Expectations may have hurt the Mercedes-McLaren SLR more than its actual performance. With two iconic names such as SLR and McLaren in its name, people expected the rules to be rewritten and the game to be changed, as the original SLR and McLaren F1 did when each was introduced. The problem was the supercar playing field had leveled by the time the McLaren SLR was released and it seemed like everyone was in on the game, from low-volume specialists to manufacturers with deep pockets.
When it was released in late 2004, the SLR had to compete against cars such as the Enzo, the Pagani Zonda, the Koenigsegg, the Carrera GT and the Bugatti Veyron, all mid-engined, many of them lighter, packing more heat or both. Statistically, it did well by lapping tracks within a second or two of its competitors, and, on occasion and depending on the track, beating them. Despite that, it was rarely considered the pick of the litter, nor did it instill the kind of fear or respect as the others did.
Mercedes tried to up the ante a few years later with a mildly tweaked SLR 722. Then came a roadster and a racing version named the 722 GT, and a speedster version called the Stirling Moss. The plan was to build 3,500 SLRs, but they stopped at roughly half that mark, ceasing production in 2009.
Stylistically, the SLR’s long, Pinocchio schnoz, steeply raked windshield and small canopy left it unbalanced and disproportioned, especially when viewed from profile. Sleek, no doubt, but the designers took few risks and many complained that it didn’t differentiate itself enough from the SL.
Tuners soon got involved and a handful of companies have taken a stab at making it look and perform better. The results have ranged from the incongruous (Mansory) to outright travesties (ASMA Design). The Hamann Volcano featured here is somewhat arresting at first glance, but one that grows on you as the details start to make sense. Definitely not for those who shy away from attention, many of Hamann’s Volcanoes come in bold colors like yellow and the red you see here.
Not merely an exercise in slapping on carbon bodywork, these parts were designed and then tested in a wind tunnel. Although exact figures weren’t available, Hamann claims increased downforce for both the front and rear.
The front fender flares, which extend past the fenders and above the exhaust gills, perhaps in a nod to the SLR 722 GT’s graphics, are the first things the eyes gravitate towards as they elegantly and smoothly blend with the deeper, more pronounced lip spoiler. Both the front and rear fender flares allowed Hamann to stuff wider 21-inch wheels (9x21 fr., 12.5x21 rr.) and tires (255/30ZR-21 fr., 345/25ZR-21 rr.) under them. A pair of side skirts bridge the fender flares and a gigantic fixed rear wing sits on top of a carbon-fiber trunk lid. The hood was modified with a naked carbon midsection that runs from the pointed nose to the windshield. The moveable airbrake system on the trunk lid has been disabled. Under the rear bumper is Hamann’s carbon-fiber diffuser.
Up top is a roof scoop, which, along with the carbon pieces on the C-pillars, don’t seem to add much in terms of function and actually distort the lines. All in all, you could say Hamann achieved their goal of creating a meaner, more menacing SLR. The front fender flares add visual weight and help reduce the perceived length of the front end.
The interior gets a carbon-fiber makeover with new panels on the center console, dashboard and air vent covers. Each car gets a small, numbered plaque affixed to the center console. The car featured here is number three of the nine that have been built so far. Hamann plans to only build 15 in total. Many of the interior surfaces have been covered in Alcantara or leather that’s been color-matched to the car’s body color.