainly is. A 1.2kW (1.6hp) fuel cell is mounted behind the seats, and can drive the F-Cell Roadster up to 350km and propel it to a lofty 25km/h.

It's not quick, but by golly you'll be turning heads in this contraption. Don't EVER expect to see it in a Mercedes-Benz showroom though - this one's strictly a classroom exercise.

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