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  •   Quentin Willson reacted to this post about 2 years ago
    DRIVEN AUTOMOTIVE LEGENDS WORDS: DANIEL BEVIS / CITY SLICKER
    Driven: #Mercedes-Benz-250CE

    We sent out our super tester to find a German saloon… and he came back with a big ol’ coupe! It still fits though - read on to find out why.

    Go out and drive a classic saloon,” said Midge. So what we’ve got here is… er, a pillarless coupé. Oops. But I’d argue that it still fits in with the ethos of this saloon-themed issue - it may be a two-door GT rather than a sensible family four-door, but its roots lie in the ineffably imposing W114/5 saloon series of Mercedes-Benz, retaining a distinct three-box profile and a proper boot. Only a pedant would correct you.”

    THE DRIVE...

    Monday morning, London, rush hour. Arguably the stupidest time and place to be thinking of conducting a road test. But bear with me, this will all make sense.

    A few cups of strong black coffee at the Hoxton headquarters of the Classic Car Club were a necessary eye-opener at the bleary dawn of the week, as their cavernous lair requires a certain amount of alertness in order to take it all in. Every corner hides another shimmering retro treat, and this is a hidden garage with a lot of corners… although I’m not here to pore over the ’1977 Porsche 911 Carrera or the race-rep Dolomite Sprint. (Not to say that these won’t be in my crosshairs in the future!) No, I have a very specific target in mind today: the 1970 Mercedes-Benz 250CE.

    It is in many respects the ideal choice for modern urban motoring. While it’s hard at first to narrow down your choices when presented with a vast garage of desirable classics, a seventies Merc just ticks all of the boxes – these cars are very much in the ascendant these days, both in value and desirability. They’re so hot right now. The combination of crisp, timeless lines and proven sturdy mechanicals (as underpinning every other taxi in developing countries across the globe) makes it a supremely logical commuter choice.

    But can any car really make rush hour London bearable? All cities naturally evolve around their transport systems, and in the case of the urban layout of the USA, for example, they were able to plan the cities around wide, ordered roads; in Europe, the rapidly swelling cities grew on top of the increasingly inadequate existing road network, narrow and meandering and evermore unsuitable. Ergo, London in a car is a pain in the backside. Too many cars. Angry bus drivers. Cyclists playing by their own rules. Malfunctioning traffic lights. Unexpected roadworks. Noise. Stress. And just for funsies, let’s throw in some lowthirties heat. Everyone is angry.

    Everyone, that is, except me. You see, it’s impossible to be stressed in a W114/5- generation Mercedes-Benz. While all about you lose their heads, you just feel like James Dean, wafting through your own personal urban wonderland. There are few machines as inherently feelgood as this.

    Our 250CE is left-hand drive, but this requires very little mental recalibration in the metropolis as the glasshouse is so large, particularly in comparison to modern cars’ swollen pillars; you swim through the city like a fish, all around you in perfect clarity. The smooth, lazy automatic gearbox can’t really be described as sporty (or even particularly attentive), but it’s spot-on for city driving, as you’re just lazily, languorously rippling through the streets, an elbow out of the pillarless window at all times, steering roguishly with your right palm. The car shrinks around you, its massive white steering wheel an absurd caricature in the cosy cabin.

    Pedestrians turn to proffer admiring glances as I trundle down Old Street – a couple outside an Italian café even raise their coffee cups in salute. A cab driver waves me out as I head toward Cheapside (when does that ever happen?) and on into the spiritual heart of the London/Mercedes axis, the City: here, the men still wear red braces and the women broad pinstripes, and each one probably has an investment-grade Benz in the garage at the country pad. They all offer knowing nods.

    Heading down past the vast waterfront properties of Victoria Embankment, tourist territory approaches as I close in on Parliament Square, the hordes of camera-toting visitors momentarily distracted from Big Ben by the sight of this splendid bottle-green coupé. Continuing along the north side of the Thames, I cross the river at Chelsea Bridge and swing the Merc’s imposing nose into the verdant lusciousness of Battersea Park. I’ve travelled a grand total of seven miles so far, and it’s taken the best part of two hours. And you know what? That doesn’t matter a jot. I feel supremely relaxed.

    The 250CE is, by pretty much any measurable value, the perfect city car. It’s not especially quick, but it really doesn’t need to be, it just gets on with the job of wafting you along like a swan on a millpond. The turning circle is tight, the front end easily placed thanks to the prominent top corners of the wings… and it looks ace in the reflections of shop windows as you ooze past. A flawless urban cruiser.
    DRIVEN AUTOMOTIVE LEGENDS BACKGROUND

    The W114 & W115 generation of Mercedes has a well-deserved reputation for being built like tanks. Launched in 1968, the W114 cars were powered by four-cylinder engines, while the W115s had straightsixes. The revered Paul Bracq took care of the styling, and the model is often noted for its uncanny ability to span a wide range of socioeconomic points and means of utility – from taxis to limousines and everything in between – while all looking fundamentally similar.

    This was Mercedes’ first post-war model to feature a cleansheet chassis rather than borrowing from previous models, and its innovative setup of semi-trailing rear arms and ball-joint front end would endure until the 1980s. While the saloons enjoyed a wide range of engine options (most notably the diesels, which seem to go on forever), the coupé variant was offered with just the 2.5- and 2.8-litre petrol motors; they were cheaper than the SL range - sure, they were hard-tops rather than convertibles, but the pillarless windows meant you could pretend. Interestingly, however, these rakish urban gadabouts never really captured the public imagination in period – while 1,852,008 saloons were built, there were only 67,048 coupés, 42,379 of which were 250s. This car, then, is a rare beast, and much sought-after today.

    Pub Ammo – #Mercedes-Benz-250CE / #Mercedes-Benz-250CE-W114 / #Mercedes-Benz-250CE-C114 / #Mercedes-Benz-C114 / #Mercedes-Benz-W114 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Bosch /

    The 250CE was the first production #Mercedes -Benz ever to use #Bosch-D-Jetronic fully electronic fuel injection.
    The W114/W115 was the first Merc to feature a centre console, and the first to feature the now-iconic ribbed tail-lights (from #1974 ).

    Mercedes-Benz Argentina manufactured a pickup truck based on the W115.

    The list of engine options for the W114 (4-cyl)/W115 (6-cyl) range included 2.0, 2.2, 2.3 (both 4- and 6-cylinder), 2.5, 2.7 and 2.8-litre petrol, and 2.0, 2.2, 2.4 and 3.0 diesel - the 3.0-litre actually being a 5-cylinder.

    In 2004, a Greek taxi driver donated his ’1976 240D to the Mercedes-Benz Museum Collection, having clocked up 4,600,000km.

    IN POPULAR CULTURE…

    Roger Moore drove a W115 saloon in The Man with the Golden Gun – artfully colour-matched to his shirt. There’s a burnt-out coupé in the background two hours into The Matrix. Inevitably you’ll also spot them sprinkled liberally throughout American TV series of the 1970s and ’80s - Dallas, Dynasty, The A-Team, Falcon Crest, you name it - and they appear as taxis in basically any fi lm set in Germany, Eastern Europe, Russia, North Africa… well, anywhere really. That’s the thing about W114/5s, they’re everywhere. A lot were built, and they were strong enough to just keep going and going. But for massive cheater points, we’re going to cite our favourite movie appearance as the 450SEL 6.9 (which, obviously, was an entirely different model; the W116 was a bigger car) that tore up the scenery in Ronin – just because it’s a very cool fi lm, and a great chase. Suspend your disbelief for a moment, pretend it’s a 250CE…

    ORIGINAL SPEC
    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 2.5-LITRE STRAIGHT-SIX SOHC, BOSCH D-JETRONIC FUEL INJECTION, 148BHP,
    3-SPEED AUTO
    CHASSIS: 5.5X14-INCH STEELS, INDEPENDENT COIL-SPRUNG SUSPENSION ALL ROUND, DISC BRAKES FRONT & REAR
    EXTERIOR: TWO-DOOR PILLARLESS COUPÉ
    BASED ON W114 SALOON PLATFORM
    INTERIOR: WOOD-EFFECT DASH, MASSIVE WHITE STEERING WHEEL, COSY BUT INEXPLICABLE WOOLLY SEAT COVERS
    PRICE NOW: £7,500+
    PRODUCTION: 1968-1976
    POWER: 148BHP (250CE)
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  • WE CATCH UP WITH PART 2 OF THE HOOLIGAN BUILD AS JACO GOES ON THE PROWL THROUGH THE STREETS OF PRETORIA.

    Carrying on with Jaco Swart’s #Mercedes-Benz-W115 build, the Speed and Sound team paid the Hooligan workshop a visit a few weeks back where we found the 6-cylinder purring away on idle. Jaco stepped out of his office, greeted us with a smile and a dyno sheet in the one hand. "Check, here's the power reading we got from MRD, not too bad for a stock 2J motor eh?" quipped Jaco as walked to the car with a swagger. Admittedly, yes, the car looked way better than last time we saw it, and we could see his 20-day project was a huge success.

    Sporting a new set of 19” #RHE replica wheels, and custom lowered springs all round, the old German banger now has a certain suspicious look about it which says "some- thing's-cooking good-looking".

    Jaco grabs the keys and asks "We're going for a drive: care to join us?" No sooner had we agreed too when Herman and Johan opened the heavy doors and jumped in. Herman is the mastermind behind the fabrication work, creating all the magic in the engine bay with his meticulous attention to detail. Johan shared the passion too, helping with the overall build of the car, while Jaco on the other hand poured four-finger-high Brandewyn and Cokes during those late nights in the workshop.

    As the 2J lump roared and hissed through the streets of Pretoria, Jaco hangs his arm out the window and waxes lyrical about SMART Customs who prepared the body and resprayed the car perfectly. It shows as the setting sun gleams off the spotless chassis.

    "The motor is just perfect, and is a true reflection of the capability of a 2JZ motor” says Jaco. “With a stock bottom end, show me another motor that can produce 479hp on the wheels?"

    I guess we can't argue with that: MRD's Johan Minnaar tuned the car for reliability too, and with almost 600Nm to boot, the car is a dream to drive. As I said earlier, the engine's bottom end is standard, with the only major additions being the hefty #Borg-Warner-S366 / #Borg-Warner turbo-charger and all of Herman's shiny bits.

    The management system of choice is Dicktator, and with the fuelling being supplied by 1600cc Bosch fuel injectors, an 044 fuel pump and a modified OEM fuel cell, the engine purrs ever so slightly and roars ever so violently.

    Jaco hesitated a tad when snapper CJ asked him to do a burn out. In a blink of an eye, Herman and Johan were out the car before it even stopped, urging Jaco to gooi it!

    “Look, the driveshafts and diff are still standard, so I'm not too sure if they'll take the punishment?" explains Jaco, oblivious to the fact that Herman had already spilt water on the road to help the burn-out process. With a wry smile, Jaco dumps the clutch and in seconds, the sky is filled with smoke as both Herman and Johan disappear in the haze. It's so undescribingly funny, to watch an unsuspecting 1976 family sedan, perform a mother of a burn out. One can only stand back, point and laugh at the Hooligan #Mercedes-Benz .

    Back at the workshop, the hefty Mercedes stops in front of Kabelo, the other Hooligan member who grabs a lappie and begins wiping the sticky rubber off the fenders and rear bumper. The smile on his face says it all, testament to how an old car - if built right - can be just as appealing as any million-rand supercar.


    TECH SPECS #1976 #Mercedes-Benz-W115-2JZ-GTE

    DRIVER Jaco Swart
    Engine: #2JZ-GTE . / #Toyota / #Toyota-2JZ-GTE / #Toyota-2JZ / #Toyota-JZ /
    Exhaust: Custom turbo manifold.
    Fueling: 1600 injectors, ftf fuel pressure reg, #Bosch-044 pump / #Bosch
    Intake: Custom Intake, 90mm throttles.
    Exterior: Resprayed by #SmartCustoms
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