EVER since Dodge made it possible to order its behemoth 707hp, 6.2-litre supercharged V8 engine as a crate motor, people have wasted no time in cramming them into just about everything – including this Mercedes CLK 320 coupe.
It’s fair to say that a posh German conveyance is not the most obvious home for an off-tap Hellcat motor, and this build is unusual for another reason, too. Its main purpose is not to set the timesheets on fire; rather, it’s to help those going through tough times due to illness, giving them an outlet to experience the better things in life and open up about their challenges.
The owner of the car is Andy Kahle, a long-time drag racer and a breast cancer survivor. She is also the CEO of Therapy On Wheels – a charity that supports cancer patients and their families. “It started with me just taking patients to and from appointments, and during an hour-long car ride people do tend to open up and you get to know them,” she says.
The idea then came about to build a drag car that could not only be used to promote the charity, but also bring some joy to the patients and their nearest and dearest. “It’s not just to raise money by selling rides in the car; it’s about giving both the patients and their family members something to enjoy and get excited about,” says Andy. “So we can take the husband of a breast cancer patient for a ride as well, and give them some joy – because this affects the families just as much as the patients.”
The Mercedes was chosen for the build simply because Andy wanted to do something different. “I was scrolling through Gumtree and found it; little did I know how heavy it was!” she says.
Simon Travaglini from Allfast Torque Converters took on the job of building the car for Andy. While he normally spends his workdays building converters and gearboxes, Simon has built some killer cars in the past and was keen to pitch in for this great cause. “I’ve had four people close to me pass away from cancer, including my late mother,” he says. “So this is something really important to me and I was more than happy to take this one on.”
According to Simon, fitting the Hellcat into the Merc was no walk in the park. “It wasn’t much fun fitting it in there, but we managed,” he laughs. Other alterations included recessing the firewall, installing a full rollcage and heavily modifying the rear end to accommodate a four-link, nine-inch and 315 radials.
Being primarily a passenger-ride car, it isn’t intended to run stupidly quick, so both the donk and power will remain standard, with Holley Dominator EFI as the brains of the beast. “While it’ll never go that fast, the car has been built to run 7.50,” says Simon.
Pictured left to right: Jo-Marie Polkinghorne, Andy Kahle, Wendy Chapman
The Merc build is on track to be completed within the next few months, and Andy is keen to tour the country with it to raise awareness for her great cause. “We’re getting really close now, and I haven’t seen any other Mercedes drag cars like this, so it should be a real head-turner.”