A man and his MercPOSTED BY Vishal Bhaskaran ON 28 July 2015
Men are just boys with age and experience they say, and boys will always have toys; they just get more and more expensive.
Khair Mahfar concurs with this wholeheartedly, “I must always have a toy. There are cars for the family, and there is always something for me to have some fun in.”
Khair’s current toy, if you can call it that, is a fairly mint 1986 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL. The story here is that throughout the years, from the time the 300 SL wheeled its way into Khair’s life, other cars — including two Porsches and a Mini Cooper S — have come and gone but not once did he consider parting with it.
“The reactions I got from people in my Porsches compared with my Merc were very different. There was always someone who wanted to race my 993 turbo but my Merc gets frequent thumbs ups, even to this day. People appreciate it and like to see cars like this still running.”
Khair bought his 300 SL in 1990 for about RM 176,000, spending his entire bonus for that year on it. Amazingly, 25 years down the road, that number is not far off the going rate for an SL of this vintage and condition. This is a moot point of course as he has no intention of selling it, but one worth mentioning as the 300 SL is no one-off exotic.
“As a 1986 car, I knew it was towards the end of the model cycle but that’s exactly why I wanted it. The fact that its both a soft top and hard top convertible at the same time is the beauty of this car, and because the mechanism is mechanical it will never fail.
“Of course putting the roof on is a two man job, but I can go between both styles depending on my mood. On top of that, the 3-litre in my 300 SL was used in a lot of Mercedes models at the time and is well known for being reliable.
“I can get parts for it very easily as well,” he tells Cars, Bikes and Trucks.
The car itself is one of those classics that is clearly well kept, but to a realistic standard for frequent use. This is no garage queen concourse winner in a humidity and temperature controlled room with a technician on call to attend to its every leak and scratch, it’s simply a functional and reliable daily driver.
“My second daughter even used it to go to work and it was absolutely fine.”
Khair, an avid photographer, links his love of Mercs to his favourite brand of camera, Leica; explaining that the German origin and principles of both is where his respect for these household names stems from.
“There has to be something special about a brand that can last more than a hundred years. Mercedes-Benz and Leica both deliver German technology and precision engineering, resulting in timeless machines that can keep on working.”
With retirement came the time and freedom to immerse himself in his photography. Last year alone Khair traveled to India, West Papua, Austria and Switzerland. Pictures of his trip to India are especially colourful, Khair managed to catch the annual Holi festival and emerged absolutely covered from head to toe in the vibrant hues of Holi powder.
“I’ll be going to Greenland and Iceland at the end of August. I may love cars but when it comes to photography, my genres of choice are landscapes and human interest.”
As for catching landscapes in the Merc, every two or three months Khair takes a day trip down to his hometown of Muar, Johor.
“I set off early in the morning, have breakfast there and come back within the afternoon. Not once has it broken down on me, even though its still running the same engine since day one. No overhaul, no failures.”
We’re not going to get into how fast this 62 year-old petrolhead cruises on the highway, but let’s just say that its an impressive number for a car mere months from being 30 years old and another trip down to Johor away from hitting 170,000 kilometres on the odometer.
“They don’t design cars they way they used to. Look at the lines on the SL and the luxurious touch of the chrome trim, its timeless. In time, these touches make a car classic, and classic doesn’t go out of fashion. Trends come and go, but class is forever,” he says.
And what of the future for this beautiful dark blue 300 SL? Khair’s four daughters and, for the time being, two grandchildren will have to fight it out to lay claim to what is a very significant piece of the life of the family patriarch.