Last week (https://www.sportscarmarket.com/blogs/keith-martin/keiths-blog-car-knitting-scm-style-part-one ) we discussed the coming and going of the 1965 Volvo 122S auto, the arrival of the 1971 Jaguar V12 E-type coupe and why the 1991 Porsche 928 S4 just wasn’t the right car for me.
I then noted how our 2004 Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG has the feel of a long-timer keeper.
And last, how my year with a wonderfully restored 1971 Citroën DS21 Pallas BVH was coming to a happy conclusion with the car about to be listed on BaT by its restorer, Greg Long.
But before it is sold, anticipating a garage slot opening up and wondering what I was going to drive on next year’s German-themed SCM 1000, for reasons unknown even to me, I decided it was time to try out a W114 Mercedes 250C coupe.
I was ably assisted by SCM contributor Pierre Hedary and Allen Stephens, past president of the MBCA owners club, who found my SL55 for me.
Here was the configuration I settled on: small bumpers, no rust, floor shift, power windows, no sunroof, working A/C and a decent history.
I quickly found that there were few 250Cs in what I call “regular-use, reliable” condition. They have been ignored by the market for so long that their low values didn’t warrant spending any money on them. Nearly all of them I looked at had been rusted or repainted badly and had chewed up interiors and dash cracks that recalled the Grand Canyon.
I learned the ultimate configuration is the Europe-only 280C injected model, and found a brilliant example for sale online. But the asking price of $45k stretches my budget, and as a European car it has no A/C or power windows. It also had a sunroof, which to my taste steals headroom and is just one more thing to malfunction and leak. After getting a quote of $10k to install A/C from a similar vintage M-B, I decided to pass.
Foolishly, I took a run at a big-bumper 250C and even had it inspected by a friend from Vintage Racing Motors in Seattle. It was just a driver and the A/C wasn’t working (“only needs a recharge,” which is true never).
Luckily the seller backed out and saved me from my own red mist.
I was bemoaning this situation on the first day of the SCM 1000 to good friend and SCMer Ron Rader. He mentioned a good friend of his had a 1971 250C that she and her late husband had bought new. It was still wearing its German “Zoll” plate, put on cars that are destined to go overseas after delivery in Stuttgart.
I spoke with a couple of mechanics who knew the car. The described it as solid and a decent driver.
The seller had not yet put it on the market, but mentioned the asking price was going to be $24,000. After some pleasant back and forth, the car became mine for under $20k.
My friend Chris Bright, founder of Collector Part Exchange drove it up from Los Angeles. He thought it drove straight and well, although it revved fairly high on the freeway. Most important, it made it from L.A. to Portland with no flatbed involved.
It’s at Burback Motors, our Mercedes specialist, for my typical post-purchase inspection.
Burback’s initial response is that it is a solid car that has been cared for as a driver. It has really never been gone through. They think it will take $10k–$12k to fully rebuild the front end and deal with a host of other issues you might expect on a 50-year-old car that has never been restored.
One of our writers excoriated me for not having the car fully inspected. (“Why did you buy that P.O.S. without an inspection?)
I have this to say in response: There aren’t a lot of W114s to choose from. This one checked all of my boxes, plus I have the original delivery papers from the Mercedes factory, and the original California pink slip.
As this a fairly simple analog car, I had no fears about being able to make it a reliable driver.
This is a car that deserves to be saved. It’s not a rare or important car, but it is an interesting one.
My goal is to be in the car under $30k when it is fully serviced and optimized. That may be above current market by a few thousand, but I don’t mind that for a reliable car. I’m looking for a strong daily driver, not a concours car.
I continue to be reminded that the cars we love are 50 or more years old, and they really must be gone through from stem-to-stern if you want to put them into regular service.
I’ve given the green light to get started with a new exhaust system, Bilsteins, etc. I plan on driving it to the Oregon Festival of Cars in a couple of weeks and then send it back to Burback for continued fettling.
I have no doubt it will be the perfect ride for next year’s SCM 1000. Did I mention it has a rebuilt compressor and the A/C blows ice cold?
Next week, in Part 3, we’ll talk about Land Rovers and why we can’t seem to have fewer than four Alfas in the SCM collection, no matter how many we sell.