It all started with an off the cuff road trip. “I thought ‘well why not’. If we come back with a car we come back with a car. If we don’t we don’t. Stupidly… we came back with a car.”
Taking his trusty Passat down to Tours in France, Andrew had his eye on a car that seemed like a good bet. “I quite fancied a W115 and this sweet little thing popped up.”
Andrew really appreciates the charm of the Merc despite it not being an immaculate showpiece: “The patina on the wing; that’s a typical French repair - it’s shoddy and terrible and it’s not the right green, but it’s brilliant - it's history to the car. It’s the same with the driver’s seat: torn because the previous owners had a dog and the kid used to jump on it. I've got a photo of the kid stood on the driver's seat because he didn’t want the car to go.” This old saloon really was loved and used properly. Topped up with bread, cheese and a 10am glug of Red Wine, the car made it’s way back towards Blighty. After a life in France, this old W115 is now enjoying its English retirement.
Some classic lovers admire their cars with tongues out and tails wagging, eager for the next opportunity to blitz a country lane. Andrews sees things a bit differently; more a cock of the head and a smile: “Being relaxed is my thing, no drama, no sliding around corners. Maybe I’m a bit boring in that sense but I want to keep my car straight and not wrapped around a tree.”
This W115 is the perfect embodiment of relaxed gentlemanly driving, in town or country. Being more easy-going offers time and breathing space to look out the window and enjoy the view.
Out and about, it’s all very straightforward. You’re not wasting time scrabbling around inside figuring out some whacky seventies ergonomics. Pop the armrest down in the back, stretch your legs and you’ve enough space to settle comfortably into a long journey. It’s a simple, uncluttered and refined experience. Though not fast, put it on a motorway and it will happily gobble up miles like a steam train. It’s good for aspiring murderers too, the boot is perfectly big enough for a body.
Being winter (you know how it is) the battery was a bit flat and we broke down at the petrol station. A lady in her Volvo agreed to help jump start it. She loved the Merc: with its regal dozy face and soft glossy green paint; it quickly became the centre of attention. Andrew explained to us how sharing his appreciation for old cars is what really gets him. “That lady at the petrol station, she said she once owned an MG Midget. The Merc must have taken her back to what she drove when she was young, and I love that feeling.”
I know some see old Mercs as underdeveloped versions of the latest available model, but they’re so much more than that. They’re a chance to experience the core of sophistication and build quality from a proper German car manufacturer. They are notorious for being over-engineered. “When you actually get up close and drive one, you get that feeling right through the car. It’s so sturdy you know, it’s solid, it’s a German brick and they’re just really underrated.”
It’s easy to work out why you’d be paying all that money for it back in the day. There’s simply no fuss, no imminent plasticky component failure. It’s like a big sleepy old dog that carries you to your destination in a measured way, while your passengers snooze en route. It’s not an exciting ride, nor an ego stroker, it's just a nice car. That’s it really. “Five of us can just waft down to the pub and have a few beers, and that’s what it’s all about.”