The best in the world (1/2)


I have long been a keen reader of your excellent outspoken magazine, and have followed it through the pro-Morgan, pro-VW and semi-pro-Mini days with great interest. Now that you are becoming the pro-Mercedes-Benz Journal I would like to relate our experiences with this German “Best Car in the World.”

In 1955 my father exchanged our rather tired Ford Zephyr for a new 220A saloon—no frills, no extras, nothing special about it, and through the courtesy of Woking Motors Ltd. we kept this car for five years, during which time we had to change one plug out of normal servicing owing to some rather dirty Italian petrol. The only thing that went wrong with the car was an automatic radio aerial which went mad and started to go up and down like a yoyo—this was of British manufacture. We sold the car in 1960, with about 60,000 on the clock and still nothing wrong with it.

I had wanted to change this car for a new Mercedes but my father wished to be patriotic and after trying various models he decided to buy a 3-litre Alvis—before they were favoured by Royalty, too! We took delivery of the saloon model at the end of November 1960 and have to date covered approximately 23,000 miles. The list of troubles would be too long to enumerate in full but here is a selection:

1. Persistent gearbox rattle between 2,500 and 3,000 r.p.m., particularly in top gear. The gearbox has been rebuilt twice and “seen to” many more times but still this persists and it makes a journey of 100 miles or more a nightmare.

2. The quarter-lights are badly fixed and their catches are not even split-pinned. As a result of this, during a visit to Italy in April 1961, the catch fell off on the autobahn and later the screw of the hinge, which is put in at the bottom of the hinge and not the top, fell out on the Autostrada del Sole, leaving the window hanging by the rubber and the car completely un-thiefproof.

Other general complaints have been: tremendous heat from the gearbox tunnel in summer, heavy steering at low speeds, making London driving very tiring for my mother, lack of synchromesh on 1st gear (since rectified on the latest model), and very heavy doors which are ruinous to ankles, etc.

I am sorry to have to report this tale of woe from any car, but from a £3,000 coach-built machine I think it is monstrous and I can only hope that others have been more fortunate. If I had my choice we would have another Mercedes, as I think that one should buy a car for what you want and not because it was made in Birmingham or Coventry.