Jekyll & Hyde Mercedes-Benz CLS Duo

SoCal pals Mike Chou and John Rhee face off with their individual takes on the CLS.

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Story: Michael Crenshaw

Photography: Scott Dukes

There are two sides to every story. Whether you hear it from different people or the same head twice, accounts tend to end differently the second time around. For Mike Chou and John Rhee, what started as the same ol’ story quickly split into two amazingly different tales.

Both owners of Mercedes’ four-door CLS coupe, Chou and Rhee each decided to turn their German-bred muscle into showstopping pieces that steered away from their Japanese import-tuning pasts. “I was a JDM guy, but then I went over to the dark side,” Chou admits. Rhee was also about stepping his game up a notch: “I’ve always done more Japanese vehicles and imports. I wanted to take things to the next level as far as building something European.”

Both part of the TWC (Tuning Werks Competition) crew—whose members include RIDES features such as an Infiniti FX (Oct/Nov 2008)—the dual CLSs became part of the mix through their unmistakable attraction of opposites. Beginning their lives as two identical CLSs, a dividing line quickly split the two cars; Chou focusing on subtlety and sleekness, while Rhee went the way of extreme and extensive. Both had their own method of modifying which, when pushed to the limit, snowballed into split personalities.

Since he started with a sight-unseen car, Chou was involved with every aspect of his CLS build—relying on weekly e-mail updates for four months, and even wiring cash to a local Mercedes dealer so that Car Nutz Customz (CNC) of Bellevue, Washington, could pick up the Benz right from the lot. “I bought it and everything was done at once,” says Chou. “It went from stock to where it is in just four months.”

After CNC completed the interior and exterior, Chou’s CLS was shipped to EvoSport of Huntington Beach, California, where the shop bolted on a supercharger and every single piece of engine work they offered to complete the clean—and insanely powerful—German machine.

When asked if the new CLS will fit his style, Chou is outspoken: “The best way I can describe it is that they dropped it on its face, turned it back around and dropped it on its ass, and that’s how they got it to look like that.”

Rhee, on the other hand, knew his car was going to be as extreme as it gets. “Chou’s is a lot more subtle, a cleaner look; something, more or less, he can pretty much drive every day, as opposed to mine, which is completely a show car,” Rhee boasts.

With showstopper status in mind, Rhee also tapped CNC for his transformation. Given strict instructions to give this CLS a more upscale appearance, the shop chopped the interior in half, brought it out a quarter inch and custom-molded ambient lighting throughout the entire car. Nothing inside is original—a detail that shows in spades with the front and rear armrests connecting via bridge, which also houses an eight-inch flip-up monitor.

Touring SoCal events and making a statement wherever they roll, Chou and Rhee maintain a friendly rivalry over who’s the dopest of the dope. Ask what their favorite aspects of their cars are and the split personalities show. Chou is all about the raw, menacing power and torque of a supercharged V8, while Rhee invites attention through his stylish, innovative interior. Jekyll and Hyde, for sure.

Spec The Technique:

Mike Chou’s white CLS:

Performance: Ported supercharger; ported surge tanks; EvoSport Evolution 1 and 2 Power Package, performance headers, 80 mm throttle body upgrade; carbon-fiber intake; six-piston Brembo Big Brake Kit; custom lowering links

Interior: Mercedes CLK 63 AMG Black Series steering wheel; Brabus brushed-aluminum pedal set; custom carbon-fiber dash and front seatbacks by P- Factor; Alcantara headliner; Alcantara double-diamond-stitched front seats

Exterior: Brabus Rocket front bumper, Rocket vented hood, Rocket side skirts with LED puddle lights; carbon-fiber B-pillars, roof and mirrors; AMG rear-deck spoiler

Ice: Two 12-inch Image Dynamics IDQ subwoofers, speakers, tweeters; two Zapco digital amplifiers; custom carbon-fiber amp enclosure; two Savv 7-inch headrest monitors with wireless headphones; three 10-inch LCD monitors in the trunk lid; Nintendo Wii

Wheels/Tires: 21-inch Modulare Forged H1 wheels; Falken FK452 255/30/21 front, 295/25/21 rear tires

John Rhee’s red-and-black CLS:

Performance: Supersprint headers; high-flow metallic cat system; connecting pipe; mufflers; VRP 80 mm throttle body kit; cam shafts; carbon air tubes; carbon airbox; crank pulley kit; Brembo Gran Turismo brake kit

Interior: CLK63 Black Series steering wheel; Car Nutz carbon-fiber trim; carbon seat-backs; custom Alcantara interior; custom fabricated interior console

Exterior: Brabus Rocket front bumper; Porsche 997 LED driving lamps; Lorinser front fenders, side skirts, roof spoiler, rear bumper; carbon-fiber roof, front grille, side mirrors and hood; custom two-tone PPG Vibrance Candy Apple Red with Pearl Red Brilliance paint and silver pinstriping

Ice: Two Audison LRx 1.1ks, LRx 4.1k; Bit One; four Hertz SPL Show subwoofers; four Mille MLK 3.1s; two Savv PVD-7080 DVD players; six 7-inch LM-A7030W; two HRP-X1020DVD headrest monitors; PlayStation 3

Wheels/Tires: 21-inch HRE 893R wheels; Michelin PilotSport PS2 255/30/21 front, 295/25/21 rear tires