The Japanese Are Coming For Our Euros! The Sarto Racing CLK
JDM Euro

If someone asked me to make an observation on the Japanese car scene – something big that I have noticed during my time here, I’d definitely have to point out the obvious rise in imported cars. Over the last two decades, European, and to some extent American car makers, have really been enjoying a rampant rise in sales and with this being Japan, the aftermarket industry has followed suit. And if you consider that the Japanese probably can do no wrong to cars, that’s a very good thing. Bold statement I know. Don’t get me wrong – even the Japanese can get it wrong at times, but I’d go out on a limb here and say that they tend to have, on average, very good taste and know precisely how to make cars look their best. Once expensive cars drop in value, it’s a given that people and tuners will start to play around with them more.


That’s pretty much how Sarto Racing came to be; a brand new company, set up in November last year, making a hit on the scene with the release of their E36 widebody aero kit which was made in collaboration with Kei Miura at Rocket Bunny. The idea behind it all was to start tailoring – Sarto means tailor in Italian – custom bodykits for a variety of imports and while the BMW convertible definitely did its job well, it was their Tokyo Auto Salon car that needed to make even more of an impact.


Aside from very limited edition AMG versions, I have to say I never really paid much attention to the W209 CLK. Like most Benzes, it was aimed at providing more comfort than anything else, and well, that’s not particularly interesting to me at this point in my life. But once I stepped into the Makuhari Messe during the set up of the show last month, I found myself strangely attracted to the W209 you see here.


Much like a lot of people that first saw it, I didn’t know what to make of it. What was it? A drift car? A time attack car? A DTM-inspired replica? I didn’t really care that much as it looked sensational in the dimly lit exhibition center. Like with the latest crop of Miura-catered aero packages, the Sarto Racing conversion consists of big fat over fenders, bolted over the cut stock wheel arches for that undeniably simple yet impossibly effective instant dose of badass.


Ok, I hear you, this Rocket Bunny look is getting overly blown up lately, but be honest, is there anything wrong with it? Truth of the matter is, the rawness of the kyusha-racer Works look makes any car instantly cooler. The old recipe of pumped fenders is one which many manufacturers and tuning shops have used to spice up regular production cars and it would be wrong to simply dismiss its effectiveness because we have seen it applied to a lot of cars.


For Sarto Racing, Miura decided to keep things pretty simple, avoiding the need for side skirts and concentrating only on the large radius flares which are two-piece items for each of the CLK’s four corners: a main section and a small finisher that extends the newfound wideness onto the bumper.


The sleek profile of the W209 is therefore altered, now more akin to a touring car than a comfortable luxury coupe. Seeing that there aren’t particularly that many tuning parts for this generation of CLK in Japan, Yoshimori-san at Sarto Racing contacted Yellow Speed Racing who came on board on the project and custom-built a set of adjustable suspension, thus allowing the car to be appropriately lowered over its four wheels.


The rear end is finished off with a cut out lower bumper section with a small but visually aggressive integrated diffuser, and like every Miura creation so far, there’s plenty of exposed rear tire to admire from this particular angle!


Sitting atop the trunk lid is the must-have GT-wing, held up by an originally shaped pair of stays. Now, like me, you are probably liking the lines of this kit but are also wondering what this car has actually been built for? Well, as Yoshimori-san told me at Fuji when I met up with him to shoot the car, the main idea was to devise a unique street car project, but as you’ll see further down, he took the whole idea a little bit further than that.

It’s all about the fenders

With the stock fenders cut and the aero kit test-fitted, it was time to give the body a color worthy of that intimidating stance and I have to say they couldn’t have chosen a more fitting hue of candy red. In the right sort of light it really does a good job of highlighting the broad shoulders that the DTM-looking front now boasts.


To add a touch of contrast, the Mercedes Benz grille and emblem were painted in semi-gloss black, matching parts like the front splitter and of course the wheels.


Like on a lot of show or stance-driven cars, wheels come in as probably one of the single most important aspects of the build, and that’s very much the case here. The matte black 18-inch Enkei RS05RRs were carefully chosen with the right sort of offset, allowing the big flared fenders to be adequately filled up.


10.5 and 11-inch widths were chosen for the front and rear respectively, fitted with Toyo Proxes rubber measuring 245/35 at the fore and 275/35 aft.


Yellow Speed Racing provided their top of the line brake package consisting of six-pot front calipers and four-pots for the rear, fitted along oversized cross-drilled and slotted rotors.


The drop in ride height has introduced a good few degrees of negative camber at the rear; not quite VIP-like onikyan, but enough to give it an even more imposing look.


The primary goal of this car was for it to be completed in time for the Tokyo Auto Salon; create that impact to get some brand recognition and then concentrate on fine-tuning it and maximizing its purpose. For the time being, the CLK is nothing more than a wildly-styled street car but Yoshimori-san is just getting started.


With the looks taken care of, there was one more area of the car that needed to be finalized prior to the show and that was the interior.

The engine will come next

One look in here and you know that this is one project that has been approached with plenty of attention to detail. The idea was to give a sort of street-drifter feel, starting things off with a rather comprehensive gutting of the stock trim and the introduction of a basic roll cage.


The driver and passenger sit on supportive yet comfortable Bride Zeta III fixed bucket seats, equipped with Takata harnesses for added restrain during occasional track use. The center console, where the navigation screen once used to be, has been converted to neatly group the custom switch panel that controls basic things like ignition, wipers and a cut-off switch for the electrics. A Wilwood brake bias adjuster is there to help the driver fine-tune the braking system to any given situation, while a Yellow Speed Racing hydraulic e-brake locks the rear Toyos at the slightest pull of the gold lever.


In Japan, the W209 CLK was only ever offered with an automatic transmission so Yoshimori-san had to source the six-speed manual transmission the car now runs – along with the clutch pedal/booster set-up – directly from Germany. The conversion is the first step in turning the CLK into a more performance-oriented car.


Out on the Fuji Speedway access roads, the Sarto look certainly gives a one-off feel to the sleek Benz, but by now you’re probably asking yourself what is this thing hiding under the hood?


A rush to get the car finished for the show meant that the engine needed to be put on the back burner, the stock 2.6L V6 having been left untouched – for the time being.


Yoshimori-san is still unsure of what engine will replace the stock 170hp unit. Anything from a big supercharged AMG V8 to a more high power V6 are being considered – something that will bring the performance up to par with the wild exterior.


For the time being at least, a custom exhaust system with carbon-trimmed twin tail pipes has been fabricated by Ortas Cars, there to give a more raspy engine note to the somewhat asthmatic stock six-cyinder.


The custom headlight air intake channels air to one side of the engine, maybe not much use at the moment as there’s nothing there to actually cool, but maybe Yoshimori-san is thinking ahead here? Can anyone say, turbo? Uhm, maybe a straight-six motor might make it in there. Who knows!


Miura-san’s influence on the Japanese car scene is certainly an unprecedented phenomena; never has one man made such a difference in such a short period of time, on such a wide variety of cars. Sarto Racing may well have come up with two of the most unique projects out there and in the process made quite an impact. It goes without saying that we can’t wait to see this CLK burn some rubber around a drift track once it receive a more suited power plant, but at the same time we’re also wondering what car they’ll work on next! 2014 is definitely set to continue the Works fender revolution, Rocket Bunny style!

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino



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Put a 2jz in it!!!!  That car is sick!


Jeremiahori  no!!nO!NO!NO!NO1!!!!!!!!!


for n/a he should slam in the screaming(if he use straight pipes) m120 engine, if he wants force induction(2 of em)slam in the glorious 1000nm m275 engine ...


Wow!... this CLK is amazing! i´m not fan o Mercedez but this one fall me in love :D... I hope see this car in action soon!
Good article and photos Dino


Why are the Japanese such retards when it comes to safety equipment like roll cages, or mounting harnesses correctly? And nobody say, "But that's just how they are!! You just don't understand!!" I'm not talking about something subjective like a paint job, I'm talking about safety. There IS a right and a wrong way to do things.


@Jake Laird  Will you enlighten us with what you actually mean? You can't argue with the need of rollcage and race harnesses in this dropped to "unusability", 170hp monster machine ;)

Seeking Perfection

maxproof @Jake Laird. Hey guys, I would like to highlight that both of you are so negative...Not safe, ''dropped to unusability'' and ''170hp monster machine''. Let's be positive here. What do you like about this car? To exemplify, I exclusively like the Enkei wheels. That's it. Positivity.

What's more surprising is that this stock V6 produces 170hp. Several years ago, my company car was a CLK200 which actually featured 4 cyl, 1.8 liters, 163hp and very mediocre fuel efficiency for its capacity. However, in comparison with the V6, the performance difference is minimal. Why did they choose this engine in the first place and why are they considering a high power V6 as another option for an engine swap? That's a fairly boring car with an identity crisis. There is only one way to do it right. Put an engine from an SLR like someone else did some years ago in Dubai.


@Seeking Perfection maxproof  I guess sometimes it is just fun to drive a very well handling car with not so much power. And the v6 is making better noise :) .


Let the haters hate! This is a awesome machine! Alright, it may have the same amount of power as my dads non v6 merc c200 sport edition 05 car, but if thats anything to go by, the thing is quick as shit no matyer the engine size! Love this thing!


I hate to say it because I love the way all the rocket bunny cars look, but I feel like everything they do looks kind of the same. The FRS I feel is a perfect modern interpretation of the old school bolt-on over fender look and I feel like every car since is the same idea just different cars. I have to admit, I think the Ferrari 458 really pulls off the look as well, but now seeing a Mercedes with the same treatment I can't help but feel like it's starting to get old. I mean, it's got practically the same paint and even the same wheels too. Don't get me wrong it's a bad ass car, but not all that much different from other cars they've turned out recently.


RalphScarabaggio Well said, and a very good point.


I say it for the second time: Put a V8 Judd into it!


RalphScarabaggio Well from an artistic marketing point of view it makes perfect sense.  The only way an artist these days can really do well is if they develop their own stylistic signature.  In a sence, think of it as brand recognition.  

As for the car, it looks like fun.  Don't like the front portion of the cage, but diggin' everything else.


awesome post dino! i am now on the mercedes website...

Seeking Perfection

AceAndrew2 RalphScarabaggio Right on. As for the car, great photography and like people say in my area ''As for the coffee, great porcelain mug''. Don't get me wrong though. While I agree with you that exposed rivets and fender flares are signature touches, what worries me the most in this case is the lack of tire stencils and a tow strap to complete the look.


I was wondering if anyone know the Model number of the transmission used here? Thanks for any help.


RalphScarabaggio  It's all a matter of personal opinion I guess. I really didn't like the liberty walk 458 and up until this point I thought the bolt on fender look only really works on older cars but I'm digging this CLK. A brutal wide-body stance suits this car.


damn, i was disappointed with the current engine..I was hoping for something bad ass!


maxproof  for most sanctioned events roll cages are supposed to include anti intrusion door bars, as well as have the pilots feet inside the cage dimensions. Don't forget the missing bar that is supposed to run across the dash. 

i think the harness would not be considered to be safe as any harness manufacturer recommends a a maximum angle for mounting of the harnesses (some where around 15 to 20 degrees, please correct me if i am wrong.)

and if you really want to get sticky about things, the seats should be mounted to the cage not the floor of the chassis.

I definitely like the midterm report on his work in progress, but i do seriously hope he reconsiders his cage design if this car is to hit any track for any sanctioned event at all.


>And if you consider that the Japanese probably can do no wrong to cars, that’s a very good thing. Bold statement I know. Don’t get me wrong – even the Japanese can get it wrong at times, but I’d go out on a limb here and say that they tend to have, on average, very good taste and know precisely how to make cars look their best.

You're not wrong; the worst looking Japanese car easily bests the above-middle tier stance car here in the States.


@driveCircles  Same goes for a lot of Euro countries, although the slammed scene there has been teaching people how to do it properly :)


wheatgod  Profile wasn't done by Miura lol


SchmittaMane  It's coming!


JonathanWitherspoon  I can ask, but it's just the stock Benz 6-speeder that the car came with in some markets (not Japan)


JjCruz  LOL


Kenmericz  Give this man a prize!


AceAndrew2 RalphScarabaggio  Good point. As this style continues to get good response I personally can't wait to see what Miura comes up with next!


@Mike maxproof  Well the cage is designed for a street application


JoseFickert  Thanks Jose!


Jeremiahori  LOL, I had the same thought pop into my mind


teamsleepnine Jeremiahori  Why?


speedhunters_dino maxproof  

If it's just for the street, I can't help but feel there's no point to it then apart from looks perhaps. A pure street car doesn't need a roll cage, and especially a crappy bolt-in one. All it is now is some metal tubing which doesn't help with rigidity or safety, but provides something nice and hard to hit your head on in a crash (yay no padding).

Plus bolt-in cages have been shown to potentially become detached during violent crashes. I have to agree with Jake here. When it comes to safety, there's no grey area like with bodykits or paint jobs. There is a wrong way to do things, and this is it. I just don't buy the "oh but it's a different culture" argument when it comes to safety.

As for the car itself, while I'm beyond tired of the Rocket Bunny bolt-on fenders look by this point, I will admit it looks kind of cool in a DTM-style way here. Personally hoping for a 6.3 AMG V8 to go in eventually...along with that better roll cage and harness mounting points ;)

Not my kind of thing, but nice work nonetheless Dino.


Nice car. This generation of CLK are great looking cars.
Though a few things are glossed over here. That rear diffuser is not even a faux diffuser, it's just a quartet of diffuser looking vertical fences that are for appearance solely, there's no tunnel under or ahead of then under the car. In fact the muffler is where the left tunnel would be. The description of the driveline tells very little apart from it's geographic origin.


i like it.


Glad to see the full article, the TAS coverage left me with a lot of questions about this car. Nice design exercise. Fitment of the kit is spot on.


Never thought I'd see a Rocket Bunny kit on a Mercedes, great job. Love the build front to back, perfect wheel setup too. 
Personally, as much as I'd want to see a V8 in there for weight purposes I say go for the turbo inline 6. 
Great post!


speedhunters_dino Jeremiahori  why2jz when mercedes it self has tones of respectable performance engine like the m120(the one on zonda) and 1000nm m275...just my 2cents,a mercedes fanboy.


Oh my God! Now this is a crazy build, this is crazier than the Liberty Walk M3 E92.
Throw in a RB26DETT engine or a 2JZ GTE... ;)


SeBaBunea  Can't say I disagree with you :)


kphillips9936  Wheels really make the car, that's for sure


This Rocket Bunny kit never gets old. The more applications its made for, the more enthusiasts its pleases. The work that comes from Japan, will filter to the rest of the world. Can't wait to see what the kit is put on next. As for the engine, I feel a mildly to ridiculous built RB26 or 2JZ is in order. It will give the car the true Japanese feel,  but that's my opinion. A beefed up AMG V8 sounds good too. But in all honest, I feel a LS-power plant from America, may end up in this engine bay.


So essentially bolting on a badly fitting fender flare kit, some aero bits (pseudo or otherwise), shiny new running gear and gutting the interior constitutes a feature car these days. 
Sounds more like a recipe for a shoestring racer, something I'd have infinitely more respect for.


I hope they stuff in some big badass engine like a 2JZ or something like a 427 cubic inch American muscle car V8 or something.


No, I hope they keep that engine. The M112 could be turbocharged and in a big way. Japan can do it better than anyone. It's not a 2.7 unit, it a 2.6 liters in E26 variant, found in the CLK. It will be 6 cylinders 2600 cc, just like the RB26.
It will have a lightweight front axle and an already fit engine.
Do you really wanna se a JZ engine in a Mercedes Benz CLK? Really?
Don't get me started with 'merican muscle V8...

It could be also in a group of german car with 2 doors, RWD and powerful 6 cylinder engine. Looks that will disappear soon, the BMW 428i being a joke of a car with too many horses and 4 cylinders......


The Rocket Bunny fenders on this car make it look almost like the AMG Black Series version of the same model. Especially when you look at it head on. I'd have the Black Series over this anyday, but I really love this car. I think it looks great. I think the Rocket Bunny/Liberty Walk look works better on some cars than it does on others, and not at all on some (thinking Liberty Walk GTR) but I think it suits the CLK. Cool build!


teamsleepnine speedhunters_dino Jeremiahori  Because a 2jz would be hilarious!!  Haters be dammned, show me the boost!


speedhunters_dino maxproof  

your comment makes me shudder, if the cage was meant to add saftey on the street then it is missing cross braces and anti intrusion door bars (or NASCAR bars as they are called). sorry dino but i just dont buy it, there is a right way and a wrong way to do things in the name of saftey and this is not the right way. 

like hotcakes below states there is no added rigidity through this cage, there is no added saftey, just a jungle gym that increases the number of hard things for your head to bang off of in the case of a heavy accident. 

as for how its designed, look at road racing cages and then look at WRC cages, they are made completely differently to cope with the environment that each cage is used in. 

like i said, i appreciate the work and the fact that it is a work in progress , i like the color, and that the base car is not a commonly modified car, the stance is great, rim selection is pretty good. you can definitely see the styling cues of the designer used for the body panels. but safety is one thing you should never skimp on, and with no gusseting, dash crossbar, or door cross bars you would have a hard time convincing me that that cage is anything but for show.


@Kenny so submit them your car for a feature, it's not like they discriminate.  They feature cars from all over the world.  While it may not be your style, what badly fitting flares are you looking at?  If you look carefully, they do follow the lines of the car...arguably better than any of the other RB kits


@Kenny can u read that they're sponsored by this Miura/Liberty walk company?  just think of these features like a online ad.  if u dont like it u dont have to post.


kphillips9936 Lol a ls1 is a lot lighter than a 2jz


I would go for a V8, but forget about the LS! This thing needs a ITB 1UZ!


STJ88  Keep the mods JDM uh?


greenroadster  I'll mention it to the owner :)


savyonsaw5511  Twin turbo or twin SC V12 maybe? The Cobra from Gatebil comes to mind...


@turbo BEAMS ae86  We are not sponsored by Miura or LBW, Rocket Bunny is one of our partners


@Kenny  It was one of the most talked about cars of TAS this year. That warrants a feature because while being another Miura creation, it is different. As for the badly fitting kit, what were you referring to? The way it's fixed to the car or the actual fit/alignment of the kit? Both look more than acceptable to me


NicholasMaher  You are right there, it's just for looks:)


wheatgod speedhunters_dino  I see what you mean :)


Hotcakes speedhunters_dino maxproof  Points taken, think of it more as a work in progress and it maybe makes more sense:) Thanks!


Jeremiahori teamsleepnine speedhunters_dino  The Gatebil approach, 2JZ EVERYTHING lol


@turbo BEAMS ae86 kphillips9936That's true. But I just feel better to keep things either Euro or JDM. I can see an LS1 putting serious power to the wheels though.


That car is gorgeous! The Pictures are over the top Dino! Thanks!

I wouldn't drop a V8 in it, to big tho heavy, and well we have enough Benzes with big v8 Churning out riddiculous HP

I'm with greenroadster on that one, blow that lethargic M112, I think an angry Blow of Whistle and the sound of two not to big Turbines spinning up fits the cars image far better, than that V8 grumble...
Or the jet like whine of a big compressor :)

They just need to look how far they can push that M112, and i think who is better for that job than the Japanese Turbo Gods?


speedhunters_dino I get the feeling that is one of the most talked about cars because it's from Miura-san and for no other reason. When compared to a work of art like Jared Seganti's Dodge in the previous article, it looks very half baked. As for the kit, this looks in no way right to me


Onecton greenroadster  Thanks, glad you like the shots:)


kphillips9936 sorry misread your post.  seems we are in agreement.  i am new in english.


I absolutely love this car, it has such presence. The use of a European make in such a domestic driven market is a brave one which has been executed perfectly.
You should look up "Prior Design" for more insane Mercedes builds.
Great work Dino!






I would love to see this thing with a diesel from black smoke racing. Keeping it Merc and badass while still unique, especially in Japan. Too bad the turbo is on the opposite side of the headlight intake, and the manual trans option would be difficult for that power level without something custom trans wise.


@xanmanae86  Yeah that would be a really cool idea. Pity the Japanese just don't embrace diesels as much as Europeans do


Nikhil_P  Shit, now we're talking!


roido11  Thanks man!


love it !


Where can I buy this body kit guys?


a merc SC V8 would fit nicely to that exterior.. ;)


"10.5 and 11-inch widths were chosen for the front and rear respectively, fitted with Toyo Proxes rubber measuring 245/35 at the fore and 275/35 aft."
"Enkei RS05RR 18×10 front, 18×11 rear, Toyo Proxes 245/35R18 front, 275/35R18 rear"

Love the article! But I would love to know if the fronts are in fact either 10 or 10.5.


Hallo Mercedes clk bausatz Preis für Händler in Deutschland mb 209


I'd like to see an old school NA v12 (the m120) swapped into this thing with equal length custom headers installed to give it that Zonda- F1 sound.


m120 v12 in that bitch with equal length headers please.


oops double post sorta