03-10-2018 – Laurie Southern
Not Your Average Mercedes-Benz
Feature

It’s approximately 8PM on a Saturday night. You’re home alone with little to do. So, you do what every other car enthusiast out there would do; fire up eBay.

Let’s face it, we all do it. Whether it’s parts for a car you already own, something for a friend’s car, or something ridiculous that you could never justify to yourself. Andrew Atherton is one of us, alright. What he wasn’t expecting however was his dream car to appear right in front of his eyes, at a price he just couldn’t ignore.

A couple of messages later and he found himself out the door before he could even gather his thoughts. An hour and a half later and he was greeted with this, a 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280CE. Known by the model number W114, it’s the one of the last of the Series 1, which I’ll talk about a little later. Isn’t it glorious.

There was a catch, mind; it was advertised as a non-runner. Diagnosed by a ‘mechanic friend’ as a major engine issue. Those warning signs would be a rather large elephant in the room during the viewing, made even more awkward by the fact that it was taking place in the dark. All 40+ year old cars bought in the dark work out in the end, right?

There was one thing that gave Andrew hope, and that was that it was almost completely rust free. Having been there and done that with hidden rust, I know the feeling as I’m sure you do too. An offer was made and, to his delight, the owner accepted. The car started up and made the 100 mile trip home without a fault. The major engine issue was later diagnosed as an exhaust leak. Those mechanic friends, eh. 

So; dream car acquired. It ticked all the right boxes too. The ‘stacked’ headlights were a must and I’m inclined to agree. The pre-facelift Series 1 is far better looking than the Series 2, which featured more modern mirrors, different headlight shape and a new steering wheel among other things. The most surprising thing about the car however is the feature list.

Being a German car, naturally, everything is over-engineered. It has a power sunroof (which still works), power steering, and even fuel injection. The seat adjustment is all hydraulic and can’t be messed with unless the car is stationary. I especially like the filler cap placement, so as not to distort the lines of the car. There’s nothing that hasn’t been thought through to the Nth degree.

Hands down my favourite thing about the car is the pillar-less windows. Andrew makes a point of getting all of the windows down at every opportunity, and I can’t say I blame him. Have you ever seen anything more VIP?

I should probably address the compressor-based elephant in the room. It’s low. Purists may want to look away at this point.

Bags were always a part of Andrew’s plans for the car. He admits that in the early days, he may have ‘lopped a coil or two out of the springs’. His words, not mine. He’d seen in a couple of Facebook groups that air suspension was possible on the car, but it was a lot of hard work. A large amount of fabrication was required to relocate the rear shocks, and it’s not something a great number of people had done. That’s where Viktor at Airride.lt comes in.

Being bolt-on, Viktor’s kit was as easy to fit as any other coilover application. Andrew completed the install in around 6 hours in his garage at home. Not bad at all, given the results.

The kit features independent adjustability between front and rear, meaning the ol’ Californian Rake is rather easily achieved.

If that doesn’t put a smile on your face, I don’t even know what you’re doing here.

The kit runs on a compressor and small air tank, which fit nicely in the car’s (fairly) spacious boot. Andrew’s not quite finished with the cable management yet, but I don’t see it as an issue. It’s meant to be functional, and it’s exactly that.

It’s the best of both worlds. The car can be driven at factory height around town, gliding over speed bumps and pot holes like they don’t exist. When parked or at a show, the car sinks down and lays it’s frame on the ground at the push of a button. What more could you want?

The gauge inside the car indicated the pressure of the front and rear, each represented by a different coloured needle. White not in it’s final resting place (Andrew says he has a little work to do inside the car), it oddly ties in with the interior car like it was there from factory. I can’t fault it.

Interior which, by the way, is absolutely stunning. It reminds me of my gran’s living room, in every positive way. Green interior isn’t something I’d ever choose when speccing up a car, but it just works. Or so Andrew thinks it does. He’s colour blind, so he’ll have to take my word for it.

He even found a head unit that looks period correct. It’s the little things.

As with (almost) any car, the driver’s seat is the best seat in the house. Something about those clocks screams WWII fighter plane at me. I could get used to that. The preference for the Series 1 steering wheel shines through too. I couldn’t imagine anything else in it’s place. A challenge for Vertex, maybe?

The rear bench seat makes for a pretty overwhelming hit of nostalgia. Made ever more apparent by the view into the car you’re able to get without window pillars in the way.

 

On the exterior of the car, not much has changed. The wheels are factory standard items with colour-matched centres. The white wall tyres compliment them perfectly. Andrew admits that he’s been trying to decide what to do with the wheels since buying the car in 2016. Each time he makes the decision to get some split rims made up, he falls for the originals all over again. What would you put on a car like this?

The only other change to the car is the exhaust. A full stainless system has been made up by Jeff at Pipewerx Cars. The standard tips don’t allude that any work has been done whatsoever, although the system ensures that the 2.8L straight 6 has enough shout when it needs it.

It’s a rare car, and certainly not something you come across day to day. I don’t think I’d seen one in the metal before meeting Andrew. It’s the perfect balance of class and style. It’s driven at every single opportunity, no matter where the journey is going. Being such a conversation starter, it’s something that can be appreciated by absolutely everyone; from the old folks right the way down to Andrew’s two kids.

I certainly wouldn’t mind being dropped off at school in it.

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Laurie Southern