Pre-purchase inspection of a C55 near Southampton?

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Oct 19, 2020
S203 C55 AMG, Citroen e-C4, McLaren 570GT
I'm a fan of quick RWD cars, currently have an RX-7 & 350Z. I suddenly realised it's a bit silly owning two impractical sports cars, so started looking to replace the Nissan with a small RWD estate with a big engine. Which naturally lead me to the back-catalogue of Herren Aufrecht und Melcher, in particular the S203(?) C55 AMG Estate, with the 5.4L M113 engine. I've found a 2004 example at a Southampton dealer, the test drive was good, I really loved the feel of the engine on kickdown. The car has a few issues; the brakes felt 'gritty' and uneven when pulling to a stop, it has the clicking from behind the dash on startup, and there is very minor corrosion around the rear wheelarches - nothing coming through the paint, just small blisters underneath. Thanks to helpful threads on here, I appreciate the clicking may well imply dashboard removal, and I got a quote from a local MB specialist of c.£900 for brake discs and pads all round, if needed.

For £8k I can probably accommodate a certain amount of rectification, however having read the most helpful and informative thread 2007 C55 Estate, laundry list | Parts, Maintenance & Servicing , I'm keen to get the car checked over by someone knowledgeable before I take the plunge. I'm particularly concerned about the possibility of rust on and around the rear subframe, and the sills under the covers.

The AA website helpfully said "Unfortunately we are unable to inspect that vehicle" when I fed in the number plate - and anyway it's probably better done by someone who knows these cars. In some ways the ideal thing would be for the car to go to a specialist, who could make a list of everything that needs/wants doing and how much it would cost. I could then either buy the car and have them do the work, or not, depending on the estimate.

I understand that the most respected local indie is MBS in Southampton, so I've put in an enquiry on their website to see if they can help.

So, questions
- how worried should I be? I appreciate it's am old, luxury high performance car so I expect a certain level of spending, but with doing relatively few miles a year I hope to avoid the scale of expenditure, and back-and-forth to garages, that my beloved RX-7 has needed.
- is it worth getting a pre purchase inspection, and by whom?

any other comments/advice also welcome.

PS Great forum, thanks for all the info I've found on here already 👍
Near Southampton you're spoilt for choice - you have Olly and PCS and Cole at MBS (or have I got them bassackwards??), both a short distance up the M3 from Southampton, both well known and well respected on here! You won't go wrong with either.
If you're going up the M3 for PCS, you're heading in the wrong direction. 🤣
Get Cole at MBS to look at it, and depending on what he finds and depending if you have it get him to price the jobs as you generally wont get cheaper and these cars are generally straight forward and a lot of garages see them as a licence to print money, Especially taking into account the price you have been quoted for the brakes, that seems very expensive might be wrong as I am not that up to date on the discs/pads prices for the 55 203.
Car's booked in for Monday, yes I've asked MBS to quote for the work, if I go ahead I'll ask them to fix all the issues, then hopefully get a train down and collect my perfect 100% working AMG :p (doubt it). Or if it needs too much doing I'll have dodged a bullet.
You Hampshire guys are so lucky to have two super - indies on your doorstep. My wife wants a New Forest holiday. Maybe I could mix that in with next year's service.
16 spark plugs.......
mad cat2.jpg
You Hampshire guys are so lucky to have two super - indies on your doorstep. My wife wants a New Forest holiday. Maybe I could mix that in with next year's service.
16 spark plugs.......
View attachment 103797
Good plan. Cole @mbs changed the plugs on my E55. They are a good indy, as is Olly at PCS.
I bought a c55 estate a few months ago as a daily drive, it's a fantastic car. Just accept you'll have to spend a little money here and there (but really not much at all if you can do work yourself). It's practical, good enough on fuel, totally Q, and rare as you like!
£££Plug change??????

Not sure. The plug change was part of a full service and the invoice went with the car when sold.

I think they go on Mercedes time allowed for the job but use their labour rate so if it takes longer, you don't lose out.
Mine were extremely stubborn to remove and the coil packs had to be replaced a couple of times for the engine to be started and some heat introduced. Came out easily with some heat.
You Hampshire guys are so lucky to have two super - indies on your doorstep.
There are plenty of good independents up and down the land, the vast majority of which are not on motoring forums..
The 203 and 209 55 engine'd cars are in my opinion are the cheapest and easiest AMG's to run and maintain and are an excellent purchase especially the 203 as they are quite rare.
If you buy it I am willing to bet you wont regret it, hope it gets a thumbs up from Cole.
I have always found a plug change on a 113 V8 (done it 4 times now both on N/A and a Supercharged one) very straight forward and easy though I have never experienced a stubborn plug yet!! there is a lot a disassembly wouldn't know exactly the time it took as I always did other jobs at the same time like rocker cover gaskets or simply de-greasing and cleaning the engine,
I believe the book time is about two hours for normal V8 but the AMG may have a time code of time taken on it, might be wrong, I would check but not sure how to use ASRA.
Well, MBS had the car in today for inspection. Verdict is, it's a good... opportunity to burn a huge amount of money trying to get it sorted.

Issues found:
  • Battery negative loose - refitted
  • Pollen filter case incorrectly fitted - refitted
  • Battery clamp missing
  • Heater flap clicking on start up
  • Parking sensors inop
  • Top rocker covers leaking oil
  • Headlights clouding over and have condensation inside
  • Both front fog lights showing water ingress
  • N S F jacking point missing
  • O S inner arch panel not fitted correctly
  • Headlight level link broken (previously been cable tied)
  • N S F arch liner damaged
  • N S R brake binding
  • Rear arches rusting
  • Both front torque arm bushes psplit
  • O S R box joints splitting
  • Outside temp sensors inop - no plugs visible
  • General rust to rear end - see photos
- that's without mentioning that the seller is claiming 130k miles, with MoTs to back that up, but the odo says 260k and when they dug into it with STAR, it seemed to corroborate the latter number.

Based on all this, I'd budget for about £8k to get KN54 OCR into a good state - and even then it would probably be at best an 'average' example. (Guessing £4k with Craig at Dynotorque getting the rust at the back sorted, then another £4k with MBS fixing the rest).

Link here 2004 Mercedes-Benz C Class C55 AMG 5-Door for anyone who wants a project ;-)

I'd like to give a big 👍 to MBS, who were friendly and helpful and for £80 gave me good visibility of what I'd be getting into with this car. I'm actually sad I'm not getting the chance to have them fix the car for me, but it's just too far gone I think - the word "bargepole" was mentioned on the phone.

I'd echo the call that Dammit made in his post linked from my first post above, if you have a W203/S203, be aware of the extent to which rust can get into and around the rear subframe.

Finally, if anyone has a C55 AMG Estate they'd like to sell me which is not a rusty moneypit, please do let me know ;-) I loved the engine on my brief test-drive, and the car feels nicely compact and wieldy while also being comfortable - I'm convinced a good example would be a really lovely thing.
That isn’t too bad at all IMO
Unless you’re trying to get the car back to be almost brand new as well, I can’t for the life of me see how there’s £8k’s worth of work there.

Judging by your response to this car, I would genuinely be looking at something newer, it’s a 16 year old car when all’s said and done...
Thanks for the responses, good to hear differing opinions.

I'm not demanding perfection of an old car; I'm not fussy about minor cosmetic issues, and of the list above I can probably live without parking sensors, outside temperature and the front foglights working.

- I want it to drive more or less as it should (drivetrain, brakes, steering)
- I want the basic comfort functions to work (ventilation system, seating position adjustments)
- I want to be confident it'll continue passing MoTs for 3-5 years to come without chasing my tail with rust

It feels to me like to achieve the above with this car, I'd be following a similar path to Dammit (thread linked above). Don't get me wrong, if I already owned this car I'd probably bite the bullet and get the main issues fixed and keep enjoying it. But it doesn't seem a good place to start, and certainly MBS didn't think so.

Yes I am guessing about cost, although guided to some extent by the phone conversation with MBS.

* Based on the report of rust at the back, and the pics, I'm assuming it needs the rear subframe dropping and refurbishing, as Dammit had done on his 2007 C55 Estate, laundry list | Parts, Maintenance & Servicing . That cost him £3500.

* Then the heater clicking and not directing air correctly means dashboard out, MBS quoted 8 hours labour for that, likely the best part of a grand to fix.

* Two headlights, £1300

* It's had two (diagonally opposite) springs snap and be replaced, but from the pics I think the other two need doing also (as you would expect).

* Brakes felt awful pulling up on the test drive, assume I'll need at least one axle's worth of discs and pads.

* The rust on the rear arches doesn't need to be done immediately, true, but it's not going to get any better and at some point will be an MoT failure. So unless I just want to run the car into the ground it needs sorting, and the sooner the cheaper.

* Tyres are a mismatch of ages/brands with a ditchfinder on the NSR, so budget for a set of decent tyres all round.

The above looks like £6-8 grand to me, possibly more.

The two things on you're list that would be a showstopper for me the extent of the rust at the rear and the mileage discrepancy
I am 100% with samoht regarding that 'walking away' decision. To me that car has been neglected, yes it is 16 years old but that is no excuse for some of those issues and I am speaking as someone that owns a 16 year old car. A high-performance car with clouded over headlights??? Is that an MOT failure

Nope, walk away, there will be a much better car out there

Top marks to MBS for that report. Money well spent

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