Home-Built Merc Le Mans Winner Replica to Star at the Classic Car Show on December 1 at Nasrec
Johan Ackermann’s loving recreation of his all-time favourite sports car took him 16 months to build in his home workshop on the East Rand. It’s based on the Sauber Mercedes C9, which won the Le Mans 24-Hour in 1989, the drivers among others being German F1 ace Jochen Mass, who was once married to a South African woman and lived in Cape Town in those years!
Since completing the car some two years ago, Johan has re-styled the front end, particularly in the windscreen area, where he wasn’t quite happy with the shape, and The Classic Car Show at Nasrec on December 1 will be a chance for petrol-heads to see the re-styled car that is in fact globally famous, as it has appeared on the Top Gear UK website, eliciting favourable comments from all over the world.
Johan, who is a 58-years-old, used a 1/32 scale model car of the Le Mans winner to devise the shape of the car, and then scaled it up. And being a die-hard Mercedes-Benz fan, every major mechanical component is Mercedes-Benz derived, sourced from his unofficial sponsors, CJ Auto of Edenvale, who specialise in Mercedes components.
“I used a V6 engine from an S-Class Mercedes-Benz, and I added twin turbos to the engine, making the intercooler induction system to resemble the original C9’s system as closely as possible.
“I toyed with the idea of using a V8 as was originally fitted to the Le Mans winner, but I went for the V6 for a number of reasons. One of them was that I have used a C-Class manual gearbox and a C-Class diff and rear axle. The set-up is engine, gearbox and then diff, with the ‘box mating directly onto the gearbox at the back with no prop-shaft. The shorter V6 gave me the space to do this, as I didn’t have access to the fancy purpose-built transmission used on the race car. Not to mention, I didn’t have the money!
Johan has used braking systems from other Merc models, including the front discs from an S600 V12, which are of Brembo origin. At the rear he uses Merc S500 brakes, none of which use ABS, as he wanted the car to conform as closely as possible to the technology used back in 1989.
The chassis uses a basic box-section steel frame, to which Johan mounted C-Class front and rear suspension systems. But he used a steering box instead of a rack-and-pinion system, as he had a unique driving position in mind for the car.
“Packaging a car like this is the big challenge, especially for someone who doesn’t have all the design computing tools at their disposal as Mercedes did even back in 1989. I went for a single seat in the cockpit, mounted in the centre. My wife doesn’t like speed, so I am quite happy that it is in fact a single seater.
To form the shape of the body, he constructed a metal frame following the shape of the car, covered it with tough 4 mm cardboard on both inner and outer sides of the frame, and then laid on fibre glass mat and resin to form a super-tough steel-reinforced fibre glass sandwich structure. He also constructed a robust roll cage for the cockpit cell.
How fast? With the twin turbo set up and light weight, and an estimated 300 kW on tap, Johan says he saw a simulated speed of over 250 km at 5 600 rpm, while the engine spins to 6 800 revs.
“But I’m too old for those sorts of fun and games, especially as this is a road car!” says Johan.
The amazing Merc C9 replica will be just one of over 1 000 cars expected to make The Classic Car Show, an event to remember on December 1. Hot rods, muscle cars, classic British and Italian sports cars, American mobile land yachts, VW Kombis and Beetles, you name it and those cars will be there!
The Classic Car Show will run for the whole of Sunday, December 1, at the Nasrec Expo Centre, south-west of Johannesburg. Entrants in classic cars will be granted free admission for the driver of the car. Admission prices are R60 per adult, while children under 12 will be charged R20.
“Classic cars are a fantastic hobby that the whole family can take part in, “ says Paulo Calisto. “My advice to anyone who has an interest in cars is to get into the classic family as soon as possible, because this is where you’ll find people from all walks of life with petrol in their veins.
“In this regard we have been running a website, classiccars.co.za, for some years and we offer hundreds of classic cars for sale through our portal.”