The CLK DTM is even rarer-groove, as one of just 100 cars made in 2004 and combining a 580bhp version of AMG’s supercharged V8 with a full DTM makeover. It sounds great and pulls more g-force than the 235bhp 190E, although the combination of a torque-converter automatic ’box and vast motorsport shift paddles is a strange one.
Wendlinger is setting a cautious pace ahead in a fully liveried GT Formula 1 safety car – which is surprising until I experience some lurid power oversteer as the CLK’s old-fashioned stability control proves the slowness of its reactions.
On back-to-back drives in the SLS Black Series and GT R, I’m following another GT driven by Schneider. He’s a man who definitely doesn’t do slow. It’s a fascinating experience of evolution; the GT R is grippier and both achieves and holds onto speed much more easily, but the SLS sounds better, turns more keenly and delivers a much more organic-feeling driving experience.
Next up is the earliest stuff, including the chance to experience a near-exact replica of the original 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen and a gentle drive in a 1937 320 Combination Coupé whose limited braking powers make 78bhp feel more than adequate. There’s also a terrifying ride in a 40bhp Simplex from 1903, driven by a man who seems determined to set a record around a course of some of Immendingen’s tighter access roads. Meeting a heavily disguised AMG One prototype as we speed along serves as a reminder of for how long Mercedes has been making fast cars.
The next group is the least demanding, a ‘country road’ group drive along some of the proving ground’s 42 miles of replicated real-world routes. The pace is gentle and even an old Mercedes geek like me can raise only modest excitement for a standard W123 230E with a slushy three-speed automatic gearbox and manual windows. A 560 SEC feels more special, if no more thrilling, its V8 combining effortless progress with a big-cube burble.
I notice Japanese warning labels on the coupé, leading me to discover that Classic often buys representative used cars for use in driving events, rather than risk the mint-condition examples it saves from production. The last-built example of each model is automatically sent to the collection, and it will always be fitted with the most popular engine option and painted in the most-ordered colour.