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Last week’s Prime Find was a spectacular, early seventies Toyota Crown combining luxury, rarity and budget in one great big bundle. But what if you don’t do Japanese classics? Or if you just dislike that particular Crowns controversial design? Well, then buy a German instead, as there are classic Mercedes-Benz saloons which arguably combine luxury, comfort and budget just as sublimely as anyone or anything else.

Granted, in hindsight I’m not even sure last week’s Prime Find really worked…? Don’t get me wrong, I personally love the model – for so many reasons too: The controversial design, rarity, level of comfort, reliability, lovely straight-6. I could go on forever. But with a highest bid of £ 6,100 the Crown ended up not reaching its reserve in its eBay auction, and thus didn’t sell. We of course don’t know where the reserve was at – maybe £100 more would have resulted in a sale, which in my opinion would have been alright if the car actually was as honest as the advert and pictures hinted at. But the reserve might also have been a lot higher. At this point, I’m no longer convinced that we can necessarily call it a budget buy. So let’s look elsewhere…

If some of our key words are luxury, comfort, reliability and let’s add build-quality too, then most of us will invariably think of Mercedes-Benz at some point or another. However, it’s not normally a marque we tend to combine with budget. Think again! Some of its classic saloons are actually remarkably good value. In fact, I would even go as far as calling them downright cheap.

In 1968 Mercedes-Benz replaced their beloved fintail (W110) model with the new W114/W115 model – nicknamed the “Strich 8” or /8 based on its year of introduction. The W114 code was reserved for the 6-cylinder models, while the W115 made due with a variety of 4-cylinder engines. Paul Bracq was responsible for the unadorned, strict, no-nonsense design. There’s not much glamour, but to my eye it’s delicious nonetheless – it’s just so well-balanced and needs zero embellishment to look right. There was a huge choice of 4- and 6-cylinder engines just as you could choose between petrol or diesel, and for that matter a manual or automatic transmission. If you opted for the range-topping 280/280E which was introduced in 1972, you were even treated to the glorious twincam M110 engine. Suspensionwise, the W114/W115 was a bit of a revelation for Mercedes-Benz too, as it became the first Mercedes to bin the low-pivot swing axle at the rear in favour of new semi-trailing arms, and the front axle even received ball joints rather than old-fashioned king pins. This might very well have only been their small saloon, but Mercedes-Benz truly went to town to ensure it was also one of their very best. And that most certainly applied to the build-quality as well.

All of the above is exactly what we’ve found as this week’s Prime Find – a range-topping 1975 Mercedes-Benz 280E. While it’s perhaps not the most famed model from Stuttgart, it’s difficult not to be impressed if you pause to look at what’s on offer. Try comparing it with last week’s Toyota Crown 2600 – or any other saloon of a similar size from that era for that matter. A fuel-injected 2.8-litre twincam straight-6 pushing out a healthy 170hp – that’s the stuff of sportscars, or at the very least luxurious GT’s. Independent suspension all round. Unrivalled quality and reliability courtesy of Mercedes-Benz. Furthermore, this particular car even has air condition, power steering and an automatic transmission. Perhaps the only thing it’s lacking compared to the Crown is the quirky styling and rarity. Come to think of it, while Mercedes-Benz produced approximately 1,850,000 four door W114/W115s, when did you last see one? Maybe they’ve somehow managed to become rare in recent years?

Here are a few selected pictures of the W114:

What immediately strikes me is just how fabulous the mid-sized saloon looks in that pistachio green with a tan interior. Personally, I could hardly dream up a better colour for the W114, and it’s all finished off perfectly with the signature colour-coded full size wheel trims. Being a 1975 car, it’s the facelifted version with the slightly lower bonnet line, broader grill, single front bumper and those ingenious ribbed tail lights.

The W114 is a South African car where it’s said to have had only one owner for its whole life. It comes with a full book pack and service history. Furthermore, it’s claimed that £ 5,000 has recently been spent in order to replace every bushing in the suspension, the steering rack and not least the shock absorbers. Also, the interior has recently been refurbished at a cost of £ 1,500.

This luxurious and family-friendly classic is coming up for auction with Barons next weekend on Saturday the 21stof April at Sandown Park. Follow this link for their auction details and a full description of the car along with more pictures:

1975 Mercedes-Benz 280E

But surely all of that can’t possibly be had on a tight budget? Well, apparently Barons would argue otherwise as they’ve set the estimate between £ 3,000 – 5,000. Remember that pictures and text can of course be deceptive, so a full pre-purchase inspection is always advised. But if this W114 is in fact in as good condition as pictures and description suggest, and if it’s not bid too far beyond its top estimate, then I’ll argue that this might very well be the best classic car purchase of all 2018…

 

With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to primefindoftheweek@viaretro.co.uk

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4 Responses

  1. Tony Wawryk
    An understatedly stylish and refined car, especially in 6-cylinder guise, and excellent value for money, as are many of the Fintail generation as well – there are genuine bargains to be had of both variants, though as usual, coupe versions of both fetch quite a bit more, of course.
    One possible answer to why there seem to be so few left could be that a hefty proportion of the W114/115 models were diesels (about 932k of 1.85m saloons according to Wiki, so just over 50%), most of which were heavily used as taxis, and I would imagine that the vast majority of those are now long gone.

    In any case, whoever buys this one has got a bargain, as long as there are no hidden horrors lurking. It’s stated in the particulars that over £5000 has been spent on it in recent years, so the estimate will surely be beaten?

    Reply
  2. Anders Bilidt
    @tony-wawryk
    I too can’t help but think that surely the estimate will be exceeded on this one.
    I’m almost considering whether I should attend the auction myself. Just in case the W114 stays within its estimate…. ;-)
    Reply
  3. Claus Ebberfeld
    I think the auction house is overselling a tad with the statement “One of the rarest Mercedes you will ever find”. As @tony-wawryk points out that could very well be a 200d instead.

    However I am watching as well as it DOES seem to be a great specification in fine condition: The best engine, great colour and those hubcaps. The 280E were real autobahnstormers in their day.

    I recall my old 1970 250 CE, the coupe, with much affection: Totally understated style (in a darker shade of green) and a lovely build quality. Mine was retrofitted with the (carburetted) 280-engine as well. Not by me, of course, I just bought it like that. Manual as well. Loved that car.

    In fact, , if you don’t mind the not so great mileage this Mercedes could in fact be a candidate for you everyday-classic-quest?

    Reply
  4. Anders Bilidt

    It all depends how you define rare. Needless to say the complete range of W114/W115 Mercs certainly can’t be called rare. But with less than 10,000 produced 280E’s, the range-topping version is the rarest of all the saloons. Furthermore, any production number below 10,000 surely has to be defined as somewhat rare?

    You’re also right about the possibility of using it as a daily classic. It would no doubt be reliable and sturdy enough to cope. I’m tempted! I just wish it were a manual, but that’s probably just me being weird…

    Reply

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