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As the season ends, we recap the story of our rally car experience.

Every car deserves a name. We named our Mercedes – The Colonel. So what’s with The Colonel you ask? Well, we love cars with stories. Our 230S was originally purchsed by a US Army Colonel while stationed in Brussels.

Our introduction to the 230S on eBay with this image.

Our introduction to the 230S on eBay with this image.

Original documents from Belgium

Original documents from Belgium

It is a European specification model with those gorgeous headlamps (5 bulbs in each lamp). He was transferred to Puerto Rico briefly (the badge on grill is from Puerto Rico) and shipped the Mercedes with him. From there, he went to Seattle. The Mercedes stayed in the family until 3 years ago when a M-B fan purchased it with the intention of making it his wife’s daily driver. That plan unraveled when they left for Europe for a year. It sat with fuel putrefying in the gas tank. We found it on eBay and 2 weeks later, the car you can (as the seller states) “get in and just drive” arrived at my mechanic’s shop. I made it about a 1/4 of a mile before it choked to death on contaminated fuel. That signaled the beginning of a systematic rebuild/refresh to make it a reliable and competitive vintage rally car. First things first – get the fuel delivery system clean. The gas tank had to be removed, boiled and re-lined and the entire fuel system cleaned. We added an electronic ignition, all new filters, then a complete fluid/lubrication refresh to benchmark it.

Work begins in January at Auto Turismo Sport in New Milford, Connecticut

Work begins in January at Auto Turismo Sport in New Milford, Connecticut

The shipper (DAS) destroyed the rear shocks but that gave us the opportunity to get a set of adjustable Konis.

The handy work of Dependable Auto Shippers. You can't see all of the damage while the shock is in place.

The handy work of Dependable Auto Shippers. You can’t see all of the damage while the shock is in place.

The front-end was totally rebuilt and new sub-frame mounts installed. All of the brakes replaced including the power brake booster. The exhaust has been modified to save weight and sound cool. A classic Cherry Bomb muffler did the trick. We added an auxiliary cooling fan probably because of prior experience with a hot-running Healey 3000 MK III. After all of that work, there was a nasty miss at low rpm under load. For the longest time we thought it was the Zentih carbs. They were old and have a habit of warping so we installed a Weber Carb kit. Alas, the Merc was faster and smoother but the miss was still there. Problem solved when we added a fully electronic distributor from 123Ignition.

Now we sort of get into the rally bits and making everything right. You can’t find decent 13″ tires anymore so we upgraded to 14″. Luckily we found a local M-B dismantler who had a rare set of aluminum rims that weigh less than half of the steelies and look pretty much the same. We’ll be running without wheel covers so they were stripped and painted satin black. After some serious research, we decided to go with Michelin Defenders. Turned out to be a good choice.

Work begin in May at Rogers racing in Roxbury, Connecticut. Surprised the Connecticut Mint plate was available!

Work begins in May at Rogers racing in Roxbury, Connecticut. Surprised the Connecticut Mint plate was available!

When all this busy stuff was completed and tested, we moved to the shop run by well-known racecar mechanic, John Rogers. John is a story all by himself. Now, proudly retired, he offered his expertise and his shop to assist in fabricating brackets for rally lights, wiring and a a new dash panel for switches. John, BTW, is one of the few mechanics (if there are others, we don’t really know) in the US to restore a Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix car. He worked for a collector/racer/entrepreneur, who owned W154 also known as Wagen 7. So The Colonel was in very good hands.

John was gracious to allow us to participate in designing and fabricating all of the brackets and the control panel. We collected vintage parts from around the globe while the first part of the build was underway: our Cibie Super Oscars are from the UK, the Marchal center light from Germany, well you get the picture. Almost everything we added was period correct. combine_imagesWe did add a new tach, an outside temp gauge (to warn us of ice), Butler Maplight and a bunch of USB and Aux power outlets. All of the exterior bulbs were sourced through Daniel Stern Lighting who knows a light bulb isn’t just a light bulb.

Our good friend, Michael Marciano, embarks on freshening the dash wood without taking it apart. Brave and successful.

Our good friend, Michael Marciano, embarks on freshening the wood dash without taking it apart. Brave and successful.

While we were in the interior, we restored the Becker Grand Prix to working condition (added iPod adapter), added Sirius Satellite radio, repaired the clock (it should work) and refinished the wood dashboard. We even found a NOS dome light to replace the broken one. Who needs stinking cupholders? Well, we do. I asked my pal and woodworker, Dan Whalen, to fashion this insert for us.

Long trips require modern conveniences. A clever addition to the original console tray.

Long trips require modern conveniences. A clever addition to the original console tray.

Veteran Racecar mechanic, John Rogers, with the finished Mercedes

Veteran Racecar mechanic, John Rogers, with the finished Mercedes

We were all done a week before The Greenwich Concours. We had no expectations when we submitted the Mercedes to the Greenwich folks but it looked so darn cool, they couldn’t resist. We knew that. The Mercedes was a crowd favorite or was it the Ford GT40 that came in 3rd at LeMans that was parked next to us?

Our turn at the judges tent during the Greenwich Concours

Our turn at the judges tent during the Greenwich Concours

 

 

 

 

 

 

We participated in more rallies and concours events and always received a great response. The Colonel caught the eye of a Hemmings editor at Greenwich and that will lead to a Hemmings Sports & Exotics feature story sometime next year. By the way the license plate we run on the front is a copy of the Belgian plate that was originally on the car when it was delivered to Colonel Swanson. We still have the registration (see image above) so the number is correct. A tribute to the Colonel and also very cool.

Me and my wife/navigator, Ronnie, at the kick-off parade for the 31st Historic Races at LRP.

Me and my wife/navigator, Ronnie, at the kick-off parade for the 31st Historic Races at LRP.

3 Responses to As the season ends, we recap the story of our rally car experience.

  1. Great car. Fantastic. Nice vision and very well-executed. However, please elaborate on this part:

    “The shipper (DAS) destroyed the rear shocks”

    Makes me think twice about using DAS.

    • mint2me says:

      I believe the car made it from Seattle to their depot in New Jersey in good order. They have their own fleet of flatbeds that handle the redistribution of the cars to their local destinations. It is our theory that the flatbed driver attached straps to the rear shocks and yanked the car onto the flatbed bending them. We could clearly see the dirt rubbed off and the fresh cracked paint on the old shocks. They declined because, as they say in their documents, “we never check under the car when we pick it up so how do we know it wasn’t like that before?” The good news for us is Hagerty picked up the claim and they went after DAS. Go Hagerty! I’ll add a picture to the story…

  2. Chuck says:

    Great story! The impressive heritage of “the colonel” continues!

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