Back in 1972, when a small group of rebel engineers in Porsche made the pre-production Carrera RS 2.7, a skeptical marketing department despaired over the prospect of selling the 500 road cars to satisfy motorsport homologation requirements.
But when this highly focused lightweight 911 hit showrooms, Porsche couldn't make enough cars to satisfy demand. The growing RS legend, and the resale values that followed, merely served to underline just how much enthusiasts are prepared to pay for the right car.
You'd think the suits in the marketing departments of premium marques would have learned something in the ensuing 35 years, but the run-up to the launch of AMG's C63 in late 2007 showed otherwise. Despite the economic downturn, its debut was followed by demand that far outstripped the sales projections.
As with the 1970s oil crisis, some customers decamp from overt displays of wealth to more discrete transport. Someone with money to spend on a larger car like an S-Class may instead buy a car like the C63 and then spend the difference on aftermarket tuning.
On the other hand, there are customers out there for whom cars like this are tailor-made, who do not need or want a larger car and appreciate the big-engine-in-a-compact-saloon formula for their perfect daily driver. The proliferation of such customers is the reason I have come to Kicherer headquarters, located near the picturesque Lake Constance on the German-Swiss border.
Where a stock C63 looks largely like a plain vanilla C-Class with big wheels to non-enthusiasts, Kicherer's interpretation is anything but. Sitting on 20-inch alloys, it is dropped 35mm and 30mm lower than stock front and rear, which gives it a great stance with the big wheels filling the arches to the brim. The rear arches are wider than stock, as is the rear track. We'll return to how this is achieved later.
The lower and wider aspect is enhanced by the Kicherer front spoiler with deep carbon flipper extensions, side skirts with tubular carbon intakes, carbon-fiber rear underbody diffuser, and the factory rear boot lid spoiler. The final touches are carbon inlays for the door mirrors and carbon treatment for the front grille. LED driving lights are an option, while inside, the changes are restricted to a carbon-trimmed steering wheel and floormats.
One of the keys to the factory C63's good turn-in, grip, and handling is its widened front track. This and the fact that the wider, larger diameter wheels and tires are covered by bespoke front wings with more prominent front wheel arch flares. While this is great for the frontal aspect of the car and its autobahn overtaking presence, it also leaves the rear half of the car looking a little under-developed by comparison.
"Many of our customers asked us if we could do something to widen the rear track and make the car look as purposeful from the rear as it does from the front," explains Florian Herre, co-owner of Kicherer.
Doing so is not a big task if you use the right wheel offsets and possibly small spacers. But you then need to flare the rear arches to make sure everything clears, especially for the snow chains required under German regulations for severe winter conditions.
The body and mechanical alterations needed for AMG cars are factored into development costs on any new Mercedes model. But while the tooling costs of wider bolt-on front fenders and a beefier-looking bonnet with power bulges was factored in, altering the rear wheel arches of the basic C-Class bodyshell for a low-volume model would have taken the spend into orbit.
On a case-by-case basis for an aftermarket tuner like Kicherer, a client willing to pay the labor and material costs to do this work is a good customer. In this case, the client let Herre's team use his car for prototyping work and a suitable discount was negotiated.