There is something so fascinating about a race car that’s converted into a street legal road car. I’m not talking about a road car that also has a race version. I’m talking about the full blown race cars that have as few changes as possible to make them road legal. We’ve seen a few prime examples of that lately in the form of the McLaren P1 LM, P1 GTR, and of course the classic F1 GTR Longtail, all of which were made possible by the mad geniuses at Lanzante Motorsports. And in the not so distant future, there will be a few more added to the list such as the Fittipaldi EF7, Aston Martin Valkyrie, McLaren BP23 and of course the Mercedes Project One. Although they are slightly different in the sense they’re not race cars that became road cars, but road cars that may as well be race cars with the amount of race level tech used to build them. There’s another rare race car turned road car that often gets overlooked when talking about this class of hypercar, the Mercedes CLK GTR.
The CLK GTR was and is no joke. It was built to compete in the 1997 FIA GT1 Championship, but in order to compete in that particular series there had to be at least 25 road legal models. Even though the GT1 class was canceled for the 1999 season, Mercedes was still obligated to fulfill their promise of 25 cars. They eventually built a total of 35, 20 coupe models like the one shown here, 6 roadsters, and 7 race spec cars. Interestingly, the CLK GTR actually was featured in the Guinness World Records, but not for speed related records. Instead, it was listed as the “most expensive production car” built at the time with a sticker price of $1,547,620. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to today’s hypercars, but in 1997 that was an astronomical amount of money to pay for a car.
With that being said, what a spectacular car it is. Not only is the CLK GTR one of the sexiest Mercedes ever made, but it also has the performance to peel your face off in the corners or even a straight line if you so desire. The road legal cars were actually quite a bit more powerful than the race cars due to FIA GT1 regulations. Powering this streamlined race car for the road was the Mercedes M120 V12 engine that’s been upgraded from a 6.0L to a 6.9L and was claimed to put out well over 600hp and similar torque. That combined with super aggressive aerodynamics and a relatively low curb weight of 3,100lbs made one badass car with all the performance that you could ever need.
Speaking of the aggressive aerodynamics, there’s an interesting bit of history in regards to the building of the race car, and therefore the road car by default. According to reports, Mercedes-AMG purchased a decommissioned McLaren F1 GTR, which happened to be the defending series champion at the time, to aid in the research and development process. They not only used the car as a form of comparison and inspiration, but also as a test mule. They took the extraordinary BMW powerplant out and replaced it with the 6.0L Mercedes V12 to see how it would hold up. Even more bizarrely, they also installed the bodywork and aero pieces that were intended for the CLK GTR so they were ultimately able to perfect the aerodynamics of the car before it was even built.
Just four months after initial drawings, Mercedes AMG managed to pump out two prototype cars that they immediately started racing. They had a rough time during their first outing, to say the least. One example didn’t even make it five laps into the season opener before having to bow out due to brake issues. The other did manage to finish the race, but it did so more than 20 laps behind the lightning fast McLaren F1 GTR. By the second race, they started to work the bugs out and the CLK GTR managed to finish just one second behind the winning McLaren. Quite the improvement compared to finishing 20 laps behind. And by the fourth round, the CLK GTR was in top form and they proved it so by finishing in first and second, ahead of a whole fleet of McLarens. By the end of the season, the Merc picked up five more wins which were enough to land them both the drivers and team championships.
Needless to say, the CLK GTR is a phenomenal car with a stellar racing heritage, interesting back story, and next level performance to match. As you can imagine, getting your hands on one of the extremely rare old school hypercars is not very likely. But let’s say the planets aligned and magically one came available, you have to expect it’s gone up in value since then and therefore would cost an arm and a leg. Like just under $2.7 million for example, at least that’s how much one rare specimen was listed for recently on James Edition. German dealer Autohaus GmbH is apparently selling the car which is virtually unused with just 1800 miles on the odometer and appears perfect from every angle. It was originally listed back in October of last year but has since resurfaced again, so I assume it’s still available for one lucky billionaire to come pick it up.