Ferdinand Project Cars: Porsche 912E Arrival

My US-purchased 1976 Porsche 912E roller is about to land on UK soil. The car is coming in alongside some imports by a collector friend of mine, so he emailed me the customs forms today to get the clearance put through ASAP.

Porsche 912 Project Ferdinand

Tuthills are shipping a really beautiful 356 Roadster in the same bundle as mine and they want to take that to Goodwood Revival next weekend, so while I have no clear date on landing, I expect to be unloading it by this day next week and sharing pictures on the blog soon after.

Plans for the 912: we’ll trailer it to Rob Campbell’s Racing Restorations, have a poke around on the ramps, see what the body looks like and decide what parts can go on eBay as surplus to requirements. I’m sure I’ll at least be listing some impact bumper front wings, as my plan is to backdate it – most likely in steel. More 912 news later.

I still have my 1976 911 Carrera 3.0, the 924 Turbo and all my other cars. Buried in a variety of projects lately has left little time for project fun, but I have been busy on eBay, buying stuff under the duvet late at night. Many website building projects and delays to our long-standing building programme here at home left me with a bit of spare cash, so as I’ve always had a soft spot for Merc SLs, I started looking at those again.

Mercedes 560 SL France

I’ve owned four different Mercedes models, and always enjoyed their solidity. My last experience with a Mercedes SL was to help shift a friend’s R107 SL (chrome bumper one above) from the South of France to the UK and then on to Croatia. That was a 560SL: the US-Canada smog beater. Utterly beautiful, but I’ve always preferred driving the later R129 models.

Good job too, as my £3k in spare cash wasn’t going to buy much of a 107, but it would buy a together example of my target car: a 300SL-24 from 1990-1993 in a good colour with low-ish mileage and big history file. I was OK without a V8, as the Cayenne ticks all my 8-cylinder boxes and the 300 is a nice grand tourer for weekends away with Mrs G. I was not looking for another sports car.

Mercedes 500 SL R129 Buyers Guide (1)

I’m fine with doing a little bit of work as long as the pricey stuff works: i.e. central locking, air con and the electro-hydraulic convertible roof, so I set up an eBay search for SLs under £4k, and bid on a few six-cylinders. A few days into the process, up popped a 500SL that caught my eye just minutes after listing.

£3995 asking price for this very tidy 68k-mile 1992 V8 SL was an excellent price versus my research: being sold cheap for a quick sale. Malachite Green with beige leather was not my first choice, but not too unattractive: I quite like green cars. I rang the number in the ad, spoke to the interior designer owner, she had owned it for four years, mileage supported by MOTs and everything worked fine. Ten minutes later, she had my Paypal deposit on the full asking price and I was arranging insurance.

I collected the car last Friday and all is good: I’ve been doing some more research since. Mercedes built 200,000 R129 SLs from 1989 to 2002, but less than 800 V8s of this generation are still known to the UK registration authorities. Numbers have been falling since the start of the century, so nice to save one from destruction.

A plate transfer has held up the registration transfer, and I have bought another private plate for it, so it will be an extra week or so until it is taxed and ready to use on the road. First impressions: it’s had some paint while it lived in London, needs some help on trim and we got a few quid off for cracks in the plastic soft top windows, but it drives very nicely: exactly as I remember them.

Mercedes 500 SL R129 Buyers Guide

Superbly comfortable seats, beautiful M119 V8 as fitted to the Porsche-fettled Mercedes 500E, the earlier and much maligned 4-speed transmission is still a joy to use and pre-93 has none of the aggro that goes with the later electrical looms or transmission fluid wicking up the wiring harness. I love the gentle styling, that classic front end and the hardtop that transforms the car into a beautifully together sports coupe.

A comparable 911 of the same vintage – so a 964 Carrera 2 Cabriolet – would be over £30k now, and is it ten times what I bought? Ask me in ten years.

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