What do you do if you really like a car but think the factory could have improved its looks a bit? You buy it anyway and improve it yourself. There's no sense in sacrificing performance and preference for a pretty set of wheels, especially if that cutie can't maneuver like the European sports car you wish it was.
Terry Ng wanted a new project after seeing the Mercedes-Benz C230K for the first time. His Mk IV Jetta had its fair run, and Ng needed a new monster. Because it wasn't a popular platform for tuning, the challenge was particularly enticing. After purchasing the coupe, he started up his own online forum, Csportcoupe, for those gearheads who had their brains wrapped around the same Benz. Ng garnered ideas from the large community that quickly grew on his forum space. It became a place for him to throw out suggestions and see what stuck.
The bolt-on modifications followed, as well as some custom, one-off parts from Topline Automobile in Burlingame, California. The Porsche 996 and 993 brake kit, H&R coilovers, and AMG anti-roll bars all went on early in the game but were followed quickly by new audio. Those ever-faithful guys at Topline had their hands in Ng's speaker wires in no time-and they hardly know each other. The 346cs speaker series came from a/d/s/ and handmade Brax amps were sent direct from Germany to provide a clean power source. For more bang, there are 10-inch 310rs subwoofers in the trunk. Ng will tell you that he's a sucker for crisp, clean sounds, and his coupe delivers.
With all that music magic happening, what is there to look at while careening down the highway? How about some carbon-fiber? All the interior parts were stripped and sent to a factory deep in Indonesia for silver carbon-fiber overlay, including the steering wheel-which was beefed up with factory leather and then supplemented with the carbon-fiber. Now I don't know about you, but sending paid-for parts that far into the East for a treatment easily done in the States seems a bit extreme, but Ng found a forum member-that's right, from Csportcoupe-who could do quality work. And he wasn't the only dotcom buddy who helped piece this Mercedes together. Some of the exterior mods were also farmed out to people Ng met online. The custom grille was completed by a fellow C-Class lover from MBklasse.com.
Most people who go to the trouble to customize the interior of the car want the exterior to match. A Brabus body kit was added to the coupe, along with a Kineda rear spoiler, Euro foglights, and some E55 side blinkers. Beyond the off-the-shelf add-ons, Ng wanted a different feel for the car. He went to work on the style of the quarter panels. "I felt the rear quarter panels were always the weak part of the car, prohibiting it from being really perfect in stock form," he explains. "There is no fender bulge to them at all and it keeps the car looking too cute. The rear looks lost, or what some people call 'chopped off.'"
The remedy for this lack of personality was a widebody conversion. The best part about this decision is that Ng didn't use a common body kit but actually did the work himself, using all metal and nixing any fiberglass options (see sidebar). Once he had the custom look he wanted for the body panels, he added some 19-inch DCR Forged Wheels with brushed aluminum centers. For an interesting twist, Ng let his fiance pick the color for the car. She came back with a custom metallic gunmetal paint with just a hint of blue.
So, does it run well? You bet. The clean coupe uses the factory 2.3-liter supercharged engine with a few extras, including a Brabus exhaust system, Kleeman pulley and engine management software, a RENNtech intercooler, and a Supersprint exhaust manifold. This little Mercedes pumps out roughly 280 bhp and 260 lb-ft at 5800 rpm and has enough performance to keep the drive interesting, while still providing a little show from the rear. My take on the styling of this typically normal hatch? Wider is much, much better.
2002 Mercedes-Benz C230 Sport CoupeLayoutLongitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine2.3-liter inline four, dohc, four valves per cylinder, supercharged and intercooled, Brabus exhaust, Kleemann pulley and software, RENNtech intercooler, Supersprint header
SuspensionH&R coilovers, AMG anti-roll bars
BrakesTopline Porsche 996 and 993 brake kits
Wheels and TiresDCR Catalunya, 10x19 (f)12.5x19 (r)Continental Sport Contact2,265/30-19 (f)315/25-19 (r)
ExteriorBrabus front and rear bumper lips, Kineda carbon-fiber grille insert and rear spoiler, European foglamps and bi-xenon headlamps, Kineda carbon-fiber grille, E55 side markers, custom widebody conversion, custom Titanium Gunmetal Metallic Blue paint
InteriorBrabus shift knob, Recaro Pole Position seats, Kineda silver carbon-fiber trim and silver carbon-fiber steering wheel treatment
AudioBrax and SPL amplifiers, a/d/s/ speakers and subwoofers, custom kickpods with floating tweeters, custom subwoofer/amp enclosure
Adding a Little FlareTo beef up the rear end of this C230K, Terry Ng wanted fender flares-but not the cheesy ones you can add on. These modifications were completed using the existing metal, without any fiberglass parts. Interested? Well, OK, we'll give you the simple breakdown.
The rear and front quarter panels were cut straight down the middle and flared 2.5 inches, then reunited using sheetmetal and welding. The customized pieces were then smoothed out and given an expert finish, so the end product was something very factory. The work is impressive and, except for the widebody appearance, the quarter panels look untouched.
According to Ng, it's "what the car should've looked like straight from the Mercedes-Benz factory. They would have sold a lot more of these had they created the coupe this way." We agree. -B.M.B