RUN BY Graeme Hurst
OWNED SINCE November 2011
PREVIOUS REPORT Jan 2017
The TE has put some miles under its belt recently, mainly with trips to the Cape coast or the inland Karoo – it being the only ‘dog’ and ‘tow’ car in the fleet, so perfect for weekend adventures. The trouble is, a faulty odometer means that I have no idea how many miles, so have to judge the service intervals by the colour of the oil.
My mates in the Mercedes-Benz Club are rather horrified by that arrangement, along with the sort of use we give the car. Which highlights a dilemma: the wagon variant of the #W123
is super-rare on South African shores and they’re increasingly coveted by collectors, but ours is very much a working classic in daily use because I simply don’t have the space to keep it for high days and holidays.
Mind you, as classic daily drivers go, a 123 wagon is perfect for the job, although the maintenance does start to rack up on a car that’s likely covered 300,000km-plus. It’s all been minor stuff, such as a faulty start-inhibitor switch on the gearbox (meaning that the car would only start in neutral) and a weeping power-steering hose. Both were easily sorted by local specialist Allan Ketterer of JFT Motors, who also suggested having the radiator flushed and ‘rodded’ to ensure that the cooling system is in optimum condition. This was after the temperature needle started creeping towards the red on a trip up the west coast last Christmas.
To be fair, the journey involved towing a trailer with the car four-up in 35ºC heat, but I was conscious that, as a full import, the TE has a standard European-market radiator and not the larger item our locally assembled sedans enjoy. I thought of installing a local version, but wagons were fitted with an oil cooler, so there isn’t space. Ketterer suggested fitting a relay to hardwire the electric fan on whenever the air-conditioning is running; with that and a clear core, the needle is now stable on hot days. Another problem with daily use is the risk of knocks from other cars. Or in our case rather more than just a knock, after the back of the Merc was clipped by a Range Rover at an intersection. Fortunately the impact was directly on the offside tail-light lens, so the metalwork emerged unscathed, but replacing the lens was a reminder of why these cars are increasingly finding their way into cotton-wool-wrapped collections: second-hand estate items are non-existent, and a new lens (in a dusty Stuttgart box that looked to be new-old-stock) cost a whopping R5480 (£322!) from the main agent. Thankfully the guilty party was properly insured, and even still made her yoga class on time. Namaste!
A true ‘lifestyle’ estate doing what it does best, as the Merc hauls dogs and kayaks to the Palmiet River in Betty’s Bay. Getting hot under the collar on west coast. Altercation with Range Rover proved costly New power-steering hoses cured weeping.