Words & photos - Daniel Bevis
The Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR is an astoundingly brutal thing. It arose from a Mercedes-AMG project to build a hardcore race car for the 1997 FIA GT Championship – something that had about as much in common with the road-going CLK as a dog or a lampshade. It was a race car first and a road car second, with the latter only being introduced to satisfy homologation criteria.
The racer was developed in quite an unorthodox way – the engineers procured a McLaren F1 as a test mule, removing the BMW V12 and replacing it with their own LS600 6.0-litre engine. By attaching experimental bodywork to the F1, with the odd CLK design cue pasted on for a chuckle, they were able to test their ideas using a solid competitor benchmark. They then set about developing a carbon-fibre and aluminium honeycomb monocoque to house the fiery running gear.
The model enjoyed sporadic success across the 1997 season – a slow start owing to brake issues, but later in the year a 1-2 finish at the Nürburgring and a further five wins – but it was only used for two rounds in ’98 before being superseded by the CLK LM. FIA GT was then cancelled for 1999…
…however, Mercedes were still obliged to deliver the twenty-five road cars they’d promised. Twenty coupes were constructed before AMG spec-ops division HWA started working on a roadster version – just for the hell of it, really. Of the full production run (of 26 in the end, they built six drop-tops), just two were built in right-hand drive - one coupe, one roadster - both for Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei, and it’s the latter you’re looking at here. The interior is lined with sumptuous magenta leather that belies the ferocity of the race car underpinnings, with its engine opened out to 6.9-litres to unleash 604bhp. It accelerates from 0-60mph in 3.8 seconds and goes on to 199mph. You can spot the dials, grille and lights from a production CLK, but nothing else at all; it was a bespoke supercar, and today it’s one of the rarest and most sought-after Mercedes of all. Looks like a bloody spaceship too, doesn’t it?
Spotted at Mercedes-Benz World - more photos here.