There’s a Japanese Shop Turning Out Flawless Classic Mercedes-Benz Station Wagons and G-Wagens
Cheaper than a new Benz—and with a manual transmission, seven seats, and plaid fabric, it’s a better buy, too.
It's often said that the cars of today lack the soul of their ancestors. What we've gained in technology and safety is a pyrrhic victory in the face of sublimating a model's original character to meet modern standards. But here's your chance to buck convention: There's place across the sea that will sell you a restored W124 Mercedes-Benz station wagon—the predecessor to today's E-Class estate—for less than the cost of a new one. Oh, and they do G-Wagens, too.
Arrows is a small outfit in a squat little building on a side street in Kawasaki, Japan, and for a starting price of around $31,000 it'll build you the throwback Teutonic touring of your 1980s fever dreams, car included. That number can climb as high as $53,000 for a tear-down restoration like the stick-shift wagon in these photos, but even that base cost nets you a nicely-preserved Mercedes-Benz 300TE with a retro flat paint job, outrageously good plaid interior, old-style wheel caps, and reconditioned mechanicals. Never mind that $53K is still well under what people usually pay for custom craftsmanship.
Some specifics: The Arrow Classic Line paint options include the original Mercedes-Benz color "Pueblo Beige," a "Light Ivory" shade used for taxis in Germany, and "Rodeo Gray." The respray also comes with small ding and dent corrections, plastic reconditioning, and semi-period-correct wheel caps from the early in the W124 production run to give the wagon that perfect time-capsule look.
You can opt for an airbag-less older steering wheel, and the rest of that plaid-tastic interior fabric is a custom touch to emulate the spirit if not the reality of the era. To our eyes, the only iffy decision is the blacked-out wood trim on the dashboard and center console—but admittedly it does add a clean, almost spartan vibe.
Throw in the optional (and out of production) rooftop luggage rack and you've got a car that seats seven and carries cargo with more panache and style than any overwrought crossover this side of the new millennium. It'll likely last just as long, too; consider that the W124, made from 1984 to 1996, was the last of the supremely overbuilt Mercedes cars, capable of 500,000 miles or more in the right set of caring hands. Buying from a shop that specializes in the model and runs its own parts warehouse like Arrows is a far cry from picking one up in a private transaction or even a fully-vetted auction.
Unlike most of these bespoke projects, Arrows Classic Line doesn't have a months-long waiting list. The shop will happily build you a station wagon to spec, even let you provide your own base car for a discount, but it's also made several examples to seed its regular used car inventory. You can buy this manual-transmission 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300TE in Pueblo Beige with the roof rack and a spotless 3.0-liter inline-six under the hood right now for $52,882 at current exchange rates. Too much? This automatic 1995 Mercedes-Benz 320TE is right around $35,000.
Meanwhile, Arrows has begun applying the Classic Line touch to the original 2- and 4-door Mercedes-Benz G-Class. The military-based Gelandewagen is famous (or infamous) for running with the same essential bones from 1979 to 2018, though 1990 saw the first heavy update that solidified the truck's image as a luxurious status symbol. For $44,000 (tax not included), Arrows will find you a solid Nineties truck and give it the same makeover as the wagon to throw it back to the earliest civilian models.
The unfussy paint, checkered seats, flat black dashboard, and black steel wheels are wonderfully humbling touches. But it's the return to the original front grille in all its plastic glory that makes the Classic Line G-Class shine like the utilitarian star it once was.
Though anyone outside Japan will have to deal with the hassle and expense of shipping one of these, the fact that most of the W124 production run has aged out of America's 25-year import ban is cause for relief. And at the end, this is without question a better financial choice than a brand-new Benz. "Please come find our W124 life that we make possible," reads a poor Google Translate of the shop's About page. How can you say no to that?