Image credits: © Mercedes-Benz.

1998 Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR

In 1997, the CLK GTR was debuted after only 128 day of development and construction. Mercedes Benz and AMG had designed a race car and then derived a version meant for the road. McLaren had done the reverse, creating a road-going version first and then the racing version.

In 1994 the FIA created a new class for international GT-racing, named GT1. There were very few restrictions including at least one road-legal version of the GT1 race car had to be created in order to be homologated. In November of 1998 the first road-going CLK GTR was completed. Mercedes-Benz decided to join the ranks of McLaren, Porsche, Dauer and others on the race track.

The vehicle was fitted with an AMG tuned V12 that was original 6.0 liters but had been increased to 6.9 liters. The result was 610 horsepower, thanks in-part to a new intake system and modified exhaust headers. The sequential paddle shifters made it easy for a driver to shift through any of the six gears. The carbon fibre monocoque configuration aided in the vehicles low weight while maintaining a high level of strength.

From 1998 to 1999 AMG built 25 road going GTRs. The price was set around one-million through 1.5 million dollars.

With drivers such as Klaus Ludwig and Bernd Schneider behind the wheel, the CLK-GTR was very successful at captured many victories on the race track. The highlight of the 1997 season was Schneider being crowned the World Champion. The CLK GTR was entered in the grueling 24 Hours of LeMans but did not ascertain the success they had become accustomed to winning.

The first two races of the 1998 season were victorious for the CLK GTR. The remaining season was dominated by its replacement, the CLK LM. The CLK GTR was again entered into the LeMans race again but victory once again eluded the car.

The CLK GTR has been featured in many video games including 'Need For Speed High Stakes', among others.

This masterpiece was built with mechanical, technological, and racing expertise. Its racing heritage exemplifies its purpose and its exclusivity guarantees its price tag. The CLK GTR is one of the top supercars of the 1990's.
By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2005
1998 Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR 1998 Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR 1998 Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR Coupe
Chassis Num: WDB2973971Y000012
High bid of $1,200,000 at 2007 RM Sothebys. (did not sell)
Sold for $1,100,000 at 2012 RM Sothebys.
The Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR had a mid-mounted 6.9-liter V12 engine and two small storage compartments under each upward swinging door. The interior featured leather appointments, and a paddle-operated six-speed sequential manual gearbox similar to the ones in the GT1 cars.

There were 25 road-going CLK GTRs constructed with two built and heavily modified by AMG's sister company, H.W.A. GmbH. These two versions had a more powerful 7.3-liter V12 engine that produced an astonishing 720 horsepower. This example is one of those two vehicles; it is number 1 of 25 and features SuperSport badging from H.W.A., making it one of the most powerful and exclusive CLK GTR built. It is the only car fitted with a non-retrofitted factory power kit, delivered by AMG. It has traveled a mere 630 miles since new.

The other example with H.W.A. ties is number 17 which was originally painted red with a tan interior. It was later changed to silver.

This masterpiece was brought to the 2007 Monterey Sports & Classic Car Auction presented by RM Auctions, where it had an estimated value of $1,500,000 - 2,000,000. Prior to the auction it sat with the other exclusive and highlight vehicles of the auction, in the lobby of the hotel near the entrance to the auction room. When bidding commenced, there was much interest, but sadly not enough to secure a sale. A high bid of $1,200,000 came close to a sale, but the vehicles reserve was not met and the car would stay in its current ownership.
By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2007
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
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