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2008 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG - Transformer

This C63 takes the kids to school in the morning but runs drag radials at night to break records and take names

Alex Bernstein
Jul 12, 2013
Photographer: William Stern

Keith Brantley from Oviedo, FL is a unique player in this game. We often see enthusiasts who bleed brand loyalty, but Kevin doesn't quite fit that pattern. You see, he grew up first racing karts and then cars, and his automotive lineage is anything but European, so how is it that he's now gracing these pages?

01 2008 mercedes benz C63 AMG black series widebody kit Photo 2/12   |   2008 Mercedes Benz C63 AMG

"I had a Camaro, Firebird, Impala, then a Viper; first a '96 and then an '08," Keith explained. "I picked up a brand-new C63 when I was drag racing the '08 Viper. We were at the track and I figured I'd see what the Benz could do - it ran a 12.1!"

And that was it. His bone-stock four-door Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG was very strong from the factory.

After that run "it all went downhill," he laughed. "Positively downhill," he clarified, "but if you ask my wife, it's another story!"

Starting with the simple stuff, Keith threw a set of drag radials out back and replaced the air filters for better parts, netting him an 11.9sec run on a cool evening at his local track, Speed World Dragway in Orlando, FL.

02 2008 mercedes benz C63 AMG black series rear diffuser Photo 3/12   |   The exhaust comprises long-tube headers and a 3" race system shown with Black Series diffuser

Two tenths of a second might not sound significant, but it's a huge leap in drag racing. So at this point it was decided the C63 would be heavily modified. That meant the Viper had to go.

Now, before you get your briefs in a bunch, Keith isn't all about straight-line performance. Sure, he loves it, but he's also a road-racer and builds his cars to perform well in both disciplines. That said, let's see how far he's gone to build the Benz into the quickest in the world, as far as C63s are concerned.

After performing almost every naturally aspirated bolt-on modification, Keith's C63 was making around 475whp. But with a goal of 500, he was frustrated and decided he'd kick the build into another gear. He teamed up with MHP (Modern Horsepower) in Lewis Center, OH - not exactly Keith's backyard but MHP sent all the parts to Jerry's MB Service in Oviedo, FL for installation.

When you're trying to squeeze every last ounce of power from any application, maximizing intake and exhaust flow is crucial. With this in mind, MHP supplied its race-ported heads, custom cams, intake manifold gaskets, thermostat, long-tube headers and 3" stainless race exhaust. These parts together are sold by MHP as its stage 5 CDT (Complete Drivetrain Tuning) conversion.

11 2008 mercedes benz C63 AMG nitrous bottles Photo 4/12   |   Nitrous boosts power but wasn't involved in the record-breaking 10.13sec quarter at 139mph

The car came alive. Before forcing nitrous down its throat, the C63 made 530whp and 505 lb-ft on pump gas. A 55whp gain is nothing to sneeze at, and while it's a substantial increase, it's still not enough to break world records. But instead of going with forced induction, Keith stuck to what he learned in his muscle car days: nitrous makes a ton of power when applied properly.

With a 200-shot installed, the crimson sedan put down a solid 700whp and a massive 730 lb-ft.

The numbers don't mean much on paper, but in action they're enough to launch the Benz to 60mph in 2.8sec, with an absurd sprint from 60-130mph in 5.98sec. Retarded and awesome? Hell yes!

That's not all. Keith's quarter-mile world record was set at 10.13sec at 139mph. And even without the nitrous, it'll do the standing mile at 181mph, compared to a Carrera GT at 178mph and Corvette ZR1 at 179mph on the same day. Oh, and this was when the car had stock cams.

04 2008 mercedes benz C63 AMG dads performance ram air hood Photo 5/12   |   2008 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG - Transformer

Surprisingly, the bottom end is stock yet hasn't shown signs of wear or stress. AMG builds a damn fine motor, if you ever doubted it.

The transmission has held up as well, but as a precaution it was upgraded by Weistec Engineering and a high-speed stall converter fitted.

On the exterior, Keith kept the factory paint color but added a custom carbon fiber ram-air hood for performance reasons, although the evil look didn't hurt either. "The car was starving for air so the hood made a huge difference."

Cutting weight was a big effort as well. So a Vorsteiner carbon fiber roof and trunk were fitted, shaving about 50 lb. To round out the exterior and create space for meaty drag tires, Keith grafted a C63 Black Series body kit into place, including the wider front and rear fenders.

The external transformation took about six months and came out flawlessly thanks to Dave Martin's Sanford Paint & Body. And you're correct in thinking no expense was spared during the build.

09 2008 mercedes benz C63 AMG vorsteiner carbon fiber trunk Photo 6/12   |   The carbon fiber hood, roof and trunk helped shed some pounds

The car serves three purposes: Drag racer, road-racer and daily driver. So it has three sets of wheels and tires. On the street, Keith chose 18x9" front, 19x12" rear Forgestar F14 wheels with 345-width Michelin Cup tires out back and 275 Toyo R888s up front. For road-racing, he runs the same wheels but 18x11" on the rear with narrower Hoosier R6 slicks. And finally, for drag racing, Keith managed to fit skinny 17x4" wheels up front with 15x10" on the tail, again with Hoosier slicks.

For racing, Keith uses a Tecnocraft carbon fiber driver's seat and custom Vortex Motorsports five-point roll-bar, but otherwise the interior is stock.

Keith doesn't compromise. He set out to build a unique car that would shatter world records, take his wife to dinner and is continually evolving. His C63 is simultaneously bat-shit crazy, stunningly beautiful and fast as hell.

2008 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

Keith Brantley

10 2008 mercedes benz C63 AMG keith brantley Photo 10/12   |   Man on a mission: Keith Brantley set out to break world records and did just that

Engine 6.3-liter V8 32v with Modern Horsepower stage 5 Complete Drivetrain Tuning kit including race-ported heads, custom cams, intake manifold gaskets, thermostat, long-tube headers and 3" stainless race exhaust, Weistec oil/air separator

Drivetrain seven-speed AMG Speedshift MCT transmission with Weistec 722.9 trans and stall converter

Brakes stock

Suspension KW Club Sport coilovers

Wheels & Tires 18x9" f, 19x12" r Forgestar F14 wheels (street), 275/35 R18 f Toyo R888, 345/30 R19 r Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires

Exterior Mercedes-Benz Black Series widebody kit, Vorsteiner carbon fiber roof and trunk, Dad's Performance ram-air hood

Interior Vortex Motorsports five-point roll-bar, carbon fiber Tecnocraft driver's seat

08 2008 mercedes benz C63 AMG black series rear diffuser Photo 11/12   |   2008 Mercedes Benz C63 AMG

Contact Modern Horsepower (

Thanks Andy at MHP, Jerry at Jerry's MB Service, Dave at Sanford Paint & Body

05 2008 mercedes benz C63 AMG black series widebody kit Photo 12/12   |   2008 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG - Transformer
By Alex Bernstein
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