These Homemade Mercedes Prototype Race Car Replicas Look Just Like the Real Deal

These tributes to Merc’s championship-winning Group C Saubers and CLK GTR are labors of love of the highest order.

byJames Gilboy|
Homemade Mercedes and Sauber Group C and Le Mans prototype race cars
Johan Ackermann
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If you want to own a Le Mans winner like a Ford GT40 or Bentley Speed 8, all you need is cash for the kit. Something from the savage Group C era would be harder to come by, though; you'd have to engineer one yourself. Just like one South African Mercedes diehard did—on three separate occasions.

Johan Ackermann is the creator of a trio of Mercedes and Sauber (yes, the F1 team) Le Mans prototype tribute cars, one a Sauber C9, one a C11, and his current project, a CLK GTR. The C9 dominated the 1989 World Sportscar Championship and won that year's Le Mans, while the C11 took the following year's title and the CLK GTR, 1997's. Ackermann told me he was an old-school fan of Group C, and that he was inspired to try building a replica by playing Gran Turismo 4. It wasn't his first custom car, so his C9 and C11 turned out more than well.

Ackermann eventually turned his attention to Mercedes' next great prototype, the CLK GTR, which won the 1997 FIA GT1 championship. He started out using not a CLK, but a 1994-1998 W210 E-class, replacing its roof with one that seems to be from an original CLK. (Ackermann was not forthcoming with technical details.) He built a frame for the new bodywork to hang from, and then seemingly hand-beat and welded panels together to form the GTR's unique body.

Because it's an E-class dressing up as a CLK, he naturally calls it the ELK—and it'll be a 12-point buck with what engine's going in. We're talking a Mercedes M120 V12, the all-aluminum 6.0-liter that the real CLK GTR's engine was based on. Derivatives were also chosen for cars like the Pagani Zonda and canceled Chrysler ME Four-Twelve.

In humbler form, however, it made no more than 402 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque, which Ackermann will channel rearward using an automatic transmission whose source he didn't share. And yes, it'll be mid-mounted like the real thing, which it could pass for if you didn't know any better.

400 horsepower may sound underwhelming for a supercar clone, but keep in mind that the ELK GTR has a chopped up unibody, and 12 sonorous cylinders as near to the driver's ear as they can get. It might not be the best car to push to ten tenths, though there's no telling how hard it'll be driven, as Ackermann says he's pre-sold the car and is taking requests for what to build next. Provided you're a paying customer, of course. Maybe he could even beat Mercedes to putting an AMG One on the road—at this rate, there's no sense betting against him.

Got a tip or question for the author? You can reach them here: james@thedrive.com

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