Back in 2013, we took a quick look at a Mercedes-Benz 190 E after seeing it in action at Gatebil Mantorp in Sweden. Being Gatebil (and Scandinavia), of course it wasn’t your average W201 – this one had been set up to go sideways.
The unique Team Lovetap drift machine grabbed a lot of attention wherever its owner Mårten Stångber took the car, so when it came time to step up to a newer platform in late 2014, he knew exactly what badge it should wear out front.
A rulebook change for sanctioned Swedish drift events was the main catalyst for Mårten to retire the 190. Essentially, his Mercedes’ rear suspension towers had been completely rebuilt, and a new ruling didn’t permit the modifications he had made. A new chassis was needed.
“After looking through the usual options – Nissan S14, Toyota Soarer, and some other popular drift alternatives – I stumbled across Sarto Racing’s freshly released Mercedes CLK featuring a Rocket Bunny collaboration wide-body kit, and that opened up my eyes for the W209 body,” says Mårten. “I did my research and after finding the CLK 63 AMG Black Series, I knew this would be the platform I wanted to build upon. It had a very similar chassis to my 190 but a better front end suspension, so I was optimistic about its potential as a drift car.”
Initially, Mårten looked locally for a suitable W209 base, but when the right car hadn’t turned up after a couple of months, he expanded his search overseas.
“I decided to look in England due to low pricing and the fact that their cars didn’t have underseal, which would make chassis prep easier,” says Mårten. “I ended up finding a completely stock 2003 Mercedes CLK 270 CDI on eBay and placed a bid with just two minutes left in the auction. This was my first time ever bidding on eBay and I won.”
Once the sale had been confirmed, Mårten booked a flight to England for himself and a friend, where the CLK was picked up and driven back home to Sweden. It ran flawlessly during the journey through France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany, and Mårten even waited a whole day before he began to strip it right down to a bare shell.
Although the 190 was an unconventional drift car, one of the surprising aspects was its engine. In almost un-Gatebil fashion, it hadn’t been swapped for a Toyota 2JZ, an American V8, or something from the Volvo parts bin – it was all Mercedes-Benz. Well, Mercedes-AMG… with the bonus of an Eaton supercharger strapped to its side.
“After building my 190 drift car, I quickly learned how well-engineered Mercedes-Benz engines are,” says Mårten. “They seem to be overlooked when it comes to the drifting and tuning scene, which is both good and bad. Because while it might be cheaper and easier to find a Mercedes engine in the first place, it’s not easy to find quality parts for them, so you either have to fabricate them or custom order them yourself.”
On the flip side, Mårten is quick to praise their out-of-the-box reliability, even with a lot of horsepower in play. “The engine that we currently run in the CLK [M104 3.2L inline six] is still on stock pistons, crank, cylinder head, valves, springs. Internally, the only upgrades we’ve made are forged rods, different bearings, a support girdle, ARP head bolts, and a head gasket to be able to produce over 800hp at the wheels.”
Ancillary modifications include a BorgWarner EFR 9180 turbocharger, Nuke Performance/Pyrotect fuel cell, dual DeatschWerks fuel pumps, Bosch Motorsport 2,200cc injectors, an Emtron KV8 engine management system, and a custom Auto Verdi dry sump system. This all adds up to a dyno proven 846whp and 975wNm.
Getting the power to the ground is a 200mm Sachs Motorsport clutch and Tenaci Motorsport flywheel, 4-speed Tex Racing T101A dog box, and a BMW E34 differential with custom axles. The suspension meanwhile is built around KW Competition coilovers (2-way front and 3-way rear).
A lot of time went into getting the NASCAR-spec transmission to work with the M104 engine, and likewise the steering threw up some big challenges. A custom solution was required, and that resulted in a one-off kit with 55-degrees of steering angle.
In the wheel and tire department, Mårten opted for Cosmis Racing XT-206Rs in 18×9.5-inch +10 (front) and 18×11-inch +8 (rear) sizing with 225/40R18 and 265/35R18 rubber respectively. Through the front spokes you can catch a glimpse of the Mercedes-Benz S600 6-piston calipers and 345mm discs, while the rear features S500 2-piston calipers with 298mm discs.
One of the coolest aspects of this car is the custom wide-body kit, as designed by SeidoWorks in Sweden. This marries up with custom FRP hood, fenders, doors, trunk lid, and quarter panels, and is finished off with a livery by Lituta Motorsport Graphics.
Inside, it’s all business with a custom 6-point roll cage and Sparco Evo 2 seats running TAKATA Racing 6-point harness belts, plus all the other motorsport upgrades you expect to find in a pro-spec drift machine.
While Mårten did a lot of the work designing and building this CLK drift weapon himself, he’s quick to offer credit where it’s due. “The car would never have been completed if I had done everything myself. The team members and my partners have played a key role in making this car a reality. The team have worked their asses off all these years and kept me motivated throughout the entire process; my partners have supported the build with parts and invaluable knowledge. We encountered so many problems along the way, but somehow we managed to get through it all together, and for that I’ll be forever grateful.”
While the car was first shaken down in April 2016, it’s always evolving and there’s still more do. Mårten wants to update the original hand-formed bodykit molds to give the wide-body the finish it deserves, upgrade the wiring with a new motorsport-spec harness, and improve drift-ability with a broader power-band and 8,500rpm rev limit. He’s also looking to add a rear sway bar, set himself up with a bunch of diff ratios to suit different tracks, and fit some custom billet rear knuckles.
And then there’s his other build…
“I have recently started a project that’s been planned for many years. It’s a 1981 Toyota Corolla wagon that’s getting S13 rear suspension, S13 front suspension, widened steel fenders and a Honda K24 engine swap. It’ll be kept N/A to maintain that authentic mechanical feel that a car like this deserves.”
I think it’s safe to say that if the Corolla is half as cool as his 850hp CLK, this surely won’t be the last time you see Mårten Stångber’s name on Speedhunters.
Photos by Alen Haseta
Mårten Thanks: “My good friends and team members Sebastian Simonsson, Stefan Engström, Jesper Jumisko, Joel Haglund, Edvin Olsson, John Lindell, Anders Franzen, Robin Carlsson, Christopher Reinholdsson, Andre Niklasson, Emil Persson, Simon Emanuelsson, Fabian Landelius, Markus Millved, Billy Store, and my dear girlfriend Linda Nielsen. And a lot more people! I’d also like to thank Nuke Performance, Th Pettersson, Autogruppen, Cosmis Racing Wheels, BJP Race, Ecarlsson Steeldesign, KW Suspension, DeatschWerks, Depalma Workwear, Emtron, Tenaci Motorsport, Seidoworks, Svensk Turboservice, Digifi Media, Strömbergs Rör & Svets, Pulverteknik, ATK Driftteknik, MSI Gaming Nordics, Tagene Hjulinställning, Situne.no, WTP Dekor, CarCareProducts.se and Gokartcentralen.”