If someone told you this 2006 CLS 55 AMG was invisible to radar, would you believe it? DC Shoes co-founder, Ken Block, commissioned Ai Design (of Tuckahoe, New York) to build a car that would look stunning in matte black. Block was flexible with all sorts of other details, including the type of car, but the one requirement was the color. According to Ai's co-founder, Matt Figliola, he knew right away that Mercedes' four-door coupe would make an outstanding canvas. The car is long, wide and low-perfect for what Block had in mind.

Contrasting the matte black paint are the formerly chrome details that have been coated in a glossy piano black finish. The combination of matte and shiny black pieces is menacing and classy at the same time. A full Brabus body kit adds to the sleek appearance and Brabus' electronic lowering module enables the car to fly extra low and stealthily at the touch of a button. Very black 20-inch Radenergie wheels cover monster eight-piston orange Brembo calipers and 15-inch rotors in the front and four-piston orange Brembos with 13.6-inch rotors in the rear.

What's the use of being invisible if there isn't some extra oomph under that vented matte black hood? Figliola and the guys at Ai took the liberty of adding Brabus' K8 engine kit to the 5.5-liter supercharged AMG V8. By utilizing high-performance metal catalysts as well as modifications to the supercharger drive (with the help of a custom vibration damper and new pulley for improved belt drive looping), the K8 kit bumps power north of 550 bhp. This CLS has been improved in every quantifiable area of performance. Adding some DC Shoes flair to the project are various embroidered DC logos throughout the interior as well as a sculpted metal version (in piano black, of course) affixed to the trunk.

It's possible there's no trickier paint job than the matte finish. According to Ai, you only get one chance to get the process right. The nature of the finish means there are no opportunities for polishing, wet-sanding or blending after the paint is applied. The fact that you can study this car for hours and not see any flaws is testament to the quality of the work.

This year marks Ai Design's 15th anniversary. The 12-man operation has truly found its niche, specializing in building complete cars for a discerning clientele, all work done in-house. According to Figliola, the company is operated with exacting professionalism and attention to detail, and customers respond well to that approach. "We're not inexpensive," Figliola admits, "but you really do get what you pay for."

2006 Mercedes-Benz CLS 55 AMG
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive

5.5-liter V8, sohc, three valves per cylinder, supercharged and intercooled, Brabus K8 power kit, metallic catalysts, custom supercharger pulley

Five-speed automatic

Brabus electronic lowering module

Brembo eight-piston calipers with 15-in. rotors (f), Brembo four-piston calipers with 13.6-in. rotors (r)

Wheels and Tires
Radenergie R10, 9x20 (f),11x20 (r)Michelin Pilot Sport, 255/30 (f)295/25 (r)

Brabus full body kit consisting of front bumper, grille, vented hood, side skirts and trunk lid spoiler, all exterior panels painted matte black paint, glossy piano black trim, custom DC Shoes exterior badging

DC Shoes logo embroidered in headrests, Brabus sport steering wheel, custom vehicle side and trunk illumination, Valentine V1 radar detection with etched rear-view mirror display and iPod/MOST interface

Peak Power: 561 bhp
Peak Torque: 602 lb-ft

By Brad Beardow
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