The enduring popularity of builds like the Murray Mk1 Escort and the Stratos ‘Zero’ mean that it’s easy to see why Retropower is best known for powerful, highly modified projects. Projects of this kind tend to grab the attention of petrolheasds of all creeds, not to mention garner impressive social media interest – which is understandable when you consider their wholly bespoke nature.
We’re nothing if not resourceful though, which is why we’ve constantly got a number of traditional restoration type projects on the go at any one time. These are inevitably just as tricky to complete as our more ’out there’ undertakings and in some cases can be far more involved, a legacy of the need to adhere to OEM standards. These are some of our favourites.
Mercedes W116 – S-Class
Much of Mercedes’ reputation for building cars seemingly engineered from solid granite stems from cars the like W116, the first Benz to be badged and sold as an S-Class. As such it came with a dizzying array of comfort and safety features, the finest the early ‘70s could muster, many of which wouldn’t be common place for another decade or more.
The W116’s complex construction became somewhat problematic when the time came to restore this example. Something of a family heirloom and therefore a car with a huge degree of emotional importance, the W116 had nevertheless spent the best part of 20 years in a leaky, slowly collapsing barn. This had had a predictable impact on pretty much every area of the big Benz, including its bodywork and interior, both of which required a huge amount of work to restore to factory spec.
Bringing its battery of fiendishly complex systems back up to scratch was just as tricky, with the vacuum operated central, throttle linkage and the 3.5L V8’s trio of oil pressure relief valves all needing significant work. Click through to learn more about this recently completed restoration.
Ford Fiesta RS Turbo
The early ‘90s were an odd time for the hot hatch, the sector having been hit by rocketing insurance premiums and ever tighter emissions regulations. This means that cars like the RS Turbo seen here have taken rather longer to appreciate in value than their 1980s predecessors, which we think is a shame. After all, there’s a lot to admire about hot hatches of this kind, especially when you consider just how light and pleasingly analogue they are in comparison to more modern offerings.
This was at the forefront of our mind when the time came to restore this particular RS, one owned from new by the same individual, Tony Ulyat. It’d spent the early portion of its existence as a daily driver, a task it performed pretty much faultlessly for years until, roughly a decade ago, its T3 turbo gave up the ghost. The Fiesta was promptly tucked away in Tony’s garage where it was to sit for over ten years.
Fords of this vintage aren’t exactly known for their resistance to rot when left to their own devices, so we were as surprised as anyone to discover that, with a few exceptions, Tony’s car had weathered its hibernation remarkably well. In fact, the area in most in need of attention was the one best protected from the elements, the interior. This was both worn and sun-bleached, neither of which were ideal traits in a car due to be taken back to standard. We therefore sourced a complete alternative interior and set about mounting it within the freshly repainted Fiesta shell.
Save for a few, select upgrades, this build was a traditional restoration project. All of these upgrades were subtle and intended to improve the overall performance of the RS, hence the addition of more capable H&R coilovers. and the replacement of the standard exhaust with a free-flowing aftermarket equivalent. Click through to find out more about it.
Mercecdes W113 ‘Pagoda’ x 2
We’re presently in the process of restoring a pair of W113 Pagoda-roofed Mercedes coupes to their former glory, which makes a great deal of sense when you consider just how sought after these cars are these days. Indeed, we regularly joke that these two cars are the only ones actually gaining in value while sat in the Retropower assembly hall.
Progresses on both has recently kicked up a gear once more with both the painted shells being prepared for re-assembly. We’ve also devoted considerable time to their running gear, namely rebuilding the rear axles, having various parts powder coated and rationalizing the build of their inline six engines.
These are of course incredibly specialized cars, and immensely valuable one at that, which brings its own set of challenges when it comes to restoring them. Parts supply is at least good (albeit costly), though we’ve also had to contend with many of the design quirks redolent of Mercedes offerigns from this era.
Our attempt to restore an NSU Ro80 back to its weird, utterly unconventional brilliance has been a challenge – and that’s putting it rather mildly. This is partly down to the innate complexity of the model itself, but also the manner in which this particular example was delivered to us; in large box with very few labels to go off and nothing but a series of vague diagrams to guide us. It was a tall order, basically.
The good news was that the owner of the car recognized the scale of the task ahead of us and stepped in to help, sourcing and purchasing a donor car, itself a tricky undertaking given the rarity of NSUs of all types. Even this aspect of the project didn’t go as smoothly as we’d initially hoped, with the donor vehicle proving to be an early Ro80 and therefore riddled with subtle yet significant spec differences, the strut casings and hub carriers being prime examples.
The NSU’s exterior also presented us with a bit of an uphill struggle, with pretty much every single panel requiring some kind of fabrication task of some kind, all of which meant that it took many months of work before we were finally able to repaint the Ro80 in its original colour, the imaginatively titled ‘Light Metallic Turquoise.’ As to the NSU’s signature Wankel, that’s a rebuild we’ve left that to a rotary specialist.
Click through to learn more about the build so far.