Society

‘Me and my Mercedes’


benz

Benjamin Ngige with his 1966 Mercedes Benz W110 Fintail during the Classic Jamboree held at the Carnivore Gardens on June 19, 2021. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

Summary

  • For a select group of Kenyans, their love for Mercedes-Benz is insatiable.
  • These classic and vintage cars may have been made decades ago but they still have coveted spaces in Kenyans’ garages.
  • At a recent Mercedes-Benz owners meeting, club members, ranging from entrepreneurs to chief executives came all out to showcase their classic beauties.

The sound of their engine revs up, the vroom is still strong; with defiance and indifference. Their design, fittings, and significance are something of a throwback. These classic and vintage cars may have been made decades ago but they still have coveted spaces in Kenyans’ garages.

For a select group of Kenyans, their love for Mercedes-Benz is insatiable. Whether vintage or new model, they would go all out to pimp it for millions of shillings or order custom-made models at high prices.

At a recent Mercedes-Benz owners meeting, club members, ranging from entrepreneurs to chief executives came all out to showcase their classic beauties.

Herman Mike owns a W116 model 1978. He has had it for 15 years. It was his first car, straight from college, he says.

“This is the car that made me fall in love with Mercedes-Benz,” he says. “It motivated me to buy the entire series of the S class. I now own a S126, S140, S220, S212.”

The W116 automobiles were the first Mercedes-Benz models to be officially called S-Class. The Mercedes-Benz W116 is a series of flagship luxury sedans produced from September 1972 until 1980.

“At the moment, they’re very hard to come by. The rarity makes it pleasurable to drive around,” he talks of the W116 model which was selected European Car of the year in 1974.

He has had to make adjustments to the car to maintain it as is (exactly how it left the factory).

“The only modification I’ve done on it is the rims. I put some classic Mercedes-Benz Penta 17 inch rims,” he says.

The W116 runs on an automatic driving system after recently rebuilt the engine.

“It’s basically running everything new. From the pistols, to the rims to ball bearings. Even inside the engine is brand new,” he adds.

The challenge, however, of owning a classic, Mr Herman laments, is finding spare parts for the old cars.

“But since it is a passion, we go the ends of the world literally to get the parts,” he says.

Mr Herman, for instance, could not get the overhaul kit for the gearbox because Daimler Mercedes-Benz does not produce them anymore. But luckily, his friend Sam Owendo, the founder of the Mercedes club, who lives in the US, managed to get the overhaul kit from Argentina as dead stock.

“And, it was only one piece remaining,” he said.

Having owned it for 15 years, he says, he does not intend to sell it.

“I want to leave it to my son, who will then leave it to his son,” he says. “I want it to remain with the family as long as possible.”

49 years

Like Mr Herman, Ronald Nginda also owns a Mercedes-Benz W114 model 1972 which he hopes to own forever. “I have no intention of disposing it or selling it. Someday, maybe, I’d like to give it someone who’d take care of it.”

While the car is 49 years old (older than him, he says), he has only owned it for five years since 2016. It operates on half gear. He upgraded the engine and now drives on 2000cc. Mr Nginda says he is in the process of restoring it.

“I’d like to strip it down and repaint it the same colour (dark blue) and maybe change the interiors too; just to keep it the way the initial owner kept it,” he says.

He drives the car for leisure “especially during the weekends when he is free, “taking her out for long-distance drives.”

Business opportunity

For the love of classics and the rarity of finding spare parts, Benjamin Ngige decided to own a classic restoration business to help Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts restore the old models.

Mr Ngige particularly owns a Mercedes-Benz W110 model 1966. Its column shift is manual and runs on four cylinders and a 115 engine.

“This is among the less than five vintage cars of this kind currently running in this nation,” he says.

“I’ve had it for about 10 months now. In the process of restoring it, I’ve done the engine, suspension, body, now working on the interior. I’d say the total cost so far is about Sh1 million.”

While Mr Ngige has six other cars, he says, W110 is his favourite.

“It’s a beautiful car to drive,” he says. “I mostly use it on the weekends when taking my family out.”

But he would not mind selling it to someone who would take care of it.

For the last seven years that Mr Ngige has operated @GermantouchKE, a classic Mercedes Benz restoration centre, he has restored more than 50 cars.

“I’m currently restoring a W108, W109, W114, W115, and a W116,” he says.



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