Take a look at this elegant Mercedes CLK. We think you'll agree it personifies all that's good about the European tuning scene: a sophisticated vehicle modified with subtlety yet purpose. It certainly gets plenty of respect on the show scene, usually scooping top Mercedes, ICE and two-door trophies, but was also awarded the accolade of Best Mercedes in 2005 by the NCCA judges - that's a national award, folks.
So we're agreed this Benz has style, so would it surprise you to know the owner's former transport was a Lexus IS300 with $20k thrown at it? It surprised us. Our idea of a tricked-out Lexus doesn't quite fit with a smoothed-out Benz. But there it is.
After the IS300, owner Darrick Yu wanted something more luxurious. Something the 25 year-old from Monterey Park, CA could use for work and enjoy on the weekends. "I've always loved European cars," he told us, "but I don't buy cars for how they look now. I'm more interested in their potential. And while a BMW was an obvious choice, it seemed too obvious. Many of my friends have them and I thought the Mercedes would be more challenging to modify, even though it's supported by some of the best tuners in the world, like Brabus, Lorinser, AMG and so on."
Before he'd even collected his brand new CLK 320 in December '03 he had a set of iForged wheels waiting for it. Within a matter of months it was wearing a Brabus body kit and started appearing at shows. However, the body kit was a turning point for Darrick. Almost as soon as it was fitted he realized the widebody cars were getting more attention and it only took another four months before he bowed to the pressure. With no widebody conversions available, Derek sought the help of Peter Hong at Autowerks Autobody in El Monte, CA. The same shop had worked on David Ngo's C-Class (et 5/05) so its pedigree was known.
"All the ideas were mine," Darrick told us. "I didn't want to see the widebody. Rather I wanted it to be subtle and flow with the lines of the car. For example, the vent in the front fender flows into the swage line that runs the length of the car. I also wanted the work done in metal and although this brought a time penalty the conversion only took about a month to complete."
Before work could start they had to wait on a new set of wheels. Darrick had switched from iForged to HRE at an earlier stage and subsequently ordered a new set of 19" HRE 545s for the car. They took a few months to arrive but were perfect for the task at hand. The front wheels are 9.5" wide and have a 2.5" lip, while the rears are 11" with a 4" lip. The centers were painted in Black Opal - a Mercedes color with a blue tint. Once the wheels arrived, Autowerks could get started. The basis of the conversion would be the existing Brabus bumpers. The front bumper already had quad HID foglights and a carbon splitter. The latter was fashioned after the Brabus K8 - a 550hp 5.5 liter V8 conversion for the CLK (and other M-B models) that boasted its own styling package. Darrick enquired about buying the K8 splitter but was refused, so had Auto Explosion in Gardena, CA fashion something similar. They also fabricated a K8-style grille. From this beginning, Autowerks widened both bumpers to meet the new fender flares. They did the same to the AMG side skirts to give Darrick the flow he desired. The stock fenders had 2" of metal added to the front and rear wheel arches. The fronts also have those deep vents built into them and it's perfectly executed so the casual observer might not know what's been done. At the rear a Lorinser roof spoiler was fitted, along with an AMG trunk spoiler. The Brabus bumper was widened and the exhaust cut-out extended for a dual exhaust tip. A second cut-out was added for the new quad tailpipe exhaust system.
The exhaust was manufactured by RBTech, better known for Porsche systems. It was fashioned after the Carlsson (German M-B tuner) quad system and includes a new resonator and the split outlets. With everything in place the car was repainted its stock pewter. "It's an unusual metallic you don't see often but looks gorgeous night or day," Darrick told us. You'll notice the ride height is about perfect thanks to H&R coilovers. The front wheels are nicely filled with 13" of Stoptech rotor and four-piston caliper. The rear brakes are stock because the company doesn't offer bigger brakes and apparently has no intention of doing so. With the widebody installed Mr Yu needed a little more power from the V6, so installed a carbon air box from Carrozeria Design. With Evosport software and the custom exhaust, power is estimated to be around 245hp at the crank. While Darrick has worked wonders with the exterior, Mercedes was never renowned for sporty interiors, so he had his work cut out trying to create the right ambience. He started with silver alcantara inserts on the stock seats and door panels. This worked for a while but more recently he swapped in a pair of Recaro front seats as the defining modification. He also trimmed the dash and roofliner in black suede a few days before our photo shoot. Right from the inception of the project, a sound system was always a certainty. His Lexus had a big system and the Merc would be no different. "A friend of mine owns an ICE shop so I always knew I'd have a lot of electronics. I like my gadgets," Darrick confirmed. His friend Lorenzo Dimichieli carried out the installation. It took about six months on and off and including reconstructing the center console in fiberglass to house the AVIC-N1 head unit. This section was painted pewter and matched to the doors where the lower sections are also fiberglass and house a pair of 5.5" Morel mids either side.
The trunk is constructed from 15 different pieces, including two sealed sub boxes each housing a 15" sub. In between is the amp rack, with each shelf constructed from metal, covered in fiberglass and topped with illuminated plexiglass. The two smaller JL 300.2 amplifiers each power one sub, while the bigger 500.4 runs the component speakers. Pull down the rear seat and you'll find a 7" screen and DVD player hidden away. Another two 7" screens are under the trunklid. They're housed in another fiberglass panel and appear to float over it. The panel was painted Viper red, along with the amp rack and flashes of color on the sub boxes. It's a shocking contrast to the rest of the car but was designed by Lorenzo to mimic the tail lights when the trunk is open.
You could probably predict Darrick's not finished with the car. He plans to fiberglass the dash and remove the rear seat to fiberglass the rear, maybe adding nitrous bottles or something. Lorenzo is also adding TVs to the sunvisors as we write. Other plans include a K8-style vented hood and possibly Brembo brakes all round. However, all this might be halted if his SL500 project comes to fruition. Personally, we'd halt proceedings right now and simply enjoy one of America's best modified Mercedes.
Location: Monterey Park, CA
Occupation: Real Estate Consultant
2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK 320
Engine: 3199cc V6 with Evosport underdrive pulley and ECU, custom carbon air box with K&N filters, RBTech fabricated quad exhaust system with high-flow resonator, painted engine cover
Brakes: Stoptech 332mm Big Brake Kit and stainless steel lines, Axxis pads
Suspension: H&R Sport coilovers, AMG swavy bars
Wheels & Tires: 19x9.5" front, 19x11" rear HRE 545R forged three-piece wheels with Black Opal painted centers, 255/35 front, 295/30-19 rear Continental Conti Sport2 tires
Exterior: Brabus front bumper with quad HID foglights and rear bumper, K8-style custom carbon front splitter and grille, AMG CLK55 skirts and trunk spoiler, Lorinser roof spoiler, custom widebody in steel, Mercedes Bi-Xenon headlights, 35% Quantum tint
Interior: Recaro seats with silver alcantara, alcantara two-tone door panels and rear seat inserts, black suede headliner, pillars and dash with silver stitching, molded fiberglass console and door panels painted pewter, Brabus illuminated sills, aluminum AMG pedals
Audio/Visual: Pioneer AVIC-N1 head unit with 7" LCD screen, four Morel 5.5" component speakers, two JL Audio Sweet Highs tweeters, two 15" JL Audio subwoofers, two 300.2 amplifiers and one 500.4 amp, three Accele Vision 7" TFT monitors and 9520 DVD player, Monster Cable 4-gauge wiring, custom fiberglass trunk installation and trunk lid painted Mercedes pewter and Dodge Viper red, Halogen neon and LED lighting
Thanks: friends/teammates at TWCompetition, Lorenzo Dimichieli at Qualitymobilevideo.com, Peter at Autowerks Autobody, Carrozeria Design, Stoptech, Recaro