There isn't much happening with Clara at the moment - I am between clients so she isn't getting driven very much and I am waiting for a set of clocks to be refurbished before they are fitted,
along with a new back box for the exhaust - so I thought I would look back at the highs and lows of the last 2 1/2 years of using her and ponder lessons (hopefully!) learnt.
I wasn't really planning to use her as my daily driver when I first bought her (and another slightly younger one), but it was in the back of my mind. My Audi was in for repairs following an accident and subsequent entry into
'Safe Mode' (which believe me was so safe that she wouldn't go anywhere!) and at that point I didn't know whether it would ever be right again, so it was a possibility.
With hindsight, buying both coupés was a mistake (isn't hindsight a wonderful thing!) but I'm so glad that I did as had I only bought the other one I should never have had the pleasure of using a 300CE as
a daily driver as the younger coupé was never right and would have cost a fortune (even more than Clara!) to fix. I should have just lost all my money.
I suppose the main lesson would be not to buy cheap old Mercs: there is a lot that can need fixing. On the other hand I have heard of people who paid top dollar for their vehicles only to find that
they are only superficially good or, possibly worse still, that their new pride and joy is actually two cars... So in a way, unless you buy from a highly reputable dealer in classic cars, it is perhaps better
to buy cheaply and get someone you trust to fix whatever goes wrong: that way you know that it has been done properly.
On the other hand, when Clara is all fixed, if a W201 that needed some work came along cheap I would probably do the same again...!
Looking back, it was a total leap of faith to start using a car that at the time was nearly thirty years old as a daily driver, but one that turned out brilliantly! Yes, the oil light used to come on
regularly (including once in the dark on the M25 on a filthy wet night and once doing somewhere around 90mph on the autobahn in eastern Germany (and both times the level had been checked within the last couple of hundred miles), the
headlights wouldn't flash (main beam was ok but the flasher wasn't working), the driver's window wouldn't open and the fuel gauge would stick at half full but these are minor things that are (relatively!)
easily fixed. In 30,000 miles or so she has only let me down twice: once when the alternator failed about a mile from home and once when the head gasket failed (spectacularly!) about five miles from home. I
am so glad that whoever designed the oil level system decided that the light should be a warning and not actually tell you that your engine is cooked!
At Schlossberg Hotel.
At Drei Annen Hohne and Schierke in the Harz Mountains.
Up in the Harz Mountains
And so to the highs. The major things are the places that we have been in her: twice to Wernigerode in the Harz Mountains - and on down to Terezin in the Czech Republic on one of those trips - and once each to
Picardie in northern France and Ghent in Belgium. We have also been to so many other places (in the UK) in her. Another joy is that she is just such a great car - she is very comfortable and easy to drive. My wife also
loves and is happy to drive her - the same could not be said of any of my MKII Volkswagen Sciroccos! It probably helps that she drives an E-Class saloon which is longer still than Clara (by a little over 7 inches).
Langscheid, Sundern, western Germany.
Mahn Und Gedenkstatte, Wernigerode (a work camp) and Steinerne Renne (also a work camp, and now just a station on the Harzer Schmalspurbahn).
Somewhere in the Ore mountains, outside the Small Fortress in Terezin and in Terezin itself - the Theresienstadt Ghetto in WWII. One of the strangest places we have ever been.
At Dora Mittelbau, where V2 rockets were built in the most appalling conditions.
The two German trips (both ten days) were between 1500 and 2000 miles apiece including one 420 mile round trip (to Terezin and back)!
Ieper and somewhere in northern France.
As discussed in another blog post, Clara has still cost me far less than a new E-Class coupé: the purchase price plus repair costs still only come in at roughly 1.5 times the deposit alone on a contract plan
- and way less than the final purchase payment of just over £17,500! In fact if you add my total expenditure (repairs and running costs) and the price I paid for her and divide the result by the number
of months that I have been driving her the monthly total is still less than the monthly payment on said new coupé. Bargain. And I own Clara outright and (hopefully!) she is holding her value - if not going up a little.
Plus there is no other car I should rather have as my daily driver right now. My wife's W211 is lovely and has many more bells and whistles but I prefer Clara. I'm sure that the current E-Class coupé is lovely
but I wouldn't want one. Clara has lots of character!
Would I do it all again? Yes, absolutely. The pleasure that I have had in watching her come back to life has been great and I have learned a thing or two about W124s - not to mention making a few friends - along the way.
It isn't just the big things that make the difference: yes, seeing her with two new wings and knowing that she doesn't use oil any more are pretty major but getting the driver's window fixed and having the combi stalk replaced
were big improvements too.
She's by no means completely fixed - far from it - but when I look back to when I first bought her she is so much better for the work that has been done and I intend to carry on fixing her.
What's Left To Do?