Its been 25 years since Mercedes debuted in India. 22 since I debuted. However, being born in an Indian middle-class family and buying a Mercedes seemed like wanting to build a bridge across the Pacific Ocean, never happening.
Now, a typical middle-class Marwari family is usually surrounded by a fundamental mindset: save whatever you ca…..earn. Always have money in the bank. For obvious emergency purposes. And with that mentality, the need to spend on a luxury vehicle doesn’t really creep up. No wonder my dad never got excited when we crossed by the only Mercedes showroom in our city.
Hence, my experience with cars was restricted to hatchbacks. For most of my childhood, my bottom has remained confined to the rear seats of small hatchbacks by Tata or Hyundai. While I was fortunate enough for that, my body would spring up in those rear seats as soon as my eyes, barely able to look over the window line, saw any of the prominent three Germans.
In those times, the early 2000s, seeing any of those early Beemers, Mercs or Audis in their long, wide, long slung profile would bring out the erm....the child in me. Forget Ferraris or Lamborghinis, it was these cars that comprised the exotic section in my little car world. Just like all children want candy as soon as they see one, even I wanted to get a taste of any of these German candies.
It took me a fairly long but equally worth 22 years until I finally got to try one out. And boy, it was a special one. My first ever Mercedes ride was in a proper classic. A timeless, immortal star. It was the very first Mercedes that landed on our Indian shores - the classic W124 E-class.
It all happened at the recently concluded Mercedes Classic Car Rally which co-incidentally also celebrated the brand’s silver jubilee in the subcontinent. Just the entrance to the event turned out to be a surreal experience for me. Reason? Because of the father-son duo of star attractions kept right at the start - a 300SL Roadster finished in cherry red and a silver SLS AMG.
Seeing those cars for the very first time caused a couple of body parts to malfunction. Neither could my pupils get less dilated nor did my jaws go back up. And the worst part, the malfunction cascaded to other body parts as well, as soon as I panned my eyes on the rest of the participants.
Spread over the entire lawn area of Sofitel Hotel in Mumbai’s posh BKC locale, the rally comprised of a plethora of Mercs which I never thought I’ll ever get to see. Yet, it seemed like somebody just peeped into my thoughts last night and got the cars, in reality, the next morning.
But there they were. From the ultra-rare 1938 230L Pullman and 1929 W08 Nurburg to every generation of the E-class and the S-class, the rally had it all. Amidst all this, while my mind was busy processing this gigantic huddle of the stars, I realized I didn’t have enough hands or phones to document everything.
Attending the event with fellow Drivetribers AJ, Kushan, and Eshan, I was finally able to calm down as we made our way to the basement where an even bigger collection of Mercs was stationed. Waiting to be driven in convoy along the shorelines of the Arabian sea. Honestly, I had never seen such a star-spangled basement having such a unique variety.
But coming back to my ride, courtesy of my fellow Drivetriber Shivaum, my bottom finally had the chance to settle down on the rear seats of a W124. Finished in cream and gold, the E300D belonged to a Mumbai-based prominent car collector and is used as his daily runner.
The moment I shut the door behind me was when I realized this was a different territory altogether. The cabin shut us off from all the hassles and babble outside. During the entire duration, my arms rested on either wood or soft-touch fabric. My knee had space to move about. My back was well-rested on the body-contoured rear seats. My face? Well, it never really recovered from the initial malfunction and now was in max grin mode.
Being a diesel, I didn’t hear much of the engine at idle, but it did creep inside the cabin when it was floored. Yet still, with each session involving mashing the accelerator to the floor, it never really plunged the car forward with a jerk. It was always, always, a smooth, linear, creamy deliverance of horsepower onto the tarmac.
Even though I did go with a pre-conceived notion that the ride would be buttery smooth, it wasn’t. Maybe it was due to the mechanicals getting old, I had a constant yet negligible jiggly movement during the ride. It never unsettled me, yet I couldn’t seem to not be aware of that. But even so, it came quite close to the impeccably smooth ride I had envisioned. “One may get that in the modern crop of Mercedes” said Mr. Raut, who piloted our W124 and was a friend of the owner of this W124 and a vintage car collector himself.
As the car crawled its way back to its spot in the basement, I tried to memorize every aspect of this classic E class. Even though I failed miserably at that, I was happy with the distractions that caught my attention. Out of nowhere, including my imagination, I happened to see another W124, finished in pristine white and having a, ahem ahem, 2JZ motor. Sounded epic and so did the 190E Cosworth with the radical body kit and the enormous rear wing, the rockstar of the rally for me.
Taking steps hesitantly as I had to get down and move away from the car, I felt content with myself. Classic cars aren’t a usual sight, especially in India, and such a turnout at the rally just overwhelmed both me and my expectations. A spectacular Sunday morning!
Oh, and I did mention an American showed up to the rally? A fourth-gen Chevvy Corvette decided to make an entry only to be stopped at the gates and later given access. Reason? It was its birthday. These Americans always have a way of their own, I tell you…..