Be very picky about what you buy. Get exactly what you want, then build it to your specs. Life is too short to buy the wrong car and have to fight your way out of it.

During the past year I’ve developed a much greater sense of clarity about the cars I own and why I have them. I’m at a stage in my collecting where I don’t have the time or the interest to own several variants of a car to decide which I prefer.

Our 1972 W114 Mercedes-Benz 250C is case in point. While I initially knew nothing about these cars except that I found them handsome and affordable, a deep dive taught me much more. After a few false starts, where I luckily didn’t buy the wrong car, SCMer and SCM1000 participant Ron Rader pointed me to a 250C that had been owned since new by a good friend.

It ticked all the boxes. Not rusted, floor-shift automatic, pre-1975 small (non-skateboard) bumpers, and no sunroof. (I detest sunroofs in classic cars. They never get used, they leak, they take away headroom and they add weight up top. Let me tell you how I really feel.) It also had power windows and a freshly rebuilt A/C system. And decent dark blue paint and excellent parchment interior. The working CD player was a plus.

It had been properly cared for over its 50-year life, but never really gone through. I had not seen another 250C that met all those requirements.

SCMer Chris Bright drove it up from Los Angeles to Portland. The Zenith carbs (which I am told were problematic from new with their emission compliant design) were a mess.

After consulting with Mike Burback, our local Mercedes guru, I decided upon a course of action.

I made the decision to have the car cleaned by dry ice, which is the greatest gift you can give any mechanic. Then I sent the car to local technician and fabricator Chip Starr to convert the car to Webers and install a 123 distributor.

This is not an inexpensive proposition. The $800 carbs and the $600 dizzy are the least of the costs. Add in 25 to 35 hours to get everything to work right, after the carbs are installed.

Just to complicate things, I also sourced a set of Euro headlights from eBay Germany, and they were hardly a plug and play swap.

I was hoping to be into the car for less than $30k all done, but that may prove to be an illusory goal. However, this is exactly the car I want, with the carbs and ignition I want. It’s the only 250C I will likely ever own, and I want it done right to my standards so I can get the maximum enjoyment out of the car.

I have taken one 500-mile trip in the Mercedes to Bend, OR. Despite the fact that the Zenith carbs were the embodiment of evil, I loved the classic seating position and the way the car cruised with authority across the Oregon High Desert.

I may take it on the SCM 1000 this summer and want to drive it down to Monterey in August.

After a year or two, perhaps I will be done with the car and move on, as I have so many times before. But that’s okay with me if I have enjoyed the car with it set up properly and it has taught me everything it can.

So, my New Year’s resolution to myself is to choose each new car carefully. Then set it up as a reliable, smooth driver so I can get a feel for what it was like when new.

Driving an old car around that runs or handles poorly takes all the joy out of your day.

There’s no hurry when it comes to buying a classic car. Get the one with the features you want, then spend what it takes to make it a “right” car. If you want a red Duetto, don’t buy a green one and color change it. Just wait for the right red one.

The 250C is my project right now and I’m playing it out all the way. As I have done with so many of my cars, so many times before.

Have you been in this position? What car did you end up with and what was the ultimate outcome?



  1. Dear Kieth, I like and agree with every word you say a collector of old Mercedes cars I ent through similar experiences.
    When you sell the 250C please let me know..also what’s your thoughts of a similar W114 280CE..?
    Keep writing -we love your magazine
    Warmest season greetings
    Ilan Horesh,London

  2. Keith, I agree with everything you say here–except the sunroof bit. Never used? If it ain’t raining, the sunroof is open! I really don’t want a hardtop car (classic or otherwise) without one. Nice 250, and all the right mods.

  3. My only New Year’s (car) resolution is to drive my cars more than I did this year. My track record on this score is pretty spotty, which is why I’m not much of a New Year’s resolution kinda guy. But maybe 2023 will be different, dammit. In any case, Happy New Year to you & yours!