By on February 12, 2018

2003 Mercedes-Benz W203 Coupe in Colorado wrecking yard, RH rear view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
European luxury cars depreciate quickly once they leave the hands of careful first and second owners and start being treated like throwaway rusty Chevy Malibus or Daewoo Leganzas. For this reason, I see more S-Classes than C-Classes in big self-service wrecking yards, and the coupe version of the W203 is an especially unusual Junkyard Find.

Here’s one that crashed hard and now ends its days in a Denver-area junkyard.

2003 Mercedes-Benz W203 Coupe in Colorado wrecking yard, engine - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
For 2003, this car had a supercharged, all-aluminum four-cylinder engine that displaced 1.8 liters and made 189 horsepower. Some junkyard shopper has grabbed the blower, a move I understand very well.

2003 Mercedes-Benz W203 Coupe in Colorado wrecking yard, engine - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
If I ever see one of these C230 Kompressors in such a place, with the engine in good shape and the six-speed manual transmission behind it, I will be tempted to buy parts for a stupid engine swap. I think a ratty late-1970s Fiat 124 Sport Spider would be fun with this powertrain.

2003 Mercedes-Benz W203 Coupe in Colorado wrecking yard, RH rear view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The interior still has some good stuff, and I don’t see the BIOHAZARD stickers slapped on by tow-truck crews who find icky bodily fluids after a bad wreck. Some of these bits will live on in other C-Classes.

2003 Mercedes-Benz W203 Coupe in Colorado wrecking yard, rear view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
These cars were cheap by Mercedes-Benz standards, with C230 Kompressor Sport Coupe MSRPs starting at $25,670 (just a bit under $35,000 in 2017 inflato-bucks). American-market sales suffered the same fate as those of the affordable BMW 318ti hatchback of previous decade, as U.S. shoppers who can tolerate coupes and want high-end European iron tend to want something both faster and more flashy.

2003 Mercedes-Benz W203 Coupe in Colorado wrecking yard, front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Ouch! A sad end to a rare-but-not-valuable Mercedes-Benz coupe in Cubanite Silver paint.

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30 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2003 Mercedes C230 Kompressor Sport Coupe...”

  • avatar

    My lizard brain still cannot comprehend that cars from the 2000s have reached adolescence. “A 200x Benz? In a junkyard? Impossible!”

    • 0 avatar

      I feel the same way, but at the end of the day, all kinds of cars end up in there due to total loss wrecks. I’m sure that somewhere, a 2017 car was wrapped around a tree eight months ago and now lives on as dollar store razors.

      I still wonder about the ones that have nary a scratch on them though. What expensive mechanical or electrical issue doomed the car? How many cars end up in there not 10+ years out of manufacturer warranty (assuming 36-months), but perhaps months or a couple years since it was last covered?

      I need to go tour a huge yard one of these days, just to walk around. If I decide to go through with my plans to buy and restore a J-body LeBaron this summer, I might need to go out of necessity for oddball things I can’t find on eBay or RockAuto.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m unsurprised. My uncle owned an SLK from the era of this car, and it led him to the conclusion that the best use of the last few miles of warranty of a German car was to drive it to the junkyard. (He drives a new EcoBoost Mustang and a ’90’s Suburban now.)

  • avatar

    Can this car get the crabspirit treatment?

  • avatar

    Very much epitomizes the “disposable” era of European autos, one which we are very much still part of, perhaps increasingly so as the number of black box modules creeps ever-upward, powertrain and drivetrain serviceability becomes less and less economically viable.

    I watched a bench teardown of a newer Audi 3.0 TFSI motor, it was a complete horror show. Mercs are perhaps not quite as bad(?)

    • 0 avatar

      They are usually pretty good. The supercharged engine here isn’t fantastic, but otherwise the 203 is a decent chassis. If you get one with the 112 V6, they’re pretty solid. If this car wasn’t wrecked, it would probably be soldiering on for a while more.

    • 0 avatar

      Sure looks like this car was disposed of because it was completely totaled in an accident, not because of any black box modules.

      • 0 avatar

        Fair enough. But if you’ve been around 7-10 year old Euros that come in for diagnostics and repair, a single full scan is a real eye-opener as far as how many electrical (or electro/mechanical) subsystems there are working in the background, and how many are self-reporting that they are out of wack. The vast majority of these modules are sealed, and aftermarket alternatives to the OEM $700-900+ replacements are rare. There is a reason these things depreciate so precipitously, and end up in the hands of people that generally just ignore their Christmas-tree dash until something serious finally conks out or the car is wrecked. The speed with which these Euro-sleds go through this ownership cycle is what leads me to refer to them as disposable.

  • avatar

    This is interesting, as back then, Wifey and I stopped by a M-B dealer just to check out cars we could never afford, and came across one of these. Wifey fell in love with it and we seriously crunched the numbers, but wisely decided it would not be a good use of limited funds, so I hope the one we looked at found a good home.

    For years afterwards, every time she saw one, she sighed.

    I still kind of like them, too.

  • avatar

    I will admit that I wanted one of these – and only a few years ago. You know it’s a _Mercedes_ !!! And a manual transmission!

    I’m not feeling it now.

  • avatar

    When these cars were still being sold, I had a MB C32 AMG. Naturally, I frequented the Mercedes-Benz enthusiast forums, since myself and apparently everyone else were all modifying our cars with Stage 1 & 2 packages & components from folks like Evosport and RennTech. Around then, someone transplanted the C32 AMG engine into one of these C230 Kompressor Coupes, and enjoyed the only manual transmission-equipped version of that drivetrain I ever saw (note that the Crossfire SRT-6 was also automatic only). No word on the longevity of that combination – I doubt that the C230 transmission was meant to handle that much torque!

    • 0 avatar

      Internet claims all the C-class of that era (and a *lot*) of other vehicles used the same 722.6 transmission, from the C230 to the V12 S-classes and the Jeep Wrangler.

      So it’d be fine, if that’s accurate?

      (c.f. e.g.

      It sure looks like it was *literally* the same transmission.)

  • avatar

    As I said when John discussed find one of these on Craigslist, I will forever associate these MB with trophy wives, mail order brides, and gold-diggers. I knew an elementary teacher who owned one of these in lipstick red that perfectly embodied all three of those stereotypes.

  • avatar

    I had a 2003. It was Mars Red with a cloth interior. It was comfortable, versatile, and economical. The first car I ever owner with a panoramic sunroof. The sunroof had a nifty retractable, opaque sunshade. In 3 years of ownership, the A/C compressor had to be replaced twice.

  • avatar

    I remember driving some W203s around the time they launched, soon after I bought my E46. The interior plastics and fit/finish were terrible, the C320 was too powerful for the unresponsive suspension, and the hatch, though tolerably tossable, made the most agricultural noises this side of a John Deere.

    These days I hunt the hatches down at the pick-and-pull for the neat tire inflator, though it seems others have caught on as of late.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    We had a 2000 SLK with this drivetrain , black over 2 tone interior “Special Edition”, with cool polished 5 spoke wheels, looked much faster than it was .It was out first MB, and we bought it used, well out of warranty .Very comfortable interior and no mechanical issues for over 5 yrs we had it, it got over 30mpg on the highway. We traded it in on G35x and had immediate buyers remorse.

    • 0 avatar

      “no mechanical issues for over 5 yrs we had it”

      An aunt has had one of these C230’s from new–I think it’s an ’02 or an ’03–and hasn’t had any reliability issues with it. It’s always been a grocery-store-and-church car, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s still under 100,000 miles.

      My uncle and she probably aren’t a good test case, as the universe seems to be rewarding them for having owned a ’78 diesel Coupe de Ville. Pretty much everything they’ve had since then, including an HT-4100-powered Eldorado that theoretically could’ve been horrible, has been trouble-free.

  • avatar

    I think that what worked against these cars when they were new was the fact you could get a lightly-used “real” Mercedes (C-class sedan and up) for about the same money. Perceptions count for a lot of people. The BMW 3-series hatchback suffered the same fate.

  • avatar

    Before my partner purchased his CLA250 he owned one of these, but with the automatic transmission. I remember it being a tossable and fun car and it was also surprisingly agile.

  • avatar

    My wife and I, newly married, like 6 months married, both students and very poor, happened into a local shopping mall. Mostly intending to stare at things we could not afford, including a brand new blue Merc C230 Kompressor parked inside the mall. It was being raffled off, and I bought a ticket… you probably know where this is going. We won that car and drove it for the next 2 years. It was hilarious.

    So very poor, and driving around a brand new Merc was awesome. It was interesting to see the difference between how you were immediately sized up exiting a brand new Merc(even this one), rather than exiting your 1989 Honda Accord Lxi(which was awesome).

    Anyway, this car, while not great, was a very good driver. Good inputs, and it was a rear wheel drive hatch, which was unique and fun. It got me hooked on cars. Prior to owning it, I was not that interested. I really owe my current car addiction to this car, and getting it for free.

    This was a Chrysler era product though, so in our short ownership the interior basically dissolved. Bits of plastic falling off everywhere, bits of fake chrome flaking off like dead skin. It was horrible, and shocked me really, because Mercedes was supposed to be the pinnacle of build quality. I now own a 190e 2.3-16, and the gap between these two cars in build quality is staggering.

    I can still remember the look on my brother-in-laws face when I drove this thing over for dinner. Ha!

    Thank you for posting this, a bit nostalgic, and 17 years ago my wife and I were really hot shit in this thing, at least we thought we were.

    • 0 avatar

      Chrysler era? Hardly. Chrysler had zero input on these cars. You may only blame Daimler (parent company that cheaped out Chrysler even further).
      Mercedes was trying to cheapen themselves and move down market. It’s not Ma Mopar’s fault in any fashion.
      In fact, we’d still have Plymouth if it weren’t for Eaton and Daimler.

  • avatar

    I still kinda like ’em. If I found one with a manual, it could see me owning a Benz again, even though I swore them off after my experience with my 300D. In this case, though, it would be a fun toy to enjoy on occasion, not a daily driver that I’d need to depend on rain or shine.

  • avatar

    I bought one of these , an’02 with the 2.3L supercharged engine. I bought it as a MB CPO in 2006 for 18K. It was a blast to drive, I ran with an Acura RSX on the local freeway from 65 to 130 mph and we were side by side the whole time so we waved and backed off and parted ways. You only saw a few of them on the road. The A/C would randomly discharge all of it’s freon with a load PSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, and then hot air was all you got, not fun in August.

    The dealer could never find why it did it, and told me that they would have to start charging me for the freon since they couldn’t find where or why it leaked out. ended up trading that car for a C320 wagon.

    • 0 avatar

      I had an 02 as well. Not sure if the 2.3 was bettter or not, but I loved it. Mine was a 6 speed with cloth and no sunroof. Base as it could be. Only owned it 2 months because I was offered a profit I couldn’t pass up I was working for a dealer at the time and bought it wholesale).

      Went back to the beater Pontiac Grand Prix 3.1 I had. Regretted the decision immediately

  • avatar

    These $26,000 cars were pieces of crap. What was Mercedes doing at the shallow end of the pool? Reminds me of “Mondeo” Jaguars, which, frankly, I’d take over this. I’ve been in these and they were the epitome of cost cutting.

  • avatar

    A female co-worker bought one of these new. Once the warranty ran out and it started costing her a gazillion dollars a month to keep it pristine looking, she eventually let go to hell. That cheap German plastic interior looked like crap after 5 years…

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