History of the 1998-1999 Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR
Upon withdrawal from the DTM series, Mercedes-Benz set its sights on the new FIA GT Championship, and rules required that a competitor must complete 25 road-going examples of the car it planned to enter in the series. The AMG/HWA-designed and built CLK GTR race version came first, and after building ten such examples and taking the 1997 FIA GT Championship, the required road cars were then built in 1998 by HWA for Mercedes.
This stunning mid-engined homologation special shared the race car’s carbon fiber monocoque and engine/transaxle as a stressed chassis component. The carbon fiber bodywork of this “StraBenversion” (Street Version) was also very similar to the race car with the only nod to a production CLK coupe being the grille and the headlights. Whereas the race version utilized a 6.0-liter motor, the driver of the road version had a 6.9-liter M120 V-12 tucked behind his head. The larger engine produced just over 600 horsepower in street form and made for high 3-second 0-60 times and close to a 200-mph top speed. Keeping all of this performance manageable was suspension and brakes that differed little from that of the race version; however concessions to practicality did include traction control and some comfort conveniences in the cockpit, such as air conditioning, leather upholstery, and fitted luggage.
By the summer of 1999 Mercedes had fulfilled its promise to complete the required number of cars, and in the end 26 road-going cars were built with 20 being coupes and 6 being roadsters. Two right-hand-drive cars were built and several cars were done to Super Sport spec with a more powerful 7.3-liter version of the M120 V-12. In the end, the CLK GTR along with the Porsche GT1 are shining examples of thinly disguised, modern-era race cars that capture the imagination of enthusiasts due to their pushing the boundaries of street performance and legality.