The road-going race car just doesn’t make any sense. Put your pitchforks down, I don’t mean cars built for homologation purposes, from the Toyota GR Yaris to the latest Ford GT, nor am I counting cars that cherry pick bits and pieces from their motorsport counterparts, such as the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. I mean, quite literally, cars built for the sole purpose of going fast on a racetrack finding their way onto someone’s driveway as their weekend toy.
We don’t buy cars with our head though, do we, and once you muffle the nagging voice of reason in your head there’s a whole lot to love about a race-derived road car. Seen that Nissan R390 GT1 that’s been cropping up at motor shows of late? It started life as the number 30 factory car that raced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1998, before it was eventually sold to Erik Comas – driver of the 31 car – in lieu of an R390 road car that the Frenchman had asked for as a payment substitute. As Nissan only ever made one R390 road car for homologation, Comas converted the race car for road use and now drives it across Europe, showing everyone how jammy he is.
Here's another car that competed in that same race and has recently been converted to road use. We all know the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR, right? The V12-engined homologation special that allowed Mercedes to go racing in GT1 in the 1990s, which it dominated from the get-go. Well, this isn’t it. It’s instead the follow up CLK LM, a heavily revised version of the CLK GTR built for La Sarthe's lengthy straights.
Unlike the V12-engined GTR, the LM was fitted with a naturally aspirated version of its 5.0-litre M119 V8 in the name of reliability. And whereas 28 GTRs were produced for the road (20 coupes, six roadsters and a couple of prototypes), just two LM ‘Strassenversions’ were cobbled together – one for homologation and the other binned in a crash test.
Surprisingly, the LM Strassenversion is allegedly in the ownership of a private collector. So there is a chance it’ll one day be sold (for many zillions of euros), but one particularly wealthy Mercedes fan clearly was clearly in a bit of a hurry. Like the Comas-owned R390, this CLK LM competed at Le Mans in 1998 as, I believe, the pole-sitting number 35 car. Despite winning every race in that year’s FIA GT series, the non-championship round at the LM24 was utterly woeful for Mercedes, with the number 35 conking out just 19 laps into the race. Little did the company know that it’d have an even more torrid race a year later...
Since then, chassis 005 went to a private collector in Japan before winding up in Europe in 2013. It was then sold to a collector in the UK in 2017, who’s evidently spent a lot of time and cash on restoring the car. The car was sent to Sporting & Historic Car Engineers in Banbury a couple of years ago for a new fuel tank and pumps, while the suspension was given a ‘refresh’ and the carbon racing discs were ‘resurfaced’. Oh, and the previous owner’s gone through the rigmarole of making it road legal, evidenced by the rear number plate holder (obviously) and raised suspension (less obvious).
Although the car’s livery has been stripped, the car’s racing past is still evident with the lofty rear wing (the sole Strassenversion sported the GTR road car’s hoop wing) and the old Mobil 1 and Bridgestone graphics have been left on, for some reason. The interior is pure Le Mans car, too, with cables, carbon boxes and stickered switches. No leather, no second seat. So if the livery-less look isn’t quite to your liking, it would only take a few stickers – and a couple of light pods for the bumper – to get chassis 005 back to Le Mans glory. Well, pole-sitting glory.
You’ll also need a lot of money. Give Joe Macari a bell with a genuine enquiry and I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to disclose the figure hidden behind the POA. To no surprise, there’s not a whole lot of sales or auction data to go off, but a CLK GTR road car sold at Pebble Beach back in 2018 for over $4.5m (or £3.5m).
This is even rarer, has incredible motorsport heritage and can be driven on public roads, so expect to pay quite a bit more. Crazy for a car that’ll be terrifying to drive in the presence of other road users, but that’s just your pesky voice of reason trying to spoil the party again. Ignore it, make the call and do us all a favour by taking it out in public as much as you can – just like a certain Mr Comas.
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