My son Bradley and I have just finished another classic car tour weekend. We were participating in the Northwest Classic Car Challenge, hosted by the Alfa Romeo Owners of Oregon. Restoration shop Vintage Underground were the primary sponsors.
There were a nice mix of classic and modern cars in this 34th running of the event. I attended the first one in my red 1964 Giulia Sprint Speciale.
We decided to take a more luxurious car this time and entered the SCM 1972 Mercedes-Benz 250C.
Of course, its alternator went out two days before the event. Our restorer Chip Starr had to have one air-freighted overnight from the Classic Center.
While it was in his shop, he did two other little things that changed our experience with the car, completely and for the better.
First, he replaced the two-piece lap and shoulder belt combination with a more modern one-piece inertia reel setup. The improvement in sliding into the seat and getting safely buckled was amazing. This upgrade is perhaps the best one we have made to the car in terms of both safety and comfort.
The second improvement was equally minor but with equally major results. Despite having new Bilstein shocks all around, the car had a “squishy” feel in sweeping, high-speed turns. It didn’t feel well planted.
I had looked into options including having thicker sway bars fabricated. Luckily Mercedes guru Pierre Hedary was the voice of reason. “Just put on front shocks from the 450SLC,” he told me. “It’s a heavier car and somehow they are just perfect for the lighter W114s.”
And they are. The difference in the handling was dramatic. While in a 50-mph sweeper, the 250C stayed planted and there was no squishiness in the steering. In fact, it was a delight to push it just a little harder with each successive turn.
Getting the car to our preferred handling and performance standards has not been a fast nor inexpensive process. After all, we are dealing with a 50-year-old car that has covered 220,000 (one-owner) miles.
Our goal is to have a reliable, comfortable cruiser from this great era of M-B road-burners. The seat belts and front shocks have brought it one step closer.