This article, covering the Mercedes Benz W202 C 36 AMG – built between 1995 and 1997, originally appeared in the March / April 2015 issue of the printed SL Market Letter. Founded in 1982, the SL Market Letter has been reporting on collectible Mercedes cars of all kinds for decades. A new issue is mailed to subscribers 6 times a year. Visit our ‘Subscription Page’ to learn more and to download a free sample issue in PDF format.
All cars start as ‘new cars’, then they become ‘used cars’ and if everything falls into place, they become collector cars. Today, the C 36 AMG is a used car at the bottom of its depreciation curve representing a lot of car for not much money.
According to the Mercedes Museum archives, there were 5,221 C 36s produced. In comparison, they produced 25,230 190E 2.3-16 valves and 10,479 E 500s. According to mercedes-amg.com’s ‘Private Lounge’ U.S. imports by year break down like this: 401 in 1995, 296 in 1996 and just 199 in 1997.
The C 36 was widely accepted by both the car buying public and automotive journalists of the day. The cars sold well, despite the fact they were $20,000 more than a regular C Class and $15,000 more than a BMW M3. In a 1996 article Road & Track magazine called the C 36 “the best of Benz taken to performance extremes”.
Let’s consider how each car came to be. C 36s started life on the regular production line, side by side with future C 280 and 230 models at Mercedes’ Bremen, Germany factory. There, they were equipped with a sturdier final drive, larger vented front discs from the SL 600, larger rears from the E 420, stiffer front and rear anti-roll bars and a quicker-ratio steering box. 17 inch AMG wheels with very wide Bridgestone Expedia tires were fitted along with front fenders that were modified on the inside to accommodate the wider wheel / tire package. The cars, without bumpers or side skirts, were then shipped south to Affalterbach. Upon arrival, special gas-pressure shocks were installed along with bumpers and ground effects. The front apron not only looked good, it was functional, housing a set of fog lights as well as air ducts to help cool the car’s massive brakes, bigger than those of a contemporary Ferrari 512TR.
The standard 2.8 liter engine producing 194 bhp was removed and replaced with an AMG modified example, bored and stroked to 3.6 liters, it had a higher compression ratio. Modifications were made to the cylinder head, block and engine-management system. It received a larger intake manifold, revised intake-valve and exhaust cam-timing, forged aluminum pistons, modified rods, a new crankshaft and additional oil-spray jets in the engine block. A freer-flowing, dual exhaust system finished things up in the back.
I was lucky enough to get to drive a 1996 C 36 during ‘Monterey Car Week’ a couple of years ago, it sure beat a rental car! 268 hp doesn’t sound like a lot today, but it’s plenty in this car. They’re quick, responsive, buttery smooth and, dare I say, practical at the same time? Buy the best original paint example you can find with service history and simply enjoy it.