Posts tagged ‘mercedes’

Text by James Wong
Photos by Ethan

Wow, it’s been ages since I wrote on

Put it down to work, other commitments and just growing up in general. Time has become an extremely precious commodity with many more things now vying for it.

But believe me, Lenspeed is still alive and well. We are most active on our Instagram page, because that’s where it’s easiest to post up content from our phones. Go follow us if you haven’t already.

Besides my day-to-day work, which is completely unrelated to cars, I’m also active on OneShift and Horizon Drivers’ Club. In fact, I wrote about the very car in focus today in the latter. So I won’t repeat the story again about the car’s provenance.

Why I am writing here again is to document about the ownership journey of the 300E, which always has been an important pillar of Lenspeed, the ‘Owned’ section. We have a hashtag on IG as well called #LenspeedOwned where we share about our staff cars. It’s very personal, not really sanitised and very real. Content like this doesn’t quite fit elsewhere, and where else better than to revive it again than on Lenspeed.

We have plans to rope in more guest writers to share their restoration journey here as well, so we can become some sort of a ‘Help Me’ database for people driving old, illogical cars who can’t get any love from mainstream channels. We are here for you!

So back to the 300E. Why did I buy it? Well, it’s dawn for ICE, and I didn’t want to be stuck driving a generic ICE engine. It had to be something I never experienced before, or something special. So the M103 was quite key to my choice. If it was the 200E, I would not be interested at all.

It’s just passed a year since I got the car, and I covered about 15,000km in that time. The car needed a fair bit of wear and tear work at the beginning, and that’s where most of the spend went to. I found a nice set of hubcaps for it, got its paint corrected (it’s still subpar but it’ll do for now), corrected its suspension to stock, put on rear passenger door blinds, period plates and solved a recurring overheating issue once and for all. Other routine stuff included window tints (light, so it doesn’t look camp), a dashcam and remote central locking.

After the initial lump sum of approx S$6k, the car just needed minor work every 3 months or so. The wipers were bumping the bonnet a little so I got the wiper assembly changed, as well as replacing the wiper stalk as speed ‘1’ was not working. A low coolant light popped up but it was just a simple $40 sensor replacement. I changed my fuel pumps as well as they were getting noisy.

The most recent work needed was on my fuses. The car started to run hot and it turned out to be a bad fuse to the cooling fan. I got it changed but the problem persisted – thankfully I was monitoring it closely otherwise more damage would have happened! In the end, the workshop helped me to bypass that particular fuse and all’s good now, but I will need to replace my fuse box at some point.

As of today, I still need to sort a warm start issue. After the car sits parked after a drive (15 minutes or more), it will not start on the first crank. It will need a second crank before it catches fully. It’s an annoying problem but not a huge issue yet. Will need to get to the bottom of this, hopefully I can get replacement parts from Australia to fix this in June.


1989 W124 300E

Performance: 2960 cc inline six-cylinder, 188 hp, 8.4 secs 0-100 km/h (approx)
Efficiency as tested: 6.7 km/l
Odometer to-date: 124k



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By Desmond Ng

Our in-house racing driver examines his new ride, the C63 AMG Black Series. What’s it like after owning a Porsche GT3?

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Just imagine the myriad of superlatives that were bouncing off the boardroom walls before the executives finally decided on what to christen their new hardcore product line up with. The AMG Black Series. With that, the world had a clear picture of the kind of creations that will roll out of Affalterbach. Sinister, rude, loud, fast and downright anti-social.

So what is it? Black Series (“BS”) cars were built to be more of a track tool than its lesser siblings, featuring distinct body changes while still remaining tractable for street use. Production is also very limited to maintain exclusivity. The range started life in 2006 with the inception of the SLK55 AMG BS which set the mould for future BS models. Revised bodywork, a modified motor, retuned suspension and uprated brakes over the regular equivalent made it so appealing to the most die hard AMG enthusiasts that lusted for that something extra.

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The 2012 C63 AMG BS is the fourth model following the SLK55, CLK63 and SL65 to be bestowed with the coveted Black Series moniker. Only 800 C63BS were ever produced and were only available in coupe form, a tradition for all BS cars.

The C63BS was a direct competition to the E92 M3 GTS and there is no doubt AMG invested more into development, making sure their car looked and feel significantly different than the C63. A keen eye might miss the mandarin orange paint job and rear wing as a GTS but no one this side of town will ever mistake the C63BS as a regular C63.


Looking at the C63BS head on and you think it has a murderous streak. The wheel arches are stretched outwards beautifully with the front fenders +40mm and rear +79mm. No subtlety here. The C63 coupe is arguably feminine but this is the Rock in Fast 5. This car drips presence and it commands your total attention at first sight. AMG knows that wide fenders are the pathway to a customer’s heart and we are absolutely swooned by it. A Porsche “wide body” Carrera 4S? Please.

AMG went the whole nine yards for the visual drama. Customers could, with no small deletion of their bank account balances, tick the Aerodynamic Package box which further reduces lift. With that, four carbon canards on the front bumper and an adjustable GT wing dress the C63BS to a full angry GT3 race look. Another option, the Track Package, adds active rear-axle transmission cooling and race-spec tires that were specially designed by Dunlop for this beast.


The famed M156 6.2l V8, a landmark engine that almost made BMW M burst into tears has since ceased production. As its swan song, AMG transplanted the pistons, conrods and crankshaft from the SLS’ M159 motor with a new electronic brain taking advantage of these hardware changes. This hybrid M156/159 produces 510hp at 6800rpm and 457lb/ft at 5200rpm. The 5.5l bi-turbo V8 generates far more horsepower and torque than the M156 but there’s nothing more amazing than to have control over an oversized atmospheric V8 with your right foot. The throttle response. The music.


In BMW M cars, you have settings for everything. 3 for engine mapping, 3 for steering weighting and 3 for adaptive damping. As an ex-E92 owner, it turned out that I hated choices. Is the M3, an M3, in sport or sport plus? I just wanted to drive a car that had everything sorted out at factory and to perform at its sparkling best when sold to its customers. Maybe I’m old school.

Peel open the doors and you are greeted by a bizarre landscape of old and new. For instance, the handbrake is a quaint Mercedes tradition carried over. You engage it by depressing your left leg like you are in a 1995 hollowly E-class. The gear stick is identical to a pedestrian C-class, amusing you with long throws bouncing left and right going from PRND. Retaining the shift knob from the CLK63BS would have been lovely. Small, adorable and utterly exclusive to distinguish the BS cars.

In this car there are the optional fixed bucket seats that can be a pain for ingress and egress but never is it claustrophobic once seated in it. AMG had to strike a balance between providing the driver with more lateral support on the track and comfortable enough for daily use. It works and I think they did a wonderful job hitting that medium. The steering system is still hydraulic and fixed. You steer it with considerable effort but in return it provides the driver with good feedback but more is desired. Turning radius follows Jupiter’s orbit but it pays dividends during high speed and track driving.


Firing up the 6.2l V8 on a cold start is always theatre. It shouts into life like a scalded lion and quickly settles into a jealous purr. By then a litre of gas is consumed. The car then maintains a quiet idle and only re-asserts its authority when you press the fun pedal, which is a bit of a surprise. I was hoping it would sound like a 911 GT3 with its off beat burble that excites the driver even at standstill.

In the C63BS, you can only control the gearshift programme. Everything else is fixed dead from factory. The car defaults in Comfort mode where gears are quickly changed up to maintain civility and throttle response is muted. You rapidly find yourself switching to manual mode to fully appreciate the beast within.

In full manual mode, the car becomes the C63BS. You get into the mood and flex your right foot to stretch the revs. The huge cylinders do take time to gobble down air and before you know it, the car fires down the road with unrelenting momentum. Accompanying the rush is the snarl of that amazing V8 under load. The tone exponentially becomes harder and brutal; every explosion in each of the 8 cylinders engulfing my eardrums with pure ecstasy. As the crankshaft spins even harder and roars to its final battle cry, you flick the paddle and in 100ms the next gear is in, flooding your senses with the density of the torque and crescendo only a 6.2L can. This engine is unequivocally the focal point of the C63BS.

The car is suspended on KW manually adjustable coilovers and during low speed driving around town, it crashes up and down on bad roads (yes I’m looking at you River Valley) and can get unbearable at times. It’s at speed on the motorway where the damping really shines. The ride, while still firm, quickly filters away any undulations and provides the driver only the feedback and information that he/she will thoroughly enjoy. Slotting it into comfort shift mode and this car will be a beautiful GT without question. In corners, the insane wide track of the C63BS makes itself evident. The car shows close to no sign of roll and the wider body helps to maintain stability and instill that extra bit of confidence when driving hard. A 911’s nervousness and unpredictability especially at the front end has its appeal and charm but the Mercedes with its security is a refreshing change.


The C63BS will never win a track battle against the mighty 911 GT3. The ride is harsh compared to the BMW M4 in city driving and its handling is a far cry from M’s razor sharp precision and agility . The fuel gauge drops at a frankly astonishing rate. The gearbox is antiquated and dim-witted at times. From a technology standpoint, the C63BS is truly a dinosaur in the modern car world and 2012 was just 3 years ago.

We are moving at warp pace towards a world where the driver is merely an operator of a device, isolated from experiencing being one with a machine that we think has a living soul. The C63BS is one of these last great cars then, a German sports coupe that till today still feels so surreal having a 6.2l V8 a few feet from you. Secured its in place today as a modern classic, the car industry will one day look back and question the path they headed towards. Now to go fill up…


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By The Lenspeed Team


Competitors on the inaugural Road to Mandalay Rally, organised by the Endurance Rally Association, have crossed the border into Thailand and the half way mark, resulting in a tight battle for the top spot on the leaderboard.

Lenspeed was on-site on 31 January at Raffles Hotel to take a look at some of the cars participating in the race. Of interest to us were W113 SLs, a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost and a gargantuan Itala with a 600-litre fuel tank.

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After leaving the iconic Raffles Hotel, Singapore, on 1st February, the 70 crews have already covered just shy of 4,000km over the past 12 days and are now in Kanchanaburi. Whilst all involved enjoy the amazing scenery, some drivers clearly have their eyes on the prize.

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In the Vintageant division, the big battle is between the three Chevys – Peking to Paris 2013 winners Phil Garrett and Kieron Brown are 20 seconds off first place in their 1937 Fangio Coupe with leaders Bill Shields and Scot Herbstman, from America, keeping their ’38 Coupe ahead of the field.

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But chomping at Phil and Keiron’s heels are fellow Yanks, Daniel Day and Ronald Doyle just three minutes behind in their ’37 Coupe, which may sound like quite a gap but give how the terrain changes on the roads ahead, it could be easy to take advantage.

The story is no different in the hotly contested Classics category, where there’s less than two minutes separating the top three cars – all with extremely experienced and competitive teams at the helm.

Keeping the others in his rear view is another Peking to Paris legend, octogenarian Gerry Crown from Australia in the 1974 Leyland P76 with navigator Matt Bryson. The Australian duo only has a 46 second edge on the British team of Peter and Zoe Lovett in their 1965 Porsche 911.

But furiously chasing the top two are the UK’s Grant Tromans and Simon Russell in the 1973 Datsun 240Z with a time of 00:42:32.

Notable mentions are American John Rich III who, along with his son and navigator John IV, is producing impressive times and a class lead in his huge ’57 Chevy Bel Air Convertible, and to those who have spent valuable rest days in the garage making necessary repairs and adjustments.

With around 4,400kms still to go and numerous time trials, regularity tests and like planned to cause further shake ups, it remains anyone’s for the taking.

Rally Director Philip Young said: “Cars and drivers are coping well and most are soaking up the amazing culture and stunning horizons, taking full advantage of the evening’s comfort in luxurious hotels. But for others, this isn’t a pleasure cruise!”

The next big milestone for the Road to Mandalay Rally will be the crossing of the border into Burma, the first time this has ever happened in this particular province, and the start of the final journey towards the finishline in Rangoon on 24th February.

Philip added: “This is the first ever crossing of the frontier by foreigners from Thailand into Burma, and the first rally to drive into Burma.”

Follow the daily rally reports on Road to Mandalay, as well as updates on forthcoming ERA events, at


By The Lenspeed Team


We at Lenspeed have been looking at Mercedes SLs a lot lately. We thought about which SL we’d pick for ourselves.


Without question, the Gullwing era SLs are already collectors’ items and out of reach of most of us here in Singapore. So that’s out of the question.


The Pagodas (W113) are probably the most beautiful of the lot that is still “attainable”, which means that if you’re a less sensible sort you could still buy one. But again, it’s well above S$240,000 in today’s market and that’s a mighty amount to pay. Plus these seem to be less reliable than the later SLs.


The W107 or Panzers spell of 80s excess and the ribbed bottom designs look pretty dated these days. But they can be had for reasonable money and even the basic 280SLs are pretty sprightly. For some reason however, the looks just aren’t as timeless as the W113s…


Which brings us to the R129. Funny model, this. I test drove one with my dad a couple of years ago, and absolutely loved the idea of a Mercedes roadster with an auto retractable roof. And it was cool then. But these days, 129s have found themselves in the hands of those who like the look of the car more than keeping them in good shape. So now we see many of these subject to distasteful mods and questionable rims. Not really one we’d pick, then, in 2014 at least.


What about the R230/R231? The exterior design by Bruno Sacco and Steve Mattin is pretty for sure, but I’ve never been a fan of the interior in the 230, although there was a big step up in the 231s. Still too early to say whether they are keepers or not at this stage.


So which would we pick? Our heart says Pagoda. That design will never age!

But our head goes for the W107. Let’s see whether all of those ideas in my head really comes to fruition. It’s always nice to dream.

What is your choice SL? We’ll leave you with an ad:



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By The Lenspeed Team


Lexus was first in the game for luxury hybrids. Resolutely sticking to the formula while its key German competitors focused on turbo-diesel technology, Lexus has taken a risky and unconventional path towards efficient motoring.

It seems it hasn’t fared too badly – since 2004 when the first-ever Lexus was fitted with a hybrid drivetrain (it’s the RX 400h), the company has sold more than half a million hybrid Lexus vehicles. What’s more striking is that in Singapore, Lexus owns a commanding 82% of the market share for luxury hybrids.

Having tried variants from both competing camps (hybrids and diesels), Lenspeed tends to lean towards the latter due to its simpler internals (just an engine) versus an engine mated with a battery. In most driving conditions, a diesel can at least match the fuel economy of a hybrid, if not beat it. Also, in terms of tractability on the road, the low-end torque from turbo-diesels is also difficult to resist, compared to the more artificial battery-driven torque of hybrids mated to largely more inefficient petrol engines.

Lexus has to contend with more sophisticated competition nowadays. While the Germans have focused on turbo-diesels for a large part of the past decade, they’ve also come in a strong way to introduce hybrid variants of their cars. Just look at the E300 diesel-hybrid and the 535i ActiveHybrid.

Shoring up their capabilities in hybrid technology, Lexus’ competitors are now gaining competencies in both camps. Worryingly, we haven’t seen any diesel engine from Lexus worth shouting about, which will continue to severely restrict their appeal in the European market. Also, with the advent of diesel-hybrids, this means even more efficiency than petrol-hybrids, beating Lexus in its own game.

Lexus argues that petrol engines will continue to be its bread-and-butter due to their inherently superior refinement. Would this be enough for consumers to pick one over a diesel variant, hybrid or not? This is one strategic decision we’d love to watch unfold.




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By The Lenspeed Team

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With a big banner saying ‘Muzium Pengangkutan Melaka’, we weren’t sure if we understood what it meant when we passed by it, careening along the A-road leading into Melaka. However, quick glances at the building housing the banner stole glimpses of cars on display, one of which was a Bentley prominently placed on the centre-stage, plus a couple of other classics.  Just our good fortune to chance upon a motor museum – just when we were just planning to make the trip purely for food! We decided that after filling up our tummies, we had to give this one a proper look. Capturing the museum’s location, we traced back our steps again to look for probably what no one else in Singapore has ever seen (or bothered) to see: Melaka’s very own autocity.

There is scant information about this promisingly-named area, but from what we gather it is meant to be an agglomeration of workshops, dealerships, authorised servicing centres and auto suppliers in one central location. Unfortunately from our visit on a weekend it seems like 90% of the area is unoccupied, and Proton is pretty much the only major active tenant there. Its placing nearby to the Melaka International Trade Centre (MITC) seems to serve no purpose but for the fact that car park lots are aplenty.

While it may be somewhat of a ghost town, its Transportation Museum does offer some reason for a visit if, for one reason or another, other attractions in Melaka just don’t appeal to you. If, at this point, you would probably not visit this place again ever in your life, count on us to show you how it is like anyway!

The Transportation Museum was, reportedly, opened on 2 January 2010 “as an adjunct” to Malaysia’s (booming) car industry – HICOM (Heavy Industries Corporation of Malaysia), Proton, Perodua and MODENAS (National Motor-cycles and Engines, not the place in Italy, mind!). We like the idea, but we can’t help but be a bit curious when we were just about the only visitors when we dropped by. Fans had to be turned on and legs lifted off tables as we – alas! – paid the entry fees to visit the museum! Enjoy our photo tour.

Luxury cars were a dime a dozen in the museum, like this 1960s BMW saloon…


And this stretched W114 Merc. Best of all, most them were unlocked so if you wanted (and if you risked getting security onto you), you could get a seat in these which you probably can’t do in most other ‘proper’ museums.

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There were a couple of Mercs. Either the museum loved them a lot, or their donors did! Here’s another W114.

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There’s even a W220 S500, although we’re unsure why it’s held up by jack stands. We reckon it’s to prevent the AIRMATIC suspension from seizing up.

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There were beauties, like our personal favourite, the Volvo P1800…

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And the rear-engined Kharmann Ghia (related to the Beetle).

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There were also rarities, like this unidentified Volkswagen vehicle…

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Complete with Wolfsburg logos and Mk3/Mk4 Golf seats! We suspect it’s based on the Beetle, because of its central twin exhausts.

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But also oddities, like this crumbling horse-drawn cart.

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For our JDM fans, a Datsun! (Sorry we haven’t got a clue what model this is.) Oh, and yes that’s a jet plane you see at the back.

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We understand the museum is a ‘rare gem’, so the cars may not be in their best condition (yes that’s mould in the E32 7er’s interior)…

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But hey, at least the coach line on the Bentley remains well intact.

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Interestingly enough, this Bentley Eight’s interior reminds us of both the interiors of a modern Rolls-Royce (door design) and a modern Bentley (dashboard, especially the top one-piece leather).

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That’s all folks! If you want to find this place for yourself, here is the address:

Address: Melaka Autocity, Taman Tasik Utama, 75350 Melaka
GPS coordinates: N 2.283982, E 102.270656




By The Lenspeed Team

Mercedes-AMG GT

All we can see now are interior photos, but we already have a foretaste that the quality of materials is going to be a step-up from the SLS AMG, going by the swathes of leather lining the cabin and delicious chrome detailing. It’s a strong momentum that Mercedes has been building since the new W222 S-Class, followed by the stunning new C-Class interior.

However, we can also be certain that the GT (whatever happened to the SLS name?) will no longer have the naturally aspirated V8 that we all love. We hope that while the inevitable turbocharged engine takes its place, it can be made up for by a quicker shifting gearbox, which has always been an Achilles’ heel of the SLS.

The GT will be the second car developed fully independently by Mercedes-AMG, the first being the SLS AMG. Watch for it this autumn!


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By James Wong


Following the end of World War II, West Germany underwent an incredible economic expansion that brought it to the top leagues of industrialised countries. Unlike the United States which pursued a consumption-based growth model, Germany was always building, creating, inventing, and then exporting this great work to the world. Its automotive industry was no exception – previous relics of war, like the Volkswagen Beetle, went on to find massive commercial success worldwide.

Mercedes-Benz by then already had a rock-solid reputation, and looking back at the long lineage of the S-Class you will find the W108, although it was not officially called the Sonderklasse until much later.

W108s sold in good numbers in Singapore, although from what insiders can punt most of them were the later model 280S. Lenspeed had the immense privilege of driving the W108 recently in one of its earliest launch specifications, the 250S. This came with a 2.5-litre straight-six M108 engine with twin zenith carburettors (what fuel injection?), developing a leisurely 130bhp and a century acceleration performance of about 14 seconds. All this is purely academic, of course, because as I was about to find out, on-road performance is vastly different from what you read on the spec sheet.


When the W108 first approached the small lay-by where I waited, my ears immediately caught the exhaust note of something old – not old in the sense of being broken, but chugging along with character, panache and attitude. I’m not sure if the later fuel-injected 250SE would sound any different, but this one definitely evoked an atmosphere that brought me back to at least 30 years ago, in a good way.

Parking up, what was immediately apparent is the length of the car. Even by modern standards the W108 had a wheelbase and body of an elegant cruise liner, one which surely drew many respectful glances on the road especially at a time in Singapore where most people were still riding around in rickshaws, bicycles and motorbikes.

Even so, the friendly ride height hinted that it was supremely easy to get in and out of the car, as well as to look out of. That, perhaps, could explain why the side rear view mirrors were almost apologetic compared to the size of the rest of the car. They simply weren’t needed. “The beauty of the car is that you can just swing your head back if you’re reversing, and you can see everything,” says the owner of the car who demonstrated it expertly when manoeuvring in the lay-by.


I could well have forgotten to mention how beautiful this car is. Although much have been written about the elegance of classic Mercedes-Benz cars, nothing could prepare you when you first set your eyes upon one cruising down the road. The lines are so correct, free of safety and pedestrian regulations, free of the economics of mass production (which, to be fair, kept these companies viable and making good money). It is simply a stunner, especially with the white-walled rims that are blissfully small in size, just 14-inches, which hint at a serene ride inside.


I was fully satisfied at my little encounter with the W108, but it was an offer I couldn’t refuse when the owner said “Go on, have a go.” I said yes without thinking too much into it, but my mind wandered to managing the car’s length and lack of modern aids which make driving so easy nowadays. However with the owner beside me I could manoeuvre the car at ease, as he always chipped “Go ahead, make the turn. I know this car very well.” Reassuring indeed, especially when I didn’t want to lay even a tiny mark to symbolise my priceless opportunity to drive this beauty.


The massive diameter of the steering wheel greets me as I landed on the traditionally bouncy Mercedes seats. Exquisitely detailed with thin chrome metal and literally a ‘cooking hob’ design, the steering wheel dominated the throne from which you can easily look over to the beautiful gauges. Although borne from an era where night interior lighting wasn’t a huge priority, the controls were easy enough to operate once found, without having to fumble through dozens of buttons like you do in modern cars. Curiously, the speedometer read in MPH, which reminded me a little of my ex-cars in England.

Laid over with MB Tex, the seats feel very new and robust, signalling they could probably last for many more decades to come.  Best of all, the cabin is so airy that rear passengers feel like they are sitting in a living room of sorts, with none of the stand-offish atmosphere between front and rear rows like you get in cars nowadays with their huge front seats. And it really is true – visibility is all-round excellent and you can drive naturally without your side mirrors. Best thing about older cars, I think.


Setting off, what is really impressive is the responsive of the gearbox, which can shame some of the 5-speed gearboxes you find in modern MBs like the W212 four-cylinder models before they got the 7-speeder. Equally astounding is the eagerness of the engine to haul, which it does with enthusiasm and good nature, not feeling strained in the least and lending the car a laid-back persona which then extends to the driver’s temperament. Sure, you will not be going fast as 40MPH already feels plenty fast, but that is quite the point – sit back, relax and enjoy your journey in class.

Through junctions the car turns with surprising body control, demonstrating that as early as the 1960s Mercedes has already got their damping spot on between a mix of comfort and stability. Surely the 14-inch rims helped as their thickly-profiled tyres soaked up many of the bumps along the ravaged Bukit Timah Road. Braking was a big surprise too. Equipped with all-round disc brakes with modern stainless steel brake hoses, brake feel was decidedly confidence-inspiring and strong – a laughable contrast to the wet tissue brakes in my Mk2 Golf GTI…


Returning back to the lay-by, I was equally enamoured as I was warmed by the W108. I won’t deny that I love the Mercedes-Benz brand. The three-pointed star has been a significant part of my life as I spent a great deal of time in the W126, W140 and W220. What’s heartening to know is that there is a definite thread running through all of them, and that is the stalwart S-Class feeling that you simply don’t get riding in a BMW 7-Series or Audi A8. In the W108, I discovered where it came from and as I’ve learnt, good provenance is telling.

Is this a perfect steer? Considering that classic cars in Singapore attract only 10% of COE and that they are relatively more affordable nowadays, I’d love to have a W108 in my garage. Actually, I’d definitely have a classic Mercedes in mine at some point in my life, whether it is the W108 or something else. You don’t need a fast car to enjoy motoring. You just need a car that does what it is supposed to do well. And the W108, well, it is a classic Lenspeed machine.

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