Outside Cape Town in the northern suburbs resides a collector who has a sincere Mercedes-Benz obsession. We pay Brendan Moran a visit.
Words and pictures: Wilhelm Lutjeharms
Brendan hands me a file and I slowly start to page through it. It is neither an owner’s manual of a car nor one of his many folders filled with brochures that he has been collecting over the years. No, it is a folder filled with car drawings he made as a young boy. Brendan’s passion for cars really dates back to the very start of his life.
Today he has a number of real Mercedes-Benzes in his collection. It is also a collection that changes, depending on what cars happen to cross his path. Just recently he sold one to purchase another. However, I sense that selling that one didn’t come easy. But, back to the collection...
His garage can’t house all the cars, so some are stored in other places. But today all the “children” are home and he eagerly shares their histories (and how he got to own them) with me as we walk through his private collection.
“I had a W123 Mercedes-Benz draad kar (wire car) and used to drive it like it was no one’s business. I used to play in the back of our garden with our dogs and my model cars. When my parents got married in Swakopmund, Namibia, they bought a new 1973 Triumph Chicane. They kept the car throughout the years and when I turned 16, my father gave me the car and I learned to drive in that Triumph. We even joined the Triumph sports car club. From a young age I started to go to car shows and my father also took me to every Killarney race meeting. We sat on the stands at Malmesbury corner.
“When I was in high school, one of my dad’s friends raced at Killarney and I used to help him in the pits during the races. Years later my first real car was an Opel Kadett 160iS. I added a K&N filter, a free-flow exhaust and even headrests for the rear seats.
“Eventually I bought my first classic car, a 1981 Mercedes-Benz 230 TE. That is where the madness started! It is simply one of the most iconic models Mercedes-Benz ever made. I joined the Mercedes-Benz club and met fellow enthusiasts and saw all their car collections. Meeting these people and seeing their collections totally inspired me. Then I started doing some research to see what I could afford.
“I paid a good price for the TE. When I test drove it, it bogged down three times. Because of this issue, my offer was relatively low. In the end, it only needed a new fuel pump and the fuel tank had to be restored because it stood for a long time before it came onto the market. It was a bit of a gamble, but it paid off in the end.
“I searched for three years to find the right SLC. I found this 1978 450 example in Johannesburg where it belonged to an elderly gentleman. I saw the car online and phoned him after walking out of a work meeting. He informed me that a few potential buyers had already come to have a look at the car. I don’t know what happened, but at the end of the conversation he said that he could hear I am a car guy and that he will give me first option on the car for a day or two. The next day I flew to Johannesburg and purchased the car.
“The next classic I added to the collection was the 1984 380 SEC and then the 1980 W116 350 SE. The most recent addition is a 1983 W123 CE.”
When I ask Brendan what he enjoys the most about his cars and the ownership experiences, his answer points in a different direction than I had expected: “The people! If it wasn’t for these cars, I wouldn’t know all these other enthusiasts and collectors I’ve met over the years. I wouldn’t be organising track days for people and be doing all these outings.
“The thing is, you don’t need to be wealthy to enjoy cars or even a single car. You can have just as much fun and be a club member even by owning a humble W123 sedan.
“I’m just glad I can enjoy my passion and car culture. These days I just appreciate the fact that I can now take my father to these car gatherings and club outings, after all the years that he took me along as a young boy.”
As we pull out Brendan’s various three-pointed stars, it is interesting to note how solid and classy these cars are, surely part of the reason why they have such a strong following.
A few weeks later Brendan WhatsApps me. The message contained a few images… Another 90s Mercedes-Benz has been added to the collection!