This is the greatest American hypercar that never was
The Chrysler ME Four-Twelve was the doomed high point of a miserable DaimlerChrysler partnership
Great, another electric hypercar?
Hold your horses – this is the brief story of the greatest American hypercar there never was, and not a lithium-ion battery pack in sight. Amid all the excitement of the good ship Stellantis setting sail, with Fiat and Chrysler joining up with the Peugeot lot to form an automotive tanker, it’s easy to forget that Chrysler in particular has been here before, forming a supergroup with Mercedes in 1998 that was supposed bust paradigms and create wonderful new synergies. It didn’t go well. Perhaps the high point was this concept, the ME Four-Twelve concept shown at the Detroit show in 2004.Advertisement - Page continues below
What does that name mean?
It was an ingenious bit of codenaming that led to the Chrysler concept’s moniker – worthy of the very highest levels of Cold War espionage. ME Four-Twelve stood for mid-engine, four turbos and 12 cylinders. It would have gone into production as the Chrysler PS It’s All Mercedes Underneath.
What was under the bonnet?
Bonnet? With the motor tucked in behind the driver the ME Four-Twelve boasted an elegant rear engine cover, of course. This is where the ME Four-Twelve really benefited from the parent company’s set-up – it got Mercedes’ 6.0-litre aluminium V12 motor that had seen service in a range of luxo barges and the original Pagani Zonda. Four turbochargers meant a power output of 850bhp and beautifully matched torque figure of 850lb ft, all sent rather terrifyingly to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. If it had gone on sale it would have been the world’s most powerful – and fastest – production vehicle at the time.Advertisement - Page continues below
It all looks very exotic…
The ME Four-Twelve definitely looked the part of an exotic hypercar – 114cm tall and a sniff under two metres wide for that ultra-low centre of gravity. The chassis tub was made from a combination of carbon fibre and aluminium honeycomb and the carbon fibre bodywork was optimised for aerodynamic efficiency.
Talk to me about numbers…
The ME Four-Twelve would certainly have been an impressive car when it comes to sheer numbers – 0-60mph 2.9 seconds and 100mph from zero in 6.2 seconds. Estimated top speed was said to be 248mph, but of course they could have said anything. It weighed in at a lithe 1,310kg despite the huge engine, thanks to the exotic materials used.
What’s the ME Four-Twelve like on the inside?
The interior skirts a fine line between concept car whimsy and production potential – ignore the Wurlitzer jukebox lighting effects on the centre stack and you could easily imagine the chrome-ringed air vents, leather seats and carbon fibre-splashed dashboard sitting at traffic lights in Kensington somewhere while the charming fellow behind the wheel guns the throttle for YouTube.
Whatever happened to the ME Four-Twelve concept?
There were two examples of the ME Four-Twelve built – one for the 2004 Detroit show that moved, but not as fast as the numbers in the press release, and a second one later on that was given the full treatment by Chrysler’s SRT department to manage the performance claims that the firm said it would manage.Advertisement - Page continues below
Why didn’t the ME Four-Twelve go into production?
When all was said and done, Chrysler was looking at a half million dollar price tag for the ME Four-Twelve, and this was all at a time when the funnels were starting to fall off the DaimlerChrysler mother ship. Putting this hypercar into production without surefire sales might have been an iceberg too far for the conglomerate – the ME Four-Twelve might have won you a game of Top Trumps back in 2004, but would you have chosen one of these over a cheaper Ford GT? Well, quite.