Condition: Mysteriously un-rusty
If you’ve never spent any time around an old Mercedes-Benz from the 70s or 80s, go seek one out. The higher up the marque’s contemporary range the better. It’s worth it, trust us.
We’ve all heard the stories of bank-vault doors and materials forged under volcanic pressures deep within the earth’s crust, but poke around an 80s SEC or something and it genuinely feels like if you were to lose control and head towards say, a pyramid, the 4000-year old monolith would probably come off second best.
There’s a very real probability that even as our descendants are whistling around in plasma-powered autonomous pods there will still be a healthy supply of hundreds-of-years-old Mercedes on whatever is left of the road network. They might have been converted to electric power long ago, the last drips of fossil fuel long since combusted, but slamming the door on a W123 will remain one of the great mechanically-satisfying actions available to humanity.
Mercedes from the 90s may be long extinct by then however, not through mechanical malady or want of trying, but because the one thing Mercedes most egregiously failed to do during its drive for profitability in the 90s was ensure its new water-based paints and steel had long-term staying power.
The problem is so bad in the modern era that people now speak of Mercs in the same breath as 1970s Lancias. If you have a W210 E-class, an early M-class or a first-generation Vito van out there and the lower edges of its doors and wheelarches are still pristine, then good grief hang onto it (and maybe get in touch so we can see it for ourselves) because you truly have a unicorn.
Sadly, the first-generation, W202 C-class is similarly afflicted, which is rather a shame because it was an impressive car in its day. As we noted at the debut of the most recent C, the W202 fielded a lineup of multi-valve engines, supercharged petrols and some tasty AMG performance variants, and according to those who have lived with them, most rust like a fishing trawler abandoned in the Dead Sea.
Apart from this one we’ve found on eBay apparently, giving this unexceptional base-model 1995 Mercedes C180 an exceptional quality. A leaf through the MOT history shows the clean flanks aren’t just a skin-deep either – someone apparently drove the C down to its cords in 2017 resulting in a failure, but since then things have looked much better, and even that most recent episode mentioned nothing of rust.
Auto ‘box and blue-hued interior aside it’s strikingly similar to the car occasional Hagerty contributor Andrew Frankel ran as a long-termer for Autocar back in 1995. The C180’s 1.8-litre four was apparently the best engine in the range at the time, and Frankel covered 25,000 mostly happy miles in its year on the fleet.
At just under £3000 it’s more than you’d have paid for a basic C a few years ago, but probably fair given its condition. Make sure it’s regularly undersealed and this one might have a chance of living well into our plasma-powered future.