Acquiring rare automobiles often demands a hefty price tag. Yet, when it comes to exclusive homologation editions allowing these vehicles to hit the streets, the costs can soar even higher. A recent example of this exorbitance was witnessed at an RM Sotheby’s auction held in Las Vegas.
Taking the spotlight was a Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR Roadster, a gem among just six units ever manufactured (bearing the serial number three). This extraordinary vehicle, essentially a racing car adapted for public roads with its top removed, boasts a remarkable scarcity typical of such collectibles. Remarkably, despite its age of two decades, its usage has been minimal, clocking a mere 170 kilometers (105 miles) according to the auction listing.
The genesis of the CLK GTR lies in its creation around the turn of the century, conceived as part of a homologation agreement necessary for Mercedes-Benz’s participation in the GT1 class of elite endurance racing. Although the class was phased out in 1999, Mercedes-Benz remained committed to those who had eagerly invested in these limited homologation specials.
Originally intended to produce 25 coupe versions, the actual output was limited to 20, with an additional roadster in existence. However, HWA, the motorsports entity founded by Hans-Werner Aufrech, co-founder of AMG, took charge post the AMG-Mercedes merger in 1999, crafting an extra five roadster models in the early 2000s from leftover chassis.
The racing iteration of the CLK GTR enjoyed an illustrious stint, competing in both the 1997 and 1998 FIA GT seasons. Across 22 races, the Mercedes team clinched victory 17 times, triumphing in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships for consecutive seasons.
Distinguishing itself further from the racing variant and the coupe model, the CLK GTR Roadster boasted superior capabilities. It housed the latest iteration of the V-12 engine, a consistent feature across all CLK GTR versions. This V-12 powerhouse, with a displacement of 6.9 liters, generated 622 horsepower in the roadster, surpassing the coupe’s 592 horsepower. Contrarily, the race car faced power constraints due to regulatory standards like air restrictor demands and a reduced 6.0-liter displacement. Transmitting power to the rear wheels occurred through a 6-speed sequential transaxle system.
Despite its prominence, this particular CLK GTR Roadster did not claim the title of the most expensive Mercedes sold at the recent RM Sotheby’s auction. That honor went to a 2013 Mercedes Formula 1 race car, steered by Lewis Hamilton to his maiden victory with the Mercedes team at the 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix. The gavel fell at a staggering $18,815,000 inclusive of the buyer’s fee, marking a significant milestone in automotive auction history.