Classic Mercedes in Surat Thani, Thailand

Surat Thani is a mid sized city in southern Thailand.   It is home to about 120,000 people and is a regional centre for agriculture.    The main business is trade in crops such as Rubber, Coconuts, Palm oil etc.   It is not a tourist destination, but it does function as a connection point for those traveling to islands like Koh Samui via ferry.

I’ve been surprised how many classic Mercedes are still on the road and in daily service.    I see a lot more of them than I do in Sydney.   On most days I’ll see a couple of W123s and a bunch of W124s.    Most of them a clearly doing daily use, but there are also a few that have been nicely done up.   I’m sure it takes real effort to keep these cars on the road as the climate (which is very humid for much of the year) is not kind to the cars.

Surat Thani

The cars I’ve seen on the road have all been saloons.   I’ve seen a couple of coupes in various stages of repair, but not wagons.     Seeing an S-Class is also very rare.

The car culture is also very different here in Surat Thani than in Sydney.   Most of the cars are modified in some way – normally wheels, steering wheel, radio and even bumpers, complete interiors and sometimes body kits.    I was also told about one that had an Isuzu motor and gearbox.

The W124s are mostly the final facelift models, predominantly E220s, but with some E280s in the mix.    The pre-facelift models are mostly 230Es, but I’ve seen a couple of 260s and a 300.    The wiring harness issues that scare off buyers in Australia off the final models are probably less of an issue here as labour is cheaper than parts.

I read somewhere that there were a lot of UK delivery Mercedes exported to right hand drive countries in this part of the world during the 80s, 90s and 2000s.   This seems to make sense, as all the W123s I could see past the tint had their instrument clusters in MPH.  Back then, they were basically worthless in the UK, but fairly valuable out in Asia.

Surat Thani

On the first day I noticed a mechanic shop with a bunch of classic Mercedes out the front.   I was able to stop buy a couple of days later to take a few photos and have a chat with the owner.   There were a lot of nice cars in there, including some other models I don’t normally see on the roads here.

These included a W116, C123, C124, W201 and a /8.  There was also a C107 shell that had just been painted.    The W116 was badged as a 450SEL, but it had a manual transmission, and looked like a short wheelbase.   The /8 model was a 200 petrol.    The C123 was a very early UK model with the burl wood interior.   The seats had been redone in modern pattern like a W126 SEC.     Regardless it was great to see these cars still on the road.    They probably wouldn’t be if they had remained in the UK.

I also stopped by another mechanic shop that had a couple of W123s  in the lot.    The only other marque that is even close to as well represented on the roads is Volvo.  I’ve seen a couple of 7 and 9 series models driving around.

Both mechanics indicated they find their parts mostly from Bangkok or overseas, but that old Mercedes were popular in the Muslim areas in the south of the country and its sometimes possible to get parts from there too.

In addition, the city buses seem to be old Mercedes from the 60s.   Most of them have Mercedes badges on them.   However, a couple have Hino badges, and look very similar.   They seem to be front engined, which according to wikipedia doesn’t seem to make sense for Mercedes buses of the era.    They all have W123 turn signals!    Possible they were older chassis, or even truck chassis locally bodied.  Or perhaps they are all Hinos and the Mercedes Badge just has more cache.

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