Barn Find Mercedes Benz
By Larry Speidell
La Jolla, California
The garage door rolled up and there she was, in the basement of a modest, cluttered, overgrown house in rural Connecticut. The faded silver repaint flaked off at the merest touch. No piece of chrome was un-dented or un-pitted. When the motor had died in 1982, the owner had parked her outside for a dozen years of New England snow and rain. Only recently did he drag her inside, tear the motor apart, then lose interest and begin piling junk on and around her. Then he passed away, leaving the car in pieces as mute testimony to his dreams. An appraisal, done later, described this find as “covered with cobwebs and rust…a complete disaster”…
The engine block was in the chassis, but the cylinder head was on the floor. Manifolds, water lines, the generator and more were scattered among empty antifreeze jugs, fertilizer bags and empty cartons. The interior was littered with acorn shells and the seats were rock hard. The odometer read 73,000 miles…hard miles at that.
The car was awful but I wanted it.
Although its Maryland title matched Virginia registration cards, the metal plates with engine, chassis and body numbers had been ripped off. The body number on the firewall had been drilled through with a dozen holes. The chassis number on the frame had been obliterated by a bracket welded over it. The stamped engine number had been attacked with a chisel.
I arranged for a retired Highway Patrol investigator to examine the car and using chemicals, magnifying glasses, sandpaper and sticky tape he managed to recover some vital information. He found a firewall number and its last three digits were repeated inside remnants of upholstery from the seats and the door panels. We found more numbers on the transmission, rear axle, steering box and front suspension. And to our surprise, Mercedes-Benz Archives certified them all.
One day, a former owner called and said the car had been stolen in New York in the late 1960s. It was later found by the side of the New York State Thruway with a rod through the block, after which it was sold to the man whose estate I bought it from. He patched the block and drove it twelve years before the engine died for good.
Then it waited, neglected for years. Every part on the car was rusted, corroded, rotted, bent, worn or broken; and every part had to be resurrected, refinished, re-plated, refitted, refurbished, restored or replaced.
Now it’s ready and the open road calls.