Mercedes Developed a Race Car in 128 Days That Dominated the Universe
Unless you follow F1, most people might not associate Mercedes-Benz with race cars. Although the brand is known for its executive-class luxury sedans, Mercedes has had a long and successful career in racing, not just with Lewis Hamilton. In 1998, Mercedes created a very limited production homologation run of the now-legendary Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR. The 26 road-legal examples immediately became the world’s most expensive production car, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
How much does a Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR cost?
The Guinness Book of World Records recognized the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR as the most expensive production car on earth, thanks to its $1,547,620 USD price tag in 1998. That is the equivalent of $2,922,333 USD in 2023. The Merc mega car held the record until the release of the Ferrari FXX-K in 2015.
While that is stupid-dumb money, even with the 2023 equivalency, buying one of these hypercars in 1998 was a strong investment. There are currently two of the original 25 examples made heading for auction in Las Vegas, one coupe and one roadster. The Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR coupe is expected to fetch something between $8,000,000-$9,000,000. The rarer roadster is expected to pull something north of $10,000,000. Casual.
How did Mercedes develop the CLK GTR in only 128 days?
Ben Branch of Silodrome calls the CLK GTR “One of the most remarkable in sports racing car history.” After tossing the words around in my head, I couldn’t come up with a truer way to phrase it than that. Legends say this wild Mercedes race car went from a blank sheet of paper to a championship-winning track monster in only 128 days.
For what it’s worth, Mercedes started with the McLaren F1 – a contender for the most remarkable race car ever made – and began Frankensteining a new race car from its carcass. The test mule McLaren eventually crashed during testing. Although the car was rebuilt, there is no way of knowing how much the Mercedes team borrowed from the F1. However, once the CLK GTR was finished, it whooped the McLaren like it stole something.
How many Mercedes-Benz CLK GTRs were made?
The Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR was developed by Mercedes-Benz and AMG and built by AMG’s Special Vehicle Construction Office and HWA AG. The result of the 128-day slog was a supercar centered around a carbon-fiber tub. The construction also used an aluminum honeycomb and carbon fiber for the body panels. This complex construction allowed the car to stay trim while remaining super rigid. All it needed was an engine powered by hellfire.
The engine used for the CLK GTR was the Mercedes 6.0-liter M120 V12 that already existed. The team took it from the S and SL Class road cars but significantly modified including the addition of titanium connecting rods and a compression ratio increased to 12:1. It might not be hellfire, but its 592 bhp and 516 lb-ft of torque would do until the lake of fire comes.
From the jump, Mercedes wanted the GTR to favor Mercedes road cars, so they used the headlights, taillights, and rear bodywork from the production CLK. To homologate the car for FIA rules, a minimum of 254 road-going versions needed to be produced, and they needed to be as close to the actual race cars as possible. Mercedes only made 20 coupes and six roadsters. The cars were similar to racecars, but some features like ABS, air conditioning, stereo, and a bigger 6.9-liter version of the same V12 engine. This new power plant made 622 bhp and 539 lb-ft of torque. I guess if you are gonna drop a couple mil, you might as well get the 6.9-liter.
These cars are exceedingly rare and just as expensive. But a car with this pedigree, power, and prestige probably deserves a $10,000,000 price tag.