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2003 Mercedes-Benz CLK430 Cabriolet Designo

Earlier this week I checked out a great 2000 Mercedes-Benz SL500 with some Designo touches that hit all the right buttons for me. Today, we have another Mercedes-Benz convertible with some Designo treatment, but this one is a little bit different. What we are looking at is a 2003 CLK430 finished in Designo Mocca Black paint with Designo light brown leather interior. I think the thing about the W208 is that it wasn’t really great at anything. It had the enormous task of replacing the W124 Cabriolet that was and still is an outstanding car in more ways than one, but the first-generation CLK Cabriolet was strange mash-up of W202 and W210 parts. Yes, it looked fresh at the time and had a lot of modern updates for its era, but at the end of the day you could really feel that the quality just wasn’t there like the W124. That doesn’t mean it is a bad car, but rather one that you knew from the beginning what you going to get out of it: an average experience.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Mercedes-Benz CLK430 on eBay

Year: 2003
Model: CLK430 Cabriolet Designo
Engine: 4.2 liter V8
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Mileage: 57,480 mi
Price: Reserve Auction

“Please see item description below. Any questions please call me at 863.513.5746 anytime between 8:00am and 8:00pm 7 days a week ~ my name is Daniel.”

I don’t hate the CLK Cabriolet, it just is what it is. You didn’t buy these to go fast (even with the V8 the 430 got), you didn’t get one to handle with precious and you certainly weren’t buying one for its quality or longevity. You bought one of these to look good in with the top down and haul four people if really needed. It looked like a Mercedes and certainly fooled you into thinking it was when these things were new. Who cares about anything else. After the first five years or 50,000 miles the true colors of this car started to show with degrading interior parts and rust that seemingly not only does not sleep, but seems to work overtime shifts as well. So you moved on from it because it was an easily forgetting experience and focused on the next purchase.

But this car. This one caught my eye. By now, these things are usually beat to death. You can find them for $5,000 on Craigslist all day long and a list of problems (both mechanical and cosmetically) just as long as that day is. This car however is not one of them. It probably has to do a lot with the interior and thank goodness it was saved from the beatings these things took. Normally, the interiors on these cars are as standard as it gets. Not this one. You have a great shade of peanut butter-colored tan mixed with a natural curled maple wood that just screams at you. It might be a little distraction to the eye at first, but I love it. Give me these wild interiors over bland gray any day. This car only having 57,000 miles certainly helps everything looking so fresh, but I think it says a lot about Designo treatment that Mercedes gave to these. You did get a little bit better material on these cars and it certainly shows on examples like this one.

So the price, I’m not entirely sure. No one really goes and seeks out a first generation CLK Cabriolet, you just kind of find them. Just like I kind of found this car while doing my rounds. I had no interest in featuring one until this caught my eye and now I really like it. That is the key to this car. Get it front of as many eyeballs as possible and you could have a real winner in terms of value. Over $10,000? Wouldn’t surprise me at all. This is a really nice example of a car that was just average best, but sometimes average is just good enough for some people.

– Andrew


  1. Ken
    Ken February 10, 2018

    “but sometimes average is just good enough for some people.”

    Ouch! I don’t think the seller will be inviting you to write the ad copy.

    Not that I disagree with you. I never liked this model (or really any other Mercedes from this period).

  2. Tirefriar
    Tirefriar February 10, 2018

    Andrew, I think you are saying that you “don’t hate the CLK” because there’s really nothing to hate them for. When they arrived at the scene, they were not inexpensive, even by MB standards. A better question is were they worth the money and I’d have to reply “probably not “. The sticker on my ’02 CLK 55 was $72k, boatload of money 16 years ago. I was surprised that my friend, a MB tech, gave me thumbs up when I told him I’m looking at one. He considers, as many do, that W210 was one of the best models MB built with W209 right behind it.

    Drawing your opnion about a model off the Craiglist specials is not particularly valid. Point me to almost any older luxury car listed there at bargain price and I’ll find a list that f owners longer than a list of women Charlie Sheen slept with with a geometrically inverse proportion of service records.

    When maintained correctly these are great cars. The interior quality is not that far off from anything Benz built back then and the proportions are aesthetically appeasing. With so few of these remaining in general, I’m almost always guaranteed to be the most unique Benz model anywhere I go.

    This particular W208 (not a 209 as stated by the seller) is easily worth $12k. It has a classic color combo, great materials and a V8. You can proudly cruise this cabrio in Malibu canyons or on Croisette along with cars costing 10 times as much or more, all for a price of a used Civic.

  3. ace10
    ace10 February 10, 2018

    It’s impossible to not look at the W203/W210 and see the parallel to Porsche’s 996.

    Quality and style took a bit hit during this era. Especially when one considers the models they replaced.

    Having said that… this particular 208 was built with a really appealing color combo. Seems like a nice car with which to have a Summer fling.

  4. MR K
    MR K February 10, 2018

    Easily the nicest one of these I’ve seen in 10 years or more (not that I’ve been looking for them). Presentation is excellent and I’ve never even seen this designo package. Reminds me of the early 2000s S500 designo with saddle leather that was fairly popular.

  5. Gerald
    Gerald February 10, 2018

    Nice one to feature. Tirefriar you ate dead on entirely with you commentary!!. Very good build quality overall. CLK55 cabrio

  6. Ricky
    Ricky February 10, 2018

    I’m not a huge fan of this model – agree wholeheartedly with the 996 comparison. It was sold during this strange gap in cars history when brands were finding themselves it seems. I think of all the Germans, Audi (with the A4 and A6) navigated this era the best. Its probably what gave Audi an opportunity to blossom the way it did during these years. Does anyone (except a few die-hards like me) remember Audi before 1996?

    That said, this is a beautiful example of an unloved car. Wow. Its hard to do much better for 12K. I’d love to have it in the stable.

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