A lot of us have been there, buying a car for its parts only to feed another and bang, whilst walking away from it a few months later, you look back at the car you have just parked up, realising you need another daily/parts car.
Well this is Sam's story.
Sam decided to upgrade the engine in his Defender to a Mercedes OM606, which some consider to be the diesel equivalent of a 2JZ. Rather than just getting an engine, Sam found a Maroon S124 down by the coast, a little rusty but that wouldn't matter as it was ideal as a parts car. Little did he know, this chosen path would change once driving the car home.
The S124 is a cult classic and a working man's hero, some say peak Mercedes Benz, so it was only natural that Sam would end up falling in love with the car on the journey home. With Sam having the itch that we all possess, it wasn't long until the car was put on a ramp, inspected and an OM606 engine purchased for the Defender project.
As you expect, with the S124 living by the coast the car was a "little" rusty. Sam carried out the screwdriver test on the floor and soon after, the newly acquired car resembled a cheese grater… thus the rolling restoration began. The underside was stripped back, the crusty parts taken away and repairs were made. The underside was then painted, new front/rear control arms fitted, new brakes all around and he fitted upgraded shocks. During the above work and whilst the subframe was out, new bushes were fitted to ensure that the car will have plenty of years left in it.
We want to make things clear, this car is not a show car, but Sam's actual daily driver… so doing a big overhaul in one hit wasn't an option. Is the car perfect? No. You can see the car still has some rust bubbling away on the rear quarter but just like the car, Sam is a working-class hero. Wearing his heart on his sleeve and living by the sword that we all get addicted to.
With the car passing its MOT it wasn't long until the next big task was undertaken and that was to lose the mechanical auto and fit a later, 5-speed, digitally controlled auto gearbox, taken from an E320 CDI, which runs stand-alone management. This meant Sam could have paddle shifters and be able to adjust the shift points, speeds, lockup etc, which certainly makes it more fun to drive. To add to the fun factor an ASD differential was fitted allowing a little bit more controlled fun around roundabouts, and all whilst on private land of course...
But with every project, there is always a slight bump in the road and for Sam this was a knock coming from that OM606. So, Sam did what Sam does and saw an opportunity to gain more power. Another OM606 was sourced and whilst it was out, the fuel pump was rebuilt with bigger 7.7mm elements, to add to the power gains, a tubular exhaust manifold, a front mount intercooler and a remote oil filter/cooler were fitted to help with intake and oil temps. Then to add to the workload, the bell housing was swapped for an E55 AMG box.
With the car back up and running, it was time for some more enjoyable work! The Mercedes 124 chassis is arguably one of the best chassis laid out, so to help with that, he opted for the OCD Kit with control arms, running Airlift management, Bilstein B8 shocks front and rear. At the rear are Ford Ranger front shocks with the bush swapped for an eyelet and the rear lower arms are from a saloon. The installation was kept simple and with the car being a daily, it had to be kept practical. The boot floor was cut out and dropped 40mm to allow for all the gear to sit below the boot floor and for Sam's first attempt, it paid off! As you can see, he has produced a really cool daily.
With the suspension sorted, the next piece to the puzzle was wheels, which, in fact, Sam already had waiting. The infamous BBS RS was the wheel of choice for Sam and this build; a stable favourite amongst most 124 chassis owners.
The RS’ in question are model number RS326, they’re an 8.5j square setup, which originally came on an Audi 200 V8. Sam then rebuilt the fronts with a 1.5" front lip to make them 9J and a 2.5" lip to make the rears 10j. Tyres of choice were Toyo Proxes, 205/40/17 on the front and with a little assistance from some friends 215/40/17 on the rear.
Sam's friends have been a big part of what you see on this page, with Sam building the car for himself he didn't really think anyone else would be interested. It was his friends Mikey and Mike L who gave Sam the push to apply for Rollhard Bicester 2022 and it was the first time we came across the car. His group of friends have also been a big help with bouncing ideas about and helping to get work done on the car, but that’s not the only thing they’ve built.
The Leighton Buzzard Cars and Coffee was set up by his friend Mike and Sam joined soon after. Once a month they invite us like-minded, of all shapes and sizes to gather and talk. The meeting is open to all makes and models and all they ask is for the meeting and surrounding area to be respected. We have been a few times and it's really nice to meet some local enthusiasts whilst supporting a good cause, being advocates for mental health and recently doing a toy drive for the Kids Out charity.
The interior has not been ignored either, the car originally came with a cloth interior, however, whilst Sam was casually checking eBay a black leather interior set popped up for a great price. So it was out with the old and in with the new. Sam replaced all the seats and door cards to match and then added the wood trim making sure it all still matched. The last addition finishing the interior is the Motamec steering wheel.
So what's next for the S124? Besides the continued rolling restoration, next on the list of mods is another gearbox swap. This time however, it’ll be the 8-speed ZF box that’s found in BMW’s. Sam has the adaptor and the stand-alone management, he just needs to find the time and the reasoning. Apart from being a better all-round gearbox for shift quality, ratios etc the stand-alone also lets you have a “virtual clutch” which means junctions and roundabouts become even more enjoyable. At the same time, he's also planning to add stronger valve springs and head studs to the engine, so he can add even more revs and boost to the equation. So that concludes a man's quest to build his perfect daily. Let us know what yours is in the comments.