If we’re talking souped-up, 1990s German cars, the E36 M3 gets all the glory. Or, more accurately, it shares the glory with the E34 M5, and the E39 M5, and various other BMWs that were all wonderful, but aren’t necessarily unique.
Enter the C36 and C43 AMG.
These were the first AMG cars (as we know them now) that ever came to the US: they carried a two-digit number rather than the three digits of other Mercedes models, and they used subtle modifications to display that they were, in fact, faster than normal.
The C36 came first. It used a 276-horsepower 3.6-liter straight six, which meant it could do 0-60 in less than 6 seconds. And while it was automatic only, it offered 36 more horsepower than the E36 M3.
Not content to stop there, Mercedes released the C43 AMG in 1998. This time powered by a 302-horsepower V8, the C43 could really haul – even in comparison to its predecessor. Once again, the C43 was automatic-only, though apparently the later models offered Mercedes’s (bad) manu-matic shift mode.
I’ve always loved the original C-Class AMG models because of how damn nice they looked. Those silvery wheels, the subtle body modifications, and the fact that you could get the seat centers in white. It was the high-powered fist-thumper to the E36 M3’s svelte athleticism.
Sadly, reliability issues plagued a lot of these cars (surprised?) and it’s hard to find a really nice C36 or C43 around anymore. Those who do won’t be rewarded with the latest technology, or the most avant-garde styling. But they will be comforted to know that it’s unlikely they’ll ever run into a fellow W202 C-Class AMG.