- RESTRAINED ELEGANCE ‘60s BAGGED MERC W108
Belgian Mercedes-Benz W108 “S” No one quite does Euro box cruisers like ze Germans… or, as it turns out, the Belgians.
RETRO RIDE MERCEDES-BENZ 280S WORDS: Midge. PHOTOS: Kev.be.
Sometimes what you don’t modify is as important as what you do.
What’s the key to being cool? If I knew that I wouldn’t be sitting at my desk eating pickled onion Monster Munch, I’d be supping champagne on my private yacht selling bottled ‘cool’ by the truckload!
I guess one thing’s for sure though, some cars are just born that way, there’s no stand-alone reason why, they just are and, when it comes to modifying such elegant automotive icons, the trick is not to ruin all that inherent awesomeness by going nuts. To me, that sums up the attitude behind this jaw-dropping machine from deepest, darkest Belgium. It’s not over-blown, it’s not try-hard, it’s just effortlessly cool and ridiculously laid-back.
Now, I’m not saying Andy here has been lazy with his mods, quite the opposite in fact, what he has done is actually done to perfection. My point is that unlike most, myself included, he knew exactly when to stop. There’s an old joke on the modifying scene that a project is never finished and, for the most part, that’s true. Modifying by nature is a fluid thing, a living, breathing process that doesn’t cease just because you’ve had your magazine photo shoot. In fact, it only really stops when you move on to another ride… and even then the new owner will probably get stuck right in.
This retro Benz is different, what you see before you, is probably the first ‘finished’ motor we’ve ever featured. When we asked Andy ‘what’s next?’ he just looked at us blankly and said “nothing – I drive it now.” And that tells you all you need to know. Andy is clearly one of those laid-back European fellas you normally see staring thoughtfully into the distance drinking espresso and puffing on a Gauloise, and that premise just makes him cooler, without even trying, the bastard. Then again, I suppose Belgium is not a nation known for it’s reckless abandon in the first place and that translates directly to this car - there’s nothing that’s not been coolly calculated in every detail.
So, to sum up, what we have here is the rare and beautiful situation where a motor that was devastatingly cool to start with gets a couple of retrained mods to push it straight into the stratosphere!
As is often the case, the language barrier has made finding out the ‘why, what and when’ an interesting task. Andy’s English may be better than my Belgian (it’s called Flemish – Sander) but, even so, getting the finer details of the spec has been something of a challenge. Take that slick solid-colour paint job for starters, I asked Andy what it is and he replied “red” which was infinitely helpful. As it turns out it’s an A-Class-spec ‘Mars Red’ but I suppose that doesn’t matter, what’s most important is that Andy oozes enthusiasm for his car, a motor that’s over a decade older than he is. It’s not just because it’s a project he’s lavished time and Euros on either, it’s been a deeply personal venture all round, he even got married in it.
From what I can make out the W108 chassis Merc was his childhood dream car and, when a local car collector was thinning out his garage giving Andy first dibs on this one, it was an opportunity he just couldn’t resist. Being a low mileage, last-of-the-line 1972 car it was mint too but, with a history of modifying every motor he’s ever owned, it didn’t take long before Andy had it slammed over a set of custom American hoops from Intro wheels on a home made air-ride system. Apart from a properly posh Kenwood audio setup, that’s about it. There really isn’t that much too it.
Does it help that the quirky-looking Mercedes W108 was one of the coolest ‘60s motors ever to come out of Europe? Does it make a difference that’s it was one of the rare cars built with the longevity to still be on the road today? Sure it does, but it’s arguably more important that Andy has done nothing but enhanced its charm with all the right mods, no more, no less. There’s a kind of art in that sort of simplicity, a laid-back beauty that just can’t be found in a massively complex modern project.
Does it matter if the spec isn’t as extensive as some? Is this car any less impressive or desirable? Not at all - if you’ve got it, you’ve just got it, and this one’s got it with bells on!
Rolling off the line in 1965 for a 7-year run, the W108 Mercs came in 10 different configurations from the early 2.5-litre 250S up to the late 280SEL 4.5. Mercedes conceived the W108 chassis cars to succeed the older W111 ‘Heckflosse’ (fintail) cars famous for their almost Cadillac-style tail fins. Up to 1972 over 364000 W108s were built alongside another 18000 similar (but longer-wheelbase) W109 cars including the legendary 6.3-litre V8 300SEL, which came with self-levelling air suspension as standard. Performance was the big divider but they all looked pretty much identical and it’s this shape that has become a 20th Century luxury automotive icon. You may have seen James Bond driving a black 250SE down the train tracks in Octopussy, or the ultra-rare silver ‘1969 280SE Convertible they crash in Las Vegas in The Hangover… that’s right, they were both W108s. I told you they were cool!
TECH SPEC: ‘ #1972 / #Mercedes-Benz-280S-W108 / #Mercedes-Benz-280S / #Mercedes-Benz-W108 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes / #Mercedes-Benz-S-Class / #Mercedes-Benz-S-Class-W108 / #Mercedes-Benz-S-Class-W109
THE MODS: Custom #Air-ride system, 18-inch Intro #Speed-Star-Wheels , resprayed A-Classe red, Kenwood head unit and speakers
THANKS: My wife and kids, Geert Melovan, Ruben (great friend), Eric Carrosserie (Paint), and Willy for help with the engine.
Andy now has a Merc to die for, not to mention a garage!
True lowrider style, just on this side of the Atlantic.
Bone stock engine is still going strong!
DRIVER: ANDY WILLEMS
How long did it take to complete your car?
I don’t know… all these hours that I have not counted.
How would you describe the project?
I had a dream, I followed my dream, I created my dream, and now I have my dream. You can’t say fairer than that!