Me And My Car

Dream come true: Lawyer Bryan Ghows and his 1963 Mercedes-Benz 230SL

Mr Bryan Ghows drives his white 230SL in the evening when it is not raining and on weekends.
Mr Bryan Ghows drives his white 230SL in the evening when it is not raining and on weekends.PHOTO: AMRIT MIRCHANDANI CHANGAROTH
Mr Bryan Ghows drives his white 230SL in the evening when it is not raining and on weekends.
1963 Mercedes-Benz 230SLPHOTO: AMRIT MIRCHANDANI CHANGAROTH

Lawyer Bryan Ghows fell in love with the 1963 Mercedes-Benz 230SL in his secondary school days and finally bought one last year

Stylish, elegant and oozing with class, the 1963 Mercedes-Benz 230SL was the roadster of choice among the rich and famous in the 1960s.

Best known as the "Pagoda" because of its unusual concave roof, the SL's true appeal, however, came from its clean, slim styling. It had distinctive vertical headlights, a full-width grille in between, centred by a prominent three- pointed Mercedes star.

The fine example you see here is the proud possession of lawyer Bryan Ghows, who has admired the car since his secondary school days.

The 56-year-old chanced upon an advertisement for it on the notice board of a social club in October last year and immediately contacted its owner. He did not waste much time haggling - he declines to say how much he paid - as the 230SL was complete, in better than above- average condition and ran very well for a 53-year-old car.

Mr Ghows is no newcomer to classic cars. Back in the 1970s, he owned a rare Lotus Elan Plus 2, an elegant sports coupe which he enjoyed driving whenever it was not in the workshop.

  • What's in the boot?

    • The battery, which the previous owner re-located from under the bonnet

    • Spare wheel

"It was sleek, fast and handled incredibly well," he recalls. "But the Elan was frustrating to own because something would go wrong after every drive.

"Once, along Orchard Boulevard, its driveshaft couplings cracked after I accelerated hard to pass a friend's Ford Escort."

After he got married in 1986, he restored his mother-in-law's 1973 BMW 2002. The car was worn out, but whole.

Painstakingly rebuilt from the ground up, the old BMW was shipped to the United States in 2005, when he was appointed Microsoft's intellectual property lawyer stationed in Seattle.

There, it received more work from a BMW 2002 specialist and got back its original Colorado orange colour. Now in pristine state, it remains in the US under the care of Mr Ghows' son and daughter, who are in their mid-20s and working there as part-time teachers.

It may return to Singapore one day, he muses.

In the meantime, he enjoys driving the beautifully maintained white 230SL. Everything in the Mercedes roadster works and the car gets him to his destination with no hassle.

"It starts every time, sounds great and runs smoothly," he says.

His usual workday ride, however, is a Volkswagen Golf 1.4TSI. But the enthusiast says the Golf, as good as it is, cannot give him the unique pleasure of old-world motoring - especially with the top down.

The smell of unburnt petrol (the car is fuel-injected but without a catalytic converter), the rorty exhaust and punchy engine are attributes he relishes each time he drives the old Merc - which is every weekend and any clear evening of the week.

His homemaker wife prefers the BMW 2002, though.

Launched 53 years ago, the 230SL replaced the rounded 190SL which was elegant but generally rated as under-powered. Its successor was introduced with a 2.3-litre inline-six engine boasting 150bhp in a sleek and sharply styled body that came with a removable hard-top plus a foldable tonneau cover.

So you could leave the hard-top at home and drive in convertible style. If it rained, you could still pull the soft top over.

When Mr Ghows offered his car for a drive, I quickly accepted. To my pleasant surprise, this old Merc is not just easy to drive, it is also comfortable, performs decently in modern traffic and its four-speed manual gear shift is light and effortless.

The original power-assisted brakes provide the confidence you would expect from a modern car and hence make the driving experience all the more enjoyable.

The car could be driven with full throttle. With the roof down, the deep-throated sounds from the exhaust are simply glorious and cannot be emulated by today's modern machines.

"I'll keep this car for as long as my bank account permits me to," Mr Ghows says. "It has been reliable enough, but to keep any classic car in top shape does cost quite a bit and I don't intend to keep more than one at a time."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2016, with the headline 'MeAndMyCar Dream come true'. Print Edition | Subscribe