The TG Garage Brabus Mercedes needs an engine rebuild. So we've bought seats and a stereo | Top Gear
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The TG Garage Brabus Mercedes needs an engine rebuild. So we've bought seats and a stereo

Mark’s Brabus project is coming along... just very, very slowly

Published: 23 Jan 2023

Internationally renowned photographer Mark has been working with TG for many, many years. When not taking photos he’s buying inappropriate cars. Here he shares his addiction with the world...

Imagine buying a 50in smart TV while water pours from your ceiling every time the toilet flushes. That wouldn’t make any sense as a homeowner, so why is it perfectly acceptable as soon as it’s a car?

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I refuse to believe I’m alone in this thinking. Maintenance is a bit boring. Yes, it’s necessary and often costly, but more annoying than that is the fact you don’t get anything ‘new’ in return. Whereas buying something unnecessary and pointless? Phwoar, sign me right up.

In 2021 I bought two Brabus W126 Mercedes because I’m greedy and oblivious to the work required to keep (two) near 40-year-old cars on the road. I sold one to a friend in America because it needed too much work. But the other one? Well that only needed a few bits to get it sweet again, so that one stayed. But one of those bits happens to be the ‘bulletproof’ M117.9 engine which has somehow starved itself of oil despite being driven just 13 miles in as many months. The right thing to do would involve a rebuild to make it roadworthy once again.

Unfortunately, the ‘right thing to do’ didn’t factor in a pair of Recaro CSE seats coming up for sale. If you’re not a total Mercedes nerd, these seats were the pinnacle of pre-merger AMG goodness. They’re shaped almost like wingback chairs and feature an entire panel of electric buttons for adjustment.

They also cost more than a replacement engine, which either shows how cheap an Eighties Mercedes V8 is or how expensive leather Recaro CSEs are. The truth is somewhere between the two as usual.

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Obviously, that meant pausing the engine work. But CSEs rarely come up for sale in good condition. You’d be foolish not to take a minor detour for a set, and they’ll always be worth good money. They are fairly useless without a working car, though.

So is a rare, four-spoke Intervolante AMG steering wheel. That was the next distraction which continued to take the engine rebuild on an even longer detour. But, like those seats, it’ll always be worth decent money because it’s collectible. Assuming it’ll actually steer a moving Brabus Mercedes. Now, engine time.

Hold that thought. Because this is Ricci’s Garage, and if I approached things logically each page would be very tedious and boring. What I actually need to do is throw all common sense out the window and dive headfirst into the world of Eighties car audio. Because nothing says Eighties excess like a tower of gold-plated audio crammed into a car that barely had a working radio.

You’re looking at a Clarion ‘stack’ and when fitted it’ll take over half the dashboard. That’s because there’s four amplifiers, a tape deck, AM/FM tuner and a proper manual equaliser. This too seemed to cost more than a replacement engine, but just look at it. These days we’re lucky to get a single USB slot and a touchscreen. But in the 1000SEL era? Buttons on every panel, every illumination known to man and the ability to tweak every speaker’s performance individually.

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This does leave the Brabus back at square one; sitting in the same spot for several months more while saving begins again for the engine rebuild. In my defence, all of these Gucci parts will add to the driving experience at some point (hopefully) soon... assuming nothing else interesting comes up for sale in the meantime. 

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