In the mid 80's as I was about to graduate from high school, I was going to need a car to commute to college. The deal I was given, fix up the Mercedes back to driving condition, and it was mine. Well, it was a cool car, even if the kids at school did seem to laugh at it somewhat.
Here are some pictures of what the car looked like at that time, although, I had already started some work on the car - namely, we removed the engine for rebuilding.
Eventually, I did succeed in getting the car on the road in the summer of '86, a year later than I had hoped - partly due to the fact that the machine shop took forever on the work, partly because I didn't know what I was doing. In 1987, my dad popped the money to have the car painted. It's too bad I can't find the pictures I had taken of the car after the paint job before the chrome parts were put back on. The paint gleamed. Granted, it wasn't a full resto job, but it looked good, and it was still mostly sound at that time. I drove the car regularly, for several years, then the unthinkable happened! While in a parking lot, some careless driver dared to violate my car's "personal space". The result was a gashed rear quarter panel and a torn-off tail lamp assembly.
I did get a new assembly from the guy's insurance, quite pricey too
- about $250 back then. And, I was told I got the last one in the
US (at that time anyway)! However, this was only the start of the
car's demise. For my final years of college, I had to move
to Erie PA. The program I wanted to take was only offered at one
campus in the Penn State system, and that was in Erie. The second
week I was up there, some dickhead smashed my car and ran away!
The car was never really fixed completely from this damage. I didn't have collision insurance, and under Pennsylvania law, even a "vandalism" hit-and-run like this wasn't covered. I got stuck footing the repair bill. You'll notice the gas filler door was right in the center of the impact area. Amazingly enough, it survived nearly unscathed, and it still worked. The trunk lid also opened without difficulty too. You can also see from the right picture how far skewed the car is in the parking space. Anybody that knows me well, knows that I'm anal about putting my car into a parking space JUST RIGHT! The impact moved the rear of the car more than 4 feet sideways!
Well, the worst was yet to happen. Erie, for those of you that know, is right on the shore of Lake Erie (imagine that!). Well, that means that during winter, you can expect lots of snow. Lake effect snows where the snow falls come ashore and dump tons of the stuff. Well, in order to keep things moving around town, they use salt on the roads. Lots of salt. After the first winter up there, the car was looking a bit ragged. The aluminum in the engine bay had started turning black and was showing the signs of deep corrosion (white powdery stuff). The underside was getting the worst of it as well. Anything that had been exposed from damaged or poor undercoating was rusting severely. Summer of 1990, I had to repair that smashed panel as it would not pass PA inspection. I had to buy a replacement from a salvage yard (thank you Hemmings Motor News!) for something around $200. It wasn't the best condition, and had to have a few serious dents pounded out. With a big hammer, that's thick metal! The car looked whole again, but the inner panel was also bent, and that was something I could not repair properly.
Winter of 1990 came around and this time, the clutch I had put in at the rebuild was nearly worn out. However, I had put about 80-90k miles on it by then. The ring gear on the flywheel was also now completely worn out. I was actually starting the car much of the time by push starting and popping the clutch! Then, on a trip down to the DC area on I-83, catastrophe! One of the blades on the cast aluminum cooling fan had been too fatigued to live any longer and sheared off. Upon it's death, it proceeded to shear off the petcock valve on the bottom of the radiator. When this happened, I heard a loud bang, then a huge cloud of white "smoke" appeared from under the hood and behind me. I panicked thinking I had just completely blown the engine, cut power, then dashed to the shoulder as fast and safe as I could. Once off the road, I was able to see what the damage was. Even though the engine was saved by my quick thinking, I was stuck, there was no way I could repair the damage on the road. Worse yet, this was in an era where cell phones were still a toy for the upper crust, and there was no service out in the middle of nowhere I had broken down. With little choice, I started the walk down the highway to get somewhere I could make a phone call. The exit I had just happened to break down at was a rural area with nothing but horse farms. The next exit was 4 miles south, but there was "civilization" there. Fortunately, somebody was generous and picked me up and gave me a lift. I was able to call my (long since ex) girlfriend I was going to visit. We arranged to meet just south of baltimore. A day later, I called my dad to arrange to get the car back to PA.
That was just after Christmas of 1990, and over the next 3 days before I had to head back to Erie for the spring semester, I had to work on the car out in the driveway in freezing temperatures. Drop the transmission to replace the clutch and ring gear. Remove the radiator to repair the broken valve. We temporarily just removed the dead fan entirely. That was the winter of hell for the car. Not only did I have serious damage, but then the ignition system failed - new points, condenser, cap, rotor were installed, but no good. We find that the coil was dead. Once that was replaced, I had power. I get back to school, but the next day, the battery is dead! Good thing I had a diehard warranty.
Following graduation and getting professional employment, I continued to drive the car. I was now living in the suburbs of Washington DC. It was rather cool getting looks from all of the people driving the "regular" cars. However, it was getting harder and harder to justify driving the car every day. Finally in 1993, it was parked for good. I had bought a new car. In 1994, at the urging of a neighbor who did not like the car sitting by his house, I drove the car back to PA and stored it in the barn we rented. It sat there ever since.
In September 2002, I began to "clean out" the stuff we had been storing
in that barn. I was planning to dispose of the Mercedes given it's
overall condition. But, in order to get rid of it, I had to get it
|Still shiny after all these years. I had it covered, so the bird shit didnt ruin it.||NO NO, I WON'T GO! skid marks from right front wheel that was locked||Finally on the trailer. It hemmoraged some oil from the diff on the way up.|
Other pictures of the car as it sits in my back yard (still on the trailer by the way).
|Rear 3qtr view||Full Frontal view||Front 3qtr view|
|Interior shot. It's mostly still there, but rather ratty looking now.||Engine bay. Engine is in good order. I'm going to try to see if it'll still run at all.||Other side of the engine bay. The battery tray (just behind the carb) had rotted away from acid leaks long long ago. My dad's fix was fiberglass/resin and a plate of stainless steel.|
|Right front fender. I broke the turn signal studs when I was trying to clean up the rust buildup on the front of the fender many years back. Here, you can see just how bad the chrome on the bumper is.||Here's a tight shot of the right rear floor board (from underneath). Long ago when I was first getting the car back on the road, this was how I fixed the rusty floor - cut it out entirely, then pop-rivet in a flat plate of galvanized steel.||The right front frame rail. If you look at the sway bar mounting, you'll notice that a plate was welded to the frame to be able to bolt the mount back up. This was done back in the early 70's. The sway bar does not fit properly because of that.|
|This was one of the reasons I decided it was time to let the car go. This is a hole on the left front frame cross member. The car does not have a true frame since it's a uni-body.||This is under the left rear floorboard. There's evidence of rust-out continuing here. Long ago, I covered the upper side with a layer of glass/resin on the entire surface of the floor - you can see some dripping out the former rust hole in the center of the picture.|
Given the history I've had with this car, and the fact that it's been in the family for over 30 years, I've been really hesitant over parting with it. However, pragmatism finally won out, and I realized that it was far too involved of a project for me to take on. I was planning to sell it to a Mercedes parts salvager so that parts may live on in other cars. Well, I called up the only 2 local ones I could find. Both didn't even want to touch them. Apparently, even given the rarity of them, there's no real demand for the parts. In 2005, I had a visit from someone that saw the car in my driveway. He asked how much I wanted for it. We ended up making a trade - he took the car, and I got a my driveway resealed. Where it is today, I have no idea.