We'll leave the fine detail to the automotive historians, but nobody - not even Mercedes - disputes the Chrysler alliance went badly wrong. Coincidentally or otherwise, a nosedive in Mercedes quality kicked in shortly after the 1998 merger/takeover, blighting Benzes for years after. Indeed, many Merc diehards have foresworn the brand for ever as a result of their experiences in the early 2000s.
Superseding the oblong-headlamped W124, the four-light W210 was launched in 1996, facelifted in 1999, and succeeded by the more slope-fronted W211 in 2002. This classic three-boxer reeks of respectability and solidity. It is a saloon, full stop. The only hatch you'll find here is a square hole grudgingly cut into the middle of the back seat for ski toting.
Even before the Chrysler debacle, Mercedes electrics were showing signs of weakness, so the best W210 Sheds are the ones with the lowest toy count. Being an Avantgarde, which (outside of AMG models) was top spec if you ranked its sportiness above the Elegance's comfort, this one does have a few features, but none of them are mission-critical. The absence of the potentially troublesome sunroof is a particular relief.
As you'd expect, it does have automatic climate control, which can fail, as can diesel injectors and glowplugs. A weird one to look out for is the transmission cooler housed inside the radiator, perhaps not the smartest piece of engineering design in M-B's history.
But can't you just taste the potential smugness of being behind the wheel of such a beast for under a grand? For a feel of what you'd be in for, here's a video walkround and 0-60 run up the road in an American one of the same vintage.
Digital images can flatter to deceive, but those shutlines look bankvault-tight and there's no sign of wheelarch or wing rust. OK, so it's not an estate, and the wheels will need a refurb, but once that's done you're all set with a one-owner, low mileage, Mercedes exec from the good old days (just), with FSH, a semi-desirable reg number, £220 road tax, and a Shed price. Surely worth a gamble as a relaxed daily smoker.
Advert is reproduced below.
300E Avantgarde Turbodiesel Salon (£995)
Parktronic, Rain Sensor, Electric Folding Mirrors, Headlight Washers, Automatic Climate Control, Memory Power Driver Seat and Steering Wheel, Blaupunkt radio/CD player, Ski Hatch to Boot, Avon tyres, Serviced May 2012, MOT to April 2013, FSH, Two keys, One driver from new