The first day of Rocky Mountain Raceweek started off smooth enough. The car passed both the NHRA tech and the RMRW roadworthiness checks with no problems. As I was putting the sponsors’ stickers on the car, Fred from 1320 Video came rolling up to interview me! I also talked to Elana Scherr from Car & Driver, as well as Luke Nieuwhof who was shooting for the new Sick Magazine. Not a bad start to the day!
My goal for the week was to run a 10.99 or better at every track, which was a tall order given that the DA would be above 8000 ft. for at least two nights of racing (Pueblo and Bandimere) Even Great Bend is a couple thousand feet higher than Portland, so getting a ten at all might have been a stretch. Luckily, the car ran great and clicked off a 10.87 @ 127 on my first run. It was a good thing, too, because on that run my fender sliced into the driver’s side rear tire and ended my day abruptly. All of a sudden the Raceweek thrash was ON as I had to figure out a tire situation for the rest of the week. Running on my street tires would have killed the fun for sure.
Remember the guy who bought my Hoosiers on Day 0? His name is Adam Wildhaber and he was kind enough to sell me back the tires! As luck would have it (for me anyway), his truck was only running in the 15-second range and didn’t need the tire anyway. That meant I would be running Hoosier DR2’s on the track AND the road for the next 1350 miles.
After 1600 miles and two full days on the road, we made it into Great Bend on Friday afternoon, giving us time to sit and relax in the hotel parking lot. I had brought a pair of Hoosier drag radials to sell to another racer, so we enjoyed the sunset while we waited for him to show up for the tires. I knew this would be the calm before the storm, and boy was I right!
These parking lot gatherings turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the trip. It was great seeing all the cars and meeting people from all over the country. It didn’t hurt that I was running with two of the most beautiful cars in the whole event – Corey Thompson’s 7-second Chevelle, and Ryan Saiki’s masterpiece of a Camaro. I really felt out of place in my beater ‘Benz.
I took the CLK out for one last Test-and-Tune event over the weekend and got a new personal best: 10.75@129!
It took all season to get a good, clean A-B pass, but it was worth the wait! The car is going in for a roll cage this winter so I’ll be legal all the way down to 8.50 next season. I’ll be putting some Viking double-adjustable shocks, a 77mm fixed supercharger pulley, a flex-fuel tune, and a bigger tire on the rear. If it all comes together like I hope, I should be able to run a 9-second pass next year on the stock long block.
My cheap eBay seats finally gave it up. After just a couple passes at the track with the new M113k powerplant, the ratcheting mechanism in the driver’s seat broke and the back would no longer stay fully upright. I took this as a sign that I should upgrade to a proper set of seats!
I decided to go with the Kirkey Series 65 seats since they are lightweight, relatively inexpensive, and would bolt right to my existing home-made brackets. They are also designed to bolt to the rear brace of the roll bar, which is an NHRA requirement.
I got the 16″ size, which fit my 5’10” 200lb body snuggly but comfortably. They fit pretty well in the car too, with plenty of room between the center console and the door armrest. The shoulder bolsters just barely touch the doors when they are closed. I may wrap a ratchet-strap around the bolsters and squeeze them in about 1/2″ for better clearance.
The total weight of each seat, with the seat covers, steel brackets and mounting hardware came in at 23.5 lb, so that’s a savings of almost 40 lb per seat over the stock units. It remains to be seen how comfortable they are on long trips, but my first few drives around town have been just fine. They are, however, quite a pain to get in and out of.
The harmonic balancer on the Mercedes 113k has a narrow key that often shears under the added stress of a larger crank pulley that produces more boost. Once that happens, repairing the crank snout can be very costly, so it’s better to keep it from happening in the first place. You do this by “pinning” the balancer to the crankshaft.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know that my ultimate goal is to run a high 8-second quarter mile in the CLK. In order to do that without getting kicked out of an NHRA-sanctioned track, I plan on building the car to the rulebook and having it be 100 percent legal.
According to the NHRA Quick Reference guide, one of the things you need when you go 10.99 or quicker is an SFI 18.1 certified harmonic balancer. Not surprisingly, nobody makes one for the M113 found in the W208 CLK55. Luckily, ATI will make custom versions of their Super Damper, which is SFI 18.1 certified. I was told to expect up to a 2-year wait for a custom damper, so even though the car is currently stock, I placed the order for the damper expecting it to be ready in a couple years when the car should be running sub-11 second ETs.
After all the weight reduction, the CLK was riding high and it needed to come back down to earth. The fender gap was 3″ in the rear and 2-1/2″ in the front. I wanted it closer to zero, with the top of the tire about even with the top of the fender, or within a half inch.
There are a couple different approaches to lowering a W208 CLK. You could buy a set of lowering springs, or just cut the appropriate amount off the factory springs. I decided to take the old-school route and cut some coils out of the springs instead of spending money.
When I first bought the CLK back in 2017, I knew the rear end was going to be the weak link. As luck would have it, I found a guy who was selling exactly what I would eventually need in order to make the back half of the car bulletproof.