When a blazing inferno incinerated his prize BMWs, Ian ‘Woody’ Woodridge looked to Stuttgart to replace his Munich-made mile munchers, and the resulting bagged Mercedes W114 is pure fire!
Feature from Fast Car. Words & Photography: Chuff Media
Acrid black smoke and the heat from searing flames fills the atmosphere. The smell of burning oil, rubber and leather penetrates Ian Woodridge’s nostrils and carves the moment further into his subconscious memory. Unfortunately, for Ian, or ‘Woody’ to his mates, this wasn’t a moment that he cared to remember, as this was the instant that he lost his four-wheeled pride and joy to the relentless destruction of a blazing inferno.
“My garage had caught fire with my beloved E36 M3 Evo and E21 316 still inside,” he remembers with a sigh. “I’d had the cars for quite a while and had a lot of fun in them over the years, so it was heart-breaking to lose them in that way.”
As a die-hard BMW-fan, these were just the tip of the iceberg of Munich-made motors that Ian had owned over the years, and a betting man would’ve stuck the house on the fact that he’d replace his incinerated steeds with another from the revered German manufacturer. But they would’ve lost…
“I love my BMWs, but I’ve owned loads over the years and decided that it was time to try something different,” says the Cornwall-based car-nut. “A friend of mine had acquired a Mercedes W114 as a project and it just looked so cool. I knew there and then that I wanted to go down a similar route with my next build.”
After the tyre-shredding M3, an old-school Mercedes barge would place less emphasis on performance, but with the right stance and mods, it would surely be more than capable of turning some heads.
This particular car popped up on Facebook and Ian soon discovered it was actually only a few miles down the road from him.
“It was like it was meant to be!” he chuckles. “A few more messages later I’d arranged a viewing and it only took me a few minutes of seeing it and the car was mine. It was not on the road at the time, so the first thing was to drop it off at a local classic car garage to have the basics rectified and make her road worthy.”
A stream of ideas was already tumbling through Ian’s brain at this point and, whilst waiting for the car to be made roadworthy again, he found and ordered the wheels. Wanting to keep it OEM, but with a modern twist, he found a set of one-piece Mercedes Barock wheels (also known as Mexican Hats) that had been converted to three-piece split rims from a seller in Budapest. Reasoning that these unique hoops would fit the bill perfectly, he completed the order and the wheels were soon winging their way to sunny Cornwall.
Whilst various car parts were travelling the globe on their way to Ian’s house, the man himself was lining up the next phase of the project. He got in touch with Carl Shakespeare at Hampshire-based car-audio experts Studio Incar and they discussed his ideas regarding a custom air ride install, complete with boot build and a few other unique tweaks.
“Studio Incar came up with a plan for the Mercedes install,” Ian says. “So as soon as the wheels arrived and the tyres were fitted, they were bolted to the car and it was driven to their unit for the fancy upgrades to begin.”
The custom air-ride kit comprises custom mounts, Air Lift Performance bags with Accuair management and a custom boot build with copper hard lines and a polished tank. Wood facades complete the look, while a period Becker headunit and cassette player was also installed in the dash.
With the car now sounding great on the inside and looking the part with adjustable lows at the flick of a switch, next up was the bodywork, which was in dire need of some attention, as the car had been sat around for some time and it showed.
To fix the lackluster paintwork, the car was stripped down and the shell delivered to BPA Bodyshop in Launceston, Cornwall for a full respray, whilst the chrome trim was sent off to Doug Taylor Polishing in Weston Super Mare to be overhauled. The bootlid, bonnet and doors were all media blasted to find the best surface to start from and the rest of the car was taken back to bare metal too – apart from the engine bay, which we’ll come to shortly…
The car was originally white with a black roof but, with the respray underway, Ian reasoned that it was the perfect time to mix-up the colour scheme.
“After what seemed like an eternity flicking through Mercedes colour palettes, I eventually found Havana Brown, which seemed to fit much better with my retro-style vision, and so I had the roof and accents painted in this colour.”
Once the car’s new top coat was complete, all of the refreshed chrome trim was re-installed and from the outside the car was better than new! For a while, at least, Ian reveled in the car’s fresh new look and took the opportunity to just get out and enjoy it, attending a few shows like Retro Rides at Shelsey Walsh and, on one occasion, even stopping on his way to get a custom exhaust fitted by Infinity Exhausts in Bristol, which tucked the system out of the way and allowed the car to sit much lower when aired out.
With a few more shows under his belt – and a few awards won – Ian’s confidence in the car was growing, which was timed nicely with an invitation to attend the 100% Tuning Show in Ahoy Arena Rotterdam. His friend Rory Hamilton was going in his W115 so the pair decided to make a road trip out of it.
Before such a long trip it’s wise to ensure your vehicle is in tip top mechanical condition and, despite having already attended numerous shows in the UK, the car was still running on its LPG conversion, as it didn’t run terribly well on petrol. With the 100% Tuning event looming, Ian decided to bite the bullet, get a new set of carbs and have it all setup correctly.
Excited for their European road trip the guys set off for Rotterdam, however, just several miles away on the M4 the car decided it didn’t like the new setup Ian had spent all his hard earned cash on, and refused to run correctly. After fiddling with it a bit, Ian switched the vehicle back to LPG and it ran all the way to Holland and back without fault. The only issues they were left with was how to ask for LPG in garages across Europe by using hand gestures, and an unfortunate mishap with a car-wide pothole somewhere in Belgium that wrote off two of Ian’s split rims. Nevertheless, she still got him home.
Back in Cornwall, with the memories of all the beautiful show vehicles he had seen at the 100% Tuning event fresh in his memory, Ian decided that over the following winter he would remove the engine and gearbox and smooth the engine bay.
“This was easier said than done,” he laughs. “The first hurdle being to ‘persuade’ the rusty, 45-year-old bolts that held the engine mounts and gearbox to the car, to kindly release. Eventually I won that battle though, and the engine and ‘box came free.”
It was at this moment Ian decided that, given the fueling issue, the original engine was not going to go back in. So he enlisted RHM Bodyshop to paint the bay with a semi-OEM/smooth look.
“The bodyshop media-blasted the whole front end and engine bay which literally opened up a can of worms,” Ian remembers. “There were holes everywhere due to corrosion. This meant that new panels were needed, which I eventually located in Germany and the USA, as there were none in the UK for this model.”
One hurdle complete, it was on to the new engine. An engine swap was actually never part of Ian’s initial plans for the car, but these things happen for a reason and he’s glad they did. Wanting to keep the powerplant Mercedes, he initially flirted with the idea of fitting a Mercedes Cosworth engine, but he couldn’t find one. Then, after seeing a few euro guys running the Mercedes M104 engine in similar cars, Ian started considering it as a possible swap, before one randomly presented itself for sale locally.
“Fate had stepped in once again,” he laughs. “It was like the universe wanted me to build this car!”
But although the engine was from the same manufacturer, this was far from a straightforward swap, as it required custom mounts to be made and the subframe to be modified to accommodate the extra depth of the new engine.
With the new parts mocked up, everything started to take shape. To tidy things further Ian moved the battery to the boot, and tucked all the wires neatly into the wings. The horn and washer bottle were also relocated to inside the wings and the fusebox moved under the dashboard.
To give the bulkhead that really clean look, the brake servo was also deleted and a pedal box was fitted, with the pedal box reservoirs hidden in the glove box. The heater matrix was also removed to complete the smooth look.
With the engine bay smoothed, plus everything tucked away or relocated, it was certainly looking a lot cleaner under the bonnet, so all that was left was to strip and repaint the engine and the manual Cosworth five-speed dogleg gearbox Ian had sourced to mate to it. The engine bay and the front end were then fully repainted too and the whole lot refitted, completing the car’s front end refresh.
With the car at the bodyshop, having more facial work than a footballer’s wife, Ian was busy making calls and doing deals to rebuild his damaged wheels. Two of the lips were ruined beyond repair so he decided to go for a wider set and colour-code them, so got in contact with OnlyChargedDubs about supplying some lips and then spoke to Dan at Wheel Unique about stripping them down, changing the colour of the centres and rebuilding them with new gold bolts, a combo that looks great in our opinion.
Taking stock, Ian had now done the exterior refresh, custom air ride, smoothed and tucked the engine-swapped bay and even revamped the wheels, but there remained one area that was letting the overall build down – the interior.
“The interior didn’t look great, so I stripped it out and sent it to Studio Incar for a revamp,” Ian says. “Carl suggested a red tweed retrim to complement the retro look and, I have to say, I reckon it fits with the colour scheme perfectly.”
The interior makeover complete and LPG tank removed – as it was no longer needed – Ian could see that there was finally light at the end of the tunnel, with just a custom manifold and loom needed to get the ‘90s engine working properly in this 1969 classic.
“I was booked in to show the car at Retro Rides, but unfortunately it wasn’t quite ready to be driven,” he recounts. “But, not wanting to miss out, I trailered it there and even did a windscreen retrofit at the show with many bemused onlookers. The weekend went well and I received a lot of positive comments and praise about the car, which made all of the stress and running around to get things finished more than worth it.”
The whole look was then completed when Ian received a phone call from a friend in France that runs Classiqueautoworks. He had stumbled across a genuine rear window louvre made by Autoplas. It was specifically a W114 louvre, so fitted Ian’s car perfectly and, before he knew it, the louvre was on its way and on his car.
“I was initially apprehensive about making the switch from BMW to Mercedes, but this old girl has been absolutely awesome,” Ian beams. “Not only has it scooped me silverware at various shows, but it also got me invited to join Auto Finesse’s ambassador program too, which is a real honour.”
Which just goes to prove that, with modified cars, it’s not just the badge on the bonnet that counts, but the skill, effort and ingenuity to make something stand out from the crowd – elements that Ian’s smoking hot bagged Mercedes W114 has in spades.
Tech Spec: Bagged Mercedes W114
2.8-litre M104 engine swap, custom wiring loom, DTA S80 standalone ECU, custom polished manifold, fully tucked custom exhaust system, K&N air filter, full engine overhaul and recondition, custom hidden wiring loom, brake servo removed, horn and washer bottle hidden in wings along with other wiring, battery relocated to the boot
Mercedes Cosworth dog-leg 5-speed gearbox, Cosworth clutch, Cosworth gear linkages and gear shift
Custom Air-ride setup using Air Lift bags and Accuair management, custom mounts, all designed and fitted by Studio Incar
Wheels & Tyres:
Original 15in Mercedes Barock centres painted in Mercedes Havana Brown converted into 3-piece custom split rims, 2in front and 2.5in rear lips, all new gold hardware, supplied and made by Wheel Unique, 215/40/15 white wall Falken tyres, polished centre caps
Full bare metal respray in two tone off white and Havana brown, smoothed bay with new inner wings and custom bulkhead, new strut mounts, custom subframe painted Havana brown with all reconditioned suspension parts, all chrome trims re-refreshed, new black grille inserts, very rare rear window louvre
Full retrim in red tweed, Air-ride controller frenched into centre console, all new carpets, new sound deadening, new brown seat belts, rear window blind, custom boot build to fit around the original spare wheel in wood trim to match the original dash, period Becker headunit and cassette player