The CarAdvice team reveals what's hidden away in their sheds and backyards awaiting some TLC.
It started with a casual chat with my Melbourne-based mum at the end of COVID-19 lockdowns. Her partner’s old E-Class had been parked on the street for months, registration lapsed and gathering leaves at a prodigious rate.
As lockdown restrictions eased, council patrols increased, culminating with the dreaded ‘This vehicle is unregistered. You have seven days to move it or it will be towed blah blah blah’ sticker slapped on the windscreen.
Mum: ‘I think we’ll just sell it to a wrecker.’
Rob: ‘What’s wrong with it?’
Mum: ‘The rear-view mirror is broken. And it's got a broken tail-light.’
Rob: ‘Is that all?’
‘Mum: ‘I think so.’
Rob to the rescue. I wasn’t going to let this grand old dame slide into obscurity at some two-bit wrecking yard for the sake of a couple of minor and easy-to-fix issues.
A deal was struck and with my Mum project managing post-lockdown (I’m based in Sydney), the journey to bringing the E-Class back to life began.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. To me, Benz’s large luxo barge is the epitome of the brand. I’d wager it is for most people. When they think of Mercedes, I bet the car they picture in their mind is an E-Class of some vintage.
I’ve owned a couple of 1970s W123-gen Mercs – the progenitor for today’s E-Class – in my time, and always regretted selling them.
My love for them dates back to growing up in Germany in the 1970s, when the W123 was the newest Benz on the street. Yes, the S-Class had more presence (and cost more), but it was the E-Class that typified the Mercedes brand. For me, that love affair of old Mercs has remained, never dimming over the years.
To be fair, a 1996 E-Class didn’t have quite the same appeal for me as a 1970s W123 or the first generation to be dubbed ‘E-Class’, the W124.
I didn’t love the W210 when it first came out in 1996, but the intervening 25 years has seen it attain ‘classic’ status as well as stealthing its way into my heart.
But first, the work. Luckily, sitting kerbside untouched and without starting for nine months had done little to diminish the E320’s mechanicals. Yes, she needed towing to a Euro specialist workshop but the news, after a thorough inspection, was good.
Most of the repairs needed to bring the E-Class back to roadworthiness were minor, the biggest job replacing the suspension bushes.
Gumtree provided the new tail-light housing while a specialist Merc wrecker in Melbourne came through with the rear-view mirror assembly. And a special thanks to CA’s resident Benz tragic, James Ward, who ran around Melbourne picking up the new mirror and then delivering it to Mum (I still owe you money for that, Wardy!).
Once the work was completed, Mum organised the roadworthy certificate and a couple of weeks later, my shiny and newly-registered E-Class was ready to collect from Melbourne. This was in October, last year.
A global pandemic cares not for the automobile or the people who love them. Instead, it conspires to throw spanners in the works (an apt metaphor in this case), scuppering plans of road trips and forging a new relationship with a new car.
It wasn’t until March of this year that the gods of Covid, work and family combined and my partner and I were able to fly to Melbourne to collect our new acquisition and drive her back to Sydney, the long way.
In the intervening six months, my mum had been driving the old Benz and grown quite fond of her, although in her words, ‘It’s too old. And too big.’
Exactly, Mum. That’s why I love her. And her ilk.
Released in 1996, the W210 E-Class replaced the much-loved and boxy W124 generation executive saloon. Our car is a 1996-built E320 Elegance variant, the mid-spec in the range that also included Classic and AvantGarde models.
Powering the big old bird is Merc’s venerable and trusted M104 3.2-litre inline six making 162kW and 315Nm. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a five-speed conventional auto.
In its day, the sprint from 0-100km/h was said to take 7.8 seconds.
Standard equipment included leather seats (real, not faux), ABS, two-zone air conditioning, airbags for front seat occupants including side airbags, 16-inch alloy wheels, a 10-stacker CD player (in the boot), central locking with remote key, traction control, cruise control, power mirrors and power windows, front and rear.
It cost $130,100 (plus on-roads) when new in 1996, considerably more than our investment in getting her back into roadworthy shape.
With the first stage of our rescue complete, having saved her from the ignominy of being broken up for parts and sold in bits and pieces, we are now the proud owners of a Polar White (a no-cost option) E-Class.
In the next instalment, we’ll learn how she drives as we undertake the 1200km or so road trip (via the coast road) from Melbourne to Sydney.
What better way to learn your new automotive acquisition than on the open road with the nearest workshop 150km in the distance should something go wrong.
But, life should be filled with adventures, and together, my partner and I are just beginning ours.
Current status: Guten tag, wie gehts?
Next: Road trip!
MORE: Everything Mercedes-Benz