Accidentally buying a motoring unicorn
An unplanned, accidental purchase of one of the rarest and coolest wagons of the Nineties
Let me take you back to a freezing January 2014. Like all post-Christmas and New Year activities, I was on the internet; wasting countless minutes, hours and days looking at cars. Anything car-related, really. Memes, reviews, social media feeds and even classified adverts of used cars. That's when I accidentally stumbled upon a listing of this - a motoring unicorn - a lightly used 1999 Mercedes-Benz C43.
You see, I wasn't deliberately looking for a late-Nineties Merc-AMG. To be totally honest, I didn't really know very much about them until I found this one, and I had some (not a lot) money burning a hole in my pocket. Here's the original ad. It's not really inspiring, is it? Here's a big estate car covered in muck with kids' bikes on the back, and it's for sale.
Oh no, wait... There's a YouTube video of its exhaust.... And it sounds monstrous!
Obviously I had to buy it after watching that. I was smitten. My first V8 and my second Mercedes-Benz W202. A match made in unicorn car heaven. After some light haggling, pouring over the almost-perfect AMG we agreed on a price and I drove it home.
I'd like to say at this point that I was a hero and drove it back on the lock-stops, but that would be a lie. The reality was after a brief foray with a few 911s and my new C240, I wasn't really used to 300bhp on tap - especially when you consider the engine's hanging over the front axel and the power's going to the rear wheels - and I was petrified. Modulated throttle was the way forward, rather than jerky 'oh my God I'm going to die' junction exits, and driving it back to London was one of the most terrifying journeys I've ever driven. Nevertheless, I made it back (natch) and re-taught myself how to drive [a big V8 barge].
Giving the C43 its first wash was the order of the day. At this point, with a soapy sponge, is when you normally find huge scratches and even bigger rust patches in the cold light of day. I didn't. It was near-perfect for a car of its age, mileage and history and I had lucked out with my accidental purchase.
Since then, the C43 has covered 30,000 miles in my ownership, including a few laps of the Nürburgring, Silverstone GP, the evo triangle and even a V-Max event (155mph). During this time I've done a bit of preventative maintenance, namely rust (a lot of rust) and routine servicing, but not once has it let me down and, apart from a slight blip, I haven't thought about selling it. Here's to the next five years together...