Me And My Car

In praise of older Mercs

Mr Anthony Yu has a soft spot for his 1981 Mercedes-Benz 230CE.
Mr Anthony Yu has a soft spot for his 1981 Mercedes-Benz 230CE.PHOTO: JEREMY CHUA
PHOTO: JEREMY CHUA

Engineer Anthony Yu likes old models of Mercedes-Benzes as he can fiddle around with their mechanical parts

In the world of classic cars, a 1981 Mercedes-Benz 230CE is neither exotic nor particularly powerful.

But for mechanical engineer Anthony Yu, the coupe is compelling because it tugs at his heartstrings.

The 47-year-old, who is married with a son and a daughter, has admired the model since he was a child.

"When I was 10, one of my neighbours had a green W123," he says, referring to the code name for the saloon variant of the car.

"There's something grand about Mercedes," he adds.

  • What's in the boot

  • • Spare parts

    • Umbrellas

He picked the coupe version because he "wanted something rarer".

His first car, however, was no luxury coupe.

It was a humble 1971 Mazda 1000 sedan, which he bought in 1990 for $3,600.

"I found it funny that my first car was almost as old as I was then."

As an engineer, he likes to tinker with his cars. But modern automobiles, with their vast electronic and computerised systems, simply do not allow for much tinkering.

And that is another reason he is fond of his old-school Merc.

"I can DIY if I need to," he says with a chuckle.

The 230CE was not the first Mercedes he has owned.

Over the years, he has had models such as the 190E and a W124 E200, which he converted into a "Masterpiece" variant by swopping the body panels and interior trims.

The Masterpiece is a locally enhanced E-class variant that had elements such as wood trimmings inside the cabin, different body panels and alloy wheels.

When asked if the financial cost of his passion causes his wife to raise her eyebrows, Mr Yu quickly points out that all the Mercedes cars he has owned are old ones.

He paid $28,000 for the 230CE in 2002. He has renewed its certificate of entitlement (COE) once and plans to do so again when the current certificate expires in June 2023.

"Besides, my wife knows that given my nature, I love tinkering with mechanical things," he says.

"If it's not my car, then it'll be my go-kart. If I have nothing to do, I will remove my Mercedes' spark plugs and clean them."

In 2008, he damaged the car's four-speed automatic gearbox when he took the car to the Pasir Gudang race circuit in Johor Baru. The transmission had to be overhauled.

He also overhauled the car's 2.3- litre four-cylinder engine, which produced 134bhp, when it was new.

Apart from these, his car has been problem-free.

Mr Yu drives his car only on early Sunday mornings. "I'm afraid of my car being hit by a stupid driver. There are too many of them on our roads nowadays," he says.

Daily commutes are done in his other car, a five-year-old BMW 335i, which he describes as "a driver's car".

"I love to drive," he says.

The motoring enthusiast is looking out for another Merc - a W126 300SEL.

"In old movies, it's the car that mob bosses are usually chauffeured in," he says. "But I'm wary of its road tax, which is very high."

As for the 230CE, he intends to perhaps pass it to his son one day. "He loves it too," he says.

• The writer is with Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2017, with the headline 'In praise of older Mercs'. Print Edition | Subscribe