One of the little thrills that comes with being a car enthusiast is that which arises when, by chance, one encounters a car from the internet in person. When said car is parked, it’s an opportunity to investigate further, looking for the little details–distinct imperfections or unique traits that stick out, a dent on the rear quarter panel, a bumper sticker, an odd accessory–that can confirm that the car is in fact the one last seen on Craigslist three weeks ago. The odds of seeing the same car from your local craigslist parked or driving around your city are probably not that long, but it is nonetheless interesting to when it does happen.
This was not one of those situations. When I saw this car driving down my block in DC one Saturday morning in the waning days of summer, no further investigation was necessary to confirm a match. How often does one run across a convertible W115 240D after all?
How many could even exist?
I remember running across an eBay listing for this car last year, with the location listed as Arizona. Perhaps that makes sense for such a unique beast, W115s are prone to rusting and, with a mid-70s A/C system, the arid climate would make a logical home for such a car, if such a car can even have a logical home.
The small cloud of smoke flowing from the exhaust pipe as it drove by (with the top down!) might suggest it was in need of some attention mechanically, but it actually looked and sounded fine other than that.
Well, as fine as a 240D convertible with a maroon top could look anyway.
Unfortunately, I missed my first chance to snap a few pictures, but I was thrilled when I ran into the car again last week, this time parked up, giving me the chance to snag a few photos and do some investigating.
When I first came across this car on eBay I assumed it must be a hack job, but the conversation actually looks quite well done in person.
After I got home I did some more sleuthing and actually found that the car was listed for sale on several sites I had never heard of. According to the ads this is a 1975 240D with only 59,000 miles on it. The ad claims the car had been garage kept and, judging by the condition of the body and exterior trim, I believe it.
Interestingly, the conversion is said to have been made in 2015 by Newport Specialty Cars Inc. in Huntington Beach, California. The top does appear tight and well-fitting and the rear window even looks to be of decent quality. The only critiques I really have are conceptual and aesthetic, and the latter really only applies to the cheap looking diamond pattern red and black interior seat upholstery, certainly a downgrade from the original pattern dark red MB-Tex, which would have acquitted this oddball well, in my opinion. I also have to commend the previous owner for the daring choice of color for the top which on second thought, actually looks surprisingly good.
On the conceptual level, I’m not sure what would motivate someone to chop the top off of a well preserved and rust free w115, but hey, the top is apparently functioning and I’m sure it’s a blast to drive this around town with it folded down.
From the ad, it even seems like the roll hoop is well done and integrated into the design of the car. At the very least, it must serve to keep the car from folding in on itself, though I shudder to think about how it would stand up to a rollover.
I just wonder what went into the decisions on this one, as I’m sure there’s an interesting backstory or at least one interesting character involved. There are just so many gaps to fill in. Someone must have really wanted to have a convertible 240D, and must have spent a lot of money to get one, as the conversion doesn’t seem like the backyard hack job I initially suspected, and it’s still driving around nearly 5 years later. Surely an R107 could have been had for close to the cost of the conversation if not less, and that would have made a fine stablemate to clean, rust free, 240D. So what led someone to commission this?
Perhaps we’ll never know.
The car seems to be for sale now in Maryland though it wears historic Virginia plates. Maybe I will see it around again and get a chance to chat with the owner and get the story, which is sure to be an interesting one!