For shop owners like Mike Ngo of Eurowise in North Carolina, there are clients that keep the doors open, and clients that make the business worth running. Few shop owners, if any, dream of oil changes and timing belt jobs; instead, it's jobs like those that keep the bills paid and the techs from starving. On occasion though, a client asks a shop to flex their skills and talents, and when Mike was asked to build an over-the-top W108 Benz, he knew just what to do, and put nearly 10 years of Eurowise's experience to work.
Mike's been a fan of the W108 chassis for as long as he can remember. Its classic lines are quintessentially "Mercedes," and it takes the cake as the pinnacle of '60s German luxury cruising. Cruising is the optimal word though, because even on its best day, a 1969 280S is a slog to drive, and there's a reasonable chance a 5 o'clock shadow will appear on a clean shaven face before the speedometer hits 70mph. When a particular client with exciting tastes approached Mike for yet another Eurowise build to add to his collection, Mike pitched the idea of the W108 chassis, but with a few considerable twists. With aspirations to mix old school German flair with a bit of an American hot rodder's mentality, the hunt began for the right car to chop to pieces.
At minimum, the newest W108s are 45 years old. Finding one without considerable rot or prior damage is an uphill battle, and with values on the rise as collectability increases, it took a number of weeks for Mike to track down the right example. Eventually, he purchased one sight-unseen from an elderly man in Pennsylvania, whom had owned the car since new. Having kept the car stored in the garage on his estate, it sounded ultimately promising, with a description that rivaled most museum pieces . After taking great care not to let the original owner discover the inevitable destiny for his pride and joy, a deal was struck and the car was driven back to North Carolina without so much as a hiccup, and arrived in perfect condition, no less.
Diving into the project, Mike wanted to push the limits and capability of Eurowise's talents. Traditionally, the shop has shied away from such in-depth builds, but with the capability to perform such a task, Mike went all-in, put pen to paper, and planned out his vision for the ultimate W108.
Mike opened with a solid point: as great as the W108 looks bagged and laid out, it seems rare for anyone to go far beyond that. Wanting to build upon the stylistically incredible laid-out slab stance of a bagged W108, Mike drew inspiration from classic Americana, and in more ways than one. The first order: a chopped top. After sourcing a second W108 to offer its roof panels, the team at Eurowise sectioned 4 inches from the A, B, and C pillars of the sedan. Not anticipating aspects like seals, glass, and trim to be the hardest part of the chop, the team was feeling confident with the rood back on and installed without too much stress. The details, on the other hand, were maddening. It took 4 different windshields and attempts to get the front glass correct, and with ambitions of chopping the top in a factory-like manner, there was simply no other option for the Eurowise team.
The chopped top gave the car a bit of "wow factor" without the need for bolt-on flares or other in-your-face mods. Following the same mindset, the team opted to build a set of suicide doors - rear doors that open rearward - much akin to the iconic Lincoln Continental. It's no easy task either, requiring custom hinges at the back of the rear doors, and new latch mechanisms moved to the front. The door handle was relocated, and the internal door mechanisms were redesigned to match. The result only aids to the low-slung aesthetic that the Benz exudes.
Further exterior mods are a bit more subtle. The car's sidemarkers and bumpers were all shaved, as were the rear emblems and other tidbits. Quad projector headlights were retrofitted into the W108's original stacked-light bezels, giving modern lighting with a vintage touch. Best of all is the re-worked E38 BMW Alpina lip spoiler. The E38's lip was split into 6 pieces and lengthened to match the width of the W108. Mike opted for speed holes through the center which offer air to a massive oil cooler that lurks behind it. Of course, there's no ignoring the massive intercooler that sits where the grille shell should be, too.
Enough beating around the bush... As mentioned before the 280S's original lump struggled to move the car at modern speeds, so in Eurowise fashion, he took things over-the-top. A .30-bored-over 5.3 LS with forged internals sits at the heart of the engine build. A custom camshaft and fully built heads are present to support a huge Borg Warner S366 turbocharger, which is perched atop tuburlar forward-facing manifolds and pipes out to a full 3" ceramic coated exhaust. Fitech standalone controls the operation, and power is routed out through a 6-speed T56 equipped with an S1 sequential shifter. It's high-tech race-ready performance built for a purely street-driven build.
Mike continued with the overhaul for the car's running gear. Custom air suspension was built, utilizing two management systems: Air Lift Performance's 3P system offers daily-driver friendliness, and is paired with 1/4" lines for smooth control. It makes the car easy to simply hop in and drive at any time without a second thought. The client for the car did have a lust for that old school low rider quick lift and drop, so Mike built a second system that runs in tandem with the Air Lift components: a 7-switch manual box with 1/2" air lines that gives the car a bit of "hop" on demand.
Wilwood master cylinders and remote reservoirs were enlisted to help update the car's braking system, and were paired with a set of 380mm 8-piston Brembos in the front and Brembo 4-piston calipers for the rear. A wilwood hydraulic e-brake is present too, and finalizing the running gear is a massive splined Nascar-style sway bar for the car's heavy front end. Custom one-off 2-piece Formula wheels measuring out to 18x8 and 18x9 finalize the car's exterior and seem right at home, considering the style of the build.
It would have been easy enough to leave the interior alone in perfect, untouched original condition, but that wasn't enough for Mike or his client. Black suede and leather were paired in a hexagon pattern that is present throughout the car's interior. Carbon dash accents and a gear position indicator bring about some modern touches, too. A modern C63 steering wheel gives a new-car feel and sense of feedback, keeping the 1960's technology within the car to a bare minimum. The team at Eurowise also added power windows, power door locks, bluetooth connectivity, and every other mentionable bell and whistle.
While the 280s certainly has that vintage car appeal, the team intended to bring the driving experience up to the current century. Wanting the car to offer anything and everything that a new Benz might, very little remains from the W108's roots, except for perhaps the most important part of it: its gorgeous and iconic nature. Eurowise stepped out of their comfort zone to tackle such an in-depth built, but the hard work shows, and they've built what is undoubtedly one of the coolest and most unique vintage Mercedes on the road, period.