Crunchy credit has been savaging the top end of the car market, and winning headlines as it does. But rising fuel and VED costs are doing much the same at the bottom.

Which, in short, is why I’ve become the custodian of the newest and oldest member of the Autocar fleet – this very fine 1993 Mercedes E280 estate.

I’ve always been a big fan of the ‘W124’ E-class, reckoned by many aficionados to represent the high water mark of Merc build quality, but even its aristocratic breeding hasn’t been able to spare it from the slide in prices that has savaged all big-engined petrol motors. Cars that would have cost upwards of £2000 a year ago are now going for a grand or less.

Which is where the logic of investing my own hard-earned in a representative example came in. First up, I should point out that the myth of the bulletproof W124 was exploded early in the selection process, there are some serious nails out there, many of which disguise their mechanical maladies beneath a good scrub-up.

Fortunately I had Nicholas Froome on side, Britain’s leading W124 expert, and purveyor of some of the finest examples going. With £1000 to spend I was looking at the opposite end of the market to where Nick normally deals, but his help was invaluable, especially the advice to look for mechanical solidity over cosmetic condition.