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    Mercedes-Benz C-Class 204-Series Open

    Mercedes-Benz C-Class 204-Series / W204 / C204 / 2007-2015

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    Porsche 911 SC RS The Bastos-liveried 911 had a stellar rallying season in 1984. We take it for a drive in its native Belgium – and quickly find out why it left so many rivals trailing in its wake. In 1984 Porsches were really smoking them off – specifically, the tobaccosponsored #Porsche-911SC RS rally cars. Johnny Tipler tells the tale of this short-run competition car and samples the real thing on its Belgian home turf Photography Antony Fraser. Archive pics courtesy Johan Dirickx.

    Let there be light. I flick the dashboard switch and the battery of Cibies bursts into life, illuminating the Belgian countryside. I’ve come to Kontich, home to 911 Motorsport, to drive the #Porsche-911SC-RS , a short-run hybrid competition car that stalked the stages in the European Rally Championship in the mid-Eighties. The car basks in the livery of Bastos, a Belgian cigarette brand, from an epoch when fags and motor sport worked hand in glove.

    Fire up the engine and the stripped-out cabin is a very noisy place. My forward view from the left-hand driver’s seat scouts beyond the rounded wings and the 911 headlamps, but I’ve also got the four semi-circular humps of the spotlamps in front of me. I’m strapped tightly into the low Recaro race seat by a five-point harness, and I’ve got the dished Sparco steering wheel pointing back at me. I’m surrounded by the roll cage, beneath a bare white roof graffiti’d with signatures, including that of original owner Jean- Pierre Gaban. The tachometer redlines at a little less than 8000rpm. The transmission whine and engine noise are deafening. The gearbox is difficult to engage when cold and the racing clutch is ferocious. My feet pass one another on the pedals and all hell breaks loose. It’s as if a bucking bronco has been released into the rodeo ring and I’m the cowboy struggling to hold on to the reins. Acceleration is immediate and the shift of the 915 transmission is surprisingly compliant rather than the wrestling match I’d anticipated. The roar of the flat-six, the howl of the transmission and the bonk of the suspension on the Belgian pave are raw and immediate sensations. Bystanders hear its approach a long way off, backfiring and popping on the overrun. The set of the steering wheel is off-centre and there’s a prevailing tendency towards understeer as I rush into bends.

    Next thing I’m fighting oversteer too. It’s sensory overload and a rush of bewildering impressions at first – because it’s not much like any regular 911 that I’ve driven.

    Then I begin to get used to the idiosyncrasies of this Porsche’s rally car nature. It’s not like a race car – it seems less sophisticated than that, tauter and more hardcore and it sits higher on its pins than a low-slung racer. I force myself to relax into it and take a calm overview. The further I go, the more I understand its foibles; once I get the hang of it, the monster is not so monstrous after all.


    CHASSIS 010’S 1984 SEASON

    BELGIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
    Snyers/Colenbunders 1st overall
    Boucles de Spa (Belgium), Snyers/Colenbunders 3rd
    Circuit des Ardennes (Belgium), Snyers/Colenbunders 1st
    TAC Rally (Belgium), Snyers/Colenbunders 1st
    Rallye de Wallonie (Belgium), Snyers/Colenbunders 1st
    Ypres 24-Hours (Belgium), Snyers/Colenbunders 2nd
    Circuit de Flandres (Belgium), Snyers/Colenbunders 1st
    EUROPEAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
    Snyers/Colenbunders 3rd overall
    Ypres 24-Hours (Belgium), Snyers/Colenbunders 2nd
    Madeira Rally (Portugal), Snyers/Colenbunders 1st
    Rally du Vin (Switzerland), Snyers/Colenbunders 6th

    Relatively unknown today, the SC RS was a rallying force to be reckoned with 30 years ago.

    With the exhaust flaming and popping, you hear the SC RS coming long before you see it.

    ‘Suddenly all hell breaks loose – it’s as if a bucking bronco has been released into the rodeo ring and I’m the cowboy struggling to hold on to the reins’

    The Prodrive-built 911 feels unruly at first.

    300kph (186mph) speedometer is from the 911 3.0 RS.

    ‘Good to see you again’ – the 911 with a reproduction of Jean-Pierre Gaban’s period Ford Granada support car.
    In-period action with Patrick Snyers and Dany Colenbunders.

    I form two conflicting views about how to drive this car – either with brute force and ignorance, or as smoothly as possible. The answer lies between the two, because it does react to being bossed and also responds to a smooth hand. It much depends on the scenario; doubtless a firm grip is needed on a timed rally stage, but it’s nice to know it can be placid on the transit sections.

    We’re familiar with the #Porsche-911 SC in production form, but what’s this RS version? Here’s the background – in 1983 Porsche was in the ascendant with the Group C 956 and 962 sports racing prototypes, but it was also in the throes of launching four-wheeldrive projects including the 961 Le Mans car and the 959 supercar.


    Fearsome Group B cars such as the Ford RS200, Audi Sport quattro and Lancia Delta S4 dominated theWorld Rally Championship. Porsche couldn’t compete against them even with the 3.3-litre 930 Turbo because in Group B spec the Turbo would have incurred a severe weight penalty. So Porsche’sWeissach competition department sought a more down-to-earth machine that could use existing components to give both factory and customers a realistic chance of international rally success.

    Weissach guru Jürgen Barth had driven the 1982 Monte Carlo Rally in the Alméras brothers’ 911 SC, coming ninth overall and second in Group B. By coincidence Rothmans, sponsors of Porsche’s works Group C team, had just asked the factory to produce a rally car for the 1984 season, so Barth and workmate Roland Kussmaul got the go-ahead to build a rally-spec 911. A loophole in the FIA homologation rules allowed 20 cars to be produced provided they were based on a redundant model, and since the standard 911 SC had just been superseded by the 3.2 Carrera that was the ideal starting point. Accordingly, the SC RS was constructed at Weissach from 1983 and was competitive until 1987. Five cars went to David Richards’ Prodrive-run Rothmans WRC squad, 15 were delivered to private customers, and a single car was created retrospectively at Weissach from leftover components, making 21 SC RSs in total.

    Of the privateers, Belgian tobacco companies Belga and Bastos bought two and one respectively. The Bastos car was chassis number 10 and is the car featured here. It was originally bought by Porsche racer Jean-Pierre Gaban for Patrick Snyers and Dany Colenbunders to contest the 1984 Belgian National Rally Championship, which they won. One of the Belga cars, chassis 12, of Robert Droogmans and Ronny Joosten, was runner-up that year. Then Pascal Gaban, Jean-Pierre’s son, won the Belgian National Rally Championship with the Bastos car in 1986.

    When Johan Dirickx discovered the car in France a few years ago it was in poor condition, so the engine, gearbox and chassis were rebuilt and overhauled at his 911 Motorsport workshop at Kontich, incorporating new-old-stock components personally supplied by Jürgen Barth out of Weissach, while the original Bastos exterior livery was faithfully reproduced at the same time.

    The 911 SC RS was no ordinary 911. Aluminium front wings and welded-on aluminium extensions, and bulging steel rear wings with welded-on steel extensions covered Fuchs 944 Turbo wheels fitted with 225/50ZR 16s on the front and 245/45ZR 16s on the back, and a polyurethane whale-tail spoiler from an early 930 Turbo. The spec was different enough to warrant its own factory type number, 954. There was no turbocharger – the SC RS’s flat-six was a 3.0-litre 930/18 SC, fitted with the preceding Kugelfischer injection and special fuel pump instead of the standard SC’s K-Jetronic system, plus air pump for more efficient exhausting. Compression ratio rose from 9.8:1 to 10.3:1, with reprofiled forged pistons, high-lift camshafts and valve timing adjusted accordingly.

    Ratios in the 915 gearbox were shorter than standard, so acceleration was brisker at the expense of top speed. A dedicated oil cooler was housed within the rear wing mounting on the engine lid, a safer location for its rallying objectives. The road car’s final drive ratio was 8:3.1, with shorter 8:35 and 7:37 competition versions available, together with a 40 per cent limited-slip differential.

    Brake discs and calipers were gleaned from the #Porsche-930 , and although coil springs would have been ideal they were not homologated until 1985, so the SC RS ran with larger-diameter torsion bars, 22mm front and 27.5mm rear, replacing 19mm and 26mm items respectively. A simple but effective modification involved holes adjacent to the damper turrets through which the suspension was harnessed by cables to preclude the wheel cambers from going mega-positive as the car took off on the jumps. Archive photos of it poised in mid-air show the wheels hanging vertically, instead of tucked in at the bottom.

    With no turbocharger the SC RS achieved its performance largely through weight reduction. It has lightweight body panels, and all the sound deadening and rear seats were stripped out. There’s no heater and the window glass is thinner than standard. The front wing extensions are welded-on aluminium flares and the rears are steel, welded on to the narrow SC bodyshell. The crossmember rearward of the engine was reinforced and filleted to save weight, and the bodyshell seam-welded with extra reinforcement around the damper towers. The glassfibre front and rear bumper panels and valances were unique, though the rear one was very similar to the 3.0 RS. The SC RS weighed 980kg compared to a standard SC’s 1160kg, which – given a 280bhp power output at 7000rpm coupled with short gearing – makes for rapid acceleration. At 5.0sec dead, it’s 0.2sec quicker to 100kph than the 3.3-litre Turbo, running out of steam at 244kph (152mph), while the 930 speeds on to 260kph (162mph).


    Cabins varied in detail across the 21 cars, but a bolted-in, crossbraced roll cage, competition seats, period steering wheel and fly-off handbrake were ubiquitous. Thinner carpet covers the floor, while door panels are slim cards with thong-pulls to open, with wind-up windows. The tachometer winds to 10,000rpm.

    The zenith of the SC RS’s career was the #1984 European Rally Championship. Rothmans/Prodrive engaged Henri Toivonen for the task, even though Lancia also booked him to do theWorld Rally Championship in the 037, so the Finn campaigned both cars. With SC RS victories in the Ypres 24 Hours, Milles Pistes, Costa Smerelda and Madeira rallies, Toivonen had a commanding lead in the European Championship until he was forced to pull out after an accident in a WRC Lancia 037, ending up second in the final European standings despite missing some rounds.

    The car here contested the Belgian National Rally series, vying with main rivals Robert Droogmans and Ronny Joosten in the Ring Auto Service-run Belga-sponsored SC RS. Patrick Snyers and Dani Colenbunders emerged victorious in the Bastos car, after placing third in the Boucles de Spa, first in the Circuit des Ardennes, first in the TAC Rally, and first in the Rallye deWallonie. In the Ypres 24 Hours, which counted towards the European title, they finished second behind Toivonen’s Prodrive SC RS, helping them towards third overall in the Euro series. Droogmans and Joosten in the Belga SC RS were runners up in the Belgian championship.


    The 911 SC RS may be relatively unknown now, but 30 years ago it was a force to be reckoned with on the provincial rally stage. And it’s great that Johan Dirickx’s enthusiasm is ensuring it’s not forgotten today. Though he’s unlikely to put the Bastos car at risk on Goodwood’s arduous Forest stage, he will probably take his other SC RS, Belga chassis number 12. If so, watch out for another Turbo-look rally car in red-and-white livery. One thing’s for sure – you’ll hear it coming first.


    TECH DATA PORSCHE 911 SC RS

    Engine: Rear-mounted 3.0 flat-six, aluminium block, aluminium ’heads ex-935
    Fuelling: Bosch #Kugelfischer injection
    Power and torque: 280bhp @ 7000rpm; 184lb ft @ 6400rpm
    Bodyshell Seam-welded, lightweight aluminium wings, doors, front and rear lids and roll cage; glassfibre front and rear panels, valances
    Suspension Front: wishbones, MacPherson struts, torsion bars, gas dampers. Rear: semi-trailing arms, torsion bars, gas dampers, anti-roll bar
    Performance Top speed: 152mph; 0-60mph: 5.0sec
    Weight 980kg (2160lb)
    Chassis number WPO ZZZ 91Z ES 110 010
    Engine number 63E9 003
    Gearbox number 73E9 00002

    911SC RS offers understeer and oversteer at will.

    ‘There’s a tendency towards understeer as I rush into bends. Next thing I’m fighting oversteer too. It’s a sensory overload and a rush of bewildering impressions’

    Signatures above writer Johnny Tipler include original owner Jean-Pierre Gaban’s.

    ‘With no turbocharger, it achieved its performance through weight reduction... At 5.0sec dead, it was 0.2sec quicker to 100kph than the 3.3-litre Turbo’

    Cabins of the 21 SC RSs differed, but navigators all got a map light and some had Halda trip meters.
    Wheels hang vertical in mid-air thanks to cables preventing the cambers going mega-positive.
    3.0-litre flat-six is ‘basically a 935 engine without the turbos’, says owner Johan Dirickx.

    The 911 got Jürgen Barth-supplied NOS components when it was restored a few years ago.

    DRIFT AWAY

    Belgian #Porsche aficionado and 911 RS expert Johan Dirickx loves nothing more than drifting his cars on track days, and has raced them at Laguna Seca’s Monterey Classics and Le Mans Classic as well as Goodwood’s exacting Festival of Speed rally course with the Bastos SC RS.

    He has owned this car for six years and is compiling a history of all 21 SC RSs. ‘They took 20 SCs off the line and built them into turbo-look cars,’ he explains. ‘Basically the chassis is like a 930 turbo, with bigger brakes, and the engine is something different because it’s really a 935 engine without the turbos and an ’85 rally exhaust. It’s amazing how they brought things together from different cars and made it into something new. That’s unique at Porsche, especially if you go into the race cars. It makes sense because you’re not going to start a production line for 20 cars.’

    ‘They were pretty fast machines, faster than a turbo at the time because they were light. You have the lollipop seats that are typical for the 935s plus the complete aluminium roll cage, which isn’t allowed any more. ‘Apart from that it’s actually a sweet drive with a little understeer, and you go on the throttle, doing four-wheel slides. You need the power on to do it, and with a little bit higher revs it starts to go a bit. There’s nearly 300 horsepower, so it is bloody quick.’
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    After recently experiencing a low mileage W123 #230E in the December #2014 issue, the opportunity to drive a #W124 version provided a rare comparison test.

    Quality is quality, no matter how unadorned the product might appear to be, and no car surely highlights that better than a Mercedes-Benz of the 1980s, a prime example being the W124 230E seen here. Long before the term ‘poverty spec’ was invented, Mercedes-Benz offered cars that looked basically furnished, came with hardly any equipment as standard, and which hardly impressed in the performance stakes.

    They were also significantly more expensive than all comparable rivals, if indeed anything other than a BMW or Audi could be truly thought of as a rival to the three-pointed star.

    The buying public loved them. In #1989 , the year before this 230E was registered, and the peak year in that era for new car sales in the UK, #Mercedes sold just over 13,000 124-series cars (still then known, rather awkwardly, as the ‘200-300’ range). That exceeded the #190E total by some 2,000 units, and was more than, for example, the total number of #VW #Passats registered.

    Those brought up on modern cars loaded with kit and with plentiful power outputs might struggle to understand how Mercedes got away with it. But demand was so strong that customers waited months for delivery, and after a few years could sell the car on for a healthy proportion of its list price - which had not been discounted by one penny.
    Let’s look at the February #1990 price list, current when this 230E was delivered to its first and only owner. The cheapest 124 was the 200E, with its two-litre fuel injected engine, priced at £19,020. As standard, it had a five-speed manual gearbox, anti lock brakes, central locking and an electrically operated passenger door mirror (the driver’s was manual).

    CHOOSERS CAN BE BEGGARS

    But during your visit to a #Mercedes-Benz dealership to place an order, the salesman would have slid a blue booklet across the desk, showing the 38 factory extras that could be added, ranging from twin illuminated vanity mirrors at £68, to air conditioning at £2,092, and including one or two specialist items such as a tow bar and an engine sump guard.

    You could, provided you were prepared to wait for the factory to build it, order a 200E with every factory option available which, taking account of duplications, totalled 32, generating an extra £ 16,076 on the invoice - but that still wouldn’t get you a radio. Maybe a few customers did this, but in the UK it was common to see the exact opposite, a 200E with absolutely no extras, and the reason was simple. A key threshold in the company car tax regime of the day was a list price of £19,251, and the basic 200E nestled neatly under that - hence its lucky ‘user chooser’ driver paid no more benefit in kind tax than on a humble, 1.6-litre Ford Escort.

    Over the 200E, the 230E came with an electric tilting sunroof and front/rear electric windows. The owner of this car - or perhaps it was the supplying dealer - proceeded beyond the basic specification, but when ticking the options boxes was clearly budget conscious, choosing the four-speed automatic transmission, metallic paint, a leather steering wheel and gearknob, and a wooden console box for cassettes, all of which added just under £1,900. The ‘delivery charge’ of £190 plus VAT brought the price to £23,536, although the dealer supplied Blaupunkt Cambridge SQM39 radio and electric aerial would have upped that further.

    The first owner (a retired airline pilot) recently gave up driving, at which point the 230E passed into the hands of Martyn’s Car Sales in Chertsey, Surrey, where we understand proprietor Martyn Neville is prone to buying in 1970s to 90s Mercedes for resale, but then diverting them to his now considerably sized personal ‘young classic’ collection. However, the 230E - having covered a mere 28,000 miles from new - did appear to be one you could buy, priced at £7,990.

    FLYING HIGH

    It was one of three 124s for sale here, but stood out due to its notably well preserved condition, only a small patch of rust on the front wing preventing the description of ‘pristine’ applying. The Diamond Blue paintwork retains its lustre, and inside, the Mercedes still looks like new.

    The 124-series was launched in early #1985 and stayed in production in Germany until #1995 , after which it was supplied in CKD (‘Completely Knocked Down’) kit form for export fora short period. Saloon production totalled just over 2.2m, long wheelbase saloons and special chassis conversions, estates, coupes and cabriolets swelling this by an additional 524,700.

    Its decade long life saw two facelifts, and this 230E is middle period, from after the barely detectable 1989 update, which introduced lightly revised exterior and interior trim, and before the staged 1992/1993 revisions when engines were changed, the star was moved from the grille to the bonnet, and the bumpers colour coded. Its engine is the 124’s original 2.3-litre four-cylinder, producing 130bhp and 146lb ft torque (1989-on 200E running tax minimisers made do with a not significantly less 116bhp and 127lb ft).

    THE MORE POTENT FOUR-CYLINDER

    Settling into the 230E’s still fresh cloth seats and absorbing the shiny Zebrano wood veneer instantly takes me back to the last time I drove a 124 that felt as youthful as this, in 1988 and the six-cylinder 260E. This involved an excursion onto Pendine Sands in Wales (as recalled in Mercedes Enthusiast April 2006), during which the virtually brand new Mercedes press car was nearly lost to the Atlantic. But Martyn Neville didn't have to worry today because our plan was less ambitious, merely a relaxing drive to remember the way Mercedes used to do things.

    The four-cylinder M102 engine, which made its debut in 1980 in the 123-series 230E, does not truly inspire, as it never emits anything other than a gentle thrum, and does not really like to rev hard. But it is smooth enough, and from within the cabin it is very quiet - which of course is what counted most for Mercedes customers. Neither does it deliver sparkling performance, but, again, the 230E was obviously quick enough for owners who, if they had been worried about pace, would have bought a #BMW #320i or a VW Golf GH Notwithstanding the probable expectations of today's drivers, the 230E has sufficient usable performance, even if you must avidly > flex the right ankle on a long travel accelerator to extract what’s there. With either the manual or automatic transmission, the saloon achieves 62mph from a standstill in just over 11 seconds but, probably more importantly, the engine with its high-ish torque peak is suited to relaxed cruising.

    HANDLING WITH CARE

    No aspect of the 230E’s handling is tactile. The recirculating ball steering messages little back to the fingertips, and the comms blackout continues into fast corners, during which the car’s natural responses are damped into submission. But yet again it is what Mercedes, no doubt correctly, reasoned customers wanted, and the W124 - which adopted the excellent multi link rear suspension of the W201 190/190E range - wants for nothing in terms of road holding and braking. It could also, with its mere 15-inch wheels and 65-series tyres, teach many tautly sprung and generously tyred current cars a thing or two about comfort.

    Another hallmark of this period of Mercedes is the cabin, so austere and plain - and for another £ 150 you could order the MB-Tex vinyl and make it even more so.

    And yet so appealing, thanks to the simple, restrained design. The springy seats, shared with other Mercedes of the era, are certainly an acquired taste, but even without the costly electric seat and steering column adjustment you can fashion the perfect driving position, thanks to separate manual height and angle adjustment controls on the side of the seat.

    SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

    The paperwork on this car is as complete as I have seen on any older Mercedes, with every receipt, MOT certificate and even tax disc present. And it proves that an executive sized saloon is not necessarily an expensive car to run; there have been no major repairs in this car’s life, and most of the services have been £300 or less, despite an official Mercedes dealer performing every one.

    The 124-series, particularly the saloon, it seems, is the latest once plentiful Mercedes to become scarce as, 18 years after its production ended, many survivors are deemed no longer useful. As one who recalls seeing it as the newcomer on motor show stands, and having enjoyed so many great moments in a 124 of one kind or another, it makes me sad. Fortunately, at least, this particular 230E, thanks to its top condition, is likely to have a life ahead of it at least as long as that which has so far elapsed.

    Paperwork reveals no major jobs undertaken.
    A warning triangle in the super clean boot.
    Paperwork reveals no major jobs undertaken.
    A warning triangle in the super clean boot.
    Seatbelts for all three rear occupants.
    Anti lock brakes standard from 09/1988.
    The M102 unit was carried over from the W123.
    One previous owner since 1990 and just 28K miles.
    Blaupunkt radio and cassette player for this youngtimer.

    Mercedes-Benz 230E W124
    ENGINE M102 2.298cc 4-cyl
    POWER 130bhp @ 5.100rpm
    TORQUE 146lb ft @ 3.500rpm
    TRANSMISSION 4-speed auto.
    RWD WEIGHT 1.360kg
    0-62MPH 11.2sec
    TOP SPEED 121mph
    FUEL CONSUMPTION 24.8mpg
    YEARS PROOUCED 1985-1992

    Figures for a 1990 car as pictured; fuel consumption according to EEC urban
    Thanks to Martyn’s Car Sales for the loan of the 230E Web www.martynscarsales. co. uk Tel 07768 017781, and to Great Fosters for the location Web www.greatfosters. co. uk Tel 01784 433822
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