1982 Mercedes-Benz 230GE Cabriolet short-wheelbase W460
Signal of intent Restored by Cardock Classics in Ireland, this 230GE Cabriolet must be one of the best in the world What started out as a paint polish turned into a detailed restoration of a rare open-topped G-Wagen in Ireland, and now it could be coming up for sale Restored 230GE Cabriolet. Words Shane O’ Donoghue. Images Paddy Mcgrath.
Achim Gottstein likens the process of restoring a car to that of his day job. As the co-director of Gottstein Architects in Ireland, he’s used to a painstaking process of sourcing a seemingly infinite number of individual components to make a project whole.
Despite that, Achim – with a softly spoken Irish accent that doesn’t at first make any sense of his German surname – admits that he never bought the 460-series G-Wagen you see here with the intention of restoring it. This isn’t his first rodeo, as they say. Indeed, Achim inherited a W126 S-Class from his German father (hence the surname) and it was restored several years ago. Unsurprisingly, he’s holding onto that one, unlike a series of 124 Estates and a 123 Coupe he owned for various periods.
The story of Achim’s G-Class Cabriolet starts with that 123, or rather, the sale of it. The buyer enquired as to why he was selling the car and the answer was that Achim had developed a desire to own a G-Wagen. It turned out that the same person was a bit of a G-Wagen expert, and he agreed to help track down a suitable car.
He soon discovered the red 230GE shown here, a left-hand drive model that was unrestored but rust-free from a life spent mostly in Monaco. Achim didn’t move quickly enough, and it was sold to a buyer that intended to export it to Florida to make the most of the combination of the open roof and the (rare) factory-fit air conditioning.
That never happened. Achim tells us that the owner strongly considered replacing the 2.3-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine with a diesel alternative so it wouldn’t cost a fortune to drive regularly. However, it seems that everyone the owner approached with the idea was reticent to take on the project, suggesting that it would ruin an otherwise pristine and original example of the car, especially as there were only some 27,000 or so examples of the 460-series Cabriolet manufactured. In 2017, he decided to sell it on instead.
Achim didn’t hesitate this time. Before taking delivery of the Mercedes from London, he sent it to be checked over by a specialist in Northern Ireland. No engine rebuild was required, but the four-cylinder powerplant was fully overhauled, and the four-wheel drive system checked and serviced. A few months and nearly £8,000 later, Achim received the car and took it straight to Cardock Classics in County Kildare, Ireland. As we’ve reported before, Cardock has established itself as a high-end restoration business that focuses on high quality and authentic renovations of mostly Mercedes.
The initial intention was to buff the sun-bleached paint, but it just flaked away as it was so thin. However, that revealed metal in exceptional condition underneath, so Achim gave the go ahead for a back-to-metal restoration of the body. “The project grew arms and legs from there, and next thing you know I’m commissioning bespoke material for the new interior,” he wryly adds.
Indicating how good the bodywork was, Cardock spent less than 20 hours on it, as opposed to some 280 hours expended on Achim’s dad’s W126. Achim himself spent a lot more time and energy on the rest of the G-Wagen, however. He realised that the wrong seats and seat covers were fitted, so he sourced an original set of G-Wagen Recaro seats.
Nevertheless, the upholstery, also used on the contemporary R107 SL, is no longer available, so Achim travelled to the Techno Classica Essen show in Germany and found a woman that could weave it from scratch. Achim mentions a minimum order, but glosses over the cost and details. He then couldn’t find anyone in Ireland to upholster the seats in a useful timeframe so had them done in Germany, too.
He took this opportunity to add electric heating to the front seats. Technically, this option was not available in 1983 – the year of manufacture of this car – as it was introduced in 1986, but the implementation and components are as fitted to the 460 G-Wagen, so he doesn’t mind this small deviation from standard in the name of everyday comfort in the winter.
We don’t need to avail of the heated seats in our warm day driving the car. Indeed, any kind of chilling effect is notably absent from the air conditioning… and it’s warm work grappling with the recalcitrant four-speed manual gearbox and heavy clutch in busy traffic, though the 2.3-litre engine is tractable enough.
Officially it made 123bhp, but at 5,000rpm, which we’re not about to subject it to. Thankfully, there was over 140lb ft of torque a little lower down and that’s plenty of go to push the G-Wagen along at modern traffic pace – up to a point. On one section of dual carriageway, we meekly stick to the inside lane, as there’s nothing sonorous about the four-cylinder engine’s machinations at higher speeds. Still, the upright windows afford great visibility in all directions, while it’s easy to judge the extremities thanks to the straight-cut proportions and the iconic indicators atop the front wings. It also helps that the G-Wagen is a slender car by modern standards.
We’re not brave enough to remove the roof, and Achim admits that he has only done so a handful of times. It takes just six bolts and an electrical connector and the roof itself isn’t heavy, so two people can easily manage it. He chuckles telling us that he did once drive around Dublin with the roof off “feeling like an eejit,” though like us all he can well imagine it cruising around the sunsoaked streets of Monte Carlo.
Achim managed to track down the original owner of the car, now living in the US, and have a conversation about his time with it. He was an airline executive with bases in Monaco and Belgravia in London, and he regrets passing the car on as he has fond memories of driving it about with his kids in the back seats. In about 2008, he gifted the G-Wagen to his French driver, who it seems never officially changed its ownership before selling it to a Londoner. That owner kept it only two months before selling it to the person Achim bought it from.
Despite the great back story, and the work Achim put into the G-Wagen, he never found the time to use it very often, putting less than 500 miles on the clock. It’s now showing 25,840km (just over 16,000 miles) and Achim is looking to sell it on. Why? We got a sense that he wants another project as he realises that the process of restoring the G-Wagen was perhaps more exciting than the end result. As he puts it, if he saw this car up for sale now at the price it is now expected to reach, he wouldn’t buy it to drive it as it’s too valuable. It has become an investment piece, which is not what he is interested in. So, it’s likely that he’s going to cash in and buy something else.
But what? It’s likely to be a W113 SL Pagoda or a W111 Coupe. He has already visited HK-Engineering in Germany to test drive a few cars and loved the rawness of the in-line six-cylinder engine, though is also considering a V8-powered 280SE 3.5 if he can find one at the right price and, this time around, very much with his eye on restoration. A fixer-upper, as they might say in his business.
Just the facts 1982 Mercedes-Benz 230GE Cabriolet short-wheelbase W460
- ENGINE M102 2,299cc 4-cyl
- Max POWER 123bhp @ 5,000rpm
- Max TORQUE 142lb ft @ 4,000rpm
- TRANSMISSION 4-speed manual, 4WD
- WEIGHT 1,830kg
- TOP SPEED 94mph
- FUEL CONSUMPTION 16.5mpg
- YEARS PRODUCED 1982-1991
All figures from Mercedes-Benz for a 1983 car as pictured; fuel consumption according to EEC urban
Underbody cleaned and better protected. Bosch fuel injection; power is adequate. Body was taken back to metal; only minor rust. 25,840km on the clock; rare factory air con. Small dealer badge hints at Monaco life… Very straight panels and tanklike door hinges. Original set of Recaros with fresh upholstery.
The upright windows afford great visibility in all directions
Indicating how good the bodywork was, Cardock spent less than 20 hours on it
The initial intention was to buff the sun-bleached paint, but it just fl aked away as it was so thin