Two things have been around for a long time, Mercedes Benz and Performance Tuning. The two also share intertwined histories as companies such as AMG, Brabus, Renntech, and Lorinser were born and continue to adapt the latest technology to factory Benz models. There are hundreds of tuning companies and race shops throughout the country, but telling them apart can be difficult. Most do not build their own parts, but rather perform the mechanical work for you to add aftermarket exhausts, ECU upgrades, and turbochargers. Some offer full service tuning and testing, but currently there is only one that is attempting to push a natural-gas powered Mercedes to a land speed record.
Speedriven is a Chicago-based firm that is currently working with Bernie Towns to develop this “green” record breaker. Towns’ is an engineer for HighMount Exploration and Production and the companies main focus is natural gas energy. Many of your home appliances, such as the water heater and stove, may run off natural gas, but did you ever think your car would? Actually, Utility and Transportation departments throughout the country have been using natural gas in everything from construction equipment to buses for years; which have helped to reduce costs and improve air quality.
For someone that wants to help the environment, lower costs, and produce tons of horsepower, natural gas is the perfect option for this SL600. Speedriven also provided other performance enhancements for the Mercedes in order to keep it safe under high speeds. Jo Borras of Speedriven speaking about Towns’ said, “He doesn’t just want to do a CNG Benz, though. Bernie wants to break records.”
Hit the jump to learn more about Towns’ vision.
Natural Gas Power
Gas is a term used to describe many different liquids that can have completely different applications. Natural Gas is used throughout the country and is fed by long pipelines to municipal utilities and larger hubs. Its chemical makeup is different than that of the typical gas, but it burns in much the same way. It is combustible inside the engine, but requires some modifications. CNG is stored in a pressurized tank and therefore has to enter a regulator on its way to the engine in order to lower that pressure correctly. At this point the gas is injected into the chamber where it will be ignited by a spark, but in order for natural gas to burn efficiently and provide power the air/gas mixture that is sprayed into the chamber will have to be adjusted. A few other minor modifications may be required for everything to work in unison for extended mileage, but the basics remain the same.
Some companies, like Honda, already offer CNG powered vehicles for personal use. An adapter and pump can be placed on your homes natural gas line to allow refueling at home which is much more convenient than a typical gas station. Regular gas pumps offering ethanol and diesel fuel throughout the country are now also offering CNG, thousands have already done so. With oil recently reaching $100 barrel again in the United States, CNG provides a clean and cheap alternative.
The Car: Mercedes SL600
Town’s also admits to loving Mercedes-Benz as much as high horsepower, so the 2007 SL600 made the perfect base for a high speed record vehicle experiment. The SL 600 is the top of the range model, excluding AMG variants, and before those pumped up models the 600 reigned supreme in the Mercedes world. Any Mercedes guru knows that “600” stands for V12 – and this particular car features a 5.5-liter twin-turbo version. In standard form it produces over 500hp and over 600 lb-ft. of torque. That’s not too shabby, but the guys at Speedriven have made some modifications. For their standard petrol powered version, the SL600 is fitted with top mounted intercoolers, software upgrades, engine block tuner, heat exchanger package, remote coolant reservoir, and a high performance exhaust. These parts come together to make 700hp and propel the car above 180mph.
The design and production of the CNG model has been a long process and new parts were added on slowly to ensure performance and reliability. Before the car was transferred over to CNG fuel, it received a host of new tuning upgrades and countless hours of testing. One new piece that has allowed a kick in performance is the new larger turbochargers. Currently it is making 800hp and over 1,000 lb-ft of torque, but that’s not going to be enough for the vision Towns sees. When it’s all said and done, after everything is dialed in and ready for the big run, he believes the car will benefit from a new aero package and be able to reach the 240mph mark.
An Audi S4 was able to set the current record after being modified to run on bio-gas. This fuel methane created from decomposition of various organic materials and has proven as a viable source of alternative fuel. In 2009, this S4 made over 700hp and hit the record at 364.6 kilometers per hour which is roughly 225mph.
With the Mercedes being more aerodynamic and more powerful, it seems a sure thing that it will be able to break the record. The Texas Mile Event in March will be the ultimate stage for this test to take place. The car is in a series of final tests and preparations for the attempt and Towns’ believes the car is capable of hitting 240mph. Increased support from Mercedes-Benz USA and the ANGA could provide the extra support and information that turns this attempt into a legitimate world record.