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My First Classic Mercedes-Benz

Updated on September 2, 2011

Classic Mercedes-Benz 220S Project Car

I first found out about a classic sedan for sale when I visited an esteemed Mercedes-Benz restorer in Victoria, BC. A fellow on Vancouver Island had a project car that he wished to sell. I was given the contact information for the owner. About a week later, I traveled about 100 miles to visit the fellow. He showed me his 1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S.

It was a four door sedan that he had owned for 30 years. He was the second owner of the then 42 year old car. He had driven it extensively in the 1970s but parked it when the engine failed. Over time, the car became a classic. While not a true collector's item, time had reduced the number of similar, working examples of the car's type. True collectible Mercedes-Benz cars of that age were the 220S convertible, the Adenaur limousine and the 300SL convertible or Gull Wing sports cars.

The 1959 220S was a common mid-range luxury car that was a very capable car but which was hardly sexy, rare or desirable. This type of car is known as a Mercedes-Benz Ponton due to its similarity to pontoon bridges constructed by the US army. Eventually, this car's second owner decided that he had the time, after his retirement, to restore the car. He began an extensive restoration of the classic Mercedes. After spending a great deal of time and money on his project, he was informed that his work space was being sold. Not having another suitable location for the Mercedes project car, he decided to sell it. The first picture in this lens shows the car as it appeared in 2004.

Mercedes-Benz 220S Project Car as purchased
Mercedes-Benz 220S Project Car as purchased

Negotiating to buy a Classic Mercedes-Benz Car

A project car that needed a lot of work

Upon inspection of this classic Mercedes-Benz 220S, it was clear that a lot of work had been performed but that a lot of work still remained. The engine failed in 1978 or so, which was when the car was first moved into storage. Jim decided to start restoring the car. He stripped the car to the core chassis. All of the parts were in boxes or lying around the barn. Some of the parts had been sent to a chroming facility for re-plating and were now wrapped in paper.

With the exception of the front windshield, all of the parts seemed to be present. Jim took the chassis to a body shop for the initial restoration work. The rusted floors were replaced, the old paint was sanded off and a new coat of gray was applied. Later, Jim received an estimate of over $5000 to rebuild the 220S engine. After already putting at least this much into the car, Jim decided to stop spending any more money on the project car for a while. 15 years later, he found out that the property was being sold. He had to move the car.

Not having another suitable location, he decided to sell the entire project car, and parts, as is. When I first saw the project, I was very interested. The cost of the project car was not my main concern. There was clearly a great deal of work involved. About a month after I saw the car, Jim lowered the price by $2000. I called Jim and bought the car from him.

Mercedes-Benz 220S Project Body Shot
Mercedes-Benz 220S Project Body Shot

Restoring the Mercedes-Benz 220S

Reality sets in

With the classic 1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S safely in storage at my property, a plan for the restoration project was developed. The inventory of parts was created. The car's instrument cluster was missing as was the front windshield. The heater boxes were beyond repair. The engine was essentially worthless. The seats were bare frames. The wooden interior parts were completely shot.

While researching the Internet for various needed parts like the instrument cluster and replacement engines, it became clear that the project car would require a substantial amount of money before it was ever road-worthy again. In fact, a complete working example of the car was available for less than the cost to restore the engine and upholstery. Instead of continuing the restoration project, I purchased a similar 1959 Mercedes-Benz in Sacramento. The 1958 model was then surplus to me so it was put up for sale.

Mercedes-Benz Project Car Chassis Restoration
Mercedes-Benz Project Car Chassis Restoration

Selling a Classic Mercedes-Benz 220S Project Car

Partial delivery of the classic car included

This Mercedes-Benz project car was listed for sale on the Internet. A man in Ontario had a similar dilemma. His project required a great deal of money and effort. My barn found classic was substantially more complete than his was. He realized, as I had, that purchasing my car would advance his classic Mercedes-Benz restoration effort and save him a great deal of money. We negotiated a price for the bare chassis. I had relatives in eastern Saskatchewan so I consented to deliver the car that far.

On an arranged day, we each set out to make the swap. I took the car eastward on a trailer while the new buyer drove an empty trailer westward. We met in Saskatchewan and transferred the car manually between the two trailers. The new owner was surprised to see that this Mercedes-Benz had no rust in certain areas. His review of similar cars in Ontario always revealed substantial rust in the metal work in known areas. He was also very pleased with the work that had been done to restore the car's floor. My restoration story involving this 1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S Ponton was over. I had barely advanced the project except to facilitate the transfer to a person who would eventually complete the restoration, (I hoped).

The current owner has advanced the restoration of the project a great deal. He has fitted the car with a very modern engine from a 1986 to 1990 Mercedes 300E. Evidently, the new engine fit very easily. The car will likely be quite powerful with the new engine. It should be quite interesting to see the finished project.

Amazon Can Help With Mercedes-Benz Project Car Restorations - Get parts, tools and information

Restoration Poll

The new owner has embarked upon a restoration that is a departure from the norm. He is putting a modern engine in the car which is from a 1990 300E. This engine will be installed with its modern transmission and fuel injection system. The old 1958 chassis is able to accept the new engine with surprisingly little modifications.

Do you think that an antique car should have a faithful restoration or not?

See results

Mercedes-Benz Project Restoration Comments Welcome - Tell us about your successes or troubles

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    • profile image

      JoshK47 

      6 years ago

      Looks like a thing of beauty!

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      7 years ago

      I was sure I'd been here but my rating wasn't showing, must have favorited too soon after rating, problem fixed, glad I peeked back in. This is a problem that seems to be happening to all of us.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      7 years ago

      What nice project to be working on. I have done a lot of car restoration, and loved it.

    • jodijoyous profile image

      jodijoyous 

      7 years ago from New York

      My friend's dad collects classic cars (one of which is a 1930s Mercedes. Took him most of my childhood to restore it - but I think he didn't really care what it cost, or how long it took - he was in it for the love of doing it.

    • Timewarp profile image

      Paul 

      7 years ago from Montreal

      You made the right choice buying a working one! The economics of car restoration are typically what you found, the restoration will cost 3-4 times the value of the finished project.

    • Yourshowman LM profile image

      Yourshowman LM 

      7 years ago

      I love mercedes-benz cars.

    working

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