Name: Chas Randhawa
Car: 1991 Mercedes W124 250D
Owned since: February 2017
Previously owned: Over 40 cars. MGB GT Sebring, Ford Ka x 2, Ford Escort XR3i Cabrio, Ford Escort RS Turbo S1, Volvo 740 x 2, Mercedes W124 x 2, Peugeot 106, 205 and 306 GTI, Renault Clio 172, Mini 998, MG Midgets, Porsche 944 S2 and Turbo, Triumph Stag, Dolly Sprint & Spitfire. Alfa 147 x 2, Toyota Carina Coupe, NA Mazda MX-5. I still have a BMW E46 M3.
Why I bought it:
"From a young age I really liked the W124, it had a presence of solidity and class for years! I didn't feel the same way when its successor, the W210, came about.
"Many years ago I acquired my first W124 by chance - a 1991 300D Auto. I only owned it for a day since it was taken in part-exchange for my then 205 GTI and for me I knew it would be too much work to keep. Yet, despite the engine that didn't turn off, windows that only opened with a door open and a blowing exhaust I did enjoy the drive of it! Enough for it to leave a positive impression - I had to buy another one. The diesels in these things really help emphasise how sturdy they are, and also somehow suit the well built nature of the Merc; nothing seems too troubling for it!
"I almost bought one a year later. However, not long after, that itch would prove too much and I'd get another one. This time though something a little different, and not what I planned to buy. I came back with this, a W124 250D manual."
What I wish I'd known:
"How slow they are! OK. I am joking, I already knew that and knew I'd find it fine most of the time.
"What I should have done more research about was rot. I knew that they rotted out at the subframe mounts as well as at the jacking points. What I didn't realise was that the Sacco panels on later cars can hide all sorts of sins. And that the inner wings behind the headlamps are also a common rot spot, as is in rare cases the bulkhead itself."
Things I love:
"The diesel engine is a great match for this car. It's surprisingly refined for the time and quieter than even many modern common-rail diesels! It also feels like it can take on the world, albeit slowly...
"Many people actually shy away from the manual gearbox in W124s and to be honest I don't see why. With this 250D it is actually a surprisingly sprightly thing, as quick as a 230E I am told from others who have driven mine. Even the shift action isn't that bad. It' better than manual E46 M3s I have driven, which many people seem to love. It's also a lot better than an E36 323i manual ever was! This is also on 190,000 miles now, so it's no spring chicken. A specialist I know well once told me that the slower engines are better as a manual in W124s with the larger ones (300D and 260E and beyond) being more suited to an auto. I can wholeheartedly agree with that comment!
"Overall, it's the fact that this car didn't cost me a fortune - essentially Shed money - but is such a nice driver that makes me love it. I think it's great to have a car you don't take too seriously; it's what I've been missing for a long time."
Things I hate:
"Being called up for a taxi. No, just kidding! It's a bit of fun and honestly it just helps the charm of the old boat.
"It's not the tidiest car. But I really am clutching at straws as even that rarely bothers me!
"The woes of rust do worry me but then the car didn't cost a lot!"
"I didn't buy the best example, mainly because I was being so tight with my budget. Good W124 diesels are now on the way up and it seems that trend isn't going away anytime soon.
"Maintenance costs are not too bad at all. A decent 10w 40 or 15w 40 oil doesn't break the bank, and all of the service parts are affordable too. Tyres are cheap even for decent brands; I scored a set of Goodyears for £90 a pair!
"Most parts are cheap even through the dealers, but of course there are a few exceptions; a door/ignition barrel from Mercedes (to work with your original keys) is £160, as is each wing. Both costs however seem a lot more reasonable than previous cars.
Where I've been:
"Well, I've taken this to Cornwall. Actually, that's a lie. I went to get the car from Cornwall! It's also been to a few PH meets.
"After doing a few road trips in the E46 M3 last year I decided upon buying the W124 that I'd take that also to places far and wide! It has just been to the Laon Historique where I also took it to Chimay. I never thought I'd be driving the circuit in this old car, but we made it..."
"It's funny; this car was designed to be a winter smoker, but it seems I have grown a little too attached to it! What could happen in future? I'd change the wings, maybe paint a few areas but leave some patina. It's nice to have a car where you are not quite so precious over where it is parked and so on. A few too many of my cars have been, including the Series 1 Escort RS Turbo, for the obvious reason that scoundrels liked to steal them.
"If it did become a keeper I wouldn't rule out an OM605 Turbo conversion. After all, I do have a few of the bits to make that easier.
"Besides that? I'd probably get rid if I decided to go to 'one car to do everything', like a 340i or an M135i. Otherwise, possibly a very clean 230TE or 300TD for reasonable money (read cheap for me!) would be tempting."
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