1964 Mercedes-Benz W110 – Project Profile

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By Chris Pollitt

There are classic cars out there that, despite their years and their miles, still cut a dash. Cars that despite being older than some of your grey-haired relatives, still have the reliability, durability and dependability of much newer models. Not every classic car can boast such qualities, and that’s fine. Some are delicate and need to be cherished and cared for in a more dedicated way. Others, however, like this old Mercedes-Benz, care not for their age and instead just want to be driven. The thing that usually stops them, however, is rust. 

As anyone with even a passing interest in classic cars knows, rust is the enemy. To own a classic car is to constantly have this battle in motion. Rust protection just wasn’t a thing in the good old days, mainly because cars weren’t expected to last long enough for it to become an issue. Mercedes-Benz, however, engineered cars to such perfection that the mechanicals would go forever, but sadly the bodies couldn’t keep up. We’ve had W123s, W126s, W202s and we now have  W124 and on all of them, despite our best efforts, rust has been an issue. So why then, would we take the time to suggest that you buy this, even older, W110 ‘Fintail’ Mercedes-Benz? Surely it’ll be a rot-box, right? Well no, actually, it’s not. Which is exactly the reason why you should buy it. 

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What is it? 

The W110 is the great grandfather of the E Class we have today. This would evolve into the W114/5, then the W123 which then became the W124 –  the first car to wear the E Class name. As such, this W110 is an important car in the history of Mercedes-Benz, a catalyst if you will for the company’s place in the mid-size executive section of the market. And it was executive. The design was more rigid and imposing than the ‘Ponton’ before it, thanks in no small part to the squarer shape and the rear fins, hence the ‘Fintail’ moniker. 

Covered in chrome and full of leather, the W110 was a plush place to be. It was also a car that offered an exceptional ride as well as decent performance from a broad range of engines over its life. The car here, a first-generation model, is fitted with the 1.9 inline-four M121 engine mated to a manual transmission with column change. 

This car, which is left-hand drive, is special because it comes from California. Try and find a UK or European example and you’ll almost certainly be faced with restored, repaired cars or completely rotten basket cases. That’s not what’s happening here though. Instead, this ‘dry state’ car is solid as a rock and shows no signs of corrosion. Even the boot floor is free from holes. The vendor states that the car is 99% rust free, and looking at it, we can well believe him. Plus, look at how straight the panels are. Yeah, the paint is sun bleached, but that’s just paint. 

Why is it a project? 

Well, as we just touched on, it doesn’t look too great. It may well be a car from dry California, but it looks like it’s been laid up for some time prior to being put on the boat to England. The paint is seriously bleached, all the rubbers are perished, the interior is threadbare and ripped in places and it probably needs a complete mechanical overhaul before you can use it, though the vendor states that the engine does crank, which is half the battle. 

This is the sort of car though, that you could sort out from a mechanical standpoint and then have as a rolling restoration. We’d even be inclined to clear-coat the paint (or what’s left of it) to preserve that hard-earned patina, but that’s just us. You might want to splash on some new paint to get the old machine looking regal again. 

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From what we can see though, this is a mechanical and visual affair. There is no rot hiding on the car, the panels aren’t bashed, and all the chrome looks present and correct. It just needs some care and attention. This, on face value, shouldn’t be a project that sees you on your back, fighting with a welder. Or spending endless money on replacement parts and specialist work. This is a car you can buy and make your own with only a reasonable amount of mechanical knowledge. Engine parts are still readily available, which makes things even easier. 

Five things to look for: 

1) Rust

Yes, the car looks solid and it comes from California, but it would still be remiss of you to not at least check. We can’t see anything obvious, but it’s not about us, it’s about satisfying yourself. But going off the stock often found here, we’re confident it’s as solid as they say. 

2) Trim

This is the difficult bit, as the trim, specifically that of the interior, is in a bad way. The external stuff can be re-chromed or polished, but the seats, door pull, switches, dash parts etc might be hard to find, so see what condition they’re in. 

3) Rubber

With one hand, the California sun giveth with no rust, but it taketh away by drying out and killing all the rubber parts. And not just window seals. We’re talking suspension bushes, engine mounts, hoses, the lot. So check what state they’re in. 

4) Engine

The vendor states the engine turns, which is good. But still do the usual checks; leaks, core plugs, cracks. Look for all that stuff, as it would be a shame to have to replace the factory engine. 

5) Glass

It all looks to be present and correct, but if it’s damaged or scratched, you’re going to have to live with it for a while as new stuff won’t be easy to find. 

What should you do with it? 

If it were our money, we would sort the mechanicals out, get it running like a top. Sort the interior out, a complete re-trim, new headlining, nice but hidden stereo system and some modern niceties like air conditioning and some USB charging ports for mobiles devices. Then we’d simply lacquer the body as is, because we love the patina and it’s not something you can easily replicate. We would, of course, also completely rust-proof the underside so as to keep it durable in the face of UK roads. 

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Of course, you might want to go down the full restoration route, for which this car would be an ideal candidate. It’s only £4,995 and for the same again, you could easily get body, paint and trim sorted, resulting in one incredible looking car.

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