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Why on Earth am I tempted by a 1998 A-Class? | Thank Frankel it's Friday

16th February 2024
andrew_frankel_headshot.jpg Andrew Frankel

You don’t need me to tell you the internet is full of dangerous websites. But few, I find, more likely to prove prejudicial to my financial good health than one called Stone Cold Classics.

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It’s a classic car dealer, but its stock is as eclectic as it comes, and full of the sort of cars you never even think of, let alone think of buying; yet when you see one you cannot help letting your curiosity getting the better of you. So you start looking at the pictures, then the very detailed descriptions and bit by bit, almost without realising, slowly you are drawn in.

A few examples from the site today. A 2005 Rover 75 1.8-litre, and a ‘Connoisseur’ no less. The 75 never enjoyed the reputation it deserved and was in fact an excellent example of a car that really knew what it was for, which was not breaking quarter mile record or screaming around corners, but transporting you as quietly and comfortably as possible.

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How about a Peugeot 205 GT? And no, I’ve not forgotten the ‘I’. The GT is an almost forgotten fun little hatch now, but was the five door brother of the mechanically identical three door XS, and they’re a complete hoot. Perhaps £8,750 is a little steep, but I suspect its value is pretty secure.

I noticed too an automatic 1994 Nissan Sunny 1.6 SLX. Now, and to be clear, there is not a single cell in my body that wants to own this car, let alone pay £4,250 for the privilege but cars like this still fascinate me, if only because I goggle at the fact that not only does it exist, but in apparently near new condition after 30 years on the road. Or if you want to get really geeky, a 1982 Mazda 929 L Estate in Maya Gold with oatmeal ‘teddy bear’ seats will do the trick. A friend of my mum’s had one of these which we of course all laughed at. Half a lifetime later, I can just see it earning pride of place at a Festival of the Unexceptional or similar. Unless it’s trumped by the Sunny…

But my eyes were most keenly drawn to a 1998 Mercedes-Benz A140 Classic. This is the oldest A-class in the country and it started its life on the Mercedes UK press fleet where it had a briefly starring role in various car magazines before being pensioned off and sold to some bloke called Andrew Frankel who used it as a family wagon for the next decade. During this time his children threw up in it, his dogs sprawled all over it, his wife crashed it (gently and not remotely her fault) and various unimportant bits of plastic fell off it.

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It was saved from the scrapper by none other than Mercedes-Benz which was going through a brief period of nostalgic reflection and thought it might be fun to have a car that, if not important was certainly significant, back in the fold. Only problem was its slightly bent, distinctly scuffed and sick-stained condition was some distance from official Mercedes-Benz display standards.

So once I’d sold it back to its creator, they spent an amount of money they still won’t disclose to be bringing it up to show standards. Perfect in other words. But once the mood had passed, they were going to sell it, I asked for first refusal and for a few more years it was mine once more. I sold it (again) because I wasn’t using it and thought I’d never see it again. But up it’s popped at Stone Cold Classics, looking as good as ever.

Am I tempted? Not really, because I know it would just sit in the shed until I felt so guilty about never driving it I’d only go and sell it again. Besides, while buying the same car twice may be considered a little eccentric, do so three times and it’s fair to expect questions to be asked. At £4,995 I also think it’s quite expensive. Then again, for the right sort of person with the right kind of usage requirement, I couldn’t recommend it too highly.

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