They are just now getting to know each other – and yet they feel an immediate connection. Simply because they all drive the same model car: Isabella de Arruda Ilg, 21, student from Berlin, and Richard Baron von Düsterlohe, student from Greifswald in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, also only 21. Their cars are much older than they are. We are at Potsdamer Platz, in the middle of Berlin. Richard arrived especially for this story this morning in his 350 SL in silver grey-metallic (DB 180), built in 1971. His girlfriend, Johanna Schuberth, 23, is accompanying him on this trip to the capital, in glorious weather. Even combined, the two law students are six years younger than their R 107, which turned 50 this year. “My eight-cylinder is one of the first of the series,” Richard says proudly.
Isabella (r.), Richard and his girlfriend, Johanna, are just getting to know each other. Their SLs are parked outside the café on Potsdamer Platz in Berlin.
Her father bought the nautical blue R 107 three years ago – and Isabella has taken a liking to the classic model, which is 15 years older than she is.
Isabella, on the other hand – her mother is from Brazil, her father is German – only had a very short journey. She still lives with her parents in Berlin-Tempelhof. And the 280 SL in nautical blue-metallic (DB 929) in which she has just arrived, built in 1985, actually belongs to her parents. But she drives around in the R 107 as well. “I celebrate the car,” says the budding media science student. “It’s so beautiful and exudes a great sense of light-heartedness and nonchalance. You stand out from the crowd and often get a smile from passers-by or other road users.” She feels that driving this “sunshine car” is more like “meandering” through town, she enthuses: “For me, being on the road in a vibrant city like Berlin with such an old, but by no means outdated classic, preferably with the top down, is pure luxury, lifestyle and individuality. In addition: the SL helps me to slow down and relax when I meander through Berlin with it.” Richard and Johanna nod knowingly. They also know this good feeling.
She comes from a “Mercedes family” and grew up with classic cars, says Johanna. The three of them are now sitting together in a street café, ordering a light breakfast. Their roadsters are parked alongside them, next to the pavement. “My father bought our SL in 2004. I was just four years old then,” Richard says. “About ten years later, shortly before he unfortunately passed away at much too young an age, he had then sold it again. I associate the roadster with great childhood memories and so many adventures that my father and I experienced together. That bonded us together. We even went to mechanics’ courses and travelled across Germany with the R 107. Often hundreds of kilometres. We were a team and the SL, which still touches me deeply, was a passion that totally united us.”
Richard knew that his father had sold the R 107 in 2014 to an “older gentleman from the new German states.” When he finally got his driving licence himself at 20, he made the decision: “I’m buying back our car!” He tracked down the man, who did actually still own the 350 SL. And, just over a year ago, he sold the eight-cylinder to Richard. “Well, for me the car is a very emotional matter,” says the law student and orders a second sandwich.
“I maintain it and drive it. Let’s face it: it would be difficult to find a finer way to travel. Besides all the memories of the car, I also like its timeless design, reliability, athleticism and especially the powerful sound. And if something needs to be repaired, I try doing it myself first. The mechanics’ courses in my childhood and early youth were definitely not completely in vain.” An admiring tourist takes a photo of the SLs glinting in the sunshine, together with their young owners. “Are you doing a commercial shoot?” he asks. “No, these are indeed our own cars,” Richard replies. He and Isabella happily start the engines, go for a spin first over Potsdamer Platz and then on through the streets of Berlin. Most of the time, they drive with the top down, since the weather allows it. When it briefly starts to rain, the roof is quickly closed. Every move is perfect. “Does your car have a nickname?” asks Isabella during a stop at a restaurant. “Not yet,” Richard replies. She has picked a nickname for her roadster, says the Berliner, and explains it to the group: “When I was 16, my parents bought their first older car, a 280 coupé. They christened it Juliette, and I was already a little in love with the C 123. When I was 18, the R 107 came along. When I was finally allowed to take it out for a spin for the first time, my heart really went ‘boom’. For me, it was love at first sight, at the first touch, even. And which name went with Juliette? Well, Romeo, of course!”
The brothers Leon, 26, and Linus, 27, share their classics in true brotherly style. Apart from the green 180 “Ponton” (W 120, photo), they also own a 560 SEC (C 126) and an E 500 (W 124) – both also green.
Our journey continues southwards from the capital city Berlin to Stuttgart. This is where the brothers Linus and Leon Mast live, both of whom work for a consulting firm that they run together with their whole family. Linus, 27, went to school for business administration; Leon, 26, international business. They share their three classics in true brotherly style. These vehicles are older than the brothers are themselves, and immediately reveal the brothers’ favourite colour for car paintwork: green! Linus and Leon are still washing and preparing their sea-green 180 (DB 824), built in 1961, for the photo shoot. They laugh and fool around. “Driving classic cars means having fun,” says Leon. “Our father passed on his passion for the beautiful three-pointed star to both of us in exactly equal parts. It all started for him in 1971, when he bought a W 113 in poor condition and restored the neglected Pagoda to working order. We grew up with cool cars and felt a strong bond with the Mercedes-Benz brand from an early age.”
And how did they then come to get their own first classic? Leon doesn’t have to think long: “Our father told us one day that there was a beautiful 560 SEC available for sale down in Switzerland. That was back in 2012, and in the depths of winter, no less. I was just 16 or 17 years old at the time and had already saved up a bit through holiday jobs working on construction sites. So we headed down there and bought the C 126, in willow green-metallic (DB 261). I was able to come up with half the money, and Linus seized the opportunity and was able to put the other half on the table. Wow, we had our first car together!” “It was just standing around at first, because we didn’t even have our driving licences at that point,” Linus adds. “In addition, being the thrifty Swabians that we are, we actually wanted to wait for the ‘H’ registration plate, indicating it’s a classic. But as soon as we had our driving licences, we changed our mind. A car like that has to be driven!” “It must,” Leon confirms with a laugh. The brothers have always invested their own money in their cars. Neither of them are spoilt sons, Linus assures us: “We don’t get anything as a gift from our parents, we always have to do it ourselves. That’s the way it is in our family. And it’s totally okay.”
The second classic car they bought for themselves was the sea green 180. To begin with, he was even able to raise the sum on his own, Leon says: “That was about four years ago. However, when I then had a short-term financial problem, Linus again came into play, as skilful as he was shrewd. He transferred half the purchase price to me, and from then on he also owned half of the W 120.” “He is the ideas generator and initiator, the doer. I’m more the strategist, the administrator,” Linus adds. “I build things up”, Leon confirms with a smile, “and you preserve them. It works!” And their third classic, the E 500 in malachite green-metallic (DB 249), built in 1994, how did it come into their joint ownership? Now both brothers are smiling at the same time. The W 124 belonged to their father – and he wanted to get rid of the car about two years ago. Linus and Leon discussed the matter briefly and then decided unanimously: “The E 500 stays in the family, we’ll buy it from Father!”
This time they raised the sum together from the start. And they haven’t regretted it for a second so far. On the contrary, in fact.
Leon (left in the picture) and Linus share the purchase price, maintenance, insurance and driving fun. The C 126, built in 1988, was the first classic they bought.
Leon, who likes to take long road trips, now grabs the key to the E 500. Linus, who is more into city trips, that of the 560 SEC. They’re off for a tour. Out of the city, through the hilly countryside. The brothers, who get along really well, have fun together, swap cars on the way and simply enjoy the momentary lightness of their being in mild temperatures. Later, in their “barn” near Stuttgart, where they often park the cars and meet other young classic car fans, they have another surprise up their sleeves: the furniture in the “lounge corner”, which is obviously very old, comes from Professor Hans Scherenberg’s living room, Linus tells us, as he drops into one of the armchairs with an ice cream in his hand. There is a second one. And a sofa to go with it, rust-brown fabric cover, good patina. Hans Scherenberg (1910–2000), as director of passenger car design and later Daimler-Benz chief engineer, was formative for many innovations and vehicles with the three-pointed star, such as the 300 SL (W 198). “Oh yes, the 300 SL, that would be something,” Linus muses and looks over at Leon with amusement. “The SL 55 AMG, green paint finish of course, would look pretty good to me too,” Leon replies. Dreams! But the two brothers have already fulfilled a few of them. And the next green one is sure to come.
Only a few kilometres away lives a man who has just fulfilled his dream. A rather long-cherished one, at that: “I had this almost romantic notion that I would discover a run-down, forgotten classic, acquire the patient for a relatively small sum of money and restore it all by myself. Then I’d put it back on the road and have a lot of fun with it.” Andreas Gratza, 29, who has been tinkering with mopeds since he was fourteen, is an Airbus pilot by profession, with the rank of First Officer. But due to the pandemic, he was on short-time work and not flying around the world for a major airline as he usually did. USA, India, China, those were his destinations, he says. So suddenly he found himself with a lot of extra time on his hands and was wondering how to put it to use. The decision quickly matured: “This is my chance to make my dream come true!” One thing was instantly clear to him: it had to be a Mercedes-Benz. A roadster or convertible. He found his 280 SL in lapis blue-metallic (DB 932), built in 1983, in a village in the Swabian Jura mountains.
Airbus pilot Andreas, 29, was unable to work due to the pandemic. He bought an R 107 that had lain forgotten for 15 years and restored it in just five months in his grandmother’s garage.
Together with girlfriend Lauren, 24, the First Officer discusses the first major joint outing with the roadster. They’ll be heading south, for sure: “Chasing the sun!”
It had just been standing there for 15 years, as Andreas learned: “It had mouse nests inside, the seats were slashed, the engine was barely recognisable as such, and the brakes were so seized up that it took a major effort to push the car onto the trailer.” On 19 January this year, Andreas set to work. Every day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., in the garage in front of his grandmother’s house in Ostfildern, about 20 minutes from Stuttgart Airport. All he did was commute back and forth between his flat and the garage. He also quite often worked at the weekend. That was his world. And it was really a very small one, from winter until early summer. Almost exactly five months and 900 hours of work later, the R 107 was ready – “technically solid, visually acceptable”, as Andreas quite rightly finds. On 22 June he was at the TÜV for a technical inspection, got the seal of approval, shed a few tears of joy and then picked up his girlfriend Lauren from work, “overjoyed”. “We went for an extended spin together with the top down,” he recalls, eyes gleaming. “It was really almost better than flying. To have rescued this almost 40-year-old dream car and brought it back to life makes me totally proud.”
Denise Köster, 29, lives in Oberhausen on the western edge of the Ruhr region. The master vehicle technician works in her father’s company. Her grandfather founded the company Köster Motors (authorised Mercedes-Benz dealer and Classic Partner) some 60 years ago, her father and her uncle currently run the business – and at some point she will take over as boss, in partnership with her cousin. That’s the plan. “We do a lot of work with the most beautiful classic models in automotive history here. I work with some really exciting supermodels. With rolling works of art. With Gullwings, Fintails and Pontons, I can’t even list all of them. It’s clear that there has always been and still is today only one car brand for me,” says Denise, who had the best marks of all the trainees in her training year (58 men, 2 women) on the technical side.
She also increasingly has taken notice of the fact that – in her inner circle of close acquaintances, on excursions and rallies – a change is taking place in the scene: “That it’s become hip among us younger people to drive cars that are 20 years old or older.” It is an attitude to life characterised by vintage and retro that she shares. She herself has just put together a 190 E in barolo red (DB 540), built in 1991. After work and at the weekends. “For me, it was not only work, but also a real pleasure,” she says. “On classics like this, I can show what I am capable of as a master motor vehicle technician. And what I particularly like about it: I’m playing my part in terms of sustainability and preserving values.” And of course, she also loves to drive her Baby Benz. Her most recent longer trips took her shopping to Düsseldorf or sightseeing in the Netherlands.
Denise, 29 (with ponytail), likes to drive from the city out into the country, mostly at weekends, in her barolo red Baby Benz and with her best friend Jana, 27.
On this Saturday, her friend Jana accompanies her on her tour. The pair’s plan: to take the W 201 to an organic farm shop a little way outside Oberhausen and buy smoked sausage, fruit and juices for a picnic out in the countryside. They turn up the music, wind down the windows and let their hair dance in the airstream of this mild day. Is it actually a coincidence that her W 201 is almost the same age as she is? “It’s a few months older than I am,” Denise replies with a wink. “I specifically chose this very handsome partner because it’s also a perfect match for me age-wise.”