Tauriq Ajam’s Bagged Benz
This particular 1976 Mercedes-Benz W115 230.4 is one of those cars that goes further than the average diamond in the rough stories; it is more is a story of destiny. These W114/5 (chassis code signifying whether the car is six or four cylinder respectively) Mercedes-Benz’s have been the apple of my eye for as long as I can remember that I had a passion for cars. There was just something about the unusual narrowly stacked headlights, the huge grille, the long flowing body and all the little chrome bits on the exterior that just appealed to me. The W114/5s just has a gangster/mafia/hoodlum/chicano/vatos locos appeal going for itself. This stigma is easily felt when in the car’s presence. This very nature is one of the aspects that made the car stand out for me, because at the same time it has this classy and elite aura that comes with the territory of boasting the classic 3 pronged star badge on the bonnet.
I have been searching for many years for a W115 Benz but as I am still a student and cash is not my biggest of friends, the search was never really 100% committed and I always believed that when the neatest one comes my way I will not be able to fork the cash out and make her my own. This is mostly because if I had to pick up a Benz that had lotsa loose ends, I knew that firstly, it would constantly annoy me and secondly, that it might just kill my dream; especially seeing as I am excessively finicky when it comes to things being on its place. So because of these reasons, I consoled myself to postpone my search until a time where money was more readily available. Now as fate may have it, I became friends with one of the most genuine people I have ever come accross; Zubair Sayed from Wheels and More
in Johannesburg. He had come down one weekend to socialize with us Cape Townians (a few Big names in the Car Scene, such as Noor Abarahams, Riyaad Mohammed of International Rim Repair
(One of The best in South Africa), Kyle Petersen (Bella the Beetle and Mia the P510 Datsun), Ramiz Isaacs (Rosey the Bagged G5) to mention just a few). As the conversation was going, I mentioned to Zubair that one of my dream cars to own was a W115 Benz and he just had a smirk on his face and said – “I have one”. I was beyond surprised and to top it off he said it was for sale. This was about May 2012. Zubair then showed me some pics and I immediately fell in love! However, I was in financial difficulty at the time and the price was vastly out of reach and all I could do was express my love and appreciation for her.
Zubair then gave me a history lesson on the car – he said that he himself had also been searching for many years before actually finding this Benz. He happened to stumble upon an ad on the internet of an unusually low mileaged Benz that claimed to be a one owner car. The car however was situated nearly 500kms away from his home city, but something told him there’s something special about this Benz, so he took a road trip up to Kimberly from Johannesburg and went to view her. When he got there he couldn’t believe his eyes, the car had only done 41 000km from 1976 until 2009 and it was indeed a one owner car. Calculating the average mileage per year of 41 000km over 34 years works out to only about 1200km per year! The owner had wool seat covers fitted to it since it came off the showroom floor, so the seats were spotless. The motor was regularly serviced even though it was not put to much use. Zubair immediately fell in love with the car and made the purchase without hesitation. Who wouldn’t when the car was basically untouched and very very clean?
Zubair then owned the car for just under 4 years and in that time he managed to keep her in even better condition. The seat covers were only removed once or twice a year at the local classic car shows to show off the spotless seats. The mileage was take up to a moderate 60 000km and he had fitted some white wall inserts to the wheels. Zubair, being a brother of stance, then had the car lowered to a point where she sat just above the white walls. This is basically the state in which I was introduced to her – 2 owners, 60 000km on the clock, brown wool seat covers from the 70’s, all sitting pretty neatly and having the usual slightly oxidized paint work that any 36 year old car would have.
Towards the end of the year, Zubair mentioned that he has had numerous buyers make empty promises and that he still is interested in selling and this is where I realised that this might just mean it is meant for me. I quickly got a few odd things sold, I even sold some things that I promised never to let go of but this Benz just meant so much to me that I was willing to sacrifice them. I eventually managed to build up enough cash in order to make this Benz my own and next thing I knew, we were planning a way to get her down from Johannesburg to Cape Town (1400km journey) and I soon began to realise that my dream of owning a classic Benz is on the verge of materializing. The feeling never really sank in until the morning of the 24th of December 2012 where I woke up at Zubair’s house in Johannesburg and we set off on our road trip to Cape Town.
The road trip was really something quite exciting. She had never really done any trips longer than 750km’s, so at 1400km we were really testing the long legs of the Benz. The Benz handled the roads extremely well, but about 300kms in we encountered repeated splutters while cruising – as if the fuel lines were dirty or because of faulty bogey wires. Eventually as we reached the Colesburg fuel station she completely died on us. We were a bit shocked and confused as we couldn’t figure out what the problem was. Eventually we figured out that due to the Benz standing for so long the alternator had packed up. We were already deciding where are we gonna over night until we could find an auto electrician, as it was way past business hours, when an elderly man from the surrounding area walks up to us and says “Our cars come from the same period”; we then found out he drove a 70’s Rover. He heard about our problem and escorted us deep in to the neighbourhood to Piet the Auto Electrician, miraculously he obliged to get the alternator fixed on the spot on Christmas Eve, and a hour later we were back en route to Cape Town! We did not experience a single problem thereafter. I was truly impressed with how the Benz performed and took to the long road which just completed the whole experience of the Benz being handed over to me.
Late on the morning of Christmas Day(5am) we arrived in Cape Town, and this is where she was officially handed over to me! From there on, the dream I had so long awaited was quite unexpectedly becoming a reality. Spending time with her, I got her up to the standard that I wanted her to be in. The first thing that I always do is have the body work waxed which just brings it back to life. Because she was garaged for most of her life, the paint had lost its depth and wetness in the colour – nothing a full detail can’t fix.
There were lots of further small touches that were done, like the old school South African black metal plates that the cars were fitted with in the 70s. I opened up the headlights and removed the orange indicator lenses to give it the clean white appearance up front, replaced all the fused bulbs and just got everything functioning 100%.
At this point, this is where the big changes started taking place. I managed to get my hands on some air suspension goodies and took them to CapeStance’s air specialist. He then installed the complete Air-lift Performance Bags with analogue toggle switches (until Accu-air becomes feasible) in the Benz. While she was under-going the operation I managed to source a second set of hubcaps and brand new white wall inserts. I had the caps fully polished and everything was assembled on the completion of the air setup. Basically, this brings us to the point of where you see the car now in this feature.
This Benz is by no means the neatest one around, but she has a very special place in my heart! She also happened to be named Mila, the Bagged Benz AKA The Game Changer. The reason for the alias ‘The Game Changer’ comes from the way the stance scene stands in South Africa. Yes, we admit we are extremely behind relative to the international scene and because of this the cars that have been focused on are the usual VW’s, Honda’s and basically most of the cars on the stance scene that come from 90’s and the 2000’s era. This means that Mila’s entrance into the scene is something that quite literally is changing up the South African game.
Mila has only been a product of four months of work and she is by no means near completion, there is loads more of tidying up to tackle, the trunk/boot setup requires some dressing up and she is begging for a wheel setup to just give her that extra character – to mention a few things. So you can definitely be assured that Mila will be gracing the pages again in the following months of this year.
I would just like to personally thank to all who made this possible, especially Mr Zubair Sayed, Riyaad Mohammed, Q-beams and everyone else who made the materialization of this dream possible.
Photos: Jason Clifton
Words: Tauriq Ajam