My Car Quest

February 23, 2019

The Chrysler ME412 Supercar

It coulda been a contender

by Wallace Wyss –

If you have been guilty of skipping going to the Monterey vintage races in the past because you’re not that into race cars, think of what you might miss. Automakers just love to show a prototype there, you know, take a few laps and start the buzz going.

So it was, back in 2004, as I strolled the pits at Laguna Seca, I saw Chrysler, then partnered with Mercedes, roll out a mid-engined prototype that then proceeded to roar around the track in a very convincing manner, considering a lot of concept cars barely have enough power to wheeze onto the revolving stage at an auto show.

Chrysler ME412

It had about everything you want for an exotic. Like a state of the art chassis of lightweight material, a proven twelve cylinder engine rated at 850 horsepower. Oh and a 0-to-60 mph time that chopped almost two seconds off the time of a 427 Cobra.

And a quarter mile, said Motor Trend in 2004, of 10.6 seconds at 136 mph. Motor Trend said it was America’s answer to the Ferrari Enzo, but then Motor Trend is also the same magazine that promised us a mid-engined Corvette not once but many times. They cried “Wolf” on that one so many times, the story has lost all believability.

Chrysler ME412

Chrysler actually showed the car, the ME Four-Twelve at the Detroit Auto Show in January, 2004.

They said rival auto execs “were quick to write off the ME Four-Twelve as an extravagant corporate ego trip, a glittery show pony that would never turn a wheel in anger”

But Mercedes insisted Chrysler build it as a running, rootin’ tootin’ car that could tear around Laguna Seca, as if to show the world how much development had been done.

Chrysler ME412

The car was not pretty. As I recall it was flat black. And sort of all sharp-edged angles like my favorite plane, the SR-71 Blackbird (a 2000 mph recon plane, see Riverside March Field museum website).

It was built in only four months by a small team under the direction of Chrysler’s SRT special-vehicles chief Dan Knott.

The interior was all race car -like, not kitted out for the street like the one shown in Detroit on the show car stand. After all, in its maiden voyage on a racetrack, it was going to go at race car speeds.

Chrysler ME412

The 6.0-liter V-12–was based on the 612-horsepower twin-turbo AMG engine, turbocharged to 2.5 bar boost. It had an automatic, with six gears, a Riccardo transmission.

Chrysler ME412 Engine

It had some humongously large brakes, six-piston calipers up front and four-piston at the rear.

They let Motor Trend’s editor drive it for five laps and he reported that it was “a work in progress” and needed more transmission work, not to mention it displayed excessive understeer, roll oversteer, yadda yadda, test driver talk.

And if you look at the specs, the sucker was heavy, at 3,200 lbs that’s a street car weight, not a race car.

Upshot was, the car was dead as far as production even as it rolled out onto the track at Laguna Seca, like maybe the day the Luftwaffe fielded those Me-262 jets even as their bases were being bombed by propeller driven American made P-51 Mustangs. Chrysler probably did research and figured there wouldn’t be enough customers. Even the Viper was hard to justify and that was front engined.

Chrysler ME412

And the price, they would probably have to make it $250,000 to see any profit, which would have been an unheard of price for an American car at the time. Even Ford, some many years later, had to price the Ford GT at some outlandish price to make it a reality. And the enthusiast audience is still waiting to see if Ford’s newest mid-engine GT makes it or flops big time.

Dieter Zetsche, the top Daimler official at the time, told Motor Trend he would green light the car. Yeah, and if wishes were horses…

Of course we all know what happened. Daimler Benz decided they really didn’t want to own Chrysler any more, and unceremoniously dumped it. The ME 412 may still exist in the back storage area of the Chrysler Museum if it’s not on display but we may never know why it never got built. I don’t think it was the car or the limited market.

I put the blame on back office politics. Let’s just say that when the Chrysler Crossfire, a sporty two seater on a Mercedes platform was green lighted, Mercedes gave their American partner an old obsolete SLK chassis to build it on, as if they didn’t think they were a firm worth having the current chassis. That’s how much Mercedes trusted Chrysler…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is also a fine artist. His artwork can be seen on wallacewyssfineart.com.

Chrysler ME412

 

 

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Summary
The Chrysler ME412 Supercar
Article Name
The Chrysler ME412 Supercar
Description
This concept car should have gone into production.
Author

Comments

  1. Glenn Krasner says:

    Great article about an interesting car that might have been. The Chrysler Crossfire may have been built as a Mercedes hand-me-down, but it is still impressive, nevertheless.

  2. Rob Krantz says:

    Chrysler has had some beautiful and impressive cars over the decades, both concept and production, over the years, from the 1950’s Chrysler Ghias and some stunning DeSotos, to the Superbird, Hemi Cuda and Challengers, Dodge Charger to the Crossfire, Viper, and even the Plymouth Prowler, which was not my cup of tea necessarily but a daring car to have put in actual production. I have never owned a Chrysler product before but always impressed with many of their cars from a styling standpoint and from a concept car standpoint like the subject car.

  3. Ciaran Payne says:

    Isn’t this similar to the current Audi ?!

  4. Better looking than the Audi by a mile!

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