When Mercedes-Benz first unveiled its CLK GTR Roadster in 1998 it sold for an astonishing $1.5 million dollars, making it the most expensive production car ever, a figure only recently exceeded by the Ferrari FXX.
Bonhams Festival of Speed sale will offer the very first example of the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR Roadster ever built, estimated at £1,400,000 - £1,800,000.
James Knight, Bonhams Group Motoring Director, said:
“The car was retained by the Mercedes-Benz company until 2014 when it was acquired by the current owner. It is effectively a new car with just eight kilometres on the odometer, and it is the only one of the six roadsters to be finished in black. We rarely see a car with these credentials come to market.”An open topped variant of the already super-exclusive CLK GTR Coupe – only 25 road going cars were ever produced – the Roadster was made in a very limited edition indeed. The company had the simple but effective idea of removing the roof and installing two roll-over bars and additional strengthening, plus the Roadster engine boasted an engine increased to 640bhp (40 horsepower more than the Coupé) and a Formula 1-style, sequential six-speed transmission controlled by paddles on the steering wheel.
At the end of the 1996 racing season, Mercedes-Benz switched from racing touring cars to sports cars, a decision that left precious little time to develop a challenger for the FIA's (International Automobile Federation) new GT Championship. The latter's regulations stipulated that 'GT1' category cars had to be production based, so development was entrusted to Mercedes-Benz's official performance division, AMG. Amazingly, just 128 days after design work had commenced in December 1996, the first Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR took to the track at Jarama in April 1997 for its initial test.
The CLK GTR first won at the challenging Nurburgring in June 1997, going on to win five more of the 11 rounds to take the GT Championship in its debut year. With a new CLK LM (Le Mans) waiting in the wings, the CLK GTR raced just twice in 1998, before being retired from active duty after little more than a season's racing, but with an impeccable record.
During 1998 and 1999, Mercedes-Benz duly completed 25 road going CLK GTRs. These closely resembled the racing version but had 'only' 550bhp and dispensed with the racer's separate rear wing in favour of a body-integral design. They were also better equipped and kitted out with more creature comforts than the racer. With a headline-grabbing price tag of over $1,000,000, the CLK GTR's exclusivity was surpassed only by its incredible performance.
Bonhams Festival of Speed Sale takes place on 26 June in Goodwood, Chichester. For more information visit www.bonhams.com.
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