The owner of the W108 you see here came to us with a singular vision some time ago, namely his desire to own a fleet of late ‘60s ‘stack light’ Mercedes models spanning all three of the popular body types – this saloon, a W111 Coupe and a W113 ‘Pagoda.’ While work on the coupe has commenced, it is the saloon (since christened ‘Project Kaiser I) that’s evolved furthest, to point where it’s now in the closing stages of final assembly.
Long time followers of Retropower will be aware that we’re firm believers in the virtues of a big, powerful, naturally aspirated engine, which is why we often turn to the LS3 V8 ‘crate engine’ whenever the need for monstrous power and rock solid reliability arises. This is why you’ll now find one of GM’s finest when you peek under the bonnet of Project Kaiser, a high spec motor good for at least 480bhp – and plenty more potentially available should the owner decide he requires it at a later date.
That LS is kept company by another example of rock-solid American engineering, a 4L85-E auto-box, a transmission that’s proved its ability to handle big power situations on countless occasions.
It’s not all US iron underneath this stately German though, we’ve also added in Jaguar front and rear axles, both drawn from an X300 shape XJ. It means we gain far more sophisticated suspension, more advantageous camber and a Limited Slip Differential at a stroke.
Other elements have been less clear cut, the interior for one. It’s an area where Mercedes of this era have long excelled, managing to strike the correct balance between minimalist style and opulence, which in turn meant we faced something of a challenge when the time came to put our own spin on it. Our solution has been to devise a completely bespoke centre console with various inset cubby holes and storage spaces, one of which will eventually house a wireless phone charging port, air suspension and audio controls, and in the rear, a 3D printed insert moulded to a high end bottle of single malt scotch.
The owner’s desire for this car to make an impressive visual statement dictated other areas of its build, including the suspension. The need to allow the completed car to drive at an incredibly low ride height made an Air Lift air suspension the obvious route to go down, the tanks for this now located under the rear of the car. We’ve also carried out modification work to help the car go that bit lower, most obviously the re-mounted front and rear subframes. These have been re-mounted higher up within the shell, a change which effectively kills two birds with one stone – the big Merc looks that bit cooler and optimum suspension travel is retained.
Less is more when it comes to the exterior – even we don’t fancy the prospect of messing with one of Stuttgart’s most beloved designs to date. Malbec Black paintwork and freshly restored brightwork will therefore be the order of the day, paired with some seriously special wheels. They’re actually 17in steels from US Wheel, with cut down versions of the original Mercedes centre caps. There’s more Malbec Black on show, plus a contrasting hit of polished silver for contrast.