M-B World shows off the wonderful and weird

| 9 Jan 2012

If I think about some of the reactions from the classic car community towards Mercedes-Benz World at Brooklands - from its proposal to the present day - the words that spring most readily to mind are "sniffy", "indignant", and "apoplectic".

Let's face it, we all knew from the outset that it was really just a big, posh car dealership, but at least the Stuttgart company had the decency to feel the heavy burden of history on its shoulders and to severely compromise its plans to accommodate that.

It was always on to a bit of a no-lose situation with me anyway. Consider these things:

1) whatever we like to think or dream, Brooklands is never going to be recreated as it was, that is physically and financially impossible,

2) it was inevitable therefore that something would be built on that piece of land one day.

3) M-B World may be a car showroom, but it is not a B&Q. Nothing against B&Q, but if people think that M-B World is inappropriate for the site, they need to consider what they might have got instead.

4) M-B's guilt (or goodwill) means that what you actually get is a pretty interesting (though limited) free museum to while away a couple of hours in. Hoorah!

You certainly can't fault the attention to detail, from the cinema to the bakelite wheels and wall of headlamps in the restaurant, to the history and cars displayed on the rotunda. They have conspicuously done their utmost to do it right, to bring in the history at every opportunitty, and that deserves credit.

On my most recent visit I, as always, marvelled at the escalator, but there was plenty more beyond that for the classic enthusiast.

Downstairs there was a Gullwing and the 1977 London to Sydney 280E, a lovely 1935 290 and the oddest pairing you are ever likely to see side by side: a W196 streamliner shell and a TE!

It was upstairs that the boat had really been pushed out, though, with an enthralling yet bizarre art show. Beyond a Macau-aliike 1957 190SL, there were some amazing things to test the (good) taste buds.

Hiro Yamagata has bought, restored and then painted some 17 220As and one of his vibrantly daubed cars is on display beside what can only be described as a breathtaking "sculpture".

My favourite piece was tucked away in an alcove and was a Mercedes-Benz bed made by the Woloji Brothers furniture makers of Nigeria. It may not have a been quite as accomplished as View Suspended II, 3200 parts from an F1 car, separated and then hung from the ceiling, but I know what would look better in my house.

A trip to M-B World may not completely dispel your cynicism, but it will entertain (even amuse) you. After all, if we are to bemoan the irretrievable loss of (so much of) Brooklands, better to do it surrounded by cars and a company that clearly understands what makes people like us tick than in the chilled meats aisle of yet another supermarket.