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2004 Mercedes CLK DTM
By Dave Good

Click for detail photo. When I was a kid the minister drove a Benz. Only back then, you called it a Mercedes. In our Chevy vs. Ford station wagon world, the minister’s car was considered square and foppish. It was cream-white, sounded like a golf cart, and lent him the air of a foreign diplomat. It was the ugliest car around, I thought, slow, the perfect transportation for old preachers. Back then, of course, I had no idea of the status of a Mercedes, or even what they cost. If it wasn’t a muscle car, I couldn’t have cared less.

Years later when my mother got her first Benz I thought the same thing: a retirement home on wheels with ample room for the golf clubs in the trunk. But when the lease ran out on her first and then her second Benz, she traded up for a sexy jet-black 2-door coupe with custom rims. Gone was the box on wheels look. In its place was an aerodynamic sure-footed head-turner, with lozenge-smooth curves. It was a CLK 500. She handed me the keys during an afternoon visit. “Go ahead,” she said. “Drive it.” I didn’t for fear, I thought, that I might scratch it.

There is some of my mother’s CLK 500’s DNA residing in the Mercedes CLK DTM AMG. But all comparisons stop there. The two cars are as genetically similar as, say, a chimpanzee and a human but they are functionally as different. For starters, the CLK DTM AMG is nobody’s mother’s Benz. The CLK DTM AMG is a German muscle car. It has an eight-cylinder 5.5-liter engine, and sounds like it. The car develops 86% of its torque during the first 2,000 rpm; 62mph are possible, say the factory specs, in 3.9 seconds. With a top speed rated at 200 mph, (180 in the soft-top model) the power plant redlines at 7000 rpm. The convertible, even with its scaled-down speed rating is still called the world’s fastest open- top four- seater.

The five-speed manu-matic tranny (called the AMG Speedshift) with shift paddles on the steering wheel is said to be extremely quick. Acceleration Skid Control and an Electronic Stability Program have been added to the handling package. With flared fenders and a gigantic air inlet and rear wing, the CLK DTM AMG rides on 19” front wheels and 20” rears. Much of the body panels are fashioned from reinforced carbon fiber.

The car retains touches of racing suspension in that it has a height-adjustable torsion system based somewhat on the CLK GTR, a mid-engine 12-cylinder racecar that took the FIA GT Championships in 1997. A curious side note: the CLK DTM AMG actually develops more horses than its race track predecessor. The CLK GTR had to be scaled back to 500 hp in accordance with racing regulations.

The Mercedes web site advises that the CLK DTM AMG is “durable and safe” as any production Benz and that it has “everyday suitability.” Fat chance that -- odds are a hundredfold better that you’ll get your hands on (let alone even see), the much-vaunted Mercedes McLaren SLR. Mercedes made 100 CLK DTM AMGs in the car’s first production run in 2004 and then crafted another 100 convertible cabriolets this year; all of them are sold out.

For the record, I checked eBay to see what was moving. No CLK DTM AMGs, but nine SLRs as of this writing, all of them sitting on bids in the $300K range; I’m told that a million dollars would not be an unrealistic expectation to shell out for an SLR. One can only imagine what the market will bear for a CLK DTM AMG. Care to wager a guess?

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Pictures of the Mercedes CLK DTM
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Posted May 22, 2006
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