Monthly Archives: December 2015

Air by OCD – Matt Payne’s 1992 Mercedes-Benz W201 190E

Words & Photos by Henry Phull

 

The Mercedes-Benz 190E has been a hit with petrolheads ever since they were used as touring cars and seen throughout legendary motorsport events. However, with the sought-after Cosworth models now out of most people’s price range, the spectacle has turned on to the standard 190E’s, which back in their time would’ve looked like any normal boxy German saloon car, simply blending into the landscape. What owners are doing to them now though, is quite remarkable. Who’d have thought dumping one on the floor and adding some larger wheels could make such a basic car look so appealing? Even though they’ve been a popular vehicle of choice in the modified scene ever since the late 80’s/early 90’s, the demand has massively grown over the last couple of years in the UK show scene… One of our favourites being Matt Payne’s Arctic white 1992 W201 which we’re showcasing today. Although we’ve already featured a W201 this year, Charlie Wheeler’s static 190D (click here to check it out), we’re switching things up and taking an alternative look at how things can be done using air ride, with Matt’s simple yet effective build.

 

 

Matt has been interested in cars for a long time, mainly through family influence. Since he was 17 years old he’s been following the car show scene, attended local meets and helped out on cars with his friends. Training as a Volkswagen technician certainly played a huge part in his ever-growing fascination with cars and predominant obsession with VW’s. In fact this led him onto starting his own business, Only Charged Dubs (OCD), who predominantly specialise in VAG cars – G40/G60 forced induction, air ride, servicing and much more.

 

 

The car that really got his company noticed was down to Matt’s third car, a Mk2 Golf which started out as a ‘1.6 Driver’, which he fully restored and eventually converted to a G60. After two years of daily driving, something more modern was required – a Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo… This really helped OCD grow as a recognised business.. it was the ultimate car to show off their air-ride services to a ‘general’ audience, not forgetting the development of OCD’s custom Polo platform air ride kit which put them on the map.

 

 

So why the Mercedes-Benz you may be asking? “I’ve never been a huge Merc fan, but I’ve always had a soft spot for any modern classic car… late 70’s, 80’s & early 90’s cars just have that square boxy look that I love” he tells us. The Fabia had been around for nearly three years, so Matt decided it was time for a new OCD demo car, whilst he could still drive the Fabia daily (although this has now finally been replaced by a bigger Audi A6 C5 Allroad, on custom air of course). “The 190 seemed to be a new modern classic, and after seeing a couple bagged and thinking we could get a cheap kit for it, I bought this one.” Matt explains.

 

 

Matt found the 190E through eBay, it was a completely standard 1.8 8v petrol, but the head gasket had gone due to lack of use and the exhaust had fallen apart inside so it ran way too slowly for his liking. The all-important paint, however, is original and came up incredibly after a good detailing session and machine polish/seal. It was an ideal base for OCD’s demo car and it meant they could create something from a completely blank canvas.

 

 

“We needed it to be on the floor, looking OEM+ and really show off what OCD and air suspension can do. Not just the usual brands of air & wheels!” he explains. Only Charged Dubs are well known for their custom air work, not just bolting on the usual ready-made kits which are widely available. This car is a fantastic example of what is possible when you think outside the box.

 

 

The air setup on Matt’s car was created completely from scratch, after trying out a cheap kit that was available for the platform and realising it was “crap”. The team at OCD got to work on creating a better solution, including new front arms, bag mounts and a custom BC Racing damper kit with camber top mounts, allowing for adjustment all round. “Our kit is a full comprehensive suspension kit, this replaces the OE front arms with no other modifications required. The only thing that’s needed is 2 holes drilled in the rear upper spring seat to allow the air bags to mount up.” Matt reveals.

 

 

This allows the body of the car to drop as low as possible with no rubbing or catching – now that’s what we like to hear! “This allows much better air bag pressure when driving, allowing a much nicer drive – it really feels like factory still and just floats along the roads.” he continues. After fully testing the setup, OCD’s kit is now manufactured and available for the W201 platform – get in touch with them for more information.

 

 

Along with the custom front LCA’s and bag mounts, Matt opted for Universal Air ‘AirHouse2’ bags front and rear, 3/8″ air lines all run by dual Speciality Suspension 28″ & 24″ air tanks, two Air Zenith OB2 compressors, an AVS 9 switch box, Zaetech Digigauge and wireless touchbox. “The main piece is the RideTech BigRed manifold that really makes the car bounce!” he chuckles… this really has a different effect to airing up and out in comparison to a lot of other products on the market – making it that extra bit cooler! All this has been built into a beautiful boot installation which is a superb demonstration of hard lines and fabrication which OCD are known for.

 

 

With the car on the floor, Matt wanted to get the wheels right. They’d already gone custom with the air ride, so why not go the same way with the wheels? The outcome was a set of Mercedes-Benz ‘Barrock’ wheels, a Mexican hat-styled wheel originally found on W123’s. OCD had their machinist precision cut the wheel faces and matched to a BBS RS 16″ face bolt pattern, allowing them to go for 16″ to 17″ ‘bubble’ step up lips, resulting in 17×8 up front and 17×9 rears. “It’s a slight mod that no one really notices over the custom wheels. Which I like, it adds even more to the OEM+ look of the car and really suits the car well.” Matt explains. These are paired to 195/40 tyres up front and 205/40 at the rear, a tasteful amount of stretch.

 

 

Interior-wise, Matt preferred to keep everything original, similar to the outside of the car. “I wanted black as it doesn’t age as much and appears to be quite rare in the old 190’s”… The only elements out of the ordinary that you might notice are; the Zaetech Digigauge air pressure display which is neatly installed into one of the blower fans and the chunky AVS 9 switch box used to control the ride height. Sticking to a manual air set up just seems so right in a classic car like this – a modern looking digital controller wouldn’t look at home in the W201.

 

 

 

 

We’ve seen the Merc at several car shows this year and it’s unsurprisingly turned a lot of heads. Matt and the team have put just the right amount of modifications on the car. Only air and wheels you may ask… What more could you possibly need on a classic car like this? Matt has put his touch on an already beautiful shape. As well as putting the car on a set of BBS RS for a few shows to change things up, the custom Barrock wheels do suit it perfectly. From now, not much will be happening with the Merc other than a little more colour coding to the boot build over the Winter. Matt mentioned he may even regrettably put it up for sale in the new year to make way for another OCD demo car. Despite the name ‘Only Charged Dubs’, the 190E demonstrates that they really can tackle any sort of air build, whether it’s a ‘dub’ or not. We’ll be finding more about what they get up to with an exclusive shop visit, so check back to Slam Sanctuary soon.

 

 

More info on Only Charged Dubs:

Only Charged Dubs website

Only Charged Dubs on Facebook

Only Charged Dubs on Instagram

 

 

The Elegant Touch – Rory Hamilton’s 1974 Mercedes-Benz W115 240D

Words by Henry Phull / Photos by Steph Clarke

 

As of late the classic W114 and W115 Mercedes’ have been making a well-deserved comeback. One of the cars that started up this new found popularity in the UK is Rory Hamilton’s gorgeous W115 240D. I first came in contact with his car at the Ultimate Stance show back in 2014 when it was ‘mid-build’ and in a much more fragile condition. Since then, Rory has completely overhauled the Benz, resulting in a thing of pure beauty that oozes class wherever it goes. Unsurprisingly, Rory gets plenty of requests to use it as a wedding car – it’s certainly much cooler than any of the newer Mercs. An engineer for Rolls-Royce, Rory has always been interested in luxury cars, with Mercedes-Benz always on his radar, particularly the larger diesel cars with stacked headlights. “I have a great love of older engines and respect their simplicity and the quirky features that were applied to older diesel motors” Rory says, and mentions that his has a pull handle to start paired with a glow cherry, and an idle adjuster knob used for starting… “fantastically simple but effective”. Let’s take a look at how the build came about…

 

 

You may think the W115 is a strange choice of car, given Rory’s young age of 22, but I assure you, he has been through plenty of smaller and quicker cars over the years. “I’ve had more throw-away daily drivers than show cars, as I’m a lover of bangernomics” he explains. Starting off with Mk3 Golfs (five to be precise), to a modified Nogaro Blue Audi S3 which was eventually swapped for a street ported Mazda RX8. As fun as it was, the engine rebuild costs started to bankrupt him, leading to a sale and massive loss, but in hindsight it meant he was finally able to pick up the Mercedes-Benz we are showcasing today.

 

 

“I’ve always wanted a classic Mercedes-Benz” Rory exclaims. When he was growing up, there was a similar model just down the road from where he lived, which was literally part of the landscape. “The Benz had a bush growing out of it, smashed windows, and was covered in mould”, even so, he always wanted to own it. “I finally plucked up the courage to go and knock on the door of the house that I thought owned it” and it turned out that the chap had owned it from new when he was a politician, using it from 1975 to 1999 to commute to London from Portishead near Bristol. He simply parked it up because he wanted a newer car but couldn’t let the old one go. “Funnily enough the guy was also the president of the Mercedes-Benz Club of the UK for a few years and the very car in its terrible mimosa yellow colour is on the front page of the club magazines and cards.” he explains. However, he still wouldn’t sell it.

 

 

A year later Rory received a call out of the blue… The owner of the Benz had unfortunately passed away due to ill health and his family were offering the car at a price that he couldn’t refuse. Sadly, the car was in a bad state, and not worth saving, so Rory made the purchase as donor car. The engine, diff/driveshafts, full interior and a few other pieces were saved with parts ending up in Rory’s car, and the rest are kept as spares. If it wasn’t for this tired old example, Rory would have never had the final push to go out and build his own W115. Now he had a donor car, the hunt was on for a usable example and base for the project.

 

 

It was a 1974 W115 240D that caught Rory’s eye, the car was already in a respectable condition as it had been garaged and kept off the road for about six months prior. The paintwork was micro blistered, along with a few rough edges, but most importantly it was a solid car – most unlike his donor vehicle! After a deal was done, the top rad hose blew on the road home, disaster! Rory and an eager bystander ended up pushing the Benz up a motorway slip road, up a hill of course, until they were out of harm’s way. A temporary fix was issued with a piece of metal tube, jubilee clips and gaffer tape, which amazingly saw him the last 100+ miles home (with a constant cloud of white smoke left behind). So, not the greatest buying experience, but Rory cracked on regardless…

 

 

He spent a few months sorting out the motor, but even after changing the head gasket it was still not right and the problems were never-ending. Luckily, he had the donor car and engine. His Christmas was spent switching engines, along with a manual to auto swap which took some work. The engine itself is a stock OM616 4-cylinder 2.4 litre diesel lump, and the only modification made was to replace the old ‘loop’ glow plugs with a set of newer ‘pencil’ plugs. “This is probably the single best modification I’ve done to her as the old plugs (according to the manual) took between 30 seconds to a minute to glow, whereas the pencils take 10-15 and are much more reliable.” Rory explains. As he runs the car on 100% vegetable oil, good glow plugs are essential to get the car started with ease.

 

 

Eventually Rory pulled the head on the second motor and changed the valve stem seals and head gasket, along with all the manifold gaskets. Plus, every radiator hose with genuine Mercedes-Benz parts, a new oil cooler from Germany with swaged lines, uprated trans cooler also with swaged lines, a new water pump, reset the pump timing, fitted new vacuum hoses, and much more! In simpler terms, the engine was completely restored and made reliable for the many miles Rory now does in the car to various events all over the country. To finish things off, a full stainless twin exit exhaust system was created by Infinity Exhausts near Bath. The last six feet of each exit have been chromed for aesthetic purposes, and for an extra kick Rory added an electronic exhaust bypass valve just after the downpipe which means he can switch the exhaust to be extremely loud when he wants it to be.

 

 

With the engine and reliability issues sorted, it was time to think about the modifications we are really interested in, suspension! The idea from the beginning was to put the W115 on air ride. “I always wanted a bagged car” Rory explains, “I’d seen pictures of bagged Benz’s in the States particularly the ‘Colour of Money’ Benz and the ‘Steampunk’ Benz for those in the know”. Rory and a good friend of his took a few months to bag the car themselves, designing custom brackets and machining them to fit his chosen Slam Specialities RE-5 bags. They experimented with three different designs until they were completely satisfied with the drop and the way they sat on the car. The system was designed to use 1/2″ lines, so Rory ended up purchasing all the SMC 1/2″ valves from the States, along with a 8.5 gallon air tank, twin VIAIR 480c compressors and an Odyssey Red-Top battery.

 

 

“When I first started to drive her the air was so fast that it was uncontrollable, the valve would open electronically but when it went to shut the spring wasn’t powerful enough to to do so properly, so it would ‘latch’ open so to speak and either jump the car in the air or dump it on the ground.” To solve this, Rory fitted large flow controls to all four corners, making the speed a lot more controllable. Furthermore, with the diesel engine being much deeper than a petrol motor, it sits much closer to the ground. Instead of ‘raising’ the motor like most people would opt for, Rory fitted a large plate with a set of ‘skis’ on the bottom of the engine. Now when it airs out, the front of the car sits on the sump and amazingly the front wheels don’t actually touch the floor… “It’s a feature that I’m very happy with!” he chuckles.

 

 

With the suspension all set up, Rory was eager for some new wheels to set it off, ending up with a set of 16×7 BBS Mahle’s restored by a guy in Budapest. He chose these as they were similar to other sets at the time, but was worried about how he’d make them fit properly. The Mahle’s were already Mercedes-Benz fitment, 66.6CB and 5x112PCD. The offset was almost identical to his standard wheels so they’d be perfect for the car. It’s rare to find a set with the correct fitment, so Rory decided it was a no-brainer. Along with stretched 165/40/16 tyres all round, the wheels certainly look the part on the W115. For that extra wow-factor, the Mahle’s are fitted with BBS high centre caps and Titanium Lug Nuts supplied by Fourty Four Wheel Company. They were “a match made in heaven” he explains, as they sit the same height as the centre caps, plus the ends of the nuts look incredibly similar to the BBS caps, resulting in a gorgeous combination.

 

 

To compliment the rest of the car, Rory has made some changes to the interior. The first modification was to swap out the front seats for some with armrests, sourced from a W109 S-Class. Although they look very similar to the original examples, they are in fact wider. Rory had to modify the seat rails to fit, resulting in a lower driving position which he much prefers. “I love the look of diamond stitch in custom interiors, but I am also a great lover of the OEM+ look” he explains, and decided to commission John Brant at Bespoke Leathering Ltd. to carry out  a full re-trim.

 

 

This included a complete new carpet in beige with underlay and mats, including sound deadening to the bulk head. Plus a custom headlining in cream, reworked and recoloured seats, door cards and A/B pillars in a stunning caramel (similar to the original colour). The dash and centre console were also coated in leather in the same caramel colour. To counteract the caramel, the top of the dash and some of the lower dash, and parcel shelf have been covered in a single stitch pleated diamond arrangement. The result is absolutely stunning, and works so perfectly against the white body colour.

 

 

As I mentioned earlier, I first saw Rory’s W115 a couple of years ago, before it had any fresh paint. It was seriously tired so the whole body was taken back to the metal and stripped by himself and a few friends between October 2014 and March 2015. The sunroof was filled in and then the car was fully resprayed in Sikkens Two-Pack DB737 (Classic White). Rory had all the brightwork re-polished, re-chromed and re-finished by Doug Taylor Metal Finishings in Banwell. Unfortunately some of these parts were well past repair so Rory ended up purchasing some new parts from Mercedes-Benz, along with new rubbers and window seals. These are small touches that a lot of people wouldn’t bother with, but it’s safe to say they bring the whole look together brilliantly.

 

 

 

Building one of these Mercedes-Benz’s is much easier said than done, they’ve always been one of the classiest vehicles around and sticking to that ideal is key. Getting the right balance is extremely important.. stay elegant but making sure you don’t go too crazy. Rory has certainly outdone himself with his W115, not only restoring it to a like-new condition, but adding simple yet effective touches to make it extra special. Although not a daily driver, he’s driven this thing all over the country over the past year with minimal issues, which you just wouldn’t expect from such a classic car, but it’s humbling to see that Rory is putting it to use. At the end of the day, it is a car – it’s meant to be driven! Unsurprisingly he doesn’t have much more planned for the car at the moment, as it’s been done so well to this point. The only things on his mind are a boot build to show off the air and there’s a possibility of another engine swap in favour of a rarer diesel motor “for the real OEM+ look” he explains.