Land yacht - Revcounter 479

By: Guy Allen

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Get yourself a rolling loungeroom

A recent enforced car swap highlighted just how easy it is to underestimate a car that does something really well without costing a fortune or making a fuss. The evidence: the 1989 W126 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL we scored four years ago for the princely sum of $8000.

Affectionately known as the land yacht, we recently had to leave it at home for one of our regular commutes up the Hume Highway between Melbourne and Canberra – near enough to a 1300km round trip on the freeway. I had sent the instruments away to be repaired and so we resorted to our much more modern and allegedly sophisticated 2003 E39 BMW 540 Sport.

In isolation, the Bimmer is a fantastic car, and easily the choice if there are lots of twisty back roads involved, given its greater power and far superior handling. But on the freeway? Forget it – not even close.

That’s because the Benz is the long wheelbase version of the S-class, has big old-fashioned high-profile tyres, plush long travel suspension and seats that look like they were stolen from a club lounge. Perfect for the freeway and I reckon it would rival just about anything this side of a couple of hundred thousand dollars when it comes to comfort in that environment.

It’s been reasonably light on the wallet, too. About 10lt/100km on cruise with repairs restricted to servicing the straight six driveline and the odd old car issues like a new muffler or the instrument repair. The latter, done by a former VDO tech, looks like taking about a week and around $500. We’ve checked and the prices on long W126 300SELs (the extra wheelbase and room really make a difference) may have crept up a little over time, as we’re now seeing them advertised for $13-20,000 depending on condition and how ambitious the seller might be.

While there is plenty of opportunity to despair at the prices of old cars, there is still some joy out there.


From Unique Cars #478, June 2023


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