Magnificent Mercedes

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Magnificent Mercedes

1.1 11:11) becii a vat long time indeed. for various reasons. since I had driven a Mercedes-Benz. To rectify this, Erik Johnson of Mercedes-Benz (UR) Ltd. lent me, not one of the top-models of the range, but the “little Mercedes” 2.3-litre 230TE estate…, if you can call a seven-seater load-carrier a “little” car. But this is the smallest-engined Mercedes available, apart from the 200, and tlierefore one very much at the lower end of the Stuttgart spectrum. However, after enjoying 1,400 miles of varied motoring in it. one can only comment once more — magnificent Mercedes!

Realising that improved fuel-economy was desirable for even their smaller-engined cars. Mercedes-Benz replaced the former Type 250 six-cylinder engine with the 230 four-cylinder single o.h.c. power unit, with its valves rocker-operated so that they could be included in the classical hemispherical combustion chambers. shedding only four b.h.p. in the process but, with the new light-alloy head and Bosch fuel-injectionusefully improving m.p.g. figures. This four-pot.

x 80, mm. (2..299 c.c.1 engine. which has breakerless ignition, produces 136 DIN b.h.p.

at 5.100 r.p.m.. 146 lb.. ft. torque at 3.500 r.p.m., and is safe up to 6.000 r.p.m. It nuts notably smoothly for a “four” and the performance from the 15′ 6,1ong, 9′ 2′ wheelbase estate-car is quite remarkable. As it can also be cornered, in spite of its bulk, in sporting fashion, with very little suspension roll. the 230TE Mercedes is altogether an outstanding vehicle. Its road behaviour apart, it is the high-class internal and external finish. the care bestowed on details, and the sheer practicability of all the controls and instruments, that make a Mercedes such a very desirable possession. The layout has been unchanged for years, because the Mercedes engineers have got it right and see no reason to alter a proven arrangement just as a fashion-fad. Because of this, there is no need for me logo into elaborate description. Just let it be said that the engine starts immediately from cold or hot and idles impeccably, eve, time, on the automatic choke. that the gear-shifts of the Daimler-Benz 4-speed automatic transmission are smooth and rather ingeniously contrived, from a sensibly gated lever or you can specify a four-speed manual gearbox 1. and that the instruments are clear and extremely easy to read, all the heater settings being indicated at night by tiny lights and the full-beam headlamps indicator neyer for tine moment daz2ling the driver. as it still does on so many cars of all price-ranges. One teels that engineers, not more stylists, have had close liand in this, and also that they have learned much from past motor racing programmes. Mercedes still use a fascia hand-brake set ‘in the far right; but this is no umbrella-handle nonsense but a pull-out brake with a proper loop-grip. absolutely to hand. Some drivers have called it obstructive when entering the car, but I dii .1″1 agree. All the switches are splendidly placed. a rota, one controlling lighting, the from and rear fog-lamps being put on by pulling out this control. to the first or second position. ,ts required. One substantial r.h. stalk-cont otl suffices for turn-indicators, wiper teacher settur litre press l)f the button awing combined wash and wipe and lamppping. The horn is sounded front the steering wheel safety pad. There is separate hc-ui tor driver and

front-seat passenger. ‘File doors open by pulling on their handles, not pressing in buttons. On this estate-car model there are electric window-lifts with switches on the centre console, vacuum-controlled central door-locking and internal adjustment of the [sr° external mirrors. A sliding sun-roof and air-conditioning are among the available extras.

The trim and upholstery are. as I have implied, of high-quality and precision. the hard seats comfortable on long hauls, and leather upholstery can be had if one feels the cost is merited. A first-class Becker radio cassette set with electric aerial had the lightest of controls. The aforesaid switches are small and neatly recessed in the fascia and the big leather-covered steering wheel nevertheless has a grip, rim. Ahead rides the legendary triple-pointed star. It is these things which make a Mercedes what it is. This 230Th estate-car has clever items of its own. such as split, folding rear watt, a built-in dog guard, rearward facing folding scat. with its own seat-belt, a eery good intermittent or full rear window wash.wipe, fascia control of rearcompartment lighting, a twin-reel pull-out cover to conceal luggage as nicely contrived as ever,hing else, which is so “right” within a Mercedes, and even seat-heaters. with either continuous or quick warm-bot. settings. Extra stowage is available if the rear floor is lifted. In this rear compartment. which has an easily removable carpet should grubby items nee, it, he carried. is a first-aid kit. stint, beneath a Nile!. neatly I need hardly add, with the hazard trianek. jack and tool-kit Roof lamp and vizors are nicelv recessed, like the interior door hand,. acti small items. such as the door-lockmg -pips” having the expected ‘wadn. sirs itt both front doors, an open well on the console and a lockabk cubby-hole serve as stowage.. supplement, It net pockets km the rear iO the loan it als stilirle hi, works all services tind ?.ale. It prevents

children tooling ahout ivit ItIlit electric windows. the rear ones ham. their own doot switches. Reverting to the verv clear Vdo instruments. no tachometer is lilted. because Mercedes recognise that this 2301’E is not one ot theo ports…, a large. accurate clock being substituted. l’he oil-gauge needle stands normath ui the top to the dial 3.0 ban for instant pres,..ore drops. and the steady-reading toe, cauge has a tiny yellow light at the Na tom ot the scale. win, h chows when about 25 nil,. rew1Wc ic111,111.. I lit

lucl tiller dcsigned tt,i CLISV hittuitiutitue ;mi./ is thir is locked in conitinction tvoi, iluc ca-our, du, 1,king. Along the base ti the instrument panel which confronts the driver are a row ot live small “amIngifitfits• 14 brake-pad weal . charge, main beams, and turn-signols. Ellett is proper sell-levelling ot this ai whidt ,,in

carry heavy loads, from an engine-driven hydraulic-pump, not relying on a mean adjusting-strut but even so, an mhostem is provided for headlam,theam height. The beams are good dipped. reasonably powerful on full-beams. and the in-built fog-lamps give a wide-ranging spread of light.

There is really very little to criticise in this Mercedes-Benz. The knobs for front-seat squab adjustment are somewhat inaccessible, but does that matter, once adjusted? Especially as a fine range of movement is provided. Gear shifting into 3rd or 2nd gears is sluggish at low speeds but. conversely, impressive pick-up is had from kick-down between say, 40 to 60 m.p.h.. and for a car of the 230TE’s demeanour I have no complaints; the upward gear changes are made at 20,40 and 72 m.p.h. on full throttle. Indeed. as I have said, this is a quick and sporting estate-car. capable of comfortably over 100 m.p.h. and 0-60 m.p.h. acceleration in automatic-transmission form in under 13 seconds. Kicking down into third, the aforesaid 40-60 m.p.h. speed increase occupies 6.8 seconds. The handling is a conventional combination of mild understeer changing to ovcrsteer, in docile fashion, and if the tail of this very long car tactually, it is 5.’ shorter than the average overall I,th of four well-known very big estate-cars; feels inclined to promote excessive roll on fast tight corners, this is prevented from getting out of hand by the anti-roll bar of the trailing-arm, coil-spring i.r.s. The Daimler-Benz recirculating-ball power steering is the hest in the game. It is geared at 3.3 turns, lock-to-lock, and for a car of this size the turning circle is commendably small. The suspension has to beim the hard ski,: on such a car but over poor surfaces mild shudders rather than impacts arc imparted to the body structure. and rmd-holding. aided by Michelin 51014 XVS tyres. is very sure.

The bonnet is easy ti open. although the icluasc on the n ot the Irtint compartment. and tt is self-propping. ‘Ike dipstick and tither essentials arc conventientiv placed and a ionlinclici..c.

high-class teuuitutmlied ue,u Itth, car. the lights-switch incorporates parking-light settings. Altogether. every detail tit this car is exceptionally well-contrived Hie Wither I drove tinder the winter conditions. the more the unobtrusive antalo, braking was appre.lated. Apan front its cilium, it one has to wake a crash-stop. whkh eatiscs the pedal to leact a link beneath one’s right loot, o is reassto mg to be .thle to overtake on a slippery road. knowing that the brakes can be thed strongly thereat ici it need he. the ABS system performing cadence retardation much mor,nickly and precisely than tine could oneself. Another outstanding aspect of the Mercedes. Bent is the brakes. servo-operated discs. front MAGNIFICENT MERCEDES — continued and back. They are delightfully light and fully progressive in action, and if used to the full, quite outstandingly powerful, with no noise or drama. Perhaps because these brakes ore so powerful the ABS anti-lock system is so applicable to them. It costs £830 extra, admittedly, but is the finest safety safeguard for the money. The

hazard-warning button, incidentally, is well-placed between the front seats. Another noteworthy feature is the 230TE’s conservation of petrol. Checking it first on a morning’s run involving fastish cross-country, motorway and some surburban driving, it came out at 26.4 m.p.g. The overall figure was 25.2 m.p.g.. truly excellent for a vehicle weighing 301,-cwt at the kerb. As the tank holds 15.4 gallons, the range between refills is decidedly useful.

On almost every count, the Mercedes-Benz 230 is a very fine product. I suppose it is unusual for one road-tester to refer to other tester’s reports. But I have been so lavish in my praise of the 230 that, to obviate any suggestion of bias, allow met,, quote what two IPC motoring weeklies said of it. One, of the TE estate-car version. wrote: “With most things so well thought out, and such evidence of care in the construction and finish of the car, the 230TE should certainly give long satisfaction. It is the sort of car which, on a day when everything else seems to be going haywire, seems to be trying to put the world at rights again, with its consistent, impeccable behaviour.” The same magazine, summing up the 230E saloon said: “The car’s character and performance, and the solid feel to it, makes living with this Mercedes very pleasing.” The other magazine wrote of the 230CE coupe: “There are many traditional (and admirable, Mercedes qualities to savour; outstanding build integrity, fine finish and detailing, a sense of function and purpose in every aspect of design. . . That it is a desirable motor car is undeniable.” Thus I am not alone in enthusing over the “little Mercedes”. . . .

In 1981, however, even Mercedes excellence was not without fault. A nut fell off the cold-air supply system and the heater then became virtually useless. This happened after we had got thoroughly chilled by staying out at night on an RAC Rally stage — my scientific friends tell me that that is a special law governing such things, However, Nayland Motors of Kingsbridge. near Swansea, put this right expeditiously in half an hour.

Not everyone will require such a spacious vehicle, but enjoyment of the very special kind of motoring provided by a Mercedes can start at £8,700 for the manual-gearbox 200 saloon, or if that is out-of-reach, there most be many sound used Mercedes available. The 230TE comes out at a basic £111501 for the five-door estate-car, or at £11,766 with the automatic gearbox. but the 130 saloon costs £9,501, representing good value, especially when you think of luxury cars costing nearly seven times as much. There are many intriguing extras available, some of them, like air-conditioning and the anti -lock braking, expensive. These naturally enhance a fine car but are not really essential to it. The estate-car has longitudinal roof-bars for taking a special MB roof-rack. Easy to load, the driver can rejoice in this big economical car without being conscious of up to 620 kg. behind him, so well and responsively does it handle. Mercedes-Benz sales here are dealt with by Mercedes-Benz (UK, Ltd.. Unit 3, Millington Road, Hayes, Middlesex. There can be few more trustworthy combinations than a Michelin-shod MercedesBenz. — W.B.

Historic Grand Prix Cars

PEOPLE in the world of Historic racing tend to talk about a car’s prorenance, meaning its origins, and this word covers a multitude of “grey areas”. another popular expression in the Historic world. If the origins of a car are undisputed then it is accepted as an historic racing car. even though a new chassis was made in 1979 to replace the original one that rusted away. or was “It, in the mists of time, and another engine was installed to replace the original one that was destroyed when the car was last raced in a front-line Grand Prix and a con-rod broke. The ravages of time often destroy the bodywork. so Maurice Gomm or Peels of Kingston made a new body and the wheels arc rebuilt with new spokes and nets rims tit an inch smaller diameter in order to make hotter use oil more modern !hullo,. When discovered and put on the market by the Used Car Trade our Grand Prix car was missing Itti gearbOx. so another one of similar type was acquired and installed. Because ii its proven., the car is aeeepied ai Historic even though the steering wheel and the radiator cap are the only hits left that actually took pan in the 1956 French Grand Prix. for example.

In this new series we look at some truly historic Grand Prix cars that do not need pravenance for there arrow ”grey areas” or years of oblivion when the car disappeared to he re-discovered and rebuilt or reconstructed. These are cars that have led a known existence and remained in one piece since the day they were first built in Molsheim. Modena. Pans to Bourne. and todav look just as till, did when they were born.

Talbot-Lago Type 26C 1949 Chassis No. 110011 Eng. No. 45111

Built by (Sc

Prix on the Bremgarten circuit at Berne he was a lowly 13th and at Albi in southern France he was seventh in the “starting-grid heat” but had to retire in the final wheti a camshaft seized. Until this point the TalbotLago had shown remarkable reliability, though it was not very fast compared with Ferraris and Maseratis, and Clam s was still learning about Grand Prix driving. At Zandvoort, for the Dutch GP he finished ninth and back at Silverstone for the BRDC International Trophy he was ninth in his heat and 12th in the Final. The busy season ended with eighth place in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza and as a privateer Clout was agreeably satisfied with his first season with the new Car. Johnny Clans had a garage in Bruxelles..where

JOHNNY CLAES in his yellow Talbot-Logo number 110011, cornering in the British Empire Trophy Race in the Isle of Man in 1049.

the car was maintained, and he entered under the aegis of the Ecuric Beige, the car being painted yellow according to the FIA national colour code. When I built the excellent Merit wale model of the Talbot-Lago that every motor-racing enthusiast bought in the mid-fifties, I painted mine yellow, not because I was a Clues fan hut it looked so nice in yellow. and stood out from all those painted French blue by my friends. The son of Clans’ chief mechanic was Lucien Bianchi, who was later to became a well-known racing driver himself, and at this time he was serving an apprenticeship within the British Motor Industry and through his connections the Talbot was fitted with three SU carburetters in place of the standard three Solon ones. The big six-cylinder engine, of 93 110 mm. bore and stroke giving 4.485 c.c. (if you calculate the capacity, and 4,482 c.c. if you believe the history books, drove through a Wilson pre-selector gearbox to spur gears which stepped the drive-line to the right no that the propshaft ran alongside the central driving seat, to the differential unit which was offset in the rigid rear axle. This gave a very low seating position, though it made the car rather wide. The rear axle was mounted on half-elliptic leaf-springs, while a transverse leaf spring and massive upper wishbones provided independent suspension for the front wheels. As with most privateers in those days, Claes relied on Dunlop for tyres.

Clans continued to race Talbot-Lago 110011 in 1950, not making much progress as a driver but nonetheless getting a lot of driving as the can continued to be reliabk. He was 11th in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, seventh at Monaco after a number of cars were eliminated in a multiple pile-up, 10th in the Swiss Grand Prix. eighth in the Belgian GP and in the sweltering heat of the Marne for the French Grand Prix at Reims he retired with overheating problems. ‘He was still running, but unclassified. at Albi and finished seventh in the Grand Prix dos Nations at Geneva. At Silverstone for the International Trophy he was erroneously credited with a phenomenally fast practice lap which put him on the front of the grid for heat two, but he muffed the start and in trying to make up ground he spun off at Abbey Corner and crashed. By now the Talbot factory was in financial difficulties and in the process of closing down and Claes bought one of the ex-works dual-ignition can of 1950 and sold 110011 to Duncan Hamilton

whose main claim to time with the car was the extent to which he could get this large, almost cumbersome, Grand Prix car sideways without actually spinning off. Hamilton through Madget.vick corner at Goodwood was always worth watching. In accordance with F1A rules Hamilton had to paint the car green in order to compete in International events. After three seasons with the car Hamilton sold it to A. T. Freeman of Wellington, New Zealand who raced it in Ins national Grand Prix meeting for a number of years, until it was hopelessly outclassed by more modern machinery.

In 1963 Joe Hepworth found the car out in New Zealand, in a rather sorry state of neglect, and shipped it back to England. The tail-cum-fuel tank had suffered from the ravages of alcohol fuel. the Wilson pre-selector gearbox was in a sorry state and the chassis frame was cracked. It was restored back into running order and used in some VSCC historic events by Hepworth and then sold to Nigel Mann, who used to race MGs and Aston Martins among other things. He was living in France so the Talbot-Logo returned to its country of origin, having been right round the world, and Mann kept it until 1978 when he sold It to Christopher Mann (no relation, It was brought back to England once more, rebuilt yet again and raced by Chris Mann in Historic races, appearing briefly in 1980 and in four maitir historic events in 1981. At the end of season it was put up for Auction by Christie’s but did not sell. When Chris Mann acquired it it was painted deep French blue, but is’ ‘lbw a light French blue. almost duck-egg blue, but in all respects is as it was when Clues raced it. An historic Grand Prix car, not necessarily a successful Grand Prix car.

D.S.J.

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