Gunther Meyer's 1958 Mercedes-Benz 190SL roadster has stood the test of time

Mr Gunther Meyer has driven his 1958 Mercedes-Benz 190SL to Penang.
Mr Gunther Meyer has driven his 1958 Mercedes-Benz 190SL to Penang. PHOTO: JEREMY CHUA

Gunther Meyer's 1958 Mercedes-Benz 190SL roadster has stood the test of time

New cars will come and go, but a properly maintained classic automobile is timeless. That is how Mr Gunther Meyer feels about his 1958 Mercedes-Benz 190SL.

The affable German, who hails from Bremen, is a permanent resident who has been living in Singapore for 41 years.

Mr Meyer, who looks much younger than his 70 years, says he bought the car in 1992 or 1993. He might not recall the exact year, but he remembers the moment he fell in love with the model.

"I was maybe 12 or 13 at the time. One of my brother's friends drove to our house in a 190SL and the moment I saw it, I knew I had to have one," he gushes.

  • What's in the glovebox:

  • • Reading glasses

    • Vehicle log card

    • Fuel additive

The first car that he bought in Singapore, however, was an American one. "It was a Chevrolet with a V8 engine - a real petrol guzzler," he recalls.

Making his dream come true, however, was not easy. When he began looking for an 190SL to buy, most of the units he saw were in a terrible condition. "There was hardly a unit that was driveable. They were all kept as second and third cars. I believe I was the first in Singapore to seriously restore one."

The 190SL he finally settled on was the most decent one he could find at the time. Even so, the managing director of lubricant distributor Kingfisher Automotive shipped the car to Mercedes-Benz Classic in Germany to be rebuilt from the ground up. When the work was done, it was "beautiful", he says.

But when asked how much the restoration cost him, he laughs: "I don't want to remember."

Unlike modern cars, classics require plenty of maintenance and tender loving care. Mr Meyer's garage is equipped not only with tool chests and an air compressor, there are also enough spare parts to "build a second 190SL".

The 190SL's engine, which has dual-carburettors, is not suitable for stop-and-go traffic. Coupled with Singapore's tropical climate, the fuel in the carburettors tends to evaporate, causing the car to stall.

"Even in its heyday, the 190SL was a car you took on long drives," says Mr Meyer. "You would not use it to go shopping. I have driven the car to Penang, Cameron Highlands and Kuala Lumpur, and had no problems with it."

In Singapore, however, he drives the car only once or twice a week, usually on weekends. As with all roadster owners, he relishes driving with the top down on cooler evenings.

Despite the low usage, not once has he considered registering his roadster under the Classic Vehicle Scheme, which restricts usage to 45 days a year. "Doing so would have been terrible. The value of the vehicle would drop tremendously. I think it is very silly to do that," he says.

A classic car's value is also reduced when its original specifications are changed.

But because of the heat and humidity here, Mr Meyer retrofitted the car with an air-conditioning system (something which was not available in the original). Apart from that, he has no plans to modernise his roadster.

The car that he uses daily is another Mercedes SL.

The 1994 320SL, while 21 years old, is a more modern and practical drive than his 57-year-old grand dame.

• 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 November 07, 2015, with the headline 'Keeping a grand dame going '. Print Edition | Subscribe