Category Archives: Classic Mercedes

Dedicated to classic and ‘young classic’ Mercedes-Benz cars. Mid 1990s all the way back to the 1950s and 60s. Those cars you buy to have fun with on nice days and on the weekends… more affordable these days than you might think.

6.9 Liter Mercedes-Benz Carries Rauch and Tobin Through “Kettle Call Rally” at Elkhart Lake

"Large and in charge" the Rauch / Tobin 6.9

Sterling Moss and Dennis Jenkinson we’re not, but Warren’s driving and my navigating, along with straightforward route instructions, a fun group of people and a wide range of vintage and modern cars made the “Kettle Call Rally” around Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin this past weekend a fun and memorable event. Despite the drizzle, some stop and go due to a downed power line and propane leak, everyone persevered and had a good time.

About a week ago my friend Warren Rauch from the Twin Cities Section of the Mercedes-Benz Club called me and asked if I was interested in going to Elkhart Lake, WI to participate in a rally he was planning to attend, he would drive, I would be his navigator. I had been kicking around the idea of heading to Elkhart Lake, to Road America, for the Vintage Sportscar Driver’s Association Fall Vintage Festival and Races as I have in year’s past, to work at the track with my SCCA buddies on the race grid. I felt a little guilty leaving them slightly short handed on the grid at the track while I drove around the beautiful back roads around the Kettle Morain, but not guilty enough to keep me from going.

Warren didn’t opt to take his 300SL roadster or any of his other cars he could have loaded up for the trip to Elkhart Lake. He decided to take his newest acquisition… a big, stylish, rather mafioso, 1978 Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9 liter sedan that he picked up on eBay about three weeks ago. The almost 6 hour drive from Minneapolis to Elkhart Lake is a heck of a shakedown run for a car, but it made it just fine.

Reunited with the ex-Brooks Stevens XK 120

I had driven down Friday night on my own and camped overnight. I got to Siebken’s, the meeting point and location of the driver’s meeting for the rally, fairly early. I though I recognized a car under a cover, a unique black and white two tone Jaguar XK 120. I thought, “Naaa, why would that car be here?”I thought it was the ex-Brooks Stevens XK 120 that participated in some of the very earliest races in Elkhart Lake. I walked into the breakfast at Siebken’s and saw a woman talking to someone about that car, looking through a  photo album with photos of the car, in period, racing. I approached this lady and asked “Did someone bring that car here today? From Kansas?”

“Yes, yes, I think he is from Kansas, Mr. Morrison brought it” she finished, and just as she said that who came through the door, but Roger. I introduced myself to him, as I hadn’t seen him for several years and thanked him for bringing the car out. He greeted me with his wide smile and very deep voice. “Well how’s your father, and your mother?” We exchanged pleasantries and speculated on the weather and the rally and settled in for some breakfast.

I had last seen that car while visiting Roger’s  eclectic and very cool car collection in Salina, Kansas while visiting my folks several years ago. My dad, another long time car guy, knows Roger and when I came to Kansas he arranged a visit to Roger’s place. Roger is a consummate ‘car guy’ and one of the very nicest I’ve met. Always very welcoming and interested in people interested in cars, always gracious, always a gentleman. It was that Jag that really did something to me that day while visiting his collection. Of course XK 120s are beautiful cars, but this one had significant early SCCA history, Elkhart Lake history, I feel quite a connection to Elkhart Lake, so the car just spoke to me… I sat in the driver’s seat and this photo was taken. Some version of this photo has been on a bulletin in my house, in some form, ever since.:

Despite the  rain, Roger brought the car out and really put it through its paces during the Kettle Call Rally, you’ve got to respect a guy who isn’t afraid to use these cars as they were intended to be used, that’s what all the guys at Elkhart Lake and Road America are about really… it’s why these events exist in the first place.

In Good Company
Warren and I met up at Siebken’s and had a couple of cups of coffee and something to eat, met some of the other rally participants. Folks from Wisconsin and Chicago mostly. Some were driving Jags, a couple of E types, there were scads of Porsches, as always at any real sports car event… mostly modern 911s, but a couple of more vintage 911s as well, a 355 Ferrari, a 512BB, an Alfa Duetto Spyder, another Jaguar XK 120, a couple of Corvettes, I could go on and on. One of the coolest cars was a 1953 Ferrari 166MM, it was the first car to tear off from the starting line and did so in glorious 12 Cylinder Ferrari fashion, leaving smoke and a watery rooster tail in its wake on the wet street, there was no foul weather gear for that car, an 8″ tall windshield and no top!

1953 Ferrari 166MM
Morrison hustles the ex-Brooks Stevens 120 to the start.
The Rauch / Tobin 6.9
Other vintage entries, E Type & TR3.

Some of the modern entries... lots of Porsches, an Aston Martin, Ford GT.
More modern entries... Ferrari 308, Corvette, Porsche.

The Rally
We took off at 30 second intervals to begin the 75 mile or so route that made a rough figure eight pattern using the town of Elkhart Lake as the center point more or less. The route was really great, excellent roads for British sports cars from the fifties and sixties, narrow, tight turns, with speed limits of between 35 and 55. We went around a few corners, blind, that had speed limit signs of 45mph on them… which seemed way to fast for us. A piece of large farm machinery could be behind the next blind curve and that would be the end of you if you were in a TR3 or something like that. You might be okay in a big 6.9 Mercedes-Benz… but we didn’t want to push our luck.

Traffic jam due to propane leak.

We came around one corner only to find a bunch of our rally participants pulled off to the side of the road and a local fire truck blocking the route. There had been a propane leak apparently so they re-routed us to the next point on our route instructions where everyone zeroed their odometers to essentially ‘start over’ in terms of mileage. No matter, I don’t think anyone was real competitive about the whole thing, it was much more of an excuse to drive fun cars and socialize, like any good vintage rally.

Waiting to re-start behind the 308, 911, E Type, XK 120 almost to the horizon.

Once we all made it to the finish line back at Siebken’s, where we started some of the cars were parked on the lawn of the Osthoff resort for an afternoon car show where American racing legend and all round amazing guy, John Fitch, was on hand, looking at cars and telling stories. What a thrill to see him. We should all be so lucky at 93 years old!

We sat down to lunch and enjoyed each others company for a while longer. When we were done Warren and I headed to the race track where I worked the grid for the rest of the afternoon and he walked around soaking up all the cool vintage cars rolling about. The VSCDA Fall Festival is always the last vintage event for the year at Road America, so it’s always bitter sweet. My vintage racing thirst will be quenched next Spring when the SVRA spring event in May is held again at Road America.

I hope we can do the Kettle Call Rally again next year… what will we drive? I guess we have plenty of time to figure that out.

Mercedes Benz Young Classics – Late Model Mercedes Cars As Daily Drivers

I look around these days at the incredible value many older Mercedes-Benz vehicles represent. Specifically, cars from the 1980s and 90s. Sure, some of them are 20+ years old, but when well maintained many can continue to soldier on for many more years. I think about some of the old Mercedes-Benz vehicles I’ve seen while travelling. In South America they keep them running forever, and I’m sure the Chilean mechanics are coming up with their own creative ways to keep them on the road and not always ordering OEM parts to be air freighted in from Germany.

Could you drive a 15 or 20 year old Mercedes-Benz as a daily driver? Absolutely, I know a lot of people who do, but it’s more comon to have such a car as a fun seasonal car, something for the weekends or the Summer. The price of admission can be minimal, but there are some key things to look for when considering a vehicle of this age for regular daily use. Past maintenance is key. It’s very important that the car has been maintained regularly. In fact, I would argue that a regulalry maintained, driven and used car with 100,000 miles on it is a better car to buy than an example of the same model that “has super low miles, in dry storage for the past 7 years”.

My mind wanders to the R107 model Mercedes-Benz SL roadsters built between 1972 and 1989. These are great roadsters that have acheived iconic status in the modern car culture. Hundreds of thousands of these SLs were built, they had an incredibly long production run, there are good example available for under $10,000. Of course you can find them advertised for two or three times that price, but I’ve found that most of these cars, in today’s market, are gorssly overpriced. I see the same classifieds languishing for weeks and months until a disgruntled seller slowly begins to lower the price of their car until someone buys it. A lot of them are simply taken off the market without selling because many owners of these cars who bought them originally and go to sell them don’t really need the money, if they can’t get what they think they should fo the car they’ll just keep it in the garage at their vacation home. They were expensive cars when new, generally reserved with those of significant means.

Mercedes-Benz R107 SL Roadster with detachable hard top.

Mercedes-Benz, as a company, is trying to bridge the gap between their new car sales and the work of their classics centers in Germany and in the U.S., in Irvine, California by introducing the “Mercedes-Benz Young Classics”. They’ve actually put together a pilot project at the Classic Center in Germany that restores and sells cars built from the 1970s through the early 1990s.

According to Mercedes-Benz “there is a growing number of these Mercedes-Benz model that have gained cult standing, especially in the US and Europe. Due to the limited supply of well maintained cars and the demand for originality, prices of these classics have soared skyward, including the young classics. Daimler is bridging the gap between newer vehicle sales and the highly specialized vintage car business of the Mercedes-Benz Center in both the US and Germany through the ‘Mercedes Benz Young Classics’. As its lead project in the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Daimler has started its first ‘Mercedes-Benz Young Classics Store.’ In this store, where models from 1970 and onward are offered in a first-class condition, buyers can purchase, lease, insure and also finance available young classics.”

So, while the prices of many of these cars are currently very low, and many people see them as ‘just used cars’, with the establishment of the “Mercedes-Benz Young Classics” will demand for these cars be reignighted? Will values slowly creep up as people become more aware of the value they represent and decide to put one in thier garage? It’s tough to say, but if you look back to the past as the best indicator of the future you’d think the best examples of many modern Mercedes-Benz vehicles that survive will always be sought after, cheap or expensive.

Twin Cities Section Mercedes-Benz Club of America “Vino in the Valley Rally” a Success!

8 cars and 16 people participated, a nice selection of cars, and people.

I attended and participated in a very casual scavenger rally that the Twin Cities Section of the Mercedes-Benz Club of America put on last weekend, Sunday, August 8th. I was teamed up with club member and REAL car guy, Warren Rauch for the event. The summary of the event below was put together by Jim Walrath, one of our Twin City Section members who lives over the border in Wisconsin. So I’ll leave most of the explanation of the event to him… it’s really just an excuse to get out and go for a drive in the country, whether you’ve got an old sedan, SL roadster or newer, more modern Mercedes-Benz vehicle. As usual, good cars, good fun,  good people.

Thanks really must go to the organizers of the event, Ken Arneson and Julie Winger. It takes two champions like this to decide on a fun event and go about setting everything up, scouting the course to be driven, talking to the business owners where the rallyers will stop. They did a fantastic job and put together a fun event in a beautiful setting that everyone enjoyed.

While Warren and I drove along the very scenic “County Road A” (speed limit 25 mph) we lamented at the low speed of the affair and that it might have been a bit more exciting if we were doing 140 mph in a Mercedes-Benz SLR… but we settled in for a fun afternoon drive never the less, At least we could dream that I was Sterling Moss and he was Ab Jenkins. Warren and I talked cars pretty much the whole time. We’d crane our necks if there was something interesting parked next to a farm house and tell a story about how we “knew a guy with one of those” years ago, or in Warren’s case, how he probably owned “one of those” at some point.

It was a fun day to take in a couple of wineries, a candy store, and a cheese factory while cruising in a 25 year old S class that’s just as comfortable today as it was in the mid 1980s, thank goodness the A/C was ice cold, we had it cranked all day.

There was a lot of talk about another “Vino in the Valley Rally” next year, there are plenty of other winding country roads to explore over that way,I hope we have an even bigger turn out next year.

Here is Jim Walrath’s summary of the event (lots of photos below):

On a beautiful, warm, muggy day August 8th members of the Twin Cities Section inaugurated the Scavenger Rally!  The headquarters were at Vino in the Valley, Maiden Rock, WI in a very pretty setting in Western Wisconsin, itself worthy of a destination drive.  The Rally is a low competition rally to several nearby businesses to check out the business and its products.  Stops were made at the Crazy Cat Candy Shoppe (Stockholm, owned by member participants Ryan Pool and Deb Albardo), Nelson Cheese Factory (Nelson), Dockside Mercantile (Pepin), and Maiden Rock Winery and Cidery (on the bluff above Stockholm).  At each location the Ralleyers obtained verification of their stop, with all four verifications giving participants eligibility for a prizes drawing.  Lunch was a salad bar and delicious brick oven pizza made on site.  Ken Arneson and Julie Winger, Host and Hostess, arranged this to be a very special event, and the consensus was that it was a great time!
Event Hosts Ken Arneson and Julie Winger.
Vino in the Valley acted as rally H.Q. and a good place to eat lunch.
Ken and Julie in their CLK heading out of Stockholm, WI.
Ryan Pool and Deb Albardo, MBCA members, rally participants, and owners of The Crazy Cat Candy Shop treated rally participants to truffles and other chocolates upon their arrival in Stockhom, WI, absolutely worth a visit!
Inside the Crazy Cat, Stockhom, WI.
The 380SL of Gabriele Dellanave and Cindy Wright in front of the 420 SEL of Dave Tobin and Warren Rauch.
The business end of Dave Bortner's 450 SEL 6.9 liter sedan in front of the Dosckside Mercantile, Lake Peppin, WI.
The "rare" Mercedes-Benz C42 wagon of Ryan Pool and Deb Albardo.
The group, starting with front left: Kara Arne, Dave Tobin, Warren Rauch, Deb Albardo, Gabriele Dellanave, Dale Werth, (mostly hidden) Susan Roherer, Ken Arneson (host), Julie Winger (hostess), Cindy Wright, Ryan Pool, Jim Walrath, Mary Walrath, Ursula Lamprecht, Rudi Lamprecht, Dave Bortner.

Turn Back the Clock: Classic Tobin Photo of a Classic 1967 MGB Roadster Project Discovered!

The Tobin brothers with 1967 MGB Roadster, circa 1984.

This photo recently surfaced from the Tobin Automotive Archives, while not a Mercedes, it speaks to the car enthusiast in all of us. This photo has been in storage for many years, I don’t remember the photo ever being taken. It finally resurfaced, I thought I’d share it here.

In the mid 1980s my father found an old, non running, 1967 MGB roadster for sale. We packed up the station wagon and set off to push it out of a garage in Wyoming, Ohio and tow it back home.

This is a photos of my brother and me with the car after pushing it out of the garage where it had sat dormant for a long time, long enough for mice to chew the electrica wiring and have many generations of offspring, we found mice nests, dead, and living mice in the car.

This was one of those cars that comes home as a project, and after some toiling and disassembly, we realized it was in worse shape than originally thought. It had been subject to some very shoddy previous repairs, lots of bodywork (Bondo all over the place as I recall). So it left our garage in even more pieces in which it arrived a couple of years later. It was fun while it lasted. I was excited to polish the carburetors… which I did, they shined like silver when I was done with them.