It was one of those hot summer afternoons, I was taking a stroll in Knightsbridge for some old fashioned car spotting. As the saying goes in England, good weather brings out good cars. I ran into a few familiar car spotters and exchanged notes just to see what nice cars were in town that day.
This is the part of London where G63s, Cullinans and Urus get ignored by car spotters as they are just too many. Anything below that caliber gets ignored as well, so when i heard the unmistakable sound of an M156 engine I decided to leave my friends who were all waiting for a McLaren Senna to start up as the owner finished a coffee.
To my surprise, I could not find the vehicle making that sound, I knew for sure it was the 6.2L V8 AMG engine but there was nothing present to claim that noise. A few cars came with that engine, an SLS AMG would be a nice sight but the most popular car with that engine is the W204 C63 AMG. There was mild traffic ahead but nothing familiar, just a couple of Flying Spurs and the usual BMW i7 chauffeur cars.
As I turned around to walk back to the McLaren Senna, traffic started moving and the sound came alive again. At this point I was determined to unravel the mystery.
“Show yourself M156!” I thought to myself, as if a show of hands was the next signage. Then a black cab appeared, very black. But upon closer inspection I realized it was not a black cab at all but a Mercedes-Benz Ponton dressed in full black. By full black I mean darkness, see for yourself.
Fast forward, I got my camera ready and made a few videos which would later take the internet by storm, going viral in every instance someone posted them. By the end of that week, this all black Ponton had been viewed over 20 million times on social media. This is when it became my mission to locate the car as my next Project Exposure feature.
The year is 1961, MB 190 is the hardest sedans on the market (ok bit less cooler than the fintails of that era) but still. 6 decades later this one has been revived with a full W204 powertrain and interior. 6.2L AMG V8, I’m not sure if it’s even legal. pic.twitter.com/zZ4y4TNCyY
— Earl Karanja (@Earlsimxx) August 15, 2023
Locating the owner was easy, the internet has made things easy today. The company that built it was tagged numerous times on my post and we managed to set a date for shoot and some explanation. What followed next was a story that I never expected, the most orthodox approach to a project car.
Refill your cup of tea and listen to what the owner had to say…
The company that built it is called Xtreem Motors based in Mitcham, a small village in Southwest London. Ivo the owner ran me through the project and even though I didn’t take any notes it’s hard to forget how the whole thing came to be.
It all started in 2020 just about when Covid lockdowns were in their prime, car prices had tanked and the whole world was in major panic mode. Ivo had acquired an old rusty Mercedes-Benz Ponton for next to nothing and he needed to build something out of it. With no work coming to the workshop due to Covid, he decided to get busy on a personal project.
Ivo started life on the streets of London after migrating from Bulgaria, having grown up working for his fathers garage business he was able to monetize his acquired skills as a street mechanic in London early 2000s. He eventually saved up enough to set up his garage business just like his father and as of this writing his last 23 years have seen him set up one of the biggest car and motorcycle specialist centers in Southwest London. Quoting him, “…I don’t remember not having dirty oily hands while growing up, I was always in the garage with my dad”.
So what happens when you have a big empty garage facility during lockdown? Mechanics cannot stay home all day even if the world is falling apart, they will always find things to fix or make. Ivo traveled out of London where a young lad needed some urgent cash in exchange for his 2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe (W204).
The lad had advertised it for about £25,000 but Ivo negotiated the price down to £17,000 for a quick deal. It was a lovely white C63 AMG Coupe with the performance pack and classic red nappa leather interior. He traveled with some cash as deposit, the balance was to be done by wire transfer. But upon arrival at the lad’s house, things took a sudden turn.
The lad came to the window covered up like a mummy, he refused to open the door and directed Ivo to drop the cash in a basket. Ivo, a bit confused now, stepped back but it dawned on him that the young lad simply did not want to catch covid. So he dropped the cash outside the house, immediately the keys were thrown to him and he was directed to take the car and leave! He still needed to wire the rest of the money but the young man didn’t care for any of that, he just wanted him gone.
Anyway, Ivo drove back home smiling at the whole situation and how it unfolded dramatically. He had two cars and too much time on his hands, a few of his mechanics were still around despite the restrictions on people movement. Working from home will not cut it for this particular project.
This is what i understood of this project, or rather let me put it like this. 1961 Mercedes-Benz Ponton + 2012 C63 AMG = Ponton 63 AMG. Simply put, two cars became one. Let’s find out how, and if you are not refilling your cup yet then get a smaller mug damn it.
The first step was to detach the Ponton shell from its chassis, this involved a rigorous process that looked like scaffolding. Another team was busy stripping down the W204 C63 AMG Coupe, here they were removing the body parts while retaining the chassis, interior, flooring, engine and all the electronics.
I don’t even know what to call it, maybe the gallery below will explain better. Within a week they had stripped both cars down. The C63 AMG only had the chassis left to it, it could still run as the engine and electronics were left intact. They had to take the interior out to create a working space but the dashboard was largely left intact. Even the sensors were left intact.
Then they took the shell of the Ponton and put it on the C63 AMG chassis. Of course it would never fit, and that’s why we all thought the most logical process would be to take the C63 powertrain and put it into the Ponton. However, the Ponton’s chassis would never handle the torque and power of a modern day AMG let alone a naturally aspirated V8 engine that runs on a secret cocktail of elephant’s testical juice.
So they literally forced the Ponton shell on the C63 AMG platform. Remember this is a 2 door car so new pillars also needed to be modified, a lot of framing was done and the entire car has a fully welded/bolted roll cage to increase the rigidity. The exhaust pipings you see in the rear section are part of the extra framing needed for stability, so no, those are not functional and are not related to the actual exhaust system.
The interior is fully W204 C63 AMG, without the extra insulation and padding, no air bags either but you do get a 6 point harness system which you don’t need unless you have a helmet on.
The car is lighter than the original C63 thanks to its bare naked interior. Other than the seats and the dashboard, the interior is pretty much naked. I noticed the roof gets pretty hot which in turns makes the cabin hotter but you have fully functioning A/C from a modern German sedan. I had to ask him to turn off the A/C as it was getting quite chilly during our short drive to central London.
Speaking of the drive, it drives like a modern car, imagine a lighter C63 AMG. The torque is almost instant and you will get multiple wheelspins if your foot is too quick to the floor. In comfort mode it drives very quietly but in Sport and Sport+ the bully comes alive. You even have manual mode, as i said earlier they retained all the electronics from the 2012 AMG.
So then, what do you call this? A Ponton project or a C63 AMG project. Two cars became one, they exist within each other.
For now adios, see you next time when we find another cool project to expose.