Modern Mercedes design rant!

Hi all - I would like your wise views on the following issue. This is the gearshift on a c.1970 W108 280SE 3.5:
http://homepage.eircom.net/~jconsidi/myfiles/W108_280SE3point5.jpg
Note that the letters and numbers (PRN432 etc) are on the driver's side in this car, which is a right-hand drive model.
This is my 2003 C-class:
http://homepage.eircom.net/~jconsidi/myfiles/2003_C270cdi_gearshift_auto.jpg
The letters and numbers, and the C/S switch, are on the 'wrong' side of the gear lever for a right-hand drive, so the driver can't see them. Fair enough one might say, a C-class is not a top-of-the-line car as an old S-class was in its time. OK. This is the gear shift of a 2007 SL500 that I currently have on loan:
http://homepage.eircom.net/~jconsidi/myfiles/2007_SL500gearshift_auto.jpg
Same issue, letters and switch out of sight of the driver.
An SL500 is not a 'budget' Mercedes-Benz by any stretch of the imagination, here it costs about Euro 170,000 or well over US$200,000 - for that, imho MB could afford the little bit of re-engineering it would take to fully convert the design for right-hand drive, to cater for markets such as England, South Africa, Hong Kong, Australia and Ireland where I live.
Am I alone in thinking that engineering is now less to the fore than in was in MB thirty years ago?
All views and opinions equally welcome.
John
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John (Ireland) wrote:

It doesn't appear to be right/left hand related since my LHD 1968 280SEL has the same gear shift (pattern reversed (front-back), because you've an newer gearbox system) as your 280SE 3.5 . So it is not LHD / RHD related. The RHD is just lucky this time. I b.t.w. never had a problem reading it, even when it's at the wrong side.
Kind regards,
--
unknown mileage at least 280 K miles
_________ Maurits Obbink
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Hi Maurits, I have a rhd 1968 280SE automatic as well, but it has steering-column gear change, with the gear indicator in the instrument cluster. I don't own the 280SE 3.5 in the picture I used, just used it to make the point that in the 1960's MB seemed to engineer everything up to a standard rather than down to a price. Incidentally, a few years back I dismantled a 50k-mile rusted 1971 280SE for its salvage parts, and I was amazed at how many differences there were between 1968 and 1971 on basically the same W108 model. Obviously the oil crisis forced a big re-think about building heavy thirsty cars. For example, on the 1968 car, all the seat fixtures were made of solid metal with chrome-on- metal trims. By 1971, all that was chromed plastic. Your 1968 280SE might have the older fluid-coupling transmission that changes gear with a thump? The MB manual says the later torque converter-type transmission can't be fitted. I have done it successfully ;-), I didn't get the factory manual until a few years after I had done the job, and I'm no a pro mechanic, just a self- taught enthusiast. If I had read the manual first, I wouldn't have attempted the conversion.
the W108's are still my favourite MB's, along with the Unimog 404.
John
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