I am not sure how many of you have driven a Mercedes-Benz W124. Not many, I assume, since this car was mostly seen as the prized possession of the affluent, the business types who would read the newspaper on their way to office while being chauffeured. The driver, draped in white overalls and a hat on his head, would maintain a smooth pace regardless of the way the traffic moved because the sethji in the back seat should not be disturbed at any cost. Also, many might confirm that for some reason honking the car ahead that carried the three-pointed badge came off as ill-mannered and disrespectful.
After all these years, it was finally my moment to experience what it felt to drive a W124. However, there was something different about this one; when glanced at, it looks like any other W124 just with big wheels. But head to the front and a large intercooler grabs your attention, almost as big as that mighty grille. It has ‘KSM’ spray painted on it and has shiny stainless-steel pipes with red silicone hoses on either side. The man standing next to it was not only its owner but is also responsible for the first two letters of said acronym. Karan Shah is the owner of KS Motorsport, a well-known car customisation and tuning shop located in the heart of Mumbai in Ballard Estate.
Now, for a person like Shah who spends most of his time tuning and testing souped-up Mitsubishi Evos and Toyota Supras that pump out 400 bhp or more, his daily driver can’t just be a stock W124, right? Which is why, instead of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder mill that it came with from the factory, this one gets a legit 2JZ-GTE! Yes, it’s the very twin-turbo 3.0-litre inline-six that the legendary Supra is famous for. While the Supra was never sold here, there were several Lexuses powered by the same motor that had been imported back then.
With a deep hum from the exhaust as Karan cranked the turbocharged motor, we got rolling, and unlike most 20-year-old cars, this Merc wasn’t a slouch. Every time Karan took his foot off the pedal, the XS blow-off valve issued a sweet whistle, something that even a car hater wouldn’t mind. The BOV is a valve that operates on the vacuum created by the engine on the intake side, thus opening the valve on throttle lift-off to release the high-compressed air produced by the turbos into the atmosphere.
The fascinating thing about turbocharged engines is the way they make the car surge ahead as they generate boost. And when you are sitting in a tank like the one here, the feeling is even more rewarding. In fact, even from the passenger seat, I could feel the car lifting its nose every time the accelerator pedal was smashed to the floor. Inside the car, there isn’t much that gives away the turbocharged behemoth under the hood except the two Autometer Phantom meters; one displays the boost and the other shows the battery’s charge.
Other than that, the only thing that isn’t stock about the interior is the automatic transmission’s gear-shift knob. Now I am sure you might wonder why someone would have an automatic instead of a manual in this car. Well, first of all, it’s a daily driver which means traffic is inevitable, and secondly, it’s a daily driver. When in the mood to leave smoking tyre marks on the road, Shah says he has other cars that are very much capable of doing that.
After a while, Shah handed me the keys to his 124, and left for his workshop. I was like, who does that? As I was driving the max-Merc, lifting off the throttle on purpose to hear that turbo whistle, it struck me that Shah must have quite some faith in this car to leave it with someone who doesn’t know it at all. For the time that I drove it, besides a few pulls to experience the power, I actually enjoyed the car more while cruising, with the sweet lift-off whistle and the deep hum of the exhaust being an audio track that could never get boring. And yes, I can attest that even today, people didn’t dare honk even once, but rather changed their lanes to get ahead without disturbing my sethji moment like no other.
Huge thanks to Karan Shah for letting us drive his utterly unique W124. If you have crazy plans for a project car, call Karan on +919833666333.