Consumerism is changing the way we buy things. We have contractual relationships with everything from new cars to mobile phones, so it begs the question is there any real point in developing any emotional attachment with something you’ll be giving away in a few years? Perhaps not.
Times are changing. Look around yourselves, this is one hell of a throw-away age. We’re living in a world where very few material things stick around long enough to get old and collect dust, let alone actually need fixing. They certainly don't make 'em like they used to.
If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a big fan of saving old things, because let’s face it, we should take care of our history. Obviously, being the car guy that I am, what I’m really talking about here is old cars. It’s our job to save them and I happen to think that the best cars have already been built - that's my argument for saving the golden oldies, anyway.
Maybe I’m just an utter pessimist, but in my mind very few brand new cars will be around long enough to become classics. They’re just not built to last, or at least, manufacturers just want everyone buying a new one every few years, so inevitably, new cars get chopped and changed these days.
The days of car designers and engineers having free reign to create beautifully designed, over-engineered, overweight gas-guzzling machines are well and truly over, which is a shame, if a little too sensible. I get why the world needs modern automotive technologies, but for me, you just can't beat old.
We need to step up and breathe new life into old metal. Having said that, keeping old cars hidden away in collections like expensive ornaments is also not the solution. Whilst this might preserve them, personally, I think people should see classic cars out on the open road being driven and enjoyed.
Marcel Bäumer is one such car enthusiast and he’s found himself an absolute keeper in the W108 you see here. His 1972 Mercedes Benz 280SE is a stunning example of keeping automotive history alive, sticking two-fingers up at new car finance agreements, fake chrome, plastic wood and body panels made of baked bean cans. This guy is all about the classics and we love that.
So let’s take a look at Marcel’s '72 Benz. I find myself running out of superlatives for this beauty. I mean, look at it, it’s utterly gorgeous. This is one hell of a seductive car.
I think it goes without saying that, even in stock form the W108 is a great looking car. Those classic muted curves ooze Germanic class. This car is very obviously a slice of 1970s luxury; pearl white paint with chrome literally everywhere. This would have been one hell of a car in '72, sat on the first owner’s driveway with delivery miles. Back then, I’m sure nobody would have thought that 40 years on it would look like this and be owned by a car enthusiast like Marcel.
Marcel wanted a classic car. It wasn’t easy, but he searched high and low for the right one and some things are just meant to be. Marcel’s initial searches for an air-cooled VW left him wanting, so he found himself looking more and more at 1970s Mercedes’, which eventually led him to the car you see here.
Marcel tells me his W108 has a tale or two to tell. Starting out in France and being in the country for just over 20 years, it was then exported to the Netherlands in 1995 where it stayed until 2014 when Marcel heard about the car and did the necessary to get it back to his hometown of Pulheim in Germany.
Marcel’s task of building his W108 to his own high standards was made all the more demanding due to the fact he was aiming to have the car ready for the gruelling 1200 mile/2000 kilometre Wörthersee tour in 2016. This meant a fixed deadline, which strikes fear into the heart of even the most seasoned car builder. With no room for contingency, no room for error, this W108 had to be back on the road in April 2016. The open road to Austria was waiting.
As luck would have it, the colour, spec and engine were perfect and what really drew Marcel to this car. Being a 280SE model fitted with the deliciously smooth 3.5 litre V8 mated to a 4 speed auto, this the perfect cruising car: very fitting I’m sure you’ll agree. After all, manual gearboxes aren’t luxury, right?
On the subject of luxury, this particular car was well equipped from the factory. The original owner spec’d four headrests, air conditioning, tinted (i.e. coloured) glass all round, double armrests, automatic aerial and seat belts. All in 1972… would you believe it?
Marcel’s journey with the car has been an emotional one. Needless to say the deadline was met, and in some fashion. This slice of Mercedes history is a masterpiece. Nothing too much, nothing over the top, everything, just so.
A meticulous two year build, this car represents everything there is to admire about building a car to be driven. Hours upon hours of work have gone into this car, but not that you’d know it. So seamless is the build that there are no “tell tail signs” that this car hasn’t just rolled off the production line.
If you look at this car and think, “air and wheels”, then you’re looking but not seeing. To achieve this standard, much, much more than just elbow grease and some shiny off-the-shelf parts is required, it's a complete restoration. This definitely isn’t a cut and paste build, make no mistake about that.
Since purchasing the Benz, Marcel had always preferred the looks of the W108 US spec lights, so he made sure those parts were purchased and on the car ready for the final Wörthersee unveil.
The custom air suspension setup is Airlift from top to toe. Airlift bags with Airlift 3P management keep this car rolling hard. The nineteen litre aluminium air tank is driven by HP Drivetech Air Power 2 compressor, which is all hidden away nicely inside a 1960s suitcase in the boot.
With Marcel quite rightly wanting to retain the pretty original looks of the Benz, he opted for a set of 7x15 “Barock” OEM Mercedes wheels mounted with 205/55 whitewall tyres. The Barocks have been ceramic polished to within an inch of their lives and boy do they shine. Like four jewels tucked under each arch, Marcel’s wheel choice works so very well. There's not a Rotiform in sight. This is all period correct stuff.
On the inside, the W108 exudes class. You wouldn’t know it, but Marcel has refurbished all of the wooden trims and re-coloured the interior. The ivory white steering wheel and gearknob complete the cabin, which looks as impressive as it did leaving the factory.
Since this cars completion in April 2016, Marcel has been to many events all across Europe. His enjoyment of the car extends way beyond the obvious. Marcel is quite rightly proud of his achievements with this build and executing on his plan from start to finish.
However his favourite thing about this car is the community it now belongs to. Racking up the miles is one thing, but meeting new friends as a result is the most satisfying outcome for Marcel, and I completely agree with him. Car culture belongs to everyone, and that's what we at RollHard represent. We invite you to join us at our events in 2017, we are one big family, after all.
When showing at events, Marcel's W108 changes what a modified car should be, because it’s a classic modified car, much to the confusion of diehard purists. Whilst some classic Mercedes’ fans might be a little irritated by the air ride, nobody can argue that this car maintains everything that made it a great car rolling off the production line in Stuttgart over 40 years ago. I’m glad everything is period correct and that the upgrades are unseen. Marcel plans to upgrade to Airlift 3H this winter, which will take things to the next level in the suspension stakes, whilst keeping the overall look sympathetic.
Marcel has built this car for himself, and in doing so, has rewritten a classic. This has to be one of our favourite cars of this year, which is why we presented Marcel with our RH UK award at this year's RollHard: The Belgian Chapter. Well done Marcel, welcome to the RH family.
Oh, and one last thing, the amazing Audi 100 you see in our video will be coming to these pages very soon... watch this space. RH x
Owner: Marcel Bäumer
Many thanks to Leon at DRS