John Rhee's 2007 Mercedes CLS55 AMG
We first spotted this car at SEMA ’08 out in the front lot getting passed up by many of the graying hot rodders waddling around the grounds. For us, this body style is as beautiful and timeless as any ‘32 Ford Coupe and we started sniffing around to track down the owner. Ironically, that night we met owner John Rhee at an afterhours party on the Las Vegas strip where he was pitching us on featuring his Mercedes. We all had a good laugh when our alcohol-fueled banter was about the same CLS55 AMG! Upon expressing interest to feature his Benz, Rhee decided he was going to improve upon it even more to prove to us it was cover worthy. Naturally, when the pictures showed up months later, we were impressed with the end result and the way our sharp shooting photographer Josh Mackey captured it.
John Rhee's 2007 Mercedes CLS55 AMG
A culmination of hundreds of man hours and over a year of modifications, it is easy to see where all the attention was focused – on the exterior. In a move that was traditionally frowned upon, Rhee’s project integrates both Lorinser and Brabus branded components on the svelte exterior of the project. With a Brabus Rocket front bumper, the rear is complimented by a Lorinser Evolution rear bumper as are the sideskirts. Lorinser Evolution vented front fenders were added and fitted with LED lights. The carbon hood was reformed with ridges and then candied for effect. A custom carbon fiber roof was crafted, as was the front grille with controversial tri-star delete. Finally, the car was shot in its trademark two-tone paint job to give it the stunning look that earned it this issue’s cover spot.

The chance to land the cover didn’t come easy and careful selection of the rollers ensured a spot in PAS Magazine history. Rhee contacted HRE for a custom set of 890R wheels in 21-inch sizing. The fronts are an impressive 21x9-inches with the rear measuring 21x10.5-inches both of which wear Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires. The already impressive AMG brakes were bumped up to Brembo 6-piston / 405mm combo fitted to the front axles and 380mm in the rear gripped by 4-piston monoblock calipers.

John Rhee's 2007 Mercedes CLS55 AMG

Now we’ll tell you why Rhee needed to upgrade the brakes! The CLS55 was tweaked to produce over 700hp! Tuned by a VRP ECU, the list of upgrades enhances this performance sedan’s already great abilities. A VRP crank pulley was added to churn more boost out of the supercharger. The airways have been opened up with VRP carbon airboxes, carbon tubing and polished 80mm throttle bodies. The cams were replaced with high-lift VRPs to make maximum use of the extra air introduced to the mix. A VRP intercooler kit has been added on the chilled side with VRP long tube headers on the hot side connected to a stainless dual exhaust system.

The luxurious interior of the CLS55 doesn’t require much of an upgrade, but the CNC crew decided to reinvent it in a way that at first surprised Rhee. “The interior is certainly not what one would expect inside a CLS… I am still in shock by how radical it is but how well it works with the exterior,” says Rhee.

John Rhee's 2007 Mercedes CLS55 AMG

The CNC team started by carefully stripping the fine leather hides off the frames and sourced out some even more expensive fabrics. Leather was mixed with a diamond stitched Alcantara to create one unique appearance inside. The seat backs were molded in carbon fiber and then candied to match the exterior. The steering wheel was molded in carbon fiber and all of the wood trim was re-engineered in hot candy apple red carbon fiber.

John Rhee's 2007 Mercedes CLS55 AMG

The fabric treatment was carried on to the trunk where the under lid was recovered in Alcantara. Then five LCD screens were fitted to the fiberglass subframe to replay streams from several different sources. Lurking beneath the trunk are twin JL 12-inch subs firing forward powered by a JL Audio monoblock amp. The balance of the system are Focal components powered by a JL Audio 4-channel amp. The OEM headunit remains up front offering all of the playback formats and navigation needed.

John Rhee's 2007 Mercedes CLS55 AMG

Plated and registered, you just might see this car running the streets sometime. A departure from what you might expect to see in a custom Benz with an almost Hotrod inspired approached to customization. The team at CNC is certainly rewriting the rules on how to set your car apart from the rest.

Owner: John Rhee
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Vehicle: 2007 Mercedes CLS55 AMG
Power: 700HP

VRP 80mm Throttle Body
VRP Cams
VRP Carbon Airtubes
VRP Carbon Airbox
VRP Carbon Engine Cover
VRP Crank Pulley
VRP Intercooler Kit
VRP Longtube Headers/Exhaust
VRP Xtreme Belt Wrap
Total HP Est. 700+


Brembo 405mm/6 Piston Monoblock
Brembo 380mm/4 Piston Monoblock
HRE 890R, 21 x 9 ET 28
HRE 890R, 21 x 10.5 ET 27
Michelin Pilot Sport 2

Brabus Rocket Front Bumper
Lorinser Evolution Fenders
Lorinser Evolution Side Skirts
Lorinser Evolution Roof Spoiler
Lorinser Evolution Rear Bumper, PDC
Custom Carbon Accent on Rocket Front Bumper with LED Lighting
Custom Carbon Accent on Diffuser of Lorinser
Rear Bumper
Custom Ridges on Hood in Carbon
LED Puddle Lights on Side Skirts and Rear Bumper
Paint, dual color exterior from beltline including inner areas
Custom CF Front Grill with Mercedes TriStar Delete
Vacuum Bagged CF Roof, including R/R of front/rear glass
CF Side Mirrors
CF B Pillars

CF Interior Trim: All Wood Trim, Seat Backs, and Door Caps
CF CLK BS Steering Wheel
OEM CLK BS Steering Wheel Custom CF
Alcantara and Leather
LED Accent Lighting Along Interior Beltline
Labor for Complete Interior (150 hours)
Custom 2-Tone Diamond Stitch / Alcantara & Leather

Jl Audio Slash 500/1V2 Amps X2
Jl Audio Slash 300/2V2 Amps X2
Jl Audio Evolution Zr650-Csi Components X2
Jl Audio Cleansweep Cl441-Dsp
Jl Audio Cleansweep Cl-Ssi
Jl Audio Cleansweep Cl-Ses
Jl Audio Cl-Rlc X2
Savv Pvd-7080 1/2 Din Dvd Player X2
Savv Lm-A7030W 7” Monitors X6
Savv Hrp-X1020Dvd Headrest Monitors W/Built In
Dvd Players X2
Savv Pvda26A Video Amplifiers X3
Savv Prc1 Remote Controllers X3
Savv Video Switcher
Exonic-Tv Interface
Memphis Audio 16-Se2.50 Amps X3
Memphis Audio 15-Se42 4” Speakers X3
Playstation 3

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