When most of us think of classics, and retro cars we instantaneously think of MINIs, Capris and the like but we seem to forget that classic car enthusiasts still like full fat motoring. What I mean by ‘full fat’ is executive cars that seemingly have a ‘magic carpet’ ride; wood trims that are actually wood; and leather seats that are actually leather unlike the cars of today where everything is built on a budget.
Furthermore, the cars of yesteryear seem to be much better built – driving around in a 1988 Mercedes 500SEC may seem like an expensive way to travel, and it was back then at about £100,000 in today’s money, but now these cars in reasonable condition can be bought for £5,000 or sometimes less. It would then, on the face of it, seem like this 5.0 litre monster would make more sense than a second hand Fiesta.
A slammed period Mercedes Benz W126
Well let me delve into the proposition a little further. Still using the same example, a W126 was designed with a particular set of aims – the S class was already a market leader but the 1970’s oil crisis meant fuel efficiency was paramount. Further, they wanted something that was sleeker, more aerodynamic than the previous model; the result being that the W126 was the world’s most popular S-Class ever produced at almost 900,000 vehicles produced. The benefit of this and the fact that it took 6 years in the planning remains, that they almost never go wrong. And if they do, parts tend to be easy to source and because of the uncomplicated nature of these cars in comparison to that of today’s most basic BMW 5 Series, most of the work can be done at home, on the driveway over a cup of tea. I know of cars which have covered in excess of 200,000 miles and have needed for nothing apart from regular servicing.
As if that wasn’t enough of an incentive, the power is truly addictive! It is effortless in its delivery – you floor it and after a slightly louder engine note from the glorious V8, the car shifts along at quite a pace. More than that of a Fiesta I might add. Without being clinically obsessed with performance figures, the 5.0 16V V8 put out 265 PS(261 BHP) and a whopping 405 Nm of torque – more than a Hummer H3! If that is too conservative, and you are immune from paying at the Petrol station then maybe the 5.6 16V may be of interest – power is up again from 265 PS(261 BHP) to 299 PS(295 BHP) and 455 Nm respectively.
With the W126 being quite a common car in its day, it is quite natural to assume there would be some quite dedicated tuners. One of the most famous tuners offered a wide-body kit for the coupe and a range of engine tuning options – a DOHC 6.0 Litre engine (tempted much?), together with this a Torsen differential and manual transmission (yes, you read it right). And the name of this tuner? AMG of course. Of course, even today AMG has its hard-working rivals, Koenig offered supercharger and twin turbo kits just in case you wanted to set your hair on fire.
But these figures remain largely irrelevant in day to day traffic, it is damn near impossible to exploit the performance of your car and so certain luxuries are better noticed. Things like Courtesy lights on the underside of the doors; to enable the driver and passengers to see the ground and/or puddles when entering and exiting the car. Further, on the saloon version, individual rear cabin reading lamps were fitted aimed at the rear seat occupant’s laps so as to avoid distracting the driver at night. Clever, I hear you say, and you would be correct. As an option, power adjustable rear seats were available with a Burr Walnut grained centre console that replaced the centre seat. And if you were to drive it rather than be a passenger, then eight way powered heated front seats with memory was available for both front occupants.
A Mercedes Benz Koenig W126 from yester-year
The Mercedes is not the only large barge available for peanuts – there are so many alternatives such as the much more modern Lexus LS or even a Jaguar XJ LWB Daimler. Running these cars are much simpler and cost effective than some of the other metal on sale today which all seem to be powered by a laptop running diagnostics software as opposed to the somewhat old school mechanic. Surely being cossetted by a heated leather armchair has to be a nicer way to commute than a Ford Fiesta?
These are just a few reasons why so many enthusiasts find themselves hovering around in these fantastically reliable cars.