Total Production: 25 1997 - 1998
Two former Mercedes-Benz engineers, Hans-Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher, formed the AMG Motorenbau und Entwicklungsgesellschaft in the late 1960s near Stuttgart. The acronym 'AMG' was derived from Aufrecht and Melcher's name along with the town of Grossaspach, the companies headquarters.
After the AMG Company had proven themselves by tuning Mercedes engines for use in competition, along with many racing victories such as the European Touring Car Championship, AMG became an official corporate partner. Up to this point, AMG had been making cosmetic and performance upgrades for those customers longing for more from their Mercedes-Benz.
As customers continued to enjoy success in racing with their AMG prepared Mercedes-Benz automobiles, the importance of AMG to Mercedes continued to grow stronger. During the 1988 DTM season, the AMG team introduced their W201 touring race cars which were met with great success on the track. This lead to the acquisition of the tuning shop by Mercedes-Benz and the production of the AMG 190E 3.2 road cars produced in limited numbers. The performance oriented cars had a price tag of $90,000 which rivaled the S-Class vehicles. Top speed was over 250 km/h and many customers approved. The success of this venture led to the C-Class DTM cars which resulted in 84 wins during the 1990s and cementing the AMG nameplate as an important extension of Mercedes-Benz.
As the 1990s progressed, Mercedes-Benz began formulating a return to racing where a certain level of cars must be homologated in order to compete. In 1997 Mercedes-Benz entered the FIA GT Championship series in the top-level GT1 class. Their competition was the Porsche 911 GT1 and the BMW-powered McLaren F1. Homologation requirements stated that at least 25 road cars had to be produced by each manufacturer. Those duties were passed to AMG, who was given four months to design, build and test a viable competitive racer and road-going car. The team began with a design, then used Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs, and then a 1/5 scale three-dimensional clay model. The engine was a 6.9-liter V12 which was the same basic powerplant found in the S600 and SL600 of the era. It was given additional tuning and modifications to bring it to supercar status and ensure its durability and competitiveness in FIA competition.
A mere 128 days after the first sketches were put onto paper, the CLK GTR took the track in Spain. It was put through rigorous testing by Bern Schneider and Alexander Wurz. After given approval by the two test drivers, it was given the final approval by Mercedes' Borad of Directors.
The first road-going version of the CLK-GTR was shown to FIA Head of Constructors Gabriel Katringer on Monday, April 1, 1997. This was just six days before its racing sibling would take to the track at Hockenheimring. It was approved. Bernd Schneider drove the CLK-GTR during qualifications, where he managed the fastest lap honors and the pole position. Not a bad start on its maiden voyage. The season would go well for the CLK-GTR, with victories at A-1 Ring, Suzuka, Donington, Sebring, and Laguna Seca. The team would win the Team Championship and Schneider secured the Driver's Championship.
The Mercedes-Benz CLK LM was conceived for the 1998 running of the 24 Hours of LeMans. It was an upgraded car to better comply with regulations for the fast-paced LeMans racing circuit. The M120 V12 engine was replaced by the M119 V8 which produced equal amounts of horsepower. The change was made because it was belived the V8 was more durable and better suited for long-distance racing. To make the vehicle more aerodynamic, the roofline and nose was lowered and the air intakes were redesigned. Two CLK LMs were constructed and both retired early in the race due to engine problems.
As the season again concluded, the AMG tuned CLK GT had again earned the Team Championship and Ricardo Zonta the Driver's Championship. This would be the final running for the FIA GT1 class for the CLK-GTR as the following season was canceled due to lack of interest from the competition.By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2007