Alex Palmeri, a YouTuber with a penchant for buying neat old Mercedes-Benzes nobody wants, says he picked up a $1,000 C-Class that’s actually a rare and special tuner car. The RENNtech C38 wasn’t something I’d ever heard of, but it turns out this W203 does have an interesting pedigree.
I was initially skeptical of this thing being anything special–it’s fairly nondescript besides the uniquely blueish-purple paint job and some badging.
But RENNtech is a known Mercedes-Benz tuner that’s been around for some time. This isn’t a company that’s an “official” subdivision of Mercedes like AMG now is, but its founder has had a relationship with both Mercedes and AMG since the early days of Benz hot-rodding.
From RENNtech’s About Us page:
[RENNtech President Hartmut Feyhl’s] experience comes from 12 years spent at AMG Germany before serving as the North American division’s Technical Director. Prior to the tuning company’s merger with Mercedes-Benz in 1999, by the request of AMG Germany, Feyhl branched out on his own to start RENNtech and service the existing AMG North America customers.
Feyhl seemed like a good person to reach out to find out if this purple “C38” was actually one of his company’s builds or just something somebody painted and put some badges on, so I sent RENNtech an email. Mr. Feyhl was kind enough to give me a little background on the car:
“This is a 3.8l Renntech modified car, it was a car that I built for myself and then eventually sold to an existing customer on the west coast of Florida who had it for a long time,” he wrote to me. Feyhl went on to elaborate that RENNtech “built about 10 of those engines in total for other models.” But as for the W203-body style C-Classes like this one, Feyhl told me he only knew of one existing, though there might be “one more or so.”
“Those engines” Feyhl refers to are C320 3.2-liter engines bored to 3.8-liters, hence, the name “C38.” The standard 3.2-liter engine claimed 215 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque. Curiously, I haven’t been able to find multiple sources on the RENNtech-enlarged 3.8-liter engine specs and Mr. Feyhl didn’t get back to me on the matter, but it looks like the car was claiming 291 HP and 305 lb-ft of torque in 2001.
After I started asking around, RENNtech’s media rep Lars Totterman actually reached out to me and provided even more context on the company over email:
“Feyhl got his first job directly from Hans-Werner Aufrecht, and at age 17 began his first ‘summer job’ at the original AMG mill in Burgstal. This is the heart of the relationship, and it has evolved over the years with Mercedes, AMG, and now Mercedes-AMG.”
“Most RENNtech cars are customer cars, with the exception of our development cars. The development cars are recent models from Mercedes-AMG, and our engineers use them to develop parts, power, and for testing. At the end, development cars have every part RENNtech has for the specific model. The C38 was a development car.”
“The C38 was built in 2000 when AMG did not have a W203 chassis vehicle on the market. It was developed, personally owned, and driven by Hartmut. The bore and stroke style tuning is both time consuming and expensive, so very few were built, and as Hartmut noted only about a dozen engines made, for various chassis. Why? To make the car go faster, and to handle better, that is what our customers look for.”
So, not only is Palmeri’s C38 one-of-probably-just-one, it looks like it was made specifically for the boss of one of the main Mercedes tuners in the business! That’s pretty cool.
Why its previous owner let it languish and end up on the junk auction circuit, and what the car’s really worth today, remains a mystery. Obviously, it’s an authentic vehicle with legitimate historical relevance. But at the same time, it’s not a particularly extreme build and isn’t going to be much of a performer by today’s standards.