Old Mercedes-Benz models are deeply important to the classic car world. They all follow a trend. They’re new and expensive, then they fall from financial grace, then they blossom as classics. The W124 is still languishing around the middle stage, ours more so than most. Because, well, look at it.
The story starts six months ago, when Mark Longland, a friend of our Editor, Chris Pollitt, bought a slightly crusty old W124. He partnered up with a mate and the plan was to bring the old girl back to her former glory before embarking on a journey around Europe. Instead, after an initial flurry of activity based around sorting out the electrics (this car has a new fuse box, we’ll have you know), life got in the way and the W124 lay idle for some three months. Then, after an exchange on Twitter, the car was offered to our man Pollitt for a mere £100. It even had a bit of MOT left? How could we possibly say no?
The car was in Cumbria, which was a problem given our Ed is in Bristol. However, Mark kindly offered to bring it back to civilisation, or Lymm to be exact. Ensuring this happened was a tactical move on our part, as it meant Mark would have to rescue it from its slumber. And as you’d expect, it didn’t want to wake up. All the electricity had fallen out of it. The AA were called. Mark made it three miles. Some more electricity fell out of it. Breakdown was called again, a new battery was fitted and finally, Make made it home.
We collected it a couple of days later. We of course did this in the dark. You should never buy a car in the dark as a general rule. However, we like and trust Mark, so how bad could it be? Well, as it happens, quite bad indeed. You see, we booked it in for an MOT the next morning. It failed with flying colours. The wing was an issue, but we knew about this, and there is a decent one in the boot. The brake lines are shot, the fuel lines are corroded, the tyres have had it, the exhaust blows (literally), there’s a hole somewhere in the rear floor, it’s leaking oil and… um… no, that’s about it. But you pays yer hundred quid, you take yer chances.
Of course, it would be somewhat naive to think a £100 car, any car, would pass its MOT with ease. To be honest, we wanted it to fail, as this gives us a goal. An objective for a future ‘Rescues’ video over on our YouTube channel. We just need to get some parts together before we fire up the cameras.
When it comes to starter classics, you can’t go far wrong with a W124 Mercedes-Benz. They’re cheap, parts are plentiful and not nearly as expensive as you might think (full exhaust system is a mere £96, for example). They’re wonderful to drive – this one, even with its faults, is smoother than Hugh Grant wearing a silk suit – they’re handsome and they have a following that is rich with enthusiasts and specialists that will do whatever they can to help keep your W124 on the road. Furthermore, the W124 comes from an era when Mercedes-Benz really knew how to screw a car together. As such, once the repairs are done to this old girl, even with 201k on the clock, she should be a formidable force in terms of reliability.
Will our old W124 ever be a show car? Probably not. But it will be a car we can improve, one we can bring back to a more than respectable standard and one that, most importantly of all, we can enjoy. It will also serve as proof that you don’t need to plough thousands and thousands of pounds into a classic car. You can do it without needing to be on first name terms with your bank manager, and you can run it without needing to mortgage your internal organs. This W124 costs a mere £13 a month to insure, for example. This is a gateway way car, one that you can buy if you’re thinking of jumping into the classic car world, and over the coming months we’re going to show how and why that’s the case.
We’re under no illusions. There is a lot of work to do here, but we’re looking forward to the challenge. It will be hard graft, it will be frustrating at times, there will be swearing and skinned knuckles, but that’s fine. It’s all part of the rich tapestry of classic car ownership. And at the end of it, when we’re rolling along in our Mercedes-Benz W124, it’ll all be worth it, hopefully.