The three AMG letters bring two things to mind: an impressive motorsport program dating back to the '60s; and the powerful engines that find their way into Mercedes worldwide. AMG has designed, tested and raced engines that have transformed Mercedes-Benz into a major player in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) and freeways around the world.
Each AMG engine is hand built in Germany and assigned to Mercedes' flagship road cars. One of its most popular was the naturally-aspirated 5.5 liter V8 that produced 342hp in the C-Class, SLK-Class and CLK-Class, among others.
Albert Tsai from San Francisco picked up a CLK430 but changed up cars until he owned this '01 CLK55. He started with a blank canvas but, with a background in racing, it wasn't going to remain stock for long.
"I started drag racing imports in the early '90s. It was all about speed back then," he recalled. With a twin-turbo Nissan 300Z, he spent his nights drag racing in Northern California. But he got bored and wanted a more refined car with enough gusto to get the tires spinning. So he discovered Mercedes-Benz.
"With European cars, it wasn't just about performance - it was performance and looks.
I always liked the shape of the CLK but traded my first CLK430 for an Acura NSX. I missed having the CLK, so got the same chassis but with a bigger engine."
Albert became a regular at Sonic Motorsport in Mountain View, CA where he saw modified European cars roll into the shop day after day. "Everything looked better than what I had," he remembered.
His hobby turned into an addiction. Now two years later, he has one of the most unique Mercedes CLK ever built.
Albert's journey started by lowering the CLK55 with H&R Sport springs matched to Bilstein shocks. A cheap set of wheels followed but Albert realized more effort was needed if he was going to set his car apart.
"There weren't body kits available for the car," he told us. "So the owner of Sonic suggested we cut my bumper in half. He had a C32 bumper in the shop so they fused them together."
It was a bizarre idea, but Albert was willing to try it. So a set of C32 bumpers was cut in half along with Albert's stock part. "Whenever you try custom fiberglass and paint, you always run into problems." After several tries, the bumpers came together with the help of metal plates and rivets. Because the C32 bumpers were smaller, they had to be extended front and rear.
With the bumpers complete, the widebody was planned after Albert bought staggered 20x10'' front and 20x12'' VIP Modular wheels. The fenders were cut and welded with new metal to accommodate the wheels. Albert estimated the front flares were 1.5'' wider, while the rear is 2''.
Once the bodywork was done, the car was sprayed pearl white from the Lamborghini color palette.
Enough room was left behind the deep-dish wheels for 14'' front and 12.9'' rear Brembo brakes, which were color-matched to the subtle orange pinstripe on the hood.
While plenty of man-hours were spent sculpting the body, the interior received just as much attention with an alcantara headliner and diamond-stitched seats and side panels.
However, the most impressive aspect sits in the trunk. Three 10'' JL Audio subs and amps where mounted and painted satin black and orange. A 15-farad capacitor was also installed, along with three 7'' Soundstream monitors in a color-matched enclosure. Even the front doors featured 4'' monitors and 6.5'' Soundstream component speakers.
The engine was last, and a quad exhaust from Eisenmann with deleted muffler and cats was installed. Schrick camshafts and Supersprint headers unlocked more power, improving the airflow. Tuned by Singh Autosport software, Albert estimates power in the range of 365whp.
Behind the wheel of the torquey AMG V8, Albert has the power to surpass triple digits without effort. Matched to his creativity in the widebody and insane audio, Albert's CLK has gained plenty of recognition and we hope it'll inspire other Mercedes-Benz owners to try something new.
Engine: 5.5 liter V8 with Schrick camshafts, K&N drop-in filters, Supersprint stainless steel headers, 3.5'' Eisenmann quad exhaust with secondary cat delete, resonator delete and muffler delete, Singh Autosport software upgrade
Drivetrain: five-speed automatic
Brakes: 14'' front Brembo GT big brake kit with six-piston calipers, 12.9'' rear rotors with four-piston calipers, calipers painted tangerine
Suspension: H&R Sport springs with Bilstein HD shocks
Wheels & Tires: 20x10'' front, 20x12'' rear VIP Modular VR-03 wheels with brushed faces and chrome lips, 245/30 R20 front, 305/25 R20 rear Falken FK-452 tires
Exterior: metal widebody, OE bumpers molded to C32 AMG bumpers, roof and hood painted satin black with tangerine pinstripes, Lamborghini Balloon white respray, shaved rear badges, facelift tail lights, flat AMG hood badge, 8000K head- and foglight bulbs
Interior: black alcantara headliner with visors dyed black, billet door pins, diamond-stitched front and rear seats, center console cover and floor panels, grey leather seat inserts, LED lighting
Audio/Visual: Pioneer AVIC-Z1 head unit, 6.5'' Soundstream Reference components front and rear, three JL Audio 10w6v2 subs, three JL Audio amps painted satin black and tangerine orange, 15-farad capacitor, two 4'' door monitors, three Soundstream 7'' trunk monitors, hidden DVD player on rear deck, custom fiberglass and ported enclosure
Thanks: Big Dave at VIP Modular Wheels, Mike and Sean at Cellular Universe & Car Tunes, Jags, Chinh at Top Notch, Darwin and Justin at Sonic Motorsports