This Mercedes CLK GTR Is a Great Budget Alternative to a McLaren F1

Stymied by ever-increasing McLaren F1 prices? Consider the CLK GTR.

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Patrick Ernzen ©2018 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

The McLaren F1 was always expensive, but recently, prices have gotten ridiculous. Last year, a F1 road car went for $15.6 million, while at least two have been sold since for undisclosed sums, likely approaching $20 million. If that's too much money, I humbly suggest you turn your attention to this Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR.

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RM Sotheby's will auction this CLK GTR next month in Monterey, and it expects it to sell for between $4,250,000 and $5,250,000. A lot of money, but, a fraction of the price of the McLaren F1.

Of course, the CLK GTR is a very different car than the F1, but the two raced against each other in the 1997 FIA GT Championship. The winner? Mercedes.

Mercedes and AMG created the CLK GTR in just a few months, with the intent of going racing in FIA GT competition. Unlike the F1, which was a road car modified for racing, the CLK GTR was race car first, road car second. AMG built just 25 road-going CLK GTRs to homologate the car for competition, and this one, #09, was finished in 1998.

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Its bodywork is made from carbon fiber, as is much of its monocoque chassis. The engine is a 6.9-liter V12 developed by AMG and Ilmor making 612 hp and 568 lb-ft of torque. It's paired to a six-speed paddle-shifted manual transmission. It wasn't all race-car, though—Mercedes trimmed the cramped cabin in the CLK GTR with lots of leather, and fit air conditioning as well.

Paul Frere drove a CLK GTR for R&T in 1998. He came away impressed.

"This may be the road version, but its attributes are best enjoyed on a track.

I drove the CLK-GTR around Hockenheim's short course and I was impressed by its tractability in spite of its extreme power. On the exit from a 35-mph corner in 6th gear, the car pulled not only smoothly, but quite vigorously as well, from around 1300 rpm. And, in the correct gear, its immediate response was astonishing. As parts of the track were damp that day, there is little I can report about the car's ultimate handling. However, its available urge is such that power oversteer is almost al­ways on command—even on a dry surface."

Frere concluded it was "a real work of art."

This particular CLK GTR only has 1439 km on its odometer, and just received a new fuel bladder and filters as part of a service. It's totally original, too, and road-legal in the US under the Show & Display exemption.

We're not going to pretend $5,250,000 isn't a lot of money. But today, a McLaren F1 GTR is worth around $20 million, or more. . . and it lost to this AMG in the 1997 FIA GT Championship. Consider, too, that this CLK GTR is much rarer than the F1, and the price starts to make sense. We'd buy it, if we had the money.

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