An affordable wolf, in sheep's clothing

    3y ago


    In the U.S. the number of these super coupes was limited, but not enough to drive them into the "rare" classification. Despite MBs and AMGs best efforts, these cars do not look "aggressive", in fact they look a great deal like any other W208 CLK, and in some cases it is difficult to tell a CLK430 from a CLK55 especially if the original purchaser opted for the "AMG" appearance package.

    A CLK430 with the AMG appearance package.

    A CLK430 with the AMG appearance package.

    There are a couple of hints, which will let you know if you're looking at an AMG, or if you're looking at an appearance package.

    First, all of the CLK430 AMGs (and there are a lot of them) are appearance packages, with things like AMG wheels, AMG Skirts, and AMG front and rear bumpers, and while the CLK430 does have a V8, it is not an AMG hand built 5.4 Liter V8. The CLK430 isn't a poor performer, it is simply a sheep in wolf skin suit.

    This kind of "badge" modification performed by dealers all over the country, was used to drive up the price of the CLK430 and capitalize on the AMG premium. The CLK430 AMG is essentially the exact opposite of what OTC is about. If you're unsure if you're looking at an AMG tuned car, look at the interior, all of the CLK AMG cars had a two tone leather interior. Look also at the speedometer, for the AMG logo, and if you have the chance pop the hood and look for the AMG air cleaner housing and cover.

    You can also use an online Mercedes VIN decoder to find out if the car is an AMG, or if it is just an appearance package. The CLK55 not only has the 5.4 AMG V8, but also has an AMG tuned suspension, bigger brakes, and a full AMG exhaust.

    Don't mind me, I was simply the fastest production coupe in 2001, no big deal.

    Don't mind me, I was simply the fastest production coupe in 2001, no big deal.

    With the performance stats of these cars, one would be inclined to believe that they would have attained a collectible status, or a following of fanatics who would keep the values high, but as many AMG owners are finding out, the average used car buyer is afraid of the maintenance on such a high-strung vehicle. So, these things are cheap.

    I recently purchased a 2001 CLK55 AMG, for only $3300 and I couldn't be happier with it. Yes, it has over 222K miles on it, but it was very well maintained, leaks nothing, and after spending around $1000 for routine maintenance items, I now have a reliable bahn-stormer for under $5000.

    Yes, the ESP (Electronic Stability Program) is annoying, and won't shut completely off, and yes, there are some other little annoyances like a power steering groan... moan? Or maybe it's a hoot? Well, it definitely sounds like a cooing pigeon, sort of. No matter, I'll get it sorted eventually.

    If you are considering one of these cars, please for the love of all that is automotive, avoid the convertibles, they're flobbery. Also be prepared to replace the engine mounts and transmission mount, the three of them can be purchased for under $160, and if you're handy you can install them in a few hours. If not, installation charges aren't horrible at an independent shop.

    These cars have a tendency to destroy the inner half of the tread on the rear tires. It's deceptive, so lay down under the back of the car and really look at the rear tires, if you're worried about the tires being in good condition when you buy the car.

    The brakes on the CLK55 are big, and I'm not really fond of the brake assist, the brakes feel too binary, either you're not going to stop, or your face is going peel off and paint the inside of the windscreen.

    Do pay attention, and really check for leaks. Front and rear crank seals almost always start leaking and while the seals aren't expensive, labor to replace them is going to be costly, unless you happen to have a fully equipped garage at your disposal. Or, you could just keep an eye on oil levels and put some cardboard down to catch any drips. Valve cover gaskets will need replacement, not a particularly difficult job, and doesn't cost much but it's something to look out for.

    Finally, check all the power options. While the goal here at OTC is to find cheap cars that are good performers. We don't really want to promote broken cheap cars. It's not unusual for there to be one, or two options that aren't working correctly, like my trunk's random acts of belligerence, you should know what you're getting into. Check the prices on replacement parts, figure out if you can replace it yourself and save money, or if you need to look at another car.

    I know this Tribe may seem a little slanted toward the CLK, but bear with me, because this isn't the only cheap car with plenty of grunt out there.

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