K.T. Pillai’s Mercedes-Benz W108 280S Restoration – The Memory Mobile

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K.T. Pillai’s Mercedes-Benz W108 280S Restoration – The Memory Mobile

We were in the final days of Ramadhan when we received a message from Mr. K.T. Pillai, a man from Ipoh. He informed us of his two prized possessions – a red Toyota MR2 SW20 and this Mercedes-Benz W108 280s. Thank you again, K.T., for your excellent hospitality.

The Story

K.T. himself has an interesting backstory. His late grandfather was from Sri Lanka, his mother is Chinese, and he is a multi-racial, multi-lingual, and multi-talented professional emcee with a passion for music. He also coaches new emcees and teaches public speaking.
The Mercedes-Benz? His late father, Mr. VN Kathirgamer JP, used to have one – A Mercedes-Benz W108 with a Selangor registration plate. In honour of his father, K.T. wanted to recreate that Mercedes-Benz W108 280s.
The original W108 was long gone,so K.T. purchased a different W108 to be restored. he kept it a secret from his mother since initial condition of the “new” W108 might have shocked her. So, it was a well-kept secret for 10 long months.
After months of going workshop-hopping, finding parts, and supervising, he finally showed the Benz to his mother. Her reaction? She said that it was exactly like the car father used to have. That was all K.T. needed to hear. All that time, money and energy spent was justified.

The Restoration

Once he managed to purchase a Mercedes-Benz W108 from Klang, the first thing done was to strip it down to the bone.
All the body panels had to be fixed so it was a long stay at the paint shop (CS Spray Centre in First Garden, Ipoh). Once all that was taken care of, the W108 was sprayed in a custom metallic gold colour.
Work in progress
All the chrome parts (except the front & back bumpers) were sent to Lahat Chrome workshop to be restored.
Holes along the body are meant for the chrome trim clips
One part of the restoration process that K.T. fondly remembers is looking for the chrome trim clips which were necessary for the chrome at the front windscreen, the side garnish, and the rear garnish.
The W108 needed about 25 of them. During his search for these clips, one shop in Ipoh quoted him at RM 40/piece which would have amounted to a ridiculous RM1,000.
Not one to be ripped off, K.T. kept on searching until he finally found the clips for sale in Jalan Kuala Kangsar which sold the clips for RM 9/piece. If you’re doing a restoration or working on your car, always make sure to look around for the best deal.
For the upholstery, the job was left to BKW Seats in Jalan Ipoh. The seats were cleaned and the door trims were redone. The car was given new rubber inserts, new roof lining, and new carpets. The result is a beautiful interior that takes you back in time.
Everybody gets an armrest in the W108 280s
The white wall are inserts by Atlas which cost about RM 100/piece.

Engine And Transmission

Powering this 2 tonne behemoth is a 2.0-litre inline-4 M115 engine from the smaller Mercedes-Benz W115 paired to a manual 4-speed transmission.
The original engine was a 2.8L M130 inline-6 but upon purchase of the W108, it already had the M115 engine inside. K.T. is on the lookout for a healthy 2.8 M130 to replace the under-powered inline-4.
Though ‘underpowered’, the M115 is good enough for city cruising speeds. No one expects a car like this to be quick anyway.
Fun fact: ‘Zundfolge 1342’ means firing order 1,3,4,2

More Photos

The W108 still has its original owner’s manual
Finding the fuel filler cap is a game of hide and seek.
The hood is held up by a mechanical hinge. It’s a fancy feature before pneumatic hinges were introduced.
The car originally had no air conditioning. To initiate ventilation, flip the window panel open and air will gush in as you cruise.
Classic AAM badges adorn the front grille of the W108


This W108 took 10 months to restore. And it was worth all the time, money, and energy. Especially when K.T. showed it to his mother. With a 4-speed manual transmission, you’re not going anywhere fast. But that’s not the point. This car is meant to take you back in time. And it does so successfully for K.T. and his family.
Although the W108 lacks headrests, the ride is very comfortable. Thank you to Mr. K.T. Pillai for sharing the story of his Mercedes-Benz W108.
Arif Chan
With a deep interest and relevant experiences in the automotive industry, Arif writes about everything automotive. His employment history includes being an automotive engineer, a highway engineer, an alternative-fuel researcher, and a motoring journalist.