Shed is often asked to nominate his favourite car. Actually, he isn't, and even if he was he probably wouldn't answer because he's quite a rude person, but that lie makes a handy start to the story you're about to read. Or not if you've got the attention span of a mosquito, in which case thanks very much for getting this far.
Anyway, if Shed did come up with a nomination, it might very well be for a Mercedes W124 Estate. He's been trying to prise a low-mile multivalve OM606 diesel 300 wagon out of his mate's grasp for quite a while now. Today's Shed doesn't have that majestic soot-belcher under its bonnet. In fact, the engine it does have is probably about as far away from the OM as it's possible to imagine: a 2-litre petrol four unencumbered by power or torque, but pleasant enough in its own way and controlled here through the routinely maligned M-B manual 5-speed 'box.
A W124 estate appeared in SOTW about three years ago. That was a 220 in what looked like the same colour blue as this one. That's pretty much where the similarities between that one and today's TE end. The 220 had 135,000 on the clock, locked self-levelling suspension, a home-recorded Queen tape permanently wedged into the cassette player, plenty of visible rust and what the hilariously honest owner described as occasional central locking.
Apart from what looks like a smidgeon of bubbling on one wheel arch, this 200 is amazingly clean and well cared for. A fair bit of work seems to have been carried out to rectify a few issues flagged up by last year's MOT - corroded brake, fuel and suspension lines, a spot of brake fluctuation, and some steering and track rod play that probably explained why the front tyres were worn on their outer edges. The year before that, two of the front suspension bushes were replaced. This year - last week, in fact - the car breezed through the test with no advisories.
Looking back through the old MOTs, you get the impression that the owner and tester have shared a refreshingly thoughtful approach to Mercedes motoring. In the best old-school fashion, the tester has carefully charted each and every deterioration, no matter how slight, allowing the casual reader to build up a nice snapshot of the car's history. Obviously, with 226,000 miles up this car is no spring chicken, but PHers of all people won't need to have any of the trite 'it's only running in' W124 comments pointed out here. They were built to last though. Some say that its successor, the W210, performed less well than the 124 in crash testing.
No car is perfect though. You've got to watch out for water ingress, either through non-functioning vents or via perished window rubbers. The good thing about non-watertight W124s however is that they date from a time before manufacturers came up with the brilliant wheeze of wedging loads of delicate wiring and 'comfort ECUs' under the front carpets, which is exactly where water likes to go in accommodating cars.
So, unlike the sodden Passat estate that Shed bought at distance from an ebay seller in Cumbria, this W124 won't suddenly start lowering its windows when you indicate left, or parp the horn when you're trying to adjust the mirrors. There's no mention of air con, which may not be a bad omission as it probably wouldn't have been working anyway.
Other stuff? Well, we've already mentioned the self-levelling suspension spheres and rusty arches. On top of that, sliding steel roof seals perish and distributor caps can get damp. Estate-specific issues include cracked rear wiring harnesses and rust in the rear quarter window area.
Mercedes never went in for design-led fripperies like pop-up headlights, but the W124 did have the inspired mono-blade screen wiper that Shed thinks first appeared on the W201/190 of the early 1980s. It was dropped by Mercedes in the early 2000s on grounds of cost, and on the grounds of it turning out to be not all that good as a wiper.
If you aspire to a traditional barge that has half a chance of still being around when even the cockroaches are thinking of packing it in, you could do a lot worse than the captaincy of a W124. They have a lovely ride and will amble along all day with the three-pointed star constantly reminding you of bygone times when quality mattered more than cost savings.
The vendor says this is the five-seat rather than the seven-seat estate. You can't tell just from looking at the double-flap setup in the back because the 5s and 7s look exactly the same when the flaps are down. If our 200 doesn't have the backward-facing (and, if Shed was in there, sick-making) back perch, that at least leaves you plenty of room in the back for three old toilet bowls (with cisterns), a hand basin, a bathroom cabinet, an entire kitchen worktop and half a dozen sacks of builder's waste - a real-life claim by PHer AC43. Or two or three body bags, with a handy towbar for larger victims. No names, no pack drill etc.