Behind the White Wheel

Behind the White Wheel

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Tough Old Lady

This posting is part of a series of articles that will target the Mercedes-Benz young classics. As a freak of the brand and a happy owner of a 1961 Mercedes-Benz 180 (W120) since 1995, I am recently thinking of acquiring/ saving another model. Will it be another sedan? Perhaps a coupe? Or a convertible? My decision should be based of course, on the beauty of the model, its price, the cost of its restoration and most importantly the memories and feelings it ignites in me.
I will start by the very dear Mercedes-Benz W115; the tough old lady that is still refusing to retire…

38 years after its production stopped, the W115 still refuses to retire. Notice the red Taxi plate
Time takes me back to the late 80s; mainly in the month of August or September of the year 1988; I was as usual sitting on the backseat behind my dad in the 1983 dark grey Honda Accord that I loved. Some relatives were following us in a navy blue Mercedes-Benz W115 (atech) on the Jal El Dib highway. Suddenly and abnormally, it started raining, and as a young cars freak, I started following the movement of my dad’s Honda’s wipers desperately trying to listen to the barely audible noise of their motor…I had developed a curiosity in discovering how the wipers’ motor functions and had nagged infinitely to get the replaced wipers’ motor of my late uncle’s 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.
When I laid eyes on our relatives’ Mercedes-Benz I noticed that the wipers move in a different way; they go from the center of the windshield where they cross each others’ towards the opposite extremities of it. I was flabbergasted by their movement and found it so matching with the look of the car that has intrigued me. Somehow I had the impression that the general expression on the “Atech’s” “face” was a bit sad or reflecting some worries. The model started to highly interest me.  

Notice the ivory steering wheel and the crossed wipers
What can I say about the W115 series? Talking about how successful it was, is just an habitual statement; in my perspective, I always saw it as the successor of the 180/190 Mercedes-Benz ponton series (W120), a successor that did not have the privilege of fully witnessing the golden era of Lebanon. Nevertheless, the W115 was along with the W123 the main actors on the “service”/ Taxi scene for nearly three decades; I grew up listening to their honking and enjoying riding in one of them to go from Hamra to Mar Elias to visit my friends there. To our generation, the W115 in Lebanon became quickly the symbol of the “service” to the extent that one would be shocked to see it without a red plate…
A typical Taxi in Beirut
It is in these W115 that our laughs, our stories, our endless discussions took place. In these W115 we discussed the performance of my friend Georges Naufal’s W124, we discussed grades, teenage adventures, future projects…etc. Today, as I look back, I find that a bulk of days and years has accumulated; again, as the Mercedes-Benz 180/190 (W120)’s mileage has flipped over and over so many times until they gave up 25 years ago the mileage of the W115 is still flipping and flipping, yet these cars are still refusing to completely retire albeit their decreasing number on the roads.

An extremely tired 230.4
Rotten interior. Notice the old style steering wheel and the sunroof
Before they completely disappear like their antecedents, I will be doing my best to save one, restore it and try to re-live through it parts of my childhood and teenage years. Usually, life obliges people to put priorities and I admit it is not on the top of my to-do list to venture into this project. However, acquiring a daily driver and restoring it slowly is always a good option.

A perfectly restored W115. Notice the typical 1970s yellow color

The taillights indicate that it is a pre-1974 model
Simple yet elegant interior
During my honeymoon in Italy, and as I was acquainting myself with the different spots of LeAgavi Hotel in Positano I bumped into this beautiful and perfectly original W115 that seems to have been sleeping for years. Was it a sign? Maybe! I automatically asked if it was for sale, unfortunately it belonged to the owners of the hotel and selling it wasn’t in their plans…

The W115 "dans son jus" overlooking Positano's beautiful sea
Another view; notice the unusual blinker on the side of the fender
I liked how original the car was; it reminded me of a similar W115 that remained parked for many years in the street where I live until it suddenly disappeared. I still regret not asking more about it!

Gone W115; I wish I was able to save it

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