RE: The Brave Pill: Mercedes CLK 55 AMG

RE: The Brave Pill: Mercedes CLK 55 AMG

Sunday 24th February

The Brave Pill: Mercedes CLK 55 AMG

There's a star on the front, an AMG badge on the back and a 350hp V8 between them. Get it bought!



PH recently moved into a gleaming new corporate office which is far too nice for us. It's clean, modern, has a view of something other than air conditioning units and - in the parts we don't occupy - seems to be largely populated by the sort of wholesome millennials who get cast in adverts for Apple products. Which perhaps explains our greater-than-normal zeal to keep things real, and not just through the continued purchase of the sort of budget biscuits made from stale offcuts of better-known brands.

Despite the glitzy new HQ our collective love for automotive bargains is undiminished, especially when it comes to the sort of faded stars which would be marked with higher and redder numbers on a financial product's risk-to-reward scale. This is an attempt to find some well-chosen examples for your delight, delectation and possibly virulent disagreement. An attempt that - after several seconds of thought - has been dubbed the Brave Pill (though we toyed with 'Hit or Money Pit', 'PH Risky Business' and, of course, 'Monkey Tennis'). Depending on your collective reaction it will run either regularly, or once.

We've decided to start with something obvious. Jaws will be undropped and mouthfuls of tea unspat at the decision to kick things off with a big-engined Mercedes. Supply and demand has stacked this part of the market heavily when it comes to Stuttgart's one-time finest, with a plentitude of both long-lived brawny Benzes and scary stories of wallet-melting bills to send normal buyers sprinting for the hills like boring, sensible cowards. Or, to summarize, this is what a five-grand AMG looks like.


It's a proper AMG, too - an honest-looking W-reg C208 CLK 55 which seems to have worn the best part of two decades well and which has an appropriately muscular V8 at the sharp end. Cheaper AMGs do turn up - usually the unloved W202 C-Class in either six-cylinder 36 or baby V8 43 guises - but the CLK features the full fat 5.4-litre version of the mighty M113 V8, meaning 347hp, get-thee-gone torque and performance that is still impressive nearly 20 years later. It also boasts a soundtrack bristly enough to need two shaves a day.

Yet, by the standards of elderly AMGs, there's a degree of sensibleness in our selection, too. The whole point is that - like a pestering mate - we want you to swallow the brave pill. The 55 comes from before Mercedes started filling its most expensive models with failure-prone technology, the borking of which often serves to turn more recent examples into shiny bricks. As such, the C208 doesn't have air suspension or the Sensotronic Brake Control system which checks out after a set number of cycles.

Let's not go overboard here, the CLK definitely isn't a product of Merc's bank-vault-build-quality era. By the late 1990s the brand's engineers were cutting more corners than a groundsman at the Nordschliefe, and the CLK's origins are considerably more humble than its front-end styling suggests. Design aped the quad headlight look of the contemporary W210 E-Class, with a similar rear light treatment too, while underneath the Coupe sat on the humbler and older underpinnings of the first-gen C-Class. On the plus side, it did get most of the E's nicer-feeling interior, with this car having been either specified - or retrofitted - with what must have been a state-of-the-art COMAND infotainment system.


Dynamic sophistication will be limited. The CLK is definitely from the era of road going AMG products that lived life one - preferably smooth - straight at a time. I'm just old enough to have driven a press car when new, my abiding memories are the frantic strobing of the yellow stability control light that sits in the middle of the instrument pack when trying to unleash the V8 on a bumpy road - and steering that mumbled feedback.

If you're looking for an M3 rival then keep walking, and keep saving. The CLK 55 is about as undercover as it is possible to be, barely distinguishable from the lesser CLK500 or even the four-cylinder 230 Kompressor. This was before Merc's designers found the keys to the steroid cupboard. It's a mild shock to realise something this potent rode into battle on 17-inch alloys. But there's also a strong appeal to have a big, angry V8 in something so unassuming.

Even if you attach zero value to the rest of the car, the engine is still worth the price of admission. At the turn of the century AMG was still very close to its tuner roots, with the 5.4-litre version of the M113 having been given a forged crankshaft, pistons and rods. It's hugely strong - if looked after properly - with this car's 109,000 miles translating to an average of just under 6,000 a year.


Of course, there are plenty of other potential problems to trap the unwary; don't forget the market is pricing in a significant amount of risk with this valuation. Torque converters for the standard five-speed auto have been known to wilt under pressure, the gearbox needs oil and filter changes at 50,000 mile intervals. Electrical gremlins are as common as on pretty much every other Merc from this era and can be expensive and frustrating to hunt down. Then there's the big one - tinworm - with early CLKs capable of rusting like the Titanic.

Yet while some cars practically dissolve in front of you - the internet blaming various shades of water-based paint - others are practically unaffected. I've had a good squint at the pictures and can't see any evidence of catastrophic rust; the lower edge of the passenger door might be a little crinkly, or it could just be dirt. There's nothing too scary in the MOT history of this car, though, the recurring themes being the brake pipe corrosion and worn suspension components you might expect in such a middle-aged warrior. We're even promised a respectable amount of service history and four recent tyres, which appear to be Continentals rather than anything too comical.

Of course, it won't be cheap to keep something like this running and in fine fettle, the next keeper should probably have a well-trusted Mercedes specialist on speed dial. There are 16 sparkplugs and eight coil packs for starters, and economy will only break into the 20s under the sort of gentle use the car does absolutely nothing to encourage. But can you look into those big, dewy eyes and say that you're not at least a little bit tempted? No, neither can we.


See the original ad here.

Author
Discussion

blasos

Original Poster:

217 posts

101 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Such a good looking car. Always wanted a CLK 55 and a Z3M Coupe. A great era for cars.

stevieeg

266 posts

69 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
This sounds like my kind of series.

Raygun

2,450 posts

59 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
The AMG badge was a rare sight once which would've gave a bit of appeal to this old barge but I'm afraid it's just another old barge now in that bland Merc colour.

Nigel_O

1,557 posts

158 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Is it just a dodgy camera angle, or does the ‘55’ not line up properly with the ‘CLK’ on the bootlid?

Might point to a lazy bodyshop after rear end accident damage, or just a wonky camera (or possibly my wonky eyes....)

Regardless, I’m sure it makes the predictable woofly V8 noise, but 63bhp per litre? That’s less than a Citroen C1....

2smoke

74 posts

50 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
I think it looks great. Class and elegance that is missing on so many modern cars. I'd take a punt on it for smoking around, but current automotive circumstances prevent me.
Interested to hear owners feedback, past or present. Is it really such a risk to take this on?

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st4

1,359 posts

72 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Good engine. Really good engine.

But these things really really rust. In a drier climate the issues wouldn’t be nearly so pronounced but here that’s a major problem.

The talk of iffy Mercedes quality is to be taken seriously. 5k seems quite a lot. I wonder if the smart moneys on the 430 model that’s not an AMG. Still a rust bucket but probably half the price or less for a very similar car

egern0

12 posts

40 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Nigel_O said:
Is it just a dodgy camera angle, or does the ‘55’ not line up properly with the ‘CLK’ on the bootlid?
You're right, that looks very dodgy. Makes one wonder what other corners have been cut when it comes to maintenance/repairs...

Great idea for a weekly article, goes well with SOTW smile

ianwayne

2,132 posts

207 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Overpriced I think. The CLK320 (I had one for 5 months last summer) can be had for £1500 with lower mileage. OK, 0-60 is 2s slower that the CLK55 but you can still waft about in style. A lovely car to drive. At least it's blue and not silver for a change.

But watch out for rust under those side sill covers. And inside the rear wings, mine had almost dissolved where the wheel arch met the sill in front of both rear wheels. And inside the front wings. This model is still cheap for a reason, the W124 coupé models fetch triple the money for their build quality.




Contract Killer

3,666 posts

122 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
I sold my CLK55 5 years ago for £2K frown

One car I wish I still had, as it was brilliant at everything.

It was also the most reliable car I had ever owned, in 2 years nothing broke!!
However it always worried me if something did break.......

howardhughes

289 posts

143 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Raygun said:
The AMG badge was a rare sight once which would've gave a bit of appeal to this old barge but I'm afraid it's just another old barge now in that bland Merc colour.
Indeed you're right just like the 'M' badges you see on every other non 'M' car...

Phunk

1,366 posts

110 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
I think I’d rather spend similar money on the 382bhp clk500 which should hopefully have less bork potential: https://www.autotrader.co.uk/classified/advert/201...

rog007

4,973 posts

163 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Didn’t have the one with the V8, just a CLK 320; lovely place to be still.

Great excuse too, to test drive lots of other Mercs...every time it went in to get another panel fixed due to rampant corrosion!

Thankfully, I had a couple of years left of anti corrosion warranty still on the car; must have cost Merc a large fortune.

Turbobanana

1,253 posts

140 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Love the idea for this article. It's like Shed of the Week but with deeper pockets and an element of gambling thrown in.

How about Road Roulette? Or Deal of Fortune?

Keep 'em coming!

AC43

6,706 posts

147 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Having haid a couple of C43's from that era I agree that they are pretty straightforward mechanically and electrically. The gearboxes and convertors should be OK with fluid changes. Steering is a bit slow and and isn't rack and pinion - it's recirculating ball IIRC. You can still hustle them along though, carried on that wall of torquey V8 creaminess. I could never get tired of the soundtack and the effortless-ness of it all.

It's the rust. One of mine, the 2000 one, was fine when I had it and I happily sold it to the manager of the workshop who'd looked after it. The 99 one fizzed badly. There were tons of spidery marks where I think stone chips had penetrated through to the metal and water had got in. The guy who ran the local body shop had never seen anything like it. After having the arches re-done for the second time it failed an MOT as there was a hole in the floor and one of the sills was on it's way out (!). I had it fixed and, shorly after, traded it for a newer (2005) E500 which had been galvanised and had painted properly and had none of those problems

The guy that bought my C43 ran it for a few more years before moving it on to make way for a C55. having looked at it's subsequent MOT history I see that it's been failing on rusty sills, floors and seat belt mounting points.......

Such as a shame as they're great in every other respect.

st4

1,359 posts

72 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Phunk said:
I think I’d rather spend similar money on the 382bhp clk500 which should hopefully have less bork potential: https://www.autotrader.co.uk/classified/advert/201...
That's a much better way to buy an old Mercedes for not a lot of money.

HM-2

4,241 posts

108 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Turbobanana said:
Love the idea for this article. It's like Shed of the Week but with deeper pockets and an element of gambling thrown in.

How about Road Roulette? Or Deal of Fortune?

Keep 'em coming!
Wheels of fortune?

AC43

6,706 posts

147 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Phunk said:
I think I’d rather spend similar money on the 382bhp clk500 which should hopefully have less bork potential: https://www.autotrader.co.uk/classified/advert/201...
Yes, that's a peach.

I'm on my 4th V8 Merc and the one I have now has that engine and it's a blinder. It's currently catapulting me and the family around Wiltshire on a short break.

And even though my earlier ones ended up rusting the formula is still great and if I went back in time I'd still buy them. A far more interesting way to spend the car allowance than getting a badly-specced 2.0 diesel company car.

CambsBill

749 posts

117 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
Nigel_O said:
Is it just a dodgy camera angle, or does the ‘55’ not line up properly with the ‘CLK’ on the bootlid?

Might point to a lazy bodyshop after rear end accident damage, or just a wonky camera (or possibly my wonky eyes....)
.
MOT history has it failing in 2012 for 'rear direction indicator incorrect colour'. I'd go with your former assumption . . .

Harry Flashman

13,166 posts

181 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
st4 said:
Phunk said:
I think I’d rather spend similar money on the 382bhp clk500 which should hopefully have less bork potential: https://www.autotrader.co.uk/classified/advert/201...
That's a much better way to buy an old Mercedes for not a lot of money.
Absolutely!

Equus

5,464 posts

40 months

Saturday 23rd February
quotequote all
ianwayne said:
Overpriced I think.
yes

I recently bought a W211 S-class with more power, much better specification, much newer, much lower mileage and no rust worries for not very much more than they're asking for that.