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Evolution of MBz: the w108, the w116, and the w126.

Started by michaeld, 04 April 2006, 08:08 AM


Hello gentlemen

Hmm, zerc fittings on a W116...what for John  ;) actually I thinkthat sometimes one need not bother  maintaining an "expendable" part ? I do not think that expendability means cheap design - it is sometimes planned by design for good reasons. Look at the disks on our cars - they wear fairly quickly, along with pads - by design, for a reason and they do NOT cost a lot of money. In return, braking is or can almost always be efficient - braking is the aim, not part preservation.

Pour moi...I sometimes like greasing  :P but you can also grease a worn out part and drive a dangerous car - say a W108 kingpin is well greased up and feels tight - is feels OK - but it may not be :o it can be full of rust mixed with some grease and eventually loosen dramatically at some point! very dangerous as one day you get instant sloppy steering in a curve.

My favorite greasing ? greasing the grease points on W116 doors with the neat little grease pump for such fittings.  ::) Provides ever lasting door hinges.

The W140 - I happen to think that this model is a low point in the lineage. Certainly not technically but aesthetically - W124 styling thrown into a much larger car does not work. Besides, the multi-link suspension is clearly better than the semi-trailing arms design but you have to redo ALL the bushings to properly correct the effect of a few gone bad, with an accompanying amusing bill   >:( Also, mechanics say that you need two persons to do the job making the W140 the first non DIY repair S-class  :(

No my friends, the real problem with the newer ones is...good taste  and may I be once sacrilegious to our religion by saying that the blokes know more about taste than the Germans.

I once sat for a whole hour  in a 1966 Jaguar saloon 3.8S that was a mechanical repair nightmare but being offered at a dangerously low price. Why didn't I just run away ? Well, you sit there behind the steering wheel and look at the wood and the, what is the term in english, "patine" in french, the surface defects on noble materials- the "noble wear" of red dyed leather... to me, it is like Louis XV furniture or the wear of the stones at the entrance of the Reims has real magic.

And YES, the genius of some car builders is to generate this magic despite mass production !!! this, Mercedes-Benz excelled at in the past and maybe even in a few rare models of today, but not in most...


Paris, France


This is getting way off topic, but I thought there were a couple of interesting points from Alabbasi's and Denis' posts.

Alabbasi says new cars are driving better.  This may or may not be true (I'm not claiming it is or isn't).  One of the things you would need to test this hypothosis is a new "old" car.  It is unfair to take a 30 year old car and compare it with a brand new car unless the 30 year old car has been recently fitted w/ a completely new suspension/shocks/springs/etc.  Then you would be comparing apples to apples.  Sometimes, also, our new technology provides some magnificent - but very temporary - performance measures; I'm skeptical as to whether these new complicated suspensions will stand the test of time.

This gets back to "greasing" and whether a Zerc-fitted "lube-her-yourself" suspension will outlast the newfangled sealed units if the former are properly maintained: my guess is "NO."  I also think that a well-maintained and well-greased system will stave off rust and wear.  Many manufacturers install Zerc fittings on OEM replacement parts; apparently Mercedes-Benz does not.  I wish they did.

Denis then proceeds to raise another point in his last sentence: "magic."  I've used the word myself in previous posts to describe my first drive in my 77 450SEL.  It is a trans-logical term that refers to an enchanting, almost hypnotic experience in which an owner is transported to another mental and emotional zone when driving a particular vehicle.  This experience creates a loyalty that transcends any other consideration (price, performance, reliability, etc.).  You just want more and more of that feeling that THAT vehicle gives you.

Harley Davidson motorcycles come to mind.  For years, Harleys were completely out-classed in every imaginable performance category.  The only thing wrong with Japanese and European bikes - at least for Harley riders - was that they weren't HOGs (Harley Owner's Group).  It didn't matter if other bikes were faster or better handling.  Even their imperfections created devotion ("Harleys don't leak; they just leave their mark").  In the early 80s I had two motorcyles: an 82 HD Superglide and a Suziki GS 1100E.  My 1100 was so much faster and better handling than my HD it was unreal; but on my Harley, I just wasn't in a hurry.  I rode just to enjoy the ride.  That's what "magic" means.

The 108s/109s certainly created an aura of magic.  This forum is filled with people who will attest to the "magical ability" of the 116.  Does the 126 create magic?  I don't know. 

s class


Mercedes and other manufaturers are striving to engineer better cars all the time.  There is no doubt that each generation of S-class is technically more advanced and "better" on paper than the previous one.  The down-side of this, is that as these cars asymptotically approach perfection, they are slowly engineering out the character.  Another term of character would be idyosyncracy, or imperfection, or flaw. 

Example : My W140 has multilink suspension with ABS and stability control.  Even with 300hp, an inexperienced driver is safe because you just can't slide the rear end even on loose surfaces - I mean you can't even detect a hint of loosing adhesion.  SO on paper this makes it better and safer than a W116.  *BUT* - in my W116 I can FEEL the road.  When I pull off at a stop street and accelerate firmly into a turn there is no sliding, but I can feel the outer rear trailing arm dipping and I can sense the spring loading up and if I listen carefully there is the sound of a bit of gravel spitting out from under the tyre - that is magic for my whole being!

Another example.  When I brake in my W140, I feel almost disappointed because I know that even if I stand on the brakes in wet weather the car pulls up straight and stops in an unbelievably short distance - so again on paper this is better than a W116.  But give me the driving feel of the W116 anyday.  I can feel what the fron;t suspension is doing.  And I can feel the front end loading up under heavy braking - certainly not a perfect car but it feels brilliant to drive.

OK.  I think Michael summed it up well when he said "the 116 is a "bridge" between the "old world" 108s and the "modern" 126s."

W126's are sterilised W116's if you like, or alternatively junior W140's in training.   

Comment about DIY on S-class.  W140 really is out of reach for most DIY-er's even the hardcore ones.  There are some nutters who can DIY W140, but they are rare.  I have my learner wheels on at the moment trying to become one of them.  Its actually interesting to learn about all the computer managment stuff.

Denis - the English word is "Patina" - surprise - and I'm sure you will accept that my W140 with its servos and computers doesn't exactly have any patina.  My W116's seats do I think we can say. 

Michael, I hear what you say about comparing 30 year old cars to new cars.  But this is my comment.  I have always lived with old Mercedes and have little experience with anything else.  Last year my wife was shopping for a new car and so I thouroughly test drove Opel Corsa 1.6 and 1.8, Ford Fiesta 1.6, Hyundai Getz - and I was shocked.  I could not believe how underpowered these small cars are.  I felt terrified in traffic - they are small and I felt so exposed.  Handling in this class of cars could be described in many ways, but I did not feel confident.  In short, I alwats though that my 30 year old Mercs were better than modern small cars, the real shock was just how much better....

Cheers, Ryan in South Africa

[color=blue]'76 6.9 Euro[/color], [color=red]'78 6.9 AMG[/color], '80 280SE, [color=brown]'74 350SE[/color], [color=black]'82 500SEL euro full hydro, '83 500SEL euro full hydro [/color], '81 500SL


Ryan: Quite apart from the intelligent and spiritied comments that I'm enjoying in this thread, there is another bonus ...

I don't visit car forums to learn about language - I use language forums for that. Words, and their assembly into good, readable construction are my stock-in-trade: I am a professional Verbivore.

But today, Ryan, you supplied my word of the day; my day is incomplete without a new word, so I thank you for giving my day an early start with:

as·ymp·tote: A line whose distance to a given curve tends to zero. An asymptote may or may not intersect its associated curve.

asymp·totic or asymp·toti·cal adj.
asymp·toti·cal·ly adv.


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I enjoy Ryan's posts as well, Ozbenzhead - even when they don't yield "a word of the day" for me!  Thank you, by the way, for your enhanced defninition of "asymptotical" - I basically understood the word in layman's terms, but you offered an excellent definition for what is in reality a precise, technical term.

I am really looking forward to hearing from 450SE and Styria on the subject of this thread.  These two are truly and deservedly some of the "big guns" on this forum, and their knowledge and experience of 116s, combined with their reading and consideration, ought to make for some fantastic posts.

One final note: I can't disagree with a single word you said, Ryan.  There is really no doubt that advances in technology has brought improvements.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that it so often seems that the improvements are always seeming to come at the expense of something else.  All the computer-aided suspension componentry found on the w140 does allow for maximal handling, but - as you yourself acknowledged - it comes at the expense of "feeling" the road and of sky-high maintenance costs (and I also dare add, shorter mean time between failures).  In fact, it seems like virtually ALL the advances in automotive engineering are coming at the expense of something else.  I'm not so sure I like all the trade-offs, and it sounds like you aren't, either.

Even some of the marvelous features of today's cars are of questionable utility.  Mercedes-Benz is currently offering a 600 horsepower car (for a mere $180,000).  Now, such a thing is AWESOME for bragging rights, but is it even remotely practical for today's crowded roads?  Perhaps Styria and Alabbasi can jump in here and tell me if a significantly lighter car with more than twice the horsepower of their 6.9s is a truly meaningful offering.  I can tell you that it doesn't make much sense to me - particularly when, again, the tradeoff is more computer controls than NASA puts in their space shuttles (i.e. you need the assistance of a ton of high-tech electronic gadgetry in order to sufficiently maximize engine, exhaust, and transmission efficiency to get to 600 horsepower).

It seems intuitively obvious that there must be some point when you attain an optimization of all the things that one looks for in a car (performance, quality, style, reliability, durability, ease of maintenance - and for you green earthers, fuel efficiency and emissions).  I think that today's elite cars are offering incredible performance in some areas at the expense of incredible shortcomings in others.  This leads me back to the subject of the thread: did either the 108s/109s, 116s, or 126s attain that optimization?

Mind you, it would really be cool if we ever build "cars" like they had on "The Jetsons" cartoon. 


Hello, Paris calling...

Quotedid either the 108s/109s, 116s, or 126s attain that optimization answer is yes.

The 108/109 attained the highest style of its time, the W116 the greatest stability/comfort of its era, the W126 the best overall balance in a car meeting eighties expectations.

But one has to choose the components of "optimization" and my position can best be expressed this way :

If I HAD 200,000 dolars to buy a Mercedes, hell would freeze over before they stealerships with the big star would see me. For 200,000 dollars give me a 300SL gullwing !

Two years ago at Retromobile, I kept staring at the Uhlenhaut SLR (only two built) : huge twin exhaust chromed pipes coming out of the right fender, real bucket seats done in leather, red piping on the beige sets, a slew of VDO gauges, a superb body design with inredible finish and chromed wire wheels. On the road, this car shook, smoked, roared and went like a mad dog - 300hp, 300 kph -that is the OPTIMIZATION I like. The standard 300SL was a tame version of this.

If I had 3,000,000 dollars for a car, the huge bright headlights on each side of a sculptural radiator all set within voluptuous swept fenders of a 540K would see my underground parking.

Did any of you ever HEAR a 1929 SSK when the roots supercharger is engaged ? it howls like a shrieking jet engine before the day...I had the immense pleasure of hearing one - nothing like it...

When I think about more car than my W116, I think of going back in time.

The W116 is arguably about as "comfy" as I like my cars.


Paris, France

s class

OK guys, I'll try to keep it tp words of no more that 2 syllables (damn that has 3...)


I agree abnout "comfy" - W116 is just about as good as it gets in my opinion. 

Any car must be a balance of compromises - any manufacturer would like to build a car with 300hp and the worlds best handling and compfort and value retention and prestige and sell it for 3000 dollars - and make it last forever... but no wait - that's not in their interest.  If cars could be made cheap and last forever, they would kill the market demand. 

In the 1960's and 1970's durability and longevity was I believe ratred highly by Mercedes and so it was given a heavy weighting in the tradeoff of compromises.  W108 and W116 were meant to last for 20 years.  W140 and later were never intended to last that long.  W140's were intended to about 10 years service.  My W140 has EXPIRY dates stamped on some items!!! - most notably the airbags. 

Any car can be made to last forever by continued maintenance, component replacement and overhaul.  With cars such as W108 and W116 this may almost be practical.  I kept my W116 in active hard service until it was 26 years old.  And when I turn the key now its in better condition than when I bought it 10 years ago.  In theory a W140 can also be made to last forever but the cost is totally prohibitive.  I needed 2 new distributor caps and rotors - one for each bank- prices are typically about US$ 500 for the 4 items.  Tappet cover gaskets are nearly US$100 for the pair.  NOw this all mitigates against the maintainability of the car. 

OK, cheers, Ryan

[color=blue]'76 6.9 Euro[/color], [color=red]'78 6.9 AMG[/color], '80 280SE, [color=brown]'74 350SE[/color], [color=black]'82 500SEL euro full hydro, '83 500SEL euro full hydro [/color], '81 500SL