The largely forgotten Mercedes CLK GTR might have been Mercedes craziest build to date, but why? And how come most of you have never heard of it? Well in this short article we'll take a look at the crazy Road/GTR car that rewrote the rules of what a car can be, and hopefully, we can all appreciate it.
"Henry Pearman - 1997 Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR at the 2017 Goodwood 75th Members Meeting" by Dave Adams Automotive Images is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
In the late 1990s, Mercedes was feeling competitive and wanted to take on the titans otherwise known as Porsche & Ferrari. The vigorous AMG team became fueled to the brim when they got the command to beat the Porsche GT1 and the time-warping McLaren F1 GTR. The outcome was this savage creature. Usually, when you are asked to take on Porsche or McLaren you would hope to get a deadline of at least 1 year. But the brutes at AMG completed the CLK GTR after only 128 days after initial sketches. Now I for one take that amount of time to choose whether I prefer a stout above an Ipa nevermind creating a masterpiece that goes down in history books. So how did they manage it? Well the wizards at AMG took inspiration from a middle school where they saw how effective it was to copy from your bench mates. Well not literally of course, what really happened was that they secretly bought a McLaren F1 GTR to test components before the Mercedes was even built.
As some of you might know, FIA has a rule that dictates if you are eligible for the GT1 class. To be eligible Mercedes had to build a minimum of 25 road-legal CLK GTRs (Thank you FIA). And you can imagine a road car that's designed for endurance racing and that only differed slightly from the GT1 car will be some serious hooey. No surprise, it absolutely was!
The CLK GTR road car kept its carbon fibre construction and made its debut as a prototype in 1997. Being a race car it also aimed at being very light, and comforts that aren't necessary won't really be present. But surprisingly it still offered AC and a registration plate, so that's nice. Jubilantly enough 5 of the 25 CLK GTR were made to roadster variants, and honestly they look even cooler than the original.
What can you expect to pay for this rocket on wheels? Well unlike the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale that I wrote about in the first "appreciate this", the CLK GTR wasn't modest in the slightest. The starting price at the time was $1,547,620 which if you adjust to inflation (according to US Inflation Calculator) hits a sky-high price of $2,475,797. But the lunacy doesn't end there, it was auctioned off at RM Sotheby's 2018 for $4,515,000, so at least it was money well spent if you bought it back in the day.
One would think that the road version would be a little brother to the demonic sibling, but that wouldn't be the case for this one. Yes, the aerodynamics weren't as "aerodynamicy" as the GT1 car, but the engine displacement was surprisingly larger than the racing car. Its mid-mounted 6.9-litre V12 was free to produce 604hp without the need for and air restrictor and easily clocked 0-60 mph in less than 3.8 seconds. If you felt the need for speed on an empty Autobahn stretch, the car would get you to a momentous speed of 214 mph. The entire chassis was a carbon-fibre monocoque which rendered the car lighter than a Russian ballerina, the dry weight was as low as 1000 kg on the GTR car and the road car was somewhat heavier at 1440 kg. If you somehow get your hands on this beautiful car, you'll be glad to hear that it has a six-speed manual gearbox (yippie).
Well here comes the sad part, the CLK GTR isn't that remembered, it should be, but it isn't. Be it due to the extremely limited production or the fact that it was going against the Porsche GT1 & McLaren F1 GTR heavyweights is hard to say. The design also seems to have a certain Marmite effect on people, you either hate it or love it. But if we take some time to look at what this car achieved and the awesome story behind it, I'm sure we all can appreciate it!