** This article is the personal experience of a 1994 W124 Mercedes Benz E280 owner and does not necessarily reflect the views of WapCar.
About the Mercedes-Benz E280 (W124)
The Mercedes-Benz W124s, or people like to call them “German tanks”, have a reputation of being built to last, not to mention over-engineered as well. Some people say that these cars are the last “real” Mercedes-Benz ever built, due to the newer models having more electronics, reducing the fun in driving. Introduced in 1984, they have come a long way. Despite its classic status, W124s are still commonly seen on the road.
This car has been with our family since 1994. My father used to own it, before slowly ending up in my hands. This particular model, the E280, came out the same year my father decided to purchase it. So pretty much, this car has been with us throughout my whole life, being 4 years older than me.
When I was little, I was fascinated by it. The boxy look, the odd length side mirrors, the single wiper. I thought to myself: “When I grow up, I’m going to drive this car like my dad did”. Years passed, and I turned 18 in 2016. I told my dad that I wanted it as my first car. He agreed, and that was when my journey began.
The long story of my W124
When I first drove the W124 Mercedes-Benz E280, I wasn’t used to it. It was huge, had no reverse sensors, and was a pain to drive around. I remember taking a whole week just to get used to it, being relatively easy to drive after getting used to it. At that time, the 2.8L M104 inline-six gave me quite a shock. For a 1.7-ton car with 194 hp, it was surprisingly quick. I had fun on the highway, where I could blow past cars with ease. The ride was really comfortable. I could be doing 150 km/h on the highway and not feel a thing. It was really that stable.
The interior was really spacious. It felt really posh as well. Leather seats were so comfy, I could probably camp in my car if I wanted to. The legroom was a bit lacking in the back though. Reason being my habit of pushing the seat really far back when I drive. The quality of the wood, however, was a bit disappointing. The trim was cracking really bad, and the steering wheel leather was starting to come off.
It was a really nice car, except for one thing. The car was stock. The car was bone stock for a year, which I couldn’t really accept. Being a car enthusiast, I’ve always wanted to modify my own car. But that wasn’t going to happen, since I just started college and was broke.
First time tasting the forbidden fruit
Then came 2018. I finally saved up enough money to start modifying my car. I changed from the standard 15’ rims to 17’ HRE rims. At that time, I was still new to the scene so I didn’t know much about modifying. I ended up scraping everywhere because I bought tires that were too wide. I also cut off the exhaust pipe, which ended up with a terrible noise. I should probably note that during that time, my parents did not like me modifying my car. So, on that fateful night, I got scolded.
Fast forward to 2019, due to certain circumstances, my engine died. Instead of scrapping the car, I decided to source another engine. I found a 3.2L M104 inline-six from a W140 S320, and in it went. Also going in was a wide-ratio gearbox. The ride was improved with a set of Bilstein B4 absorbers, and the height was lowered with Eibach springs. I also found a set of 4 piston brakes to toss in, along with some 18’ BBS rims. That was my first major modification project.
Now pushing about 220 hp, the ride instantly became better. It was significantly better than the previous engine, outperforming it in many ways. The thing that puzzled me the most was the fuel economy. With the previous engine, I struggled to get 300km with a full tank of gas, whereas with the current engine, I can easily do 400km. Must be my lead foot that’s causing the problem.
Soon, I found myself getting less interested in modifying my W124 for performance. Unless I was driving an E60 “Hammer”, performance made no sense here. I then made a mistake of cutting my springs, which absolutely destroyed the comfort. Think of riding on a boat while you have seasickness, that’s how unbearable riding on cut springs are.
With my springs destroyed, I made a bold decision of using air suspension. For those who don’t know, air suspension uses air bags instead of springs, and uses air to control ride height. It uses compressors to pump air into a tank, which feeds or takes away pressure using a set of valves. This allowed my car to go lower than cars using springs and coilovers. That purchase decision was unique considering that no other W124 in Malaysia at that time had air suspension.
Modifying for stance
It was around that time I started modifying the exterior more. After serious thought, I decided to go wild with a one-off custom widebody made from aluminium. It added an aggressive look to the already somewhat aggressive-looking W124. The rims were given another upgrade to 19’ PIAA rims. The color of the body could change between blue and purple depending on the angle viewed, which was also a unique touch to the W124.
At this point, I’ve reached my current target of what I want my Mercedes-Benz W124 to be. Performance? Check. Style? You got it. Head turner? Definitely. I’ve created a unique W124 that I enjoy and love, and I hope that my W124 still works like a charm in the following years to come.
Photos by: 葉迦偉