A Car Is Born
When it came time to find a suitable vehicle for his Millennium Adventure, Jim Rogers had only the most general notions about what he wanted.
"I went around the world once on a motorcycle and that was extraordinary," he explains. "But, as wonderful as that was, doing it again would have been anticlimactic so I decided a sports car would offer a similar experience and still be different."
With his lack of automotive savvy, Rogers needed someone to help him turn those vague ideas into a reality capable of carrying him around the world. His search took him to the International Off-Road Show in Munich, Germany, and, eventually, to southern California where he met Gerhard Steinle, an independent designer who also just happened to be the former head of Mercedes' North American design studio.
"At first, Jim said he was thinking about mounting a Porsche cabriolet body on Toyota four-wheel-drive platform, which I thought sounded like a crazy idea," says Steinle. "But after giving it some thought, I did some quick measurements and found that the Mercedes SLK roadster would be a perfect fit on the chassis of the short wheelbase G-Wagon."
Steinle showed some initial renderings to Rogers, and the Mercedes GLK was born. He then contacted his former colleagues at Mercedes who agreed to donate both the bright-yellow SLK and the two G-Wagons (a short-wheelbase two-door for the conversion and a four-door model that served as a support vehicle). With just two months before the car was scheduled to debut at the SEMA show in Las Vegas, the folks at Metalcrafters, a local firm that specializes in creating concept cars for auto manufacturers, set to work turning the two vehicles into one. Steinle says he's still surprised, not to mention pleased, to see how well his unique off-roadster design held up to three hard years on the road.
"There were few problems with the GLK, which is great considering how little time we had to put the body and chassis together, build the matching trailer, and test the whole thing."
Looking back, Rogers believes the vehicle Steinle built opened doors and made friends in a way no ordinary sport/utility vehicle could ever hope to do. In fact, he says the GLK was key to the success of his journey in some rather unexpected ways.
"When we came driving up in that bright-yellow convertible we startled so many people that it probably saved our lives many times," says Rogers. "Most people have never seen a yellow car period, let alone one like ours, and I'm quite sure that a lot of the bad guys we ran into probably thought to themselves 'why didn't we rob or kidnap those people?'"