1999: CLK 55 AMG
Always fond of a spot of badging alphabet soup, Mercedes originally called its two-door C-Classes CLK. This disguised the fact that, while priced and specced close to an E-Class, the CLK was largely based on the underpinnings of the smaller C-Class.
Dull economics sorted, Mercedes got on with tuning its new two-door. In went a 5.4-litre V8, developing 342bhp and 380lb ft. For the time, the CLK 55’s 0-62mph time of 5.4 seconds wasn’t merely respectable, as it is now. It was downright ballistic.
Mercedes had to borrow the five-speed automatic gearbox from the V12 S-Class of the time, as the regular CLK transmission would’ve been shredded by the torque output. Good old AMG.
Interestingly, potential buyers spent two years being teased by the car before they could actually buy one. While not officially on sale until 1999, the CLK 55 AMG was employed – with lowered ride height, upgraded brakes and a fleet of stickers – as the official Formula One safety car from 1997.