Cheapest AMG in the World? Here’s What a $200 Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG Looks Like
No, we didn’t forget a zero. And no, it’s not pretty.
When old Top Gear ventured to south Florida for their seminal (and nearly deadly) U.S. special back in 2007, Clarkson, Hammond, and May were all shocked at the paucity of options for a used car under $1,000 in this country. But there are cars out there—running and driving, interesting cars—that can be had for less than ten c-notes. You just have to squint real hard to see through all the rust, mold, and Bondo.
There are a lot of reasons why used cars don't depreciate as much in the United States as they do over in Europe (namely taxes, fuel prices, and emissions restrictions), but it only takes a glance at this 1999 Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG purchased for $200 by Alex Palmeri of YouTube's LegitStreetCars to see why this German performance sedan clocks in at less than the price of an Xbox One X. Rough would be a generous understatement.
In fact, it's pretty sad to see what the previous ten owners have done to the once proud Benz. The first-gen Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG gets a few knocks in enthusiast circles because its 4.3-liter, 302-horsepower V8 engines were recycled from the E430, but it was still the first complete car to come out of the AMG factory after Mercedes purchased the legendary tuning house outright in 1998. It was also the first time a V8 engine had been stuffed into a C-Class, a combination that propelled the car from a standstill to 60 mph in under six seconds and an unlimited top speed of 168 mph.
So yes, these are not deplorable cars by any means, and are in fact hitting the bottom of the depreciation curve as you read this right now. But as Palmeri demonstrates, getting this car down to $200 takes a lot of crappy mods and deferred maintenance over the years. The various ways that the squadron of previous owners tried to ruin this car run the gamut from hilarious to depressing. Cheap eBay headlights with sketchy wiring instead of the valuable factory Xenon set. Mismatched, mispainted fenders. "Vent holes" randomly cut in the hood. A grimy engine bay. More Bondo than you can shake a stick at. And that's just the exterior!
The interior is equipped with a regrettable carbon fiber center console wrap and non-functional aftermarket gauge kit, broken buttons everywhere, and a few empty packs of Marlboro Lights. Mold covers the carpet in the back seat, the door pockets are filled with trash, and the various surfaces look like someone took the time to purposefully smear everything with dirt.
And yet, as he shows near the end of the video, the $200 C43 AMG runs and drives better than a lot of other cars that cost a lot more money. The 178,000-mile engine sounds pretty great through the hackjob of an exhaust setup, the transmission shifts smoothly and on-time, and the pricey AMG Monoblock wheels remain firmly attached to the car at all times. Palmeri sounds pretty shocked during the test drive, and frankly, so are we.
So how did he end up with such a bargain? First of all, while the wheels are worth more than $200, the rest of the car is not, and he'd have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to bring it back to decent condition. But the story will be familiar to anyone who's bought a car online—a friend sent him the Facebook ad, which originally listed the car for $1000. When he showed up, he used the lack of a functioning radiator (since patched), the check engine light being on, and the owner's urgent need for space to barter down to $200.
In strictly financial terms, between taxes, registration fees, and inevitable laundry list of repairs, he might break even. But if we're talking entertainment value, well, he's already way ahead.