The History of the Cult Tuning Studios: Carlsson The story of why the BMW tuner took over the Mercedes

1971 – Founding of Hartge

Hartge, founded by brothers Herbert and Rolf Hartge, started life as an ordinary BMW car workshop, but a few years later became a well-known tuning studio in West Germany. To prove the efficiency of their upgraded cars, the brothers decided to exhibit a modified BMW 3 Series at the 1978 rally. The car was piloted by a talented Swedish racer Ingvar Karlsson.

1980 – Karlsson and Mercedes

After a great season, Karlsson decides to return to racing the Mercedes he had previously driven. It would seem that the roads Karlsson and the Hartge brothers should part… But a third Hartge brother, Andreas, who wasn’t too fond of BMW sports cars but preferred the more comfortable Mercedes cars, enters the game. He decides to help Ingvar Karlsson in his performances and, together with his brother Rolf, prepare a W123 for him (pictured). In 1981, the car was replaced by the 500 SLC.

1989 – creation of Carlsson

By the end of the ’80s Andreas Hartge fully realized, that tuning Mercedes is “his”, and therefore there is a quite natural desire to create his own company. It would not be appropriate to use the last name Hartge so as not to crowd “cats and dogs” under one roof, that’s why it was decided to name the company after Ingvar Carlsson, the person who had made its first tuning works famous. At the same time, Andreas began to make the first “test drives” using elements from Hartge (the photo shows the Carlsson C300 based on the E-Class W124 with Hartge rims), and even modified, suddenly, the Toyota Celica and Saab models.

1990 – first races

To survive a fledgling company needed to make a name for itself, and in the car business there was no better way to do this than racing. Already by 1990 Carlsson had built the first race car for the Touring Car Group A based on a Mercedes 190. The car was named Carlsson C35.

1991 – boosted engines

The first road cars that had something more than an upgraded exterior rolled out of the company’s gates in 1991-they were the E-Class (Carlsson C35 W124) and S-Class (Carlsson C36 W140), followed a year later by the 190s (Carlsson C35 W201, pictured). The 3.5 versions developed 275 hp and allowed the E-Class to accelerate to 252 km/h

1993 – its wheels

No matter how you look at it, this is an important milestone in the biography of the tuning studio, whose previous wheels were very reminiscent of those of Hartge. The new wheel design of Design 1/6 (pictured) would be so successful, that similar wheels would soon appear on the production Mercedes cars. In the same year, the Carlsson C36 based on the first C-Class W202, with 280 horsepower under the hood, appears.

1994 – Carlsson C70

The bar for power was set with the Carlsson C70 based on the SL roadster. The 6.9 liter V12 developed 496 hp and 690 Nm, which provides a top speed of 290 km/h. In the same year, there is an exasperated C-Class C36RS with 336 hp engine and a top speed of 275 km/h.

1997 – crazy roadster

The CM74 was the gravedigger of both the AMG and Brabus SLs: Its 7.4-liter V12 developed an incredible 560 horsepower for its time and allowed it to accelerate to 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds. The gearbox was a six-speed manual, which was atypical for Carlsson (the company has always tried to have an automatic in its cars, which is more suited to the relaxed nature of Mercedes).

2000 – flagship

This year, the S-Class limousine, the W220, went under the scalp. The resulting C60 version not only featured a boosted engine and a neat bodykit, but it could also be ordered with bucket seats not only in the front but also in the back. Plus, Carlsson could even install a safety cage.

2001 – The Compressor Era

2001 saw Carlsson create its own supercharger, which would later be used on many of the company’s cars. The era didn’t last long – until Mercedes started switching to turbocharging en masse – but the system proved successful and was highly praised by specialists in Japan.

2006 Design Award

By 2006, Carlsson had churned out the widest range of top-of-the-line rims, not to mention a variety of bodies. For this, the atelier was awarded the first design prize by the German Tuners Association.

2013 – exclusive on 4 levels

Now the company produces scale tuning packages for almost all Mercedes models (except the GT sports car), and carries out tuning on 4 levels. 1 – available to everyone (installation of wheels). 2 – dealer level (installation of dodgers, exhaust systems, etc.). 3 – a highly specialized dealer level (replacement of elements of the engine and suspension). And 4 – the “at your expense, any whim” level: the Mercedes is taken to the headquarters in Merzig, where it is made the way the customer wants it to be.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *