The Restoration Project of the Käfer has started

In my other post of mid December 2011 titled A 1962 VW Beetle joins the ‘family’, I had outlined the new acquisition and mentioned about the plan to proceed with a sympathetic restoration of this fun car to which I have become emotionally attached.

Not without some delays, the resto project has commenced as of Monday 5th March. I have entrusted the work to my competent body shop friends of A & B For Cars who had done such a good job couple of years ago on my other car, the Mercedes-Benz 250SE Coupé.

Since the VW Beetle is a much simpler and smaller vehicle compared to the Mercedes, but also having gone through the previous Mercedes project experience, I am now more knowledgeable, hence confident that we will proceed with a relatively quick pace. An important factor pertains to human relationships. Through the years, I have built trusting and friendly relationships with the owners Gregory and Costa, as well as with their staff and Manos, the shop’s foreman who is looking after my Käfer! The target is to have the car ready for Easter. Sort of like a little ‘half egg shaped’ present. In addition, I have done some preparatory research on parts availability; as expected for such a popular car which had endured a long life with 18+ million examples produced, the issue of sourcing spare parts is de facto solved. There are many specialists involved with the VW brand both in Europe, the USA, South America and Asia of course.

We are currently verifying the “parts needed list” in order to proceed with placing purchase orders. The guys at A & B suggest that we take off the body, have it sand blasted and thus allowing for working on the floor pan with much ease and thoroughness. Budgetary estimates are being prepared for this (and only) scenario. So far the verdict is that we have a rather sound body with very little rust spots and an even better looking floor pan. Not so many worries (or additional expenses). :-)

So here is what I saw yesterday after the initial stripping:

The restoration was started on 5 March 2012

Wheel arches show no rust

The rear LH valance from the inside: few issues here

The LH inner fender rust spot: not so difficult to fix

Inner door condition is good with some rust in the bottom area.

The view from the rear, prior to engine removal

Wed. 7th March 2012 update: ‘Houston we have Lift-Off’, the body was separated from the chassis

The body shell hovers over the chassis! Perhaps this temporary separation has occurred for the first time after a tight, faithful marriage of over 50 years!

Today as I visited the body shop, the Käfer was just being readied for lift-off! That is all the bolts holding the body shell firmly mated to the rolling chassis had been removed, ditto for the wiring. Manos, the shop’s Foreman was making sure that nothing was forgotten, the last item to be disconnected was the speedo cable. The body was manually cracked open and the lifter arms were adjusted so that by pressing the Up button it would be raised evenly and without much effort. Carefully coordinating the intermittent pressings of the button by an assistant, the body was lifted-off without any mishap.

Rear quarter panel is rusted nicely and will be replaced.

Upon closer examination of both body and floor-pan, the verdict revealed few more rust spots, mainly in the body undersides, in the area of the heater tubes which run alongside the door sills. A known source of pain for VW Beetles. In addition, few more rust spots became evident on the rear quarter panels onto which the bumper brackets are being mounted. Luckily such panels are readily available from a number of sources, among which the VWHERITAGE guys in the UK.

Other than these pains in the aforementioned areas, there were no further nasty surprises upon the separation of the body from the chassis, such having occurred for the first time after a tight and faithful German marriage, residing in sunny dry Greece, for over 50 years!

Watch the ‘separation’ video clip here below:

Here are few more impressive pictures from the operation:

I love this particular picture which captures almost an unreal sight ;-)

The rolling chassis

Attention Low Riders: you cannot go any lower than this! ;-)

My Blog during 2011 in review!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

A 1962 VW Beetle joins the ‘family’

Preface

The story of the Volkswagen Beetle is well known; it was designed by Ferdinand Porsche to provide cheap transport for the hard working German masses, hence the name, the “People’s Car”. For the myriad other names given to this popular car click here! Initially they were built in very small numbers before and during World War II; later the Beetle literally rose from the ashes of Volkswagen’s bombed-out Wolfsburg factory to become an instant success across Europe, Britain, America and virtually every other country in the world.
The model evolved through various facelifts and numerous mechanical changes – there were more than 70,000 identifiable modifications – while it also provided a platform for other models, including military (such as the Kübelwagen and the remarkable Schwimmwagen), commercial vehicles (such as the Type 2 Bus) and sporting derivatives such as those by Karmann-Ghia. It was this constant development and attention to detail which allowed the Beetle to maintain its remarkable sales success , and as production raced past the 15,000,000 mark, the Beetle went on to be known as ‘The Best Selling’ car of all time. But this record was eventually superseded by the VW Golf.

My story

My old VW Beetle named Marlen, during College years (ca. 1972), here in Aspen, Colorado.

Readers of my Cars & More pages in this Blog may have noticed that while I was in Lake Forest College (during the early 70′s), I had obtained an old 1962 VW Beetle, into which later on had thrusted a rebuilt by-my-own-hands Porsche 356 engine in the back bay, turning the little car into a nondescript hot-rod; eventually converting the Bug into a wicked Autodynamics Deserter GT beach-buggy that accompanied me back home to Greece after graduation on board the super-liner SS Michelangelo.

The 1962 Beetle as I first encountered her in the Corinth storage of the ‘Smile of a Child’ Org.

I guess that the notion of re-living those long gone days of innocence and thirst for an adrenaline fueled life, was in the back of my head for some time. And out of the blue, the opportunity to acquire another 1962 Beetle came sometime in the spring of 2011. In April a bunch of car aficionados  had successfully formed the “Car Friends Close Group“, a small private Face Book Group of friends who share their passion and love about anything on wheels. We then organized an event with our cars showing in a private collector’s garage aiming to raise funds for ‘a good cause’ in support of the Smile of Child, a well known Greek NGO (http://www.hamogelo.gr). Since the President of the NGO is an ex colleague from the IT Business, he asked me to help him in selling some old cars that were donated few years ago to the organization. Arrangements were  made for me to visit the storage area in Corinth in order to take pictures and evaluate the cars on his behalf. Lo and behold, when the gates were opened I first encountered a 1973 R107 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL and right behind a 1962 Type 113 VW Beetle (aka Käfer) in anthracite color. Having myself bought just few months ago an immaculate R107 (see The Day I met “Princes Grace” post) I had no interest for yet another one in need of restoration. But the Beetle touched my soft spot; I had to rescue this neglected but quite original and in sound condition example. I must confess that among all my classic or modern cars, the Beetle, named Marlen II, currently commands the highest emotional charge! ;-)

The “just arrived” Porsche 356 engine in a box!

Rewinding on the story a parenthesis is due; the idea of re-living my College year’s of owning an early 60′s  VW Beetle powered by a 356 Porsche engine, included a quest to source an appropriate unit for rebuilding and then fitting (a straight bolt on job) it to the newly acquired Beetle. Seeking such in Greece was unsuccessful; Enter in the picture a generous and noted Porsche cars collector, a Greek-American friend, Myron Vernis, who upon learning via e-mail exchanges of my quest, graciously offered to provide such a unit as a present to me! Ain’t that nice? Hence, after many arrangements done by my other close Greek car collector friend, Alex Vazeos, one September morning the 356 engine arrived at my garage in a crate, directly from Ohio, USA! I am most grateful about getting “a little help from my friends!” :-)

Just about ready to unload the Bug on “Terra Attica” after its journey from Corinth.

Closing the parenthesis, back to present, making a longish story short, after negotiating with my ex colleague for a two car deal, I was able to get yet another Greek car collector friend of mine interested in the Merc R107; hence we concluded the purchase of both cars in late October 2011. I made arrangements for both to be loaded on a car transport truck and delivered to our respective workshops in Athens. I took delivery of Marlen II on Friday afternoon 18th of November at the premises of my trusted body shop, the A & B FOR CARS in Geraka (the friendly guys who did such a nice job on the “ground-up” restoration project of 2010 for my 1967 Mercedes-Benz W111 250 SE Coupé. Click here for the related stories). The drums of anticipation jumped gear thumping faster as I heard the truck’s diesel engine maneuvering outside the body shop’s gate. I had not inspected the car carefully while in its Corinthian storage, as there was not enough room nor had I the possibility to raise the car and examine at the undercarriage for rust spots. It was sort of a “blind date” purchase and now after several months of dreaming about the little car, I was going to face the truth, good or bad…

The relevant ‘Apocalypse Now!’ video clip is here-below; Manos’ expert eye confirms that the undercarriage is original, rust-free and unmolested. “Poly Kalo!” (Very Good! was his verdict). The car has not suffered any injuries from any serious crash accident and there would be little intervention to be done in her underbelly aside from a thorough steam cleaning and wax-oiling! A pleasant surprise :-)

Engine Number: it turned out that this is indeed the original engine!

After some more documenting pictures were taken, I left the car there and headed for home (on the way I decided to offer Marlen II as a birthday present to my beloved wife Ivi, her anniversary being on Sunday 20th November)! Full of excitement about all that was eager and thirsty to hit the web and start researching about her birth date and many other Käfer related details.  Her chassis No. 4 725 111 revealed that the official model is “113, VW De Luxe Sedan”, manufactured in May 1962; in addition, the engine No. 6 766 861 means that it pumps out 34 DIN PS with a displacement of 1.2 Liter. For more details I would have to await the receipt of the official ‘Zertifikat’ applied for from the Stifung AutoMuseum Volkswagen, Schatzkammer der Marke.

On the following Saturday morning the primary task was to start the engine! Of course the 6 Volt battery was dead so I had to ‘borrow’ the one from our 1956 Citroen Traction Avant! Armed with a ‘light’ toolbox and the extracted battery plus a spray can of ether engine starter, I proceeded to A & B FOR CARS to do the honors.

VW engine key (aka key to happiness)!

The VW speedometer indicates some 80′s kilometrage…

After cleaning the battery terminals and positioning the fresh power source in its tray under the rear seat bench-(also not rusted), I removed the carb air cleaner and was ready to turn the ignition key. I asked one of the guys to assist by only squirting ether twice inside the carb barrel. Ready? Ignition: on the second cranking the air-cooled motor without much ado, spurted to life! I could not believe my eyes, ears and nose. All three senses acted in unison as a total recall to long forgotten but familiar VW Beetle sounds and smells. My new ’49-years old’ VW was purring, revving at higher idle as a cold engine should. No excessive smoke nor valve train clutter was noticed. The red indicator charging/oil pressure ‘idiot light’ on the speedometer instrument going out as it was supposed to. Good omens for an unusually warm and sunny late November Saturday morning. I was very happy indeed! :-) A time capsule? Who knows how long ago it was when the engine was last used? How many previous owners? Are the 81310 kilometers indicated in the odometer true and correct? Further inspection and getting to know my Marlen II would sooner or later piece together some of the puzzle pieces of her past life.

The first steam cleaning attempt of Marlen II was half done: the machine broke down! :-(

Next stop was at the cleaners! Unluckily my friendly Pakistani hot pressure water equipped car washer was not available, so I had to hunt in the neighborhood for an alternate. After several gas station stops, one had the right equipment and was willing to undertake the job. A lot of old grease and caked oil had accumulated in the rear engine and gear box area as well as in the front torsion bar suspension. While at it, his Karcher machine broke down… :-( The job was half done and the bill was reduced. Oh well, Kumar will do it properly for me come Monday.

A more detailed picture album of the car can be viewed by clicking HERE!

Overhauling the brakes at Cabilis Performance ‘clean’ shop.

Next task was to change the vital juices: engine oil, gearbox oil, brake fluid. In addition to check on the road safety of the car in areas of steering, suspension, brakes, electrics (lights, turning indicators, horn, windshield wipers etc). These items were taken care of (the juices by Christos Economou VW Service) and the rest by Cabilis Performance, a VW specialist conveniently located only one block away from my garage! In between five new tires were fitted and the wheels dynamically balanced.

The mechanical repairs effected so far (Dec 2011) include:

  • Brakes overhaul (new master cylinder, wheel cylinders, linings, hoses, bleeders)
  • Front end (new steering damper, tie rod ends, wheel bearings cleaned & greased, new shock absorbers, travel end ‘stop’ rubbers)
  • Rear end (re-tuned torsion bars as the car was sitting too high, new shock absorbers, travel end ‘stop’ rubbers)
  • Engine (new distributor assembly, spark plugs and HT wires, valves adjusted, carb cleaned, fuel filter fitted in non-conspicuous spot, replaced gear shift lever with original one)
  • Electrics (headlights replaced, light bulbs checked, horn, dome light, windshield wiper motor, wiper arms, windshield washer line replaced, generator coils re-winded and new bearing fitted).

The engine bay is quite original. In this pic after replacing the distributor and overhauling the generator.

What is interesting to note is that the Cabilis people (father and two sons) report that the engine has not been opened and its compression test was good and even! Aside from establishing that the engine is a “matching numbers” case, this good news supports the possibility that the indicated 80k kilometers might also be true. In the mean time, the “Zertifikat” along with the confirming letter stating that “that the above engine number is that of the original engine”, came via post just the other day. Considering all the above, I am now in a dilemma about replacing the original-in good condition-engine with the more powerful Porsche 356 unit as originally planned. That issue will be resolved in the near future as the restoration project progresses during 2012…

Marlen’s II birth “Zertificat” as issued by the VW AutoMuseum

The VW Museum Letter confirming engine “matching numbers” dated 30.11.2011.

Next phase of repairs to commence in January 2012 will cover the following areas:

  • Body shop work (addressing the few rot spots, stripping and sanding and respraying to the original color “L 469 Anthracite”, replacing front and rear bumpers, sand blasting and respraying the wheels to the original color “L 471 Stone Beige”, replacing front & rear windshield seals, all other rubbers and seals etc).
  • Upholstery work (replacing seat upholstery according to the factory fitted “M 079 Upholstery leatherette” and the head liner of the original 1960-62 style in light gray nap cloth perforated type, fitting the proper carpet set as the original tan colored German square weave material, plus anything else required so that the car will be in an as much original condition as possible).

Hopefully we will not get as analytic during the preservation phase!

Preparing for implementing that exciting phase of the restoration, I have delved in appropriate VW parts sources and related info which I list below as a reference for other interested Beetle loving friends and readers:

To be continued as the restoration progresses!

The day I met “Lillibet” a.k.a. Daimler Double Six Series 3

As some readers of my web-log may recall, I was lusting during this spring/summer period after the acquisition of a Ford Model ‘A’ ca. 1930. For several reasons beyond my control, this quest did not materialize. Circumstances or fate had it that a much younger siren would whisper songs of lust into my ears and cast her beautiful lines and soft leathery souled interior cum primordial smells upon me. Her uplifted condition and metallic blue color with sliding roof to gaze upon the stars while parked along a Greek coastal twisty road, was also cool. Cooler even was the output of her primitive but efficient climate control, a parameter important to me as I sweat easily.

A good car collector friend had similarly fallen for this 1991 Daimler Double Six Series 3, an up-market Jaguar XJ12 model, just few months earlier. “I simply had to buy her, cars like that in such a good condition are rarely to be found in Greece”, he once told me. When the time came for him to update and focus his unique car collection an offer to buy was placed upon me. We took the car out for a spin on a mid-July evening which ended with a pleasant dinner on a coastal, chic Vouliagmeni Italian restaurant. The ride was excellent, while the amount of smoothness ensured by the V12 legendary Jaguar engine, simply had not been experienced by me before. I said to my friend that “I will sleep on the idea” and headed for home in my sweet GLK.

The car as I first saw her. Her beautiful lines and shape, penned by none other than Pininfarina during the Series 3 upgrade, did not go unnoticed...

Next morning there was a lot of Googling and researching on the Double Six story and checking of International market values and offers. Negotiating softly on the asking price, soon a deal was struck on a Friday morning. During that week-end many deeper Internet searches revealed several aspects of the car, familiarized with the XJ6 and XJ12 stories and so on. Photographs taken during the test drive session kept the new infatuation alive and well. Hence arrangements were made to drive by my friends garage on Monday evening on our way back from an extended w-e in Kea island, to take delivery of the car.

Queen Elizabeth II driving her Daimler Double Six

Breaking the news to spouse of a new big saloon, large engined, powerful young classic was an issue. Did that ala Walt Disney with fast moving photos sliding along the iPad screen while on the ferry. The myth added (a fact) was that Queen Elizabeth II had owned exactly the same model and blue colored luxury car. See here this story: Queen Elizabeth II’s 1984 Daimler Double Six LWB up for auction — Autoblog. Took delivery of the car in Glyfada and drove off north to lock her up in the garage without much fuss so as to avoid any unnecessary feminine nagging. Besides, my entire next day would be devoted to “Lillibet“. First driving impressions: big car, torquey, excellent brakes, lovely feeling on the palms of that polished wooden rimmed steering wheel. Studied the “Owners Manual” on the couch before falling asleep. It had been a full and eventful day.

The OEM FM radio-cassette unit bearing the Jaguar logo.

Given that we had to drive my mother-in-law and her “au pair” lady to central Greece on Thursday for her summer vacation stint, we set for a round trip same day 700 km dash; I thought that this presented a lovely opportunity for an extended test drive of the new acquisition. Although the car was recently serviced by my previous owner friend and reported as being “in excellent condition”, few items required attention. One head light bulb was off, so while at it, Panayotis (my auto electrician at Gerakas) replaced both by fitting HID lamps all around. My friend had also sourced an original Jaguar stereo cassette sound system from the USA. Alas such radio sets do not tune in to odd numbered FM frequencies which are common in Europe. The idea of traveling for eight plus hours without a proper sound system was impossible to bear.

Cockpit view with the new Sony radio installed. Note the USB white wire and the convenient remote-control.

Hence I bought a modern Sony MEX-BT3900U with Bluetooth, player of MP3/CD’s, including USB, front AUX input and remote-control. Not a period unit (the OEM unit was packaged away with cherish), but impressively high-tech; Panos had to carefully remove the central console veneers and arm rest storage bin in order to extract the old unit and wire in the modern device. Ipso facto, upon completion, I easily connected my iPhone, received and made hands free calls, played selections from iTunes either via BT or via USB while also recharging. The car’s electric rear antenna functioned well with the unit and although has a 4 X 52 Watt rating, pumps out enough power to deliver undistorted all around sounds via the built in six speakers of the Double Six. “Now you are cooking with gas!” I muttered to myself upon driving away from my faithful electrician who had professionally done all the electrics during last year’s restoration project of the M-B 250 SE Coupe. Almost ready to depart? Not just quite. The passenger front door lock cylinder had lost its internal retaining forked clip, thus loosened and popping out suspiciously. Fiddling with it, the door locked permanently :-(  Ouch! How could spouse get in and out of the car with her door being shut tight? To the rescue came my expert body-shop guys of A+B For Cars. They managed to get the lock loose, open-up the entire RH indoor facing, fish out the dropped clip, grease the undone linkages and reassemble properly the whole lot within two hours. Now we were ready for tomorrows hot weather, 700 km test drive.

The Beginnings of Daimler

The British based automobile producer, Daimler Motor Car Company, was based in Coventry and has origins dating back to 1896. In 1893, Frederick Simms purchased the patent rights to the Gottlieb Daimler’s engine, and formed a company named the ‘Daimler Motor Syndicate.’ Daimler, a German engineer, had patented an engine design and worked closely with Wilhelm Maybach to create the first motorcycle in 1885. Their first four-wheeled car was created a few years later, in 1889. They later formed the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, also known as DMG or Daimler Motor Company.

1932 Radiator Mascot of Daimler Double Six. Source: http://www.conceptcarz.com

The Daimler Motor Company, based in Cannstatt, would continue in business until 1926. The company relocated to Stuttgart-Untertürkheim in 1903; Daimler had passed away in 1900 and a fire had destroyed the original factory a short time later. During the early years of the company, they produced petrol engines and sold the rights and patents for use of these engines. They dabbled in the creation of racing cars and enjoyed much success. This lead to the production of the Mercedes model in 1902. From this point, automobile production became their main business and they offered a variety of models over the years. In 1926, DMG merged with Benz & Cie, and formed Daimler-Benz and used Mercedes-Benz as its trademark automobile. In 1998, a merger with Chrysler created the DaimlerChrysler Corporation.

The early years of automobile production was very uncertain. Public opinion about motorized vehicles were mixed, with many fearing the contraptions. They were loud, noise, dirty, smoky, and at times, unpredictable. They often spooked the live-stock and sent horse-drawn carriages into chaos. In Britain, they solved this problem by requiring each motorized vehicle to be escorted by a person on foot, who would wave a bright red flag and warn all those in its path of its arrival. This would give ample time to prepare for the noisy contraptions and to secure their livestock. This did little to promote the use of motorized car.

Mr. Simms held onto his patent rights for only a short while, before selling in 1896 to Harry Lawson, who formed the ‘Daimler Motor Company’ in the city of Coventry. This, of course, causes confusion as there were two companies with the name, Daimler. The license to use the name ‘Daimler’ was sold to a number of countries, which adds another degree of confusion. To help alleviate this confusion, the name ‘Mercedes’ was used by Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft for the cars that they produced after 1902. 1908 was the final year that the name ‘Daimler’ was used on a German built car.

British based Daimler
The British based Daimler Company is Britain’s oldest marque. The cars they built were powered by German engines with chassis designs very similar to those of Panhard & Lavasseur. The Daimler cars immediately appealed to the wealthy, Royalty, and the socially elite. Their chassis platforms were appropriate for the finest of coachwork and capable of satisfying the demands of their elite group of clientele. They would continue this stately business for many years, with little competition from other British marques, until Rolls-Royce came onto the scene.

In 1908, Daimler acquired a license for the Knight engine which featured sleeve valves and allowed the engine to operate in a much quieter fashion. This technology was in use by several United States automobile makers, though the high-cost of production limited it to mainly high-end automobile production. The quiet operation was made possible by using a sliding valve to operate the intake and exhaust ports. The valves required lots of lubrication which often resulted in smoke. The popular alternative to the sleeve valve was a camshaft actuated valve which rattled and created noise.

Daimler’s line-up of vehicles consisted of six-cylinder engines until the mid-1920s, when the Double Six came onto the scene. It was designed by their chief engineer, Laurence H. Pomeroy. It used a similar design to the six-cylinder engine, which consisted of two-sets of three cylinders. The Double Six engine was basically two six-cylinder engines in vee-configuration with each bank having their own intake, exhaust and ignition system. Pomeroy used a new aluminum crankcase and modified the sleeve-valve design. The oil consumption of the sleeve-valve was reduced by replacing the cast-iron valves with steel, and forming them to have a better fit. The result was a twelve-cylinder engine capable of producing an impressive 150 horsepower.

1932 Daimler Double Six. Source: http://www.conceptcarz.com

In 1926, Daimler introduced their Double Six which remained in production until the mid-1930s. During that time, only a limited number of examples were created. At most, there were seventy-five created, with as few as a one-third of that estimate. All were unique and tailed to the customer’s requests, including the displacement size of the engine. Some were two-doors, others had four. They were very popular with royalty, including King George of Britain who ordered two limousine examples, both had seating for seven.

The elegant bodies rode atop of a steel ladder frame chassis which varied in length depending on the customers requests. The body configurations favored luxury, but some were sporty including a number of drop-top models. One unique example, designed by Reid Railton and built by Thompson and Taylor, had a low, underslung rear end.

The early models were known as the 50 and 30, which was in reference to their displacement size. The 50 had a 7136cc displacement size while the 30 feature a 3477cc size. These were replaced in the early 1930s by the 30/40 and the 40/50. The 30/40 had a 5.3-liter engine and the 40/50 displaced 6.5 liters. Improvements continued throughout the years, including to the lubrication system and a new gearbox, a preselector unit.

Production continued until 1935, though a final example was created in 1937 to use up surplus supplies.
By Daniel Vaughan | May 2007. Source: conceptcarz.com

More on the Daimler marque history can be found here: http://www.thoroughbred-cars.com/cars/UK/Daimler/history.htm

Fast forward to more recent times:

The company was purchased by Jaguar Cars in 1960. After the introduction of the Daimler DR450 new models used Jaguar bodies with Daimler grilles and badging. Daimler remains in the ownership of Jaguar Cars which now belongs to Tata Group of India.

In 1979 Jaguar unveiled the Series 3 which remained in production until 1992. The famous design studio, Pininfarina, had been tasked with incorporating design enhancements for the long-wheelbase version. The results were stunning. The Series III were powered by six- and 12-cylinder engines. In six-cylinder form, the owner could select either the 3.4-liter or 4.2-liter unit. The V12 unit had 5.3-liters in displacement size. The larger six-cylinder engine and the 12-cylinder unit both utilized Bosch fuel injection. The smaller six used carburetors and now offered for sale in the US.

Daimler Double Six

1986–1988 Daimler Double Six (XJ Series III)

From 1972 Jaguar’s 5.3 litre V12 engine was available in the XJ range, and for the Daimler version a name used by the company from 1926 to 1938 was revived. Sir William Lyons had retired from Jaguar in 1972 and the new chairman was FRW (Lofty) England. Lofty England had been a Daimler apprentice from 1927 to 1932 and taken second place in the first ever RAC rally driving a 30/40 hp Daimler double-six. Lofty England decreed that the new V12 Daimler would be known as Double Six.

Unlike the Jaguar, the twelve-cylinder Daimler had the same radiator grille as its six-cylinder sibling, and externally only the badges distinguished them. Although the Sovereign name was transferred to Jaguar, the Double Six name remained with Daimler throughout Series III production, which continued until 1992.

In total, there were 132,952 examples of the Series III produced. A small percentage of those, 10,500, were equipped with the 12-cylinder engine. In 1987 Jaguar ceased production of the Series III XJ with the six-cylinder engines. The Series III with the 12-cylinder power-plant continued until 1992.

The Series III brought with it cruise control and a sunroof as optional equipment. The Vanden Plas option was introduced in 1982 and intended for the US market. This designation indicated the top-of-the-line offering for the Jaguar XJ which included the twelve-cylinder engine and many luxury items as standard equipment.

Byron’s 1991 Daimler Double Six

Here are some pictures of my Double Six, affectionately named “Lillibet” after Queen Elizabeth II’s nickname, who owned exactly the same car. ;-)

Daimler Double Six side view

Daimler Double Six rear view at Lake Plastira area

Daimler Double Six radiator grille detail

Automobile Club de Monaco emblem

Automobile Club de Monaco emblem. The S.P.M. initials at the base of the crown stands for "Sovereign Prince of Monaco" (click on the picture to enlarge).

The Daimler monogram on the radiator fluted ornamentation.

Daimler Double Six rear end with insignia and dual exhaust pipes.

An additional photo album of the car can be viewed by clicking here!

Visiting the USA – June 2011

It is nice when we travel, especially when venturing in far away places which we do not get a chance to do quite so often; nevertheless, traveling with a set purpose is even nicer. My visit to the USA in June 2011 had that added ingredient.

David Agger and David Koven of Wellfleet, Cape Cod.

It all started back during the winter month of January, after the traditional Season’s Greetings had been exchanged with few of my Lake Forest College friends and classmates of 1973; the idea was tossed by David Agger: let’s get together for a private re-union in June in Wellfleet Cape Cod!, where he and David Koven both have houses. How many years since? I dared not count, but yes it was going to be close to 40 since I had last met some of my close friends from College days in America. After many e-mail exchanges I decided: Yes! This was going to be a fulfilling experience and a pleasant opportunity hard to ignore. A once in this life-time kind of situation.With flights booked and a rough trip outline sketched, I took my wife Ivi along for three weeks of USA-ing!

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Vinalheaven, North Haven, June 3rd – 6th

Avrum & Martha's house, Vinalhaven, Me.

First stop was Boston; Greeted by my friend Avrum Belzer (the two of us having built my Autodynamics Beach Buggy back in 1973, read the full story by clicking and then scrolling down here), we spent our first night at their apartment in Brookline with the intention of getting up early next morning, Friday June 3rd and to drive for about three-and-a-half hours to Rockland, Maine. From there we would catch the ferry for another hour or so to Vinalhaven island, part of the Fox Islands in Knox County, home to a thriving lobster fishery which hosts a lovely summer colony. Our friends Avrum and Martha Richardson of  www.martharichardsonfineart.com, own a cute, waterfront house with a private floating dock, where we would spend a long week-end together.

The approach to Vinalhaven from the ferry was special as the vessel was navigating through the straits and shallows and the island landscape cum sea smells were being revealed gradually as if a slow moving tableau vivant! To add to the joy, Avrum had arranged for his small outboard engined boat to be launched at our arrival; the ladies would drive the car to the house and we would go by sea! More seascape revealing was in store, the temperature was chilly in northern Maine and I had my camera ready so as to take it all in and save it in the can!

The cute, lobster boats-full port of Vinalhaven.

Avrum cannot hide his joy: the two friends being together after many years, in Vinalhaven, on his boat! :-)

Avrum & Martha seaside house in Vinalheaven.

Tasting the local lobsters, was a treat!

Eating lobsters was a must priority! Our friends not only know how to cook them but also taught us how to eat them, ensuring that nothing is wasted. Being at the center of lobster fishing meant that the product is of superior quality and taste, but also quite inexpensive. We feasted on eight of them crustaceans during the week-end and also discovered the gourmet like taste of another local delicacy: scallops! The marine bivalve mollusk of the family Pectinidae.

Exploring the West Penobscot Bay, was another priority and pleasure. We did so by car and by boat. We had an excellent dinner at the near-by island of North Haven, were the local launch boat of  a restaurant named Nebo Lodge,  came to fetch us! What a treat at dusk that little round trip adventure was!

Awaiting the launch to take us across to North Haven for dinner at Nebo Lodge.

North Haven at low tide and at dusk.

Every tourist visiting Vinalheaven has to do this picture taking: here is "He lobster" Mr. Byron

And here is "She lobster" Ms. Ivi

Admittedly I have a soft spot for Lighthouses, which  are an embedded part of the seafaring scenery of Maine; as such I could not resist from capturing their magic; their fog horns and chimes add to their mystic aura, creating an audiovisual memento hard to forget!

Vinalheaven light house

North Haven light

Rockland light

Before bidding Good-bye  to this secluded paradise, here is one more memorable scene from our friends island home, taken at 05:30 in the morning. Later on that day we started our return trip to metropolitan Boston.

Early morning view from Avrum & Martha's island house!

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Boston, June 6th-10th

The view from our room on the 8th floor was quite nice!

Spending few days in Boston, we booked into the Liberty Hotel, which used to an old Federal Prison at the foot of Charles Street. Not your usual hotel, with character and fascinating history. It was a very pleasant stay featuring “a room with a view”, overlooking the city scape and Charles river. Needless to say, June 6th is as many people know, the D-Day of Normandy anniversary but also, as many friends and relatives know, marks my B-Day; this year was to be celebrated away from home, but instead with a nice dinner in Boston with our good friends Avrum & Martha.

Next morning  was dedicated to walking and shopping. The cheap prices for clothes at Macy’s and other Bostonian stores combined with the strong Euro/US$ currency exchange rate, made us quite happy! :-)

I admit it; I am infected by this incurable disease! :-)

With Avrum we had vowed to do a pilgrimage to Marblehead, a historic harbor town north of Boston, with roots in both commercial fishing and yachting; locals allege that Marblehead is the birthplace of the American Navy, Marine Corps Aviation, and a yachting capital of the United States. To boot, technology and specialist automotive companies have thrived in modern times. My and especially Avrum’s association with the town go back to 1973. We both then had driven in late June non-stop from Lake Forest, Ill. (ca. 1.000 miles) to pick up my Autodynamics Deserter GT beach buggy kit car. More importantly though, Avrum later that year returned to Marblehead and started working for Autodynamics as a young apprentice mechanic, a life’s crossroad that made him stay there for several years and eventually settle in the Boston area, away from his hometown Chicago family. As such my friend not only remembered many facets of our venture of yesteryear but also has maintained some close friendships from those days. As for example now prominent classic car restorers, Paul Russell and Alex Finigan of Paul Russell and Company, a firm that has been named as “Best of…best restorers” by the Automobile Magazine and which among other noteworthy deeds, exclusively looks after Ralph Lauren’s incredible car collection!

A fine Bugatti awaited on the Paul Russell and Co. parking lot to greet us!

Hence the two of us drove to Essex, Ma. to visit this top class establishment and to meet Paul and Alex. Upon our arrival on the parking courtyard there was an impressive black Bugatti awaiting, as if to welcome us. The tour of the shop, administered by Alex, was an incredible experience for me. I did ask for permission to photograph the premises and the cars being worked on or up for sale, but I also have to respect their request for non-disclosure; hence I am not posting images taken inside the shop. I do so though for the ‘Warning – Disease” sign above, which perfectly describes my feelings pertaining to car collecting. I admit it; I am diseased.

Alex was kind enough to join us for lunch in Marblehead and to also show us his private car collection stored in none other premises than the old Autodynamics garage on Barnard Street! Is that a coincidence or what?

A family reunion in Boston to meet new member, baby Sophia; with me Chris and Lawrence.

While in Boston we pleasantly mixed a family re-union and being tourists. We met with my first cousin Chris Iliades, his daughter Corinne, husband Lawrence, their baby Sophia and son Nicky along with his fiancée Jennifer.

Next day we experienced the Boston Duck Tours, which operates a fleet of restored World War II era DUKWs. These amphibious vehicles played an important role in both the European and Pacific theaters of the war.

The Boston Duck Tour amphibian vehicles

The fun begins as soon as you board your “DUCK”, a W.W.II style amphibious landing vehicle. First, you are greeted by one of the legendary tour ConDUCKtors, who do the narrating of the tour. Then we’re off on a journey like we’ve never had before. We cruised by all the places that make Boston the birthplace of freedom and a city of firsts, from the golden-domed State House to Bunker Hill and the TD Banknorth Garden, Boston Common and Copley Square to the Big Dig, Government Center to fashionable Newbury Street, Quincy Market to the Prudential Tower, and more. And, as the best of Boston unfolded before our eyes, the ConDUCKtor kept giving us lots of little known facts and interesting insights about this unique and wonderful city.

Boston Duck afloat on Charles river!

And just when we thought that we’ve seen it all, there was more! It was time for a “Splashdown” as the ConDUCKtor splashed our DUCK right into the Charles River for a breathtaking view of the Boston and Cambridge skylines, the kind of view one just won’t get from anywhere else.

The Dodge Charger rental car served us well for our venturing from Boston to Cape Cod and back.

Next task was to rent a car for heading on Friday morning south to Cape Cod. When traveling in the US, I almost exclusively rent from Thrifty.com. Their rates are competitive and the service is good. Took a taxi to Logan airport area for the pick-up. Shared with the cabbie my NYC taxicab days saga and sympathizing, I gave him a generous tip. I wanted to rent a convertible but such was not available, so I settled for a red sporty Dodge Challenger cum Garmin Nuvi GPS navigation system, my guardian angel in these touring ventures in “terra incognita”.

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Cape Cod, June 10th – 13th

By crossing the Bourne Bridge we officially had entered into the Cape Cod domain.

Equipped accordingly, filled with some doses of excitement, I begged and cajoled spouse to start early, eventually checked out of the Liberty and asked the Valet to bring up the Charger from the hotel garage. From now on we were free and on our own to venture into the streets and highways or turnpikes of East Coast America. Certainly a thrill. The mission of our trip, i.e. the Lake Forest College Class of 1973 mini reunion was to unfold in the coming week end.

My cousin Chris with Ivi in front of the Iliades family home in East Falmouth, Ma.

I set the Nuvi for East Falmouth, our first stop on the way to Wellfleet, to visit the home and have lunch with my cousins Chris and Caren Iliades. Today Falmouth is well known as the terminal for the Steamship Authority ferries to Martha’s Vineyard and as the home of several scientific organizations such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and the Woods Hole Research Center. The one and a half hour drive was smooth and the excellent GPS  gadget found my cousin’s home on the dime! There a touching moment was in store for me, as Chris had placed on the table a large family photo album compiled by his father, our beloved uncle Costas; leafing through it was too much for restraining my tears from coming down. Touching bases all the way up the family tree!

Onwards through the town of Dennis and the surprise encounter with the Ford Model A Tudor example (read more on this story here: My next classic/veteran car investment?). I punched in the Nuvi our final destination for the day: Wellfleet! The home base of our College reunion. Located halfway between the “tip” and “elbow” of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the town had a population of 2,749 at the 2000 census, which swells nearly sixfold during the summer. Nearly half of the land area of Wellfleet is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore and a total of 70% of the town’s land area is in some form of protection. Wellfleet is famous for its eponymous oysters, which are celebrated by the annual October Wellfleet OysterFest. The drums of anticipation were pumping in my head and heart. I was about to meet my classmates after some 40 years! Such moments are not served-up every day into our lives and as such are much cherished.

Members of Lake Forest College Class of 1973 at the Wellfleet mini-reunion, from left: Steve Ellis, David Pines, Byron Riginos, David Koven, George Potts, Jeff McQueen, Peter Genta, David Agger and Lenny Jordan. A.k.a. "The magnificent nine!".

With Jeff, his wife Amy and Steve, we had met some years back when they had visited us in Greece and Kea island :-)

The first moments of the many months planned and much anticipated by all meeting, were very touching to say the least. At this point there is another comment worth making. In all my years of living in the US but also through my many business colleague encounters, I have come to the overall understanding that American folk are generally good natured, open hearted, honest and candid. In addition, relationships which go back to our youthful years are what I term as “annealed”; in other words even if many years have gone-by in between from seeing each other, upon encounter, Bingo! the relationship is right there despite all the wear and tear of each one’s individual life’s paths. What happened next and throughout the entire precious week end? As is usual in such re-uniting occasions, we went a lot down memory lane and brain honing, soul digging and experiences sharing. Wonderful, powerful stuff!

David Pines ca. 1972, Lake Forest College, Ill.

David Pines ca. 2011 in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

Our hosts B-B-Q'd local delicacies: many dinner table toasts ensued!

Provincetown port view

Attentive, warm and hospitable were our hosts of the reunion,  David Agger and Deek Koven; in their dwellings we all slept and had our dinners, drinks and held the music jamming session after the lobster, salmon and scallops diner of Saturday night. Before going back to Logan for our next flight to the West Coast, we shared more precious moments with David, Sharon, Jeff and Amy on Sunday noon and visited together the end town of Cape Cod, the historic Provincetown. Sometimes called “P-town“, the town is known for its beaches, harbor, artists, tourist industry, and its status as a gay village. Parting and saying good-byes was quite difficult. The sole comforting promise was to meet again soon, this time on our home turf, i.e. Greece and Kea island.

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My additional Boston, Vianalhaven, Cape Cod, LFC Reunion photo album on Facebook can be shared by clicking here!

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San Franciso, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, June 13th – 20th

Bolinas, San Francisco

Driving back from Wellfleet to Logan Airport on Monday morning was a bit sad regarding the end of our reunion but filled with satisfaction as well. It was a moment of reflection about the experiences and emotions of the previous days. On the other hand the anticipation of our next and final leg of the visit to the USA, soon balanced the prevailing feelings.

Our welcoming committee in San Francisco: Mark & Babette

The transamerican flight to San Francisco was longish but due to the time zone changes, we reached our destination in the early evening with plenty of light zone remaining. Awaiting at the airport were our good friends of many years, Captain Marco Sange and Babette and their cute poodle “service dog”  Scooter. Having seen our friends in Athens only since last October, the re-connection was immediate. The drive to their home at Bolinas, included a stopover at the Golden Gate Bridge and the cute marina of Sausalito. It is there that my friend moors his lovely custom 43 foot performance cruiser sailing boat, the Evening Star.

Byron, Ivi, Scooter & Mark at the Golden Gate Bridge observation point above Sausalito.

At their home in Bolinas, Babette maintains an organic vegetable garden, and the soup awaiting us at the dinner table was delicious, including home baked bread. We set the plans for next day which included to take out Mark’s original unrestored 1969 Ferrari 365 GT 2+2, for a spin heading north along the scenic U.S. Route 1, visiting Point Reyes Station and then onwards to Nick’s Cove along Tomales Bay for lunch. Aside from the excitement from riding in such cool wheels, the exhaust sounds and Mark’s double clutching spirited driving (an amateur race driver and avid car collector) accentuated the Ferrari moments; to boot, Mark stopped by his friend Roger Hoffman’s house, another serious car collector who proudly showed me few of his precious and unique examples. Such included the Kurtis 500KK race car. Watch the video clip below:

The drive along U.S. Route 1 was unforgettable, as was the fish lunch we enjoyed at Nick’s Cove restaurant.

Mark's beautiful Ferrari 365 GT 2+2

Partial glimpse of Fantasy Junction's rare and valuable car collection up for sale!

Next day’s program was going to be equally exciting, long and memorable. A visit to San Francisco, with a stopover at the Fantasy Junction, a world-wide known top class classic car dealer who has enjoyed an outstanding worldwide reputation for integrity and knowledge in the collector car field.  Then back to Sausalito for an afternoon sail on board the S/Y Evening Star in the Bay area, rounding the notorious Alcatraz ex Federal Prison island!

View of the Bay Area with two Americas Cup catamarans on sea trial, as seen from Divisadero Ave.

Mark's Evening Star awaiting our embarkation!

Under sail in the Bay! Good wind, extremely fast sloop!

John and Maureen's house, Stinson Beach hills, Ca.

Later on during the evening we were invited by Mark’s friends John and Maureen Hutchinson for dinner at their lovely hilltop house in Stinson Beach, about a 35-minute drive from the Golden Gate Bridge on California’s Highway 1, and 10 minutes from Bolinas. We had the pleasure of meeting John and Maureen in Athens last October as they were traveling to Greece with Mark & Babette. John so happens to share the same car collecting  disease as we, so in their garage was another Ferrari and a Mercedes 55SL.

The following day, Thursday was going to be our last full day in SFO. We were invited by the Hutchinsons to visit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and see the Gertrude Stein collection, cum lunch, cum dinner later on in the evening. I also, somewhere in between the day’s full program, had to go back to SFO Airport and pick-up my other car rental, a Ford Mustang Convertible this time, so that we could start our drive early next morning  along US-1 to Santa Barbara. Few pictures of SFO street life follow.

Magnificent morning view of the Golden Gate Bridge as we enter SFO.

SFO sky scrapers featuring small gaps in between buildings and glass reflections.

One of the trademarks of SFO: the cable car!

The Mustang Convertible is ready to roll for the trip south; here in front of Mark's home.

Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Barbara

On Friday morning we had to push on early in order to make the scenic drive via a combination of US-101 and US-1 (a.k.a. Pacific Coast Highway-PCH) routes to Santa Barbara where my housemate from Lake Forest College, Stephen Robeck and his wife Susan would be awaiting us. Saying good-by to Mark & Babette was difficult. Again vows to meet again soon in Greece were made, such helping to soften the parting emotions. Once again I punched in the coordinates for Santa Barbara into the Nuvi and drove on. Being careful not to miss any exits after crossing the great bridge, we made a good clip initially on the faster US-101. We picked-up the US-1 Pacific Coast Highway at Salinas, and onwards to the Big Sur.

The Nepenthe restaurant and Phoenix shop at Big Sur: a must stop for travelers.

In that area we were advised by our friends to ensure a stop at Nepenthe Restaurant. Based on the vision of founders Lolly and Bill Fassett, the family has maintained a commitment to exceptional caring service in a relaxed atmosphere. Lolly added the Phoenix Shop in 1964 to share the wares and treasures she loved with the world, and in 1992, the Café Kevah opened. All three businesses are still operated by their children and grandchildren. We had pleasant drinks and juicy burgers sitting at the bar stools and chatting with the friendly bartender. The vista of the rocky Sur and Pacific Ocean below are breathtaking.

Big Sur scene along Highway 1

Driving the Mustang along the Pacific Coast Highway with the top down, was a thrill.

Driving the Mustang along the coastal, two lane only, road with the top down, although that particular day was somewhat overcast, was a thrill. Traffic was light with a lot of biker tribes (mainly Harley’s but also touring Bimmers and few Ducatisti) crossing, as well as many campers. We knew that we were on holiday land, and when fate had it that the Mamas & Papas oldie hit California Dreaming, would broadcast through the car radio, the frosting on the cake brought back many teenage memories; only this time I was there, living the very dream!

The Robeck's house in Santa Barbara

Passing through Latino named towns added to the myth: San Simeon, Atascadero, San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, Santa Maria… Right there the Nuvi did its magic and directed me to exit US-1 and take the US-166 through lovely hilly vineyard country, crossing the deep green Los Padres National Forest before descending down to Santa Barbara, our final destination for the day. Without much trouble we located Stephen and Susan’s house on the hilly side of S.B. with lovely view of the town and the Santa Barbara Channel sea area further out. They had just finished a renovation and extension of their house; needless to say, seeing and hugging my ex-housemate after 40 years was very emotional. The dinner that ensued, B-B-Q’d fresh salmon, tasty salads and home baked palmiers with ice-cream, escorted by good wine, oldies jazzy music and lively discussions made us feel comfortable. Meeting their daughter Laureen was also a pleasure.

Stephen Robeck portrait drawing, Lake Forest College, ca. 1971

My friend Stephen Robeck profiling with an old Ship's Bow Head figurine in his den

Stephen and Byron, re-united in Santa Barbara, Ca. after 40 years!

After a nice sleep in the plush ex-Master Bedroom, touching bases with Stephen and Susan over morning coffee was cherishable. They were celebrating their anniversary and serious plans got under way about celebrating the following year’s together with ours (one day apart) in Kea island. Now this is a good promise to keep! :-)

Before leaving for Santa Monica we had enough time to browse through the streets and high lights of Santa Barbara, widely known as the “American Riviera.” In addition to being a popular tourist and resort destination, the city is rich with history which begins at least 13,000 years ago with the ancestors of the present-day Chumash Indians. The Spanish period has left a deep imprint with most prominent the Mission Santa Barbara, known as “the Queen of the Missions,” which was founded in 1786.

Mission Santa Barbara, known as "the Queen of the Missions," was founded in 1786.

We loved the streets of Santa Barbara. There is a certain positive aura about it, a calm, clean, neat, well looked after town, which has the look and impression of an affluent suburb. The villas on the hills are numerous and “grande”. Being a coastal town also has a good size marina, a typical American pier, the Stearns Wharf. When completed in 1872, it became the longest deep-water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Named for its builder, local lumberman John P. Stearns, the wharf served the passenger and freight shipping needs of California’s South Coast for over a quarter century. The area boasts many waterfront restaurants and shops as well as beaches. The Main Street features extensive shopping options, pedestrian arcades, easy parking and so on. I think that the nickname “American Riviera” is befitting.

There are certain things or situations which carry a favorite tag of mine, that is “Only in America”. The Hippie Van below is just one example, found in the public parking lot of Santa Barbara. If you click on the photo it will open in a new window in large format, click again and enlarges once more, so that the details of this contraption can be examined and its message deciphered! (By the way, such clicking function is embedded in all photos of my Blog).

My additional San Francisco, Los Angeles etc. photo album on Facebook can be shared by clicking here!

A "only in America" weird object! Click on the photo to enlarge and observe the details!

Santa Monica, Los Angeles

Santa Monica beach and pier: view from our Fairmont Hotel room.

After a mediocre Mexican lunch, we cruised on the coastal road toward Santa Monica passing through several “California Dreaming” beachfront towns as Carpinteria, Ventura, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Malibu Another befitting song that will add music-score nuances to our cruising experience would be the Beach Boys hit Surfing USA“. Endless coasts with serious surf wakes entice Californians to this sport. Others just lay on the beach sun bathing and pick-nicking. Beautiful villas along the coastal line add to the scenery all the way to Santa Monica and beyond to Ventura.

We lodged in the Fairmont Miramar Hotel at the end of Wilshire Boulevard, an arterial road that leads from the west coast right into the center of metropolitan Los Angeles and beyond running a distance of 16 miles (26 km).

Third Street Promenade by night. Photo by Lynn N. on http://www.yelp.com

Our afternoon walk to nearby “Third Street Promenade” and adjacent “Santa Monica Place” was impressive. USA capitalism and retail fever is found here at its grandest manifestation. Third Street Promenade has been a center of business in Santa Monica since the town’s inception in the late 19th century. The Promenade’s roots date back to the 1960s when three blocks of Third Street were converted into a pedestrian mall. Although successful, by the late 1970s, the Santa Monica Mall (as it was then called), was in need of modernization and a redesign. A new enclosed shopping center, Santa Monica Place (1980–2007), designed by Frank Gehry was added at the Promenade’s southern end. Aside from a multitude of stores and restaurants, street artists of all kinds compete to attract visitors and extract their applause and occasional coin donations. After exhausting ourselves walking and overdosing on consumerism, we dined at a Thai restaurant by the name of Buddha’s Belly.

Santa Monica Place view. Photo by Miguel E. on http://www.yelp.com

Beverly Hills city sign welcomes us on our "Father's Day" visit!

Sunday June 19th, “Father’s Day” was the last full day of our trip to the USA. :-(  We got into the Mustang, opened the top and drove north on Wilshire Blvd. towards Beverly Hills. It is one of the most affluent cities in the world, and is home to Hollywood celebrities, many corporate executives and numerous other wealthy individuals and families. In 2007, Coldwell Banker listed Beverly Hills as the most expensive housing market (second year in a row) in the United States, with a median home price of over $2.2 million. These homes range from the extravagant and luxurious in size, to the more elegant and modern homes, and then to the many small duplex rental units and detached homes with less than 2,000 sq ft (185 sq meters). We zig-zagged above and below the axis of Santa Monica Blvd., admiring the hilly setting with the plush, mostly secluded vilas of the rich and the famous. Ivi had a ball.

Characteristic Beverly Hills green street with palm trees.

Rodeo Dr. Cd'E banner

I wished to show her the exclusive shopping street of Rodeo Drive and stop for coffee. A shopping district known for designer label and haute couture fashion. The name generally refers to a three-block long stretch of boutiques and shops but the street stretches further north and south. As I was approaching the area, I noticed that Rodeo Dr. was closed and saw a huge white canvas across the street with the Ferrari logo on it. Many people were mingling behind but could not see clearly. Ivi shouted “Don’t you dare stop here, no more cars on our last day in L.A.!” Oops! I was going to get into serious trouble. She had overdosed on cars during this trip and was adamant. I drove off and continued cruising along the fine streets of Beverly. After a while, nature’s call had to be answered so I sort of drifted back to the “scene of the crime” once again… I barely got her out of the car on the promise of exclusive shopping etc. What was going on in Rodeo Drive? They were hosting the “2011 Rodeo Drive Concours D’ Elegance”! A unique showcase of classic collector cars on the world-renowned shopping street. What a treat! On the annual Father’s Day, the C d’E celebrated “The Art of Italian Motoring,” and helped commemorate Italy’s 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy. More than 100 vintage Italian cars and motorcycles were on display, lining Rodeo Drive north of Wilshire Boulevard. The flack I received from spouse could not deter my excitement, despite being forced to cut it short. For me, a gift on Father’s day, another unique motoring experience, another “Only in America” happening, as a grand finale of my “Pilgrimage Trip” to the USA. See the nice video here:

Also enjoy William Edgar’s slide show photography by clicking here! and then scrolling down to the end of page.

Rodeo Dr. Concours d'Elegance street scene...

My additional Rodeo Drive Concours D’ Elegance, Beverly Hills photo album on Facebook can be shared by anyone just by clicking here!

On the last day of our visit, on the morning of Monday the 2oth, we took a leisurely drive before reaching our final destination, the LAX. Passing through the towns of Ventura and Marina Del Ray. Its Fisherman’s Village offers a view of Marina Del Rey’s dominant feature as one of the largest man-made small boat harbors in the U.S., with 19 marinas with capacity for 5,300 boats. The harbor, the Los Angeles Times said in 1997, is “perhaps the county’s most valuable resource.”

Marina Del Ray scene, "perhaps the county's most valuable resource."

The odometer tells the mileage run!

Returning the Mustang at Thrifty’s was smooth. Overall we logged about 570 miles or 917 kilometers on the SFO, Bolinas and Pacific Coast Highway routes. Motoring on the US roads is pleasant, safe and comfortable. Overall a perfect experience either on the Cape Cod or California roads. Took the courtesy shuttle bus to the Eastern Airlines Terminal where we endured the worst ordeal of the entire trip. We were directed to a “counter operator assisted” cue, because I wanted to ensure that our luggage will not get lost on the multy legged flight plan, LAX, SFO, Zurich, Athens and switching airlines from Eastern to Swiss in between. At any rate we coped among swearing and bitching and vowing “Never to fly Eastern again”. The final luxury of our trip was to fly Business Class on the long return trip from LAX to Zurich and then on to home port Athens. Swiss was perfect, and the reclining seats into fully horizontal position allowed for some light sleep, good airline food and…an on board movie (among the many selections) being Bullit with Steve McQueen and the famous car chase driving a Ford Mustang in the streets of San Francisco. :-)

Curtain!

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My next classic/veteran car investment?

My father's Ford Model A Tudor ca. 1936 in Athens

Readers of my blog may have seen the page Cars & More where there is a mention of one of my father’s early cars of the mid thirties, namely a Ford Model A Tudor. I have this very photograph in a frame in our living room. Stricken with the flu these last few days, I was expelled from the master bedroom and spent several nights on the couch. My eyes kept looking at this picture and after a while the idea just clicked: wouldn’t be nice if I managed to get my hands on a Model A? Not only it would be the first pre-war car in the collection but I would sense and feel how my dad went about his daily business in the streets of Athens during the mid thirties! The more I pondered on the idea the more sense it made. A search on E-Bay and Hemmings revealed an adequate supply of these models in the vast American market. Dwelling deeper into Henry’s creations, soon enough I was convinced that a Roadster Model A would be more fun and appropriate for the dry, sunny weather of my Mediterranean country.  All these inputs being quite encouraging and inspiring, but was I really ready to shop from far away? Without seeing and test driving the prospective wheels? And then agonizing about shipment in a container by sea, plus going through the chores of clearing Greek customs upon landing and so on?

The answer to all these questions and concerns was a loud NO. But as it happens often in life, good fortune (or bad being just as easily present) came my way. By coincidence and circumstance I learned about a car collection being liquidated in Northern Greece. Soon enough a list of cars for sale appeared, among them one being a “1931 Ford”. Just that, no further details or even a picture was provided. With two other “gear-head” friends we flew bright and early to Thessaloniki on a Thursday of May 2011 aiming to examine several interesting examples. The suspense was mounting. Would that Ford be a Model A? And if so, which body type? The list of models good old Henry produced was endless:
Convertible Sedan (A-400)

My Dad's Ford Model A facing technical problems!

Business Coupe  or plain Coupe
Deluxe Coupe or Sport Coupe
Standard Coupe
Standard Fordor Sedan – Murray
Standard Fordor Sedan – Briggs
Deluxe Fordor Sedan – Murray
Deluxe Fordor Sedan – Briggs
Leatherback Fordor Sedan
Standard Fordor Sedan – Slant windshield
Mail Truck
Panel Truck
Phaeton 2-door
Phaeton 4-door
Deluxe Service Pickup
Roadster Pickup
Pickup
Deluxe Pickup
Standard Roadster
Deluxe Roadster
Sport Roadster
Station Wagon
Taxi Cab
Town Car
Town Car Delivery
Standard Tudor Sedan
Deluxe Tudor Sedan
Victoria
Wood Panel Delivery… Amen!

I controlled my curiosity, in a way similar to a kid who savors his sweet candy; after evaluating thoroughly two Mercedes cars (a 300d Cabriolet and a 220 SE Cabriolet, both of 1960 vintage), and not as yet having spotted any pre-war cars in the storage hall, I inquired about the old Ford’s whereabouts. ‘Aha! We have to go to the other hall in the back”, came the answer from the collector’s son who was escorting us that fine morning.

First glimpse of the 1931 Ford Mod A Roadster!

Lo and behold! A nice looking 1931 Ford Model A Roadster was positioned and resting on quatropod car stands. Exactly the body version I was thinking about including that fun adding rear rumble seat!  :-) Controlling myself for yet another time, with my Mag-Lite in one hand and digital camera strapped on the neck, I started scrutinizing the veteran old lady quite thoroughly. An older restoration but a decent one. All parts there. Dual spare wheels with chained mirrors on them. Wind wing deflecting glass. Single Trico windshield wiper of the vacuum type. Vinyl brown color upholstery. Tidy engine bay. No radiator ornament but fitted with a stone guard, no trunk box in the back, no air filter in the Zenith carb. Clean undercarriage, some oil marks on the cement floor. Not the greatest color combination, but…

Could this be my next investment in fun and a ticket to ride on the Emmanuel Riginos family car sentiments lane? Possibly so; the coming days will reveal what the fate of this 80 year old Model A will be. Will she find a new home with abundant tender loving care? A new pampered life with many happy outings and several old car rallies?

These cars are simple and durable. All parts can be sourced.

P.S. in my recent College reunion trip to the USA, as I was driving through East Dennis in Cape Cod, I saw a beautiful Model A Tudor. Made a U-turn and snapped few pictures of this smartly restored car, exactly the model my Dad owned in the mid thirties!

The smartly restored Ford Mod. A Tudor encountered in Cape Cod-June 2011

1929 Ford Mod. A rear view, East Dennis, Cape Cod-June 2011

Nice front end look of the 1929 Ford Model A Tudor :-)

The Day I met “Princess Grace” a.k.a. 1987 Mercedes-Benz 560SL

A new member completes the three pronged Mercedes-Benz Star collection in Byron’s Classic Car Garage!

1987 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL (R107.048/M.117.967)

Chassis R107 E 56, Engine M117 E 56

Technology & Luxury Made In Germany!

My newest acquisition, the 560 SL, tenderly nicknamed "Grace"

I start the new year 2011 with a nice addition in my classic car collection, in such a way that the three points of the Mercedes-Benz Star have now become balanced and complete; in other words I now have three M-B models: the modern 2009 GLK 300 (X204) Compact SUV with all-wheel drive (4-Matic) and the advanced G7 automatic gear-box, the elegant 1967 250 SL Coupé Automatic and now the 1987 560 SL (R107), a late model exported only to the US market, fitted with a powerful and torquey V-8 of 5.6 Liters. I named her “Grace” or “Princess Grace” or “Amazing Grace” for a number of reasons. First is about her color, the DB 441, “Desert Taupe” or “Impala Brown” or “hellbeige” in German, supplemented by impeccable creamy leather interior. There is no doubt about her being a blond! Second reason, pertains to her timeless, quite graceful design cues of the R107 body (a replacement of the 230/250/280 SL’s a.k.a “Pagode” or W113); a long lived elegant “Sport Leicht” model produced from 1971 up to 1989, being the second longest single series ever produced by Daimler-Benz A.G., after the G-Class.

Grace Kelly driving a cabriolet in the movie "To Catch a Thief" ca. 1955

Although a “muscle car” of 5,549 c.c. pumping out 227 hp SAE (169 kW) @ 5,200 rpm’s and with a massive torque of 287 lb·ft (389 N·m) @ 3,500 rpm’s, all mated to a smooth 4-speed automatic gearbox, this car is very easy and comfortable to drive. Some of the most famous celebrities, iconic symbols of the American dream, could be seen in films or TV series sitting behind the wheel of an R107 SL: Bobby Ewing in Dallas, Richard Gere in American Gigolo, Jonathan Hart in Hart to Hart and even Eddie Murphy, in the first Beverly Hills Cop. A real star on four wheels that fully lives up to the Mercedes-Benz name, a fact well appreciated by many Hollywood stars, men and ladies alike. I am pretty sure that had Her Serene Highness The Princess Grace of Monaco been alive through the 1980′s, (she died on September 14, 1982, two months before her 53rd birthday, when she lost control of her automobile and crashed after suffering a stroke in the mountainous roads of the Riviera), she would drive an R107!

This particular example was a Southern California car since new, had only 35,000 miles on the clock and came with a full service history; she is 100%

560SL engine bay: 5.6 Liters ready to unleash the cavalry at the press of the accelerator pedal!

original and unmolested. The previous owner had the car inspected and fully refurbished by the Southern Ca. M-B specialist Brian Peters of Motoring Investments who replaced the ugly US spec bumpers and headlights, by fitting new and expensive EU spec ones. While at it, the air con compressor, receiver dryer and Behr radiator were replaced with OEM items, plus a set of four new Bilstein’s along with a steering damper were fitted. All drive belts, liquids, cosmetics and detailing were taken care of regardless of cost, which came to over US$ 20,000.00. The car comes with “as new” hardtop cum its stand on casters, and a perfect condition soft-top; prerequisites to enjoy driving comfortably this smooth beauty all year round. But the sheer joy I am looking forward to is springtime in sunny Greece. I will take  my wife Ivi and “Grace” for a long trek in mountainous roads either in northern Greece or the Peloponnese.

Here is a video presentation of the R107 class from the “Mercedes-Benz Fascination” series:

Having taken delivery of the car on a rainy evening of 3rd January 2011, I did not have as yet the opportunity to road test her sufficiently. Hence we plan to go on a short excursion this coming week-end to mountainous Lakonia on the Peloponnese. Hope that the weather will be kind and spare us from heavy rains or snow.

560SL in Vouliagmeni with the top down

560SL: interior as seen with the top down

560SL: interior detail

560SL: the view from the driver's seat

My R107 in mountainous Lakonia-Jan 2011, here with the hardtop fitted.

When two ladies meet: my wife tames "Grace" for the first time :-)

Digging Deeper…on the 560SL Options codes I managed to decode the various factory options from the metal plate as follows:

  • 441 – Impala metallic color

The Options Code metal plate

  • 442 – airbag in steering wheel (from 01.02.1980 up to 31.10.1993)
  • 494 – California version
  • 506 – outside rear view mirror, left and right, heated (electrically adjustable on the right) (l.h.d.) (from 01.10.1983 up to 31.03.1989)
  • 519 – Becker radio Grand Prix electronic cassette – USA (from 01.08.1980 up to 30.11.1990)
  • 531 – automatic antenna (from 01.01.1963)
  • 551 – anti-theft warning system (from 01.11.1978 up to 31.03.1998)
  • 581 – automatic climate control (from 01.01.1977)
  • 262 – elimination of rear end spoiler (from 01.01.1978 up to 31.10.1989)
  • 807 – Change of year of model, last figure shows new model year

General specifications
Country of origin: Germany
Numbers built: 49347
Produced from: 1985 – 1989

Engine
Configuration: M 117 E 56 90º V8
Location: Front, longitudinally mounted
Construction: light alloy block and head
Displacement: 5.547 liter / 338.5 cu in
Bore / Stroke: 96.5 mm (3.8 in) / 85.0 mm (3.3 in)
Compression: 9.0:1
Valvetrain: 2 valves / cylinder, SOHC
Fuel feed: Bosch KE-Jetronic Fuel Injection
Aspiration: Naturally Aspirated
Power: 230 bhp / 172 KW @ 4750 rpm
Torque: 373 Nm / 275 ft lbs @ 3250 rpm
BHP/Liter: 41 bhp / liter

Drivetrain
Chassis: unitary steel
Front suspension: double wishbone, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers, supplementary rubber suspension, torsion bar stabilizer
Rear suspension: twist-beam axle, telescopic shock absorbers, coil springs, supplementary rubber suspension, torsion bar stabilizer
Steering: recirculating ball, power assisted
Brakes: ventilated discs front, solids rear
Gearbox : 4 speed Automatic
Drive: Rear wheel drive

Dimensions
Weight: 1715 kilo / 3780.9 lbs
Length / Width / Height: 4580 mm (180.3 in) / 1790 mm (70.5 in) / 1300 mm (51.2 in)
Wheelbase / Track (fr/r):  2455 mm (96.7 in) / 1465 mm (57.7 in) / 1466 mm (57.7 in)

Performance figures
Power to weight: 0.13 bhp / kg
Top Speed: 223 km/h (139 mph)
0-60 mph: 6.8 s
0-100 mph: 19.6 s

My Blog: 2010 in review

Starting the New Year I wish to thank all friends and readers of my Blog! With your help and visiting power, the Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever!

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how my blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health which is fun to share:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

 

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2010. That’s about 24 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 3 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 12 posts. There were 105 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 94mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was September 6th with 84 views. The most popular post that day was My Kea.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were faneromeni.gr, facebook.com, philpa.ning.com, romanian-spotters.forumer.ro, and clubmercedes.gr.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for cum contest, junkers 52, ju52, alexander the great, and mg 15.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

My Kea January 2009
5 comments

2

Junkers 52 discovered in the sea bottom of Kea island, Greece June 2009

3

Cars & More December 2008
7 comments

4

Boats & More December 2008
2 comments

5

The Mercedes-Benz 250SE Coupé will regain its original dark blue color! June 2010
9 comments

Thanks again! I will continue blogging in 2011 and hopefully I will manage to fill more than 24 full of 747′s!

Bestest for an exciting 2011,

Byron

The Mercedes 250 SE Coupé is a roller!

On the first day of Autumn, on the 1st September 2010 I took delivery of the car after her ground-up restoration and respray back to the original dark blue (DB332) color! She is now a roller, back on the streets of Athens. I am very pleased with the result, the car is stunning and a head twister wherever I have driven her so far! :-)

My 250SE Coupé on her first day back in the streets, in her new dark blue color, Sep. 1st 2010!

The dominating front end with the characteristic W111 vertical headlights and the M-B Star on the radiator decorative cap.

Nevertheless, rarely a deep surgery like the one she has undergone, after a complete strip-down, with hundreds of new parts fitted etc., goes without “a recovery period”. Hence, I do have taken care of few problems and need to look after on few more before the car is declared 100% ready. The overhauled old Behr air con lost part of its freon gas due to a linkage leak; after curing this problem, the following day the fan fuse was blown but now with the fuse contacts brushed clean seems to be operating nicely, pumping out efficient dosages of cool air in +32ºC hot Athens streets. The fuel tank was filled-up with 50 Liters of Shell V-Power after having it cleaned and had replaced the bottom tank filter plus the fuel level sending unit. A leak was noticed. Upon raising the car a fuel pump hose was replaced cum new clamp. The water temp gauge sending unit was detached from its mercury filled capillary tube during reassembly. No cure for that, the gifted machinists who could fix them back in the old days, all seem to have passed from this futile world. A new gage/sending unit assembly has been ordered and awaited from Niemoeller’s. Ditto for the hand brake tell-light micro switch, its head found broken, hence a new switch is now on order.

 

The beautiful lines of the Paul Bracq design come out nicely in this side-view picture

The 250 SE Automatic rear end, shiny and bright!

The biggest pain concerns the persistent vibration which was noticeable at speeds over 80 kph before the restoration; now appears albeit in a different resonance harmonic, but at speeds over 50 kph. Despite the fact that the propeller shaft was balanced and trued by a specialist, new universal joints fitted, Michael (my chief mechanic) was optimistic that these bad vibes would go away. Not so; a further investigation is required for its cause, or at worst a new prop shaft would need to be fitted. In addition, the auto gear box seems out of tune as gear changes have lost their smoothness, kicking in abruptly :-(

The re-varnished woodwork needs some finishing work; The leathers and carpeting as well.

The car will be taken tomorrow to the electrician for some minor adjustments and interventions and right after that to the Auto-Stop/Connolly for finishing off the interior details. A list of interventions was made this afternoon with George Pitsikos and his assistant Thanassis. The biggest grief there involves the fascia wood varnishing. First the ash-tray was left behind and had to be redone separately, resulting in a darker shade from the rest of the woodwork. Next the end piece to the right had unacceptable bubbles and needs to be redone. Door weather seals need adjustments as well as the driver side door lock.

During the course of next week the new consignment of spare parts from Germany ought to arrive, allowing to add some finishing touches and raise even higher the level of perfection.

The revarnished instruments cluster looks nice. An original Becker Europa II radio has been ordered to replace the non-original item.

After Connolly’s the car would go back to Autohouse-Stuttgart for the vibration and auto trans cures, hoping that all issues will be resolved well before the Start of the 39th PHILPA International Classic Car Rally on the 22nd of September…

Another pestering issue concerns the car radio. The dilemma is: to get an original overhauled Becker Europa Stereo, pin stripe design cum iPod connector, or do the extravaganza and source a hard to find (and very expensive) now extinct Becker Mexico Retro Navi 7942 system? I lost out on one such offer on eBay few days ago, so will see what fate has in store for my Princess in the area of music and in cabin entertainment. I think I will opt for originality and buy the albeit low powered Europa as they were made especially for Mercedes-Benz…

Thursday 09/09/10 update

The car has finished the few intervening jobs at the electrician and then was left in the custody of Auto-Stop/Connolly for the detailing of the interior. First, Pavlos of Detail Clean Center did a thorough steam clean of the roof liner. A lot of accumulated dirt and dust came off the roof line pores fabric. Now the original creamy/white color has brightened and looks almost as if new. :-)

The new garage black cover. When its time to sleep the Princess will wear this gown ;-)

Then Thanassis of Conniolly’s tended to many details as fitting the carpet over floor pieces front & rear, adjusting windows and doors so that they mate better with the new harder weather seals, applying silicone spray to all the rubber parts, fitting few missing seals and grommets (from the new parts bin which had arrived few days ago from Germany) and so on. To boot George Pistsikos had a black soft fabric cum liner garage cover made as a present for me! What a nice gesture :-)

Back at the AUTOHAUS STUTTGART work shop.

Having done the chores in the Gerakas area (will revert to the electrician to fit the new temperature gauge and the reconditioned Becker Europa radio, yes I have opted for the original radio set!), I drove the car bright and early (so as to beat the morning traffic) to Piraeus. There AUTOHAUS STUTTGART will tend to resolving the propeller shaft vibration problem. The issue with the gear box was quickly resolved by adjusting the rods which interlink with the throttle and govern the gear changes.

From the new parts bin, all the flexible brake hoses were changed, the silent blocks for the air filter and some clamps for the manifold shield. Also the auto trans cooling flexible hoses that run into the radiator where changed. Finally a new set of chromed twin tail pipes were fitted, adding to a nice finishing touch.

The prop shaft centering cross was cracked; a new one has been ordered.

Coming to the propeller drive shaft problem, upon dismantling  the shaft, the centering cross was found cracked and the adjacent rubber buffer too tired not to be replaced. Both these parts were ordered from Germany and are awaited early next week.

After fitting the new centering cross and flange parts on the prop shaft, the entire assembly will go back to the machinist for rebalancing. I can only hope that these interventions will bear fruit and the car will find her peaceful ride quality as a true Mercedes deserves.

Monday 20/09/10 update

By now most of the pending issues have been addressed! The main issue resolved concerns the prop shaft. Upon disassembly and re-balancing adjustments and more counter-weights were added. A test drive after re-assembly proved positive! The bad vibes are now a thing of the past… :-) At the same time all fluids were re-checked and topped-up. Mechanically the car was now ready.

The reconditioned Becker Europa II stereo AM/FM radio is fitted, "mit iPod kabel". Here with the optional TuneFlex iPod holder/charger.

Next stop was the electrician Panayiotis. The Becker Europa radio “mit iPod Kabel” had arrived few days earlier via UPS. The new water temperature gauge was fitted after having to remove the instrument cluster once again. The radio was fitted along with its separate stereo pre-amplifier unit;  a convenient position was selected for attaching the iPod female mini-din connector on the side of the air con housing. The electric antenna was also connected…and Bingo! We now have stylish sounds in the cabin. Only the two new front door speakers were connected as the power output of the 60′s radio is not so high. The manual seeking mode of radio stations is sending me back to teen-age era memories; nevertheless, the frequency drifting is somewhat disturbing, while the only two pre-selector FM band buttons means that one only stores his very top stations! On the other hand the output and sound quality when connected to the iPod is very good indeed.  I am also using the FlexTune holder accessory which not only boosts the audio signal but recharges the iPod via the cigarette lighter; to boot the flexible holder allows easy operation and visual of the screen. Is a great device which I have been using both in my GLK300 and my X-Trim 28 RIB boat. It is interesting to note that even with the iPod connected directly (i.e. without the TuneFlex), the audio signal is quite strong and the volume knob on the Europa need not be turned up more! Lots of power left for louder listening of my favorite playlists.

While at it, I decided to buy a new black case battery to go better with the mid sixties look of the engine bay. I also fitted a race car type master switch so that when the car rests in the garage, disconnecting the electrics will be easier or even in the event of a short circuit this precious classic will be better protected. The final touch was changing the headlight and auxiliary Hella spot light lamps with higher intensity “white light” emitting lamps. A small improvement gained for night driving.

Hence the car today was declared ready for the much anticipated “39th PHILPA Rally” commencing on Wednesday 22nd September. Just In Time indeed. More on that experience in a forthcoming post.

So at this point, a tedious and costly ground-up restoration to a “A3 condition” according to FIVA (Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens) classification, has been completed. I guess from this time onwards, the car will offer to me, family and friends many moments of pleasure and enjoyment. I will be also keen to be monitoring the “W111.023″ market scene in months ahead, so as to reassure myself that from an investment point of view I am doing OK. Ciao for now and thanks to all interested readers of these posts :-)

The 250SE Coupé at Nafplion with Byron anticipating to start the "39th PHILPA International Rally"

Action shot during the 39th PHILPA International Rally, Oct. 2010.

The Mercedes-Benz 250SE Coupé will regain its original dark blue color!

It took some thinking and few discussions with motor-head friends before finally deciding that this quality car, taking into consideration of her interesting “blue-blooded” first ownership history, rightly deserves to be in an “as original as possible” condition. Hence the decision was taken at this time instead of postponing for later, to undertake a thorough, full bare metal re-spray, to strip off the under-seal, repair any rust areas and repaint, then re-underseal with a complete Waxoyl hard wax treatment, ensuring that the car has no rust at all and is fully protected against it going forward. Obviously choosing the factory color of Dark Blue code 332 G, according to what is stamped on the car’s nomenclature metal plate, goes without question.

Once again my “cars network” came through, as George Pitsikos of Auto-Stop/Connolly who will be doing the leather job and saloon interior reconditioning later on, has recommended a friendly body-shop, fit for executing the demanding job, nearer to my home north of Athens. Thus I opted for this alternative rather than the body-shop with outsourcing the paint-shop option of AUTOHOUSE STUTTGART in far away Piraeus. The firm chosen is called A & B FOR CARS, the initials originating from the last names of the two proprietors, Gregory Apostolou and Costas Bitaliotis.

The SE's engine bay after removal of the engine/transmission assembly.

After bringing in “Princess Michaela” for their inspection and appraisal, a lot of details were discussed as well as the tasks to be undertaken were laid down, while at the same time a budget outline was set. A & B FOR CARS only use quality paints and varnishes made by SIKKENS, necessary ingredients for a good result. What next became apparent was that the engine/drive-train had to be removed so that the engine bay could be repainted properly.

Hence the Coupé had to be taken back to Piraeus to be entrusted once again in the capable hands of AUTOHAUS STUTTGART, where my friend Michael Gouliaras and his team of mechanics would remove the engine, transmission and drive shaft. The latter would be taken to a specialist for precision balancing as some vibrating while cruising at speeds above 80 kph has been noticed. The engine removal task was done within a day or so hence the 250 SE/C was loaded on a car transport truck and duly delivered back to A & B FOR CARS in Gerakas.

Quickly enough Gregory and his team commenced stripping-down the car of all its chrome fittings, removing seats and carpeting, cataloging everything carefully, labeling and marking parts and bolts canisters, photographing were required and so on. Whatever rust spots or damaged chassis and body areas have now come to light; appropriate treatment and body-shop repairs would be the next task.

As anticipated, this Mercedes is a very clean example, despite its 43 years of age, having domiciled for all her life in the dry, salt-free roads of mostly sunny Greece. We are now in the process of listing all the required parts, most of which I will source from Germany through Andreas Reinacher and his DBDepot firm. A critical task involves the removal of the front windshield as some weather-sealing glue has erroneously been used in past days, making removal of the large curved glass a bit tricky. Here are some pictures at this stage of stripping and repairing:

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Monday 21/06/10 update

A+B For Cars premises

Visiting A & B FOR CARS today, I took few more pictures of progress made. The old paint is being removed patiently. The rot spot on the rear RH wheel arch has been repaired. Ditto for the small rust hole in the accelerator area floor pan. The more extensive rust in the passenger side floor pan will be treated in the next days. The electrician will tend to removing all ancillary equipment and obstructing wiring in the engine bay. Tomorrow I will meet with him for looking after many details, among them to address the question: “replace or repair the wiring loom”?

At the same time we will scrutinize the parts list which will be required to source either from Germany or Greece or both.

It seems that daily progress is being made at a good clip as Gregory wishes to finish the 250 SE/C project sooner than anticipated :-)

The engine hood has been scraped (original blue color patches showing) and sanded down.

The RH hand side of the body has been scraped and sanded down. Minor blemishes have been treated.

The RH rear wheel arch has some rust; it will be easily repaired.

The RH rear wheel arch's minor rust spot has been treated nicely, now very smooth to the touch ;-)

A small rust hole in the accelerator pedal area has been discovered...

The rust hole in the accelerator area floor pan has been treated; the sewn-in metal plate and weldings will be filed smooth before repainting.

Now the rust holes in the passenger side floor pan are exposed. Appropriate treatment will be done in the next days.

Thursday 24/06/10 update

The meeting with the electrician Panayiotis went well. He is undertaking to clear-up the engine bay from a plethora of wires, relays, connectors, hoses, horns etc, plus to remove the woodwork from the dashboard, along with the instruments, radio, clock, glove compartment and so on. He opined that the wiring loom is in good condition and that only some ending wires and/or connectors would require replacement. Such will be wounded with special fabric “old style” tape. Nevertheless, if I manage to source a new wiring loom, it would be wise to replace the 43 years old serpent. ;-)

The radiator & electric air con fan have been removed.

The engine bay has been cleared of wiring and ancillary components; now almost ready for the repaint process.

The dashboard has been stripped-down from instruments, woodwork and accessories.

Now the wood work parts will be cataloged along with the leather seats and side panels before being delivered to George Pitsikos at Auto-Stop/Connolly for re-varnishing and Connollising respectively. Ditto for the carpeting pieces to be used as patterns for cutting new blue colored pieces.

All woodwork pieces have been removed, ready for revarnishing.

In the mean time, the body work is progressing. Now all sides of the car body have been scraped and sanded down, filler and surfacer coats being applied. All rust spots have been treated except the passenger side floor board. The front and rear windshields have not as yet been removed.

The rear end has been scraped and sanded down, filler and surfacer coat applied.

The rust spot in the spare wheel well has been treated by sewing-in a fresh metal plate.

The driver side body panels have been scraped and sanded down.

Tuesday 29/06/10 update

Since last Thursday further progress has been made in the areas of body work repairs and preparations. Now the engine bay is completely empty of any part and the metal areas have been scraped of old paints, glues or greases. The front suspension assembly has been removed. Whatever minor flaws in the metal have been treated.

The 250 SE/C body is completely stripped-down!

The engine bay has been cleared of all parts, scraped clean of old paints, glues and greases. Minor metal treatments done.

The front suspension assembly has been removed and is in "as new" condition!

In the main body, both front and rear windshields have been removed. The entire body shell has been sanded, filled and a primary surface coat applied. The edge railings are in good condition and do not require any treatment. Inside the cabin area the floor boards have been scraped clean of all the insulation tar mats and whatever rust areas have been treated. The seams require to be grinded smooth before primer paint is applied.

Front & rear windshields removed, body shell applied with a surfacer coat.

The floor-boards have been scraped of old insulation tar mats. Metal plate repairs have been completed where required.

The passenger side floor-board had the more extensive rust damage. Of the double plated floor, the underside has been affixed with a new metal piece.

In the rear end and trunk area, the fuel tank has been removed where a small rust spot around the filler hose curb has been noticed.

The rear-end has been applied a surface coat. The fuel tank was removed and whatever small rust spots in the trunk area have been treated.

I think that we have reached the nadir in stripping-down parts from the body. There are no more parts to remove! This is a thorough respray job. ;-)

Niemoeller Parts Catalog is D 99008

The task is now to source all the parts required. Every rubber seal in the engine bay needs replacement, along with a smorgasbord of other parts (alas! many more than anticipated). While preparing for this critical task, I did search more on the net and found the Manheim, Germany based M-B oldtimer parts specialist Heinrich E. Niemöller, who offers a thorough parts supply along with pdf schematics which really help the restorer to understand which parts may be needed. :-)

In the next day’s we did allocate computer time with Gregory and Manos aiming to identify parts and place purchase order$…

Waldemar Eder, Management Assistant in Wholesale and Foreign Trade Responsible for bookings by phone and order picking at Heinrich E. Niemöller Co.

This task is now complete and after few clarification exchanges with Mr. Waldemar Eder of Niemoeller Company, we now have a confirmed purchase order for about 300 part items! Unfortunately the wiring harness requires a more than 4 weeks custom built process, so it seems that will stick to the old serpent after repairing it where required. Nevertheless, all connectors and battery cables are coming in new.

George Pitsikos of Auto-Stop/Connolly was also located and we did scrutinize the wood-work and leather job tasks which will be done in the next few days.

Synchronizing the various tasks (body work, respray, fitting new parts, electrician’s job, reassembling, leathers and wood-work, engine re-fitting etc) so that the car will be ready and sorted for participating in the PHILPA 39th International Rally in September 2010 (a FIVA event) is a worrisome task.

Wednesday 07/07/10 update

This morning I first visited George Pitsikos at Auto-Stop/Connolly who in the mean time had given the wooden pieces to his varnisher, had obtained a price quotation and was expecting to receive the first trial piece in order to check the coloration effect. In addition he had checked availability and obtained a quotation from his Connolly leather supplier in the UK in case we wished to replace all leathers outright with new but 60′s period stock.

That scenario was rejected not only because the price was quite high but also considering my wish to maintain originality of the car as much as possible. Hence his quotation for refurbishing the existing leathers was accepted. He will clean all the pieces and repaint and/or repair any scratches or blemishes. He will also repair seat springs, foamings and side door panels. He reassures me that the final result of his craft will be highly appreciated and admired.  On this jolly promise I left the premises in joyous spirits only to ride my BMW 650 Funduro bike few blocks away to A & B FOR CARS.

The fender support bolts after treatment

The progress made on the body work preparations before commencing the respray was satisfactory. A lot of detailing has been done, as for example the front fender bolts have been undone and applied paint remover, then buffed to a shiny clean condition, ready to accept the new dark blue paint. The entire engine bay was treated to a similar detail and as Greg mentioned “Whoever opens the engine hood will admire the work done!’. Oh! music to my ears :-)

The 250SE/C body shell has been primed mat black.

Likewise the detailing inside the cabin and the floor board intervention areas is done in a nice way. Paint will be applied in the next day. The entire body shell has been treated to a black mat undercoat, assisting the observation of minor flaws on the metal surfaces which can then be treated by a successive filler and sanding down process.

Floor pan detailed and ready for resparying.

The rear end has been meticulously detailed!

The hub caps need to be repainted dark blue. The paint removing task is delicate so as not to damage the surrounding chrome and the central M-B Star.

The material on the rear shelf has been discolored by the sun. Useful piece for matching the correct color.

Small details:

Left: Hub caps treatment before applying carefully the new dark blue color.

Right: The vinyl material on the rear wind-shield shelf has been discolored and faded by the strong sun rays of the Mediterranean. The original blue section (covered all these years by the rear seat back) will be used for matching the leather treating color!

A "Mixit-Pro" screen shot showing the DB 332 color recipe.

It seems that the time to start thinking about the color has arrived! The original car color code DB 332 has been entered into the “Mixit-Pro” computer software and out came the exact recipe for the “DunkelBlau” non-metallic mixture using Sikkens quality paints. The Mixit Pro on-line formula retrieval software enables perfect color matching while providing faster formula updates than any conventional system. Furthermore it supports painters with a variety of reporting functions, including consumption analysis, material cost per job and access to recalculated mixes. According to Greg and Costa (the paint guru of A + B), three coats of paint will be applied with successive fine grade sand-downs; these will be topped-off with two additional coats of varnish (again with a sand-down in between) which will protect the color for many years to come, add depth when viewing and endure many waxings or minor scratches to boot!

I must confess: I am anxious to see the final result of the team’s labors :-)

Monday 12/07/10 update

Fresh off the paint oven! The DB 332 dark blue color has been applied!

Master painter Costa Vitaliotis has executed the respray. Here buffing and rebuffing!

What a nice Monday morning surprise! My Princess has regained her original factory dark blue color! A “Dunkel Blau” jingle whizzes stubbornly through my head. The A + B FOR CARS team has worked well in the last days, having applied the base colors plus the varnish coatings.

Now the process of cleaning and rubbing down with various grades of cutting pastes (such as 3M’s Fast Cut Plus #50417) and polishing agents in multiple applications will bring out the luster and depth of the color. In these pictures because of the green awning reflections, the true tone of the dark blue color is not rendered quite well.

Buffing the car after the respray is an important stage of the process, done utilizing multiple cutting pastes and finally waxes.

Never mind though, as many other photographs will be coming forth documenting the re-assembly task which will commence as soon as we get hold of the spare parts on order from Niemoeller Co., Germany. Last update on that front is that all items are expected to be gathered and packed by the end of the current week, i.e. Friday 16/7/10.

Rear seat side panel in the process of repainting.

The leather revamping and the re-varnishing of the wood-work tasks are going forward and I do hope that eventually the synchronization of the various jobs will work out without major hiccups. The process is not much different from the metal surface respray. That is the leather surface is cleaned with special detergents, then sanded down, cuts, wrinkles or other blemishes are filled in with putty, then color is applied. Repeated sanding and polishing together with pigment coats are applied before the leather is brought back to a revived condition. The Master of Ceremonies at Auto-Stop/Connolly is Mr. Thanassi who carries many decades of leather industry trade secrets and hard to find (these days) craftsmanship.

Monday 26/07/10 update

The front end bridge and suspension have been re-mounted.

By checking on the UPS site I had tracked the parcel with all the parts from Germany which was delivered to A & B on Friday 23/7 late afternoon. Since we are vacationing in Kea island I decided to return to Athens on Monday morning in order to take delivery of the many parts and sort them into three distinct boxes marked “Body Shop”, “Electrician” and “Mechanic”.  I arrived in Gerakas by noon with much anticipation and excitement. This would be the zenith of a very time consuming and expensive process invested in selecting, ordering, deciphering item codes, negotiating and so forth before all these car parts became a reality.

The cowl (a.k.a. firewall) insulation was the first fresh part to be installed!

The car was in the courtyard, with the front suspension re-fitted. In the days past, the floor boards and trunk space received the special width tar impregnated shielding mats, cut and fitted carefully by Manos.   I noticed that the first part out of the parts box was already installed: the firewall insulation material code D 68 493. Soon after my arrival the car was push wheeled into the shop and I set up “office” next to her using a castered tool chest as table top. Niemoeller’s invoice pack was 25 pages long, mostly with German descriptions while the days temperature was in the 35′s Celsius, making me sweat a lot.  It took me six straight hours to go through the pile of parts and to sort them into the different boxes. All along I was trying to scribble when known, the schematic reference number of the parts, so that Manos and Panayiotis the electrician would be assisted during the reassembly tasks, cross-referencing them with the Niemoeller picture “Catalog D”, a hefty parts dossier, a hard copy of which I had ordered previously.

Car parts galore 1

Parts galore 2

Since I had to return to the island and the family left behind, pressed to catch the 8 o’clock ferry from the Port of Lavrion, I took with me the 25 pages of invoicing for further checking and cross-referencing of parts versus schematic drawings. At this stage of the renovation project, my agony is rising as I wonder how this car will be re-assembled, looking after the complex jig-saw puzzle properly and just in time (during August in Greece almost everyone is escaping the city for summer vacations!), for participating with the 250 SE Coupé in the PHILPA 39th International Classic Car Rally, an event already applied and paid for…

On the other front, George and his team at Auto-Stop/ Connolly have progressed well; the leather seats and all the other interior furnishings have been by now refurbished; at the same time new floor carpeting pieces have been cut out using period style material, utilizing the old pieces as patterns. Likewise the woodwork has already been re-varnished and repaired where needed. George reports as being quite happy with the result as far as the coloring and the varnish coats are concerned.

The reassembly commences, while a trunk full of parts awaits...

Wednesday 04/08/10 update

Protecting the wiring loom with special fabric material tape: Panayiotis and his assistant.

The progress made since the last report is somewhat disappointing. :-(  The main reason being the delays from the part of the electrician to start his job. He did come in on Monday 2nd August with his assistant. They started by sorting and cutting out all the additional wirings other than the original wiring loom. For the lines removed new ones will be installed. The next task was to re-route the lines into the engine bay, inspect them and re-tape with black fabric masking. The fuse box and the relays bracket were repositioned on the fire-wall. New bolts and nuts are used were required for attaching parts like the coil and some relays. In the process we established that some wiring related rubber seals were missing and a new supplementary parts list is being prepared for Niemoeller. Nevertheless, these can be retro-fitted so that the finishing of the project will not be unnecessarily delayed.

Both front & rear windshields, chrome surrounds and radiator grille installed.

In the mean time now both the rear and front windshields have been re-installed using new weather seals together with their chrome surrounds. Ditto for the radiator grille with fresh rubber seal.

The left hand side chrome strips have been positioned as well as the door handle. The roof line weather strip has been replaced. In the rear both tail lights have been bolted as well as the boot (trunk) lid weather seal, lock and handle with fresh rubber seals.

Several main engine parts as the servo drum, the air filter and plate have been cleaned and repainted mat black. The same for the wheel rims, tires removed and rims repainted black.

Costas has done an excellent job in repainting the side panels mounted under the doors.  A beautiful factory crackle dark blue finish is produced giving that special touch.

Left side chrome strips and new weather seals have been installed.

Auto Stop-Connolly has delivered all the reconditioned leather seats and side panels, the new carpeting and the re-varnished wood items. On the latter the end result is not up to expectations as the shade seems darker than the original and some of the varnish is not perfect. George is looking into ways to rectify them…

Gregory is pushing to have the car finished by Friday the 13th August as his body shop will close for summer vacations until the 22nd. Michael at AUTOHAUS STUTTGART has been advised today that the car may be transferred to his workshop on the 13th for refitting the engine and trans by end August or early September at the latest.

I keep my fingers crossed that all will go well without major hiccups and anxiety sessions.

Thursday 12/08/10 update

Today is a big day! A+B FOR CARS are delivering the finished car! :-) My excitement was high in anticipation to check the results. I took the late night ferry from Kea island on Wednesday so that I would spend half a day near “Princess Michaela” to scrutinize the finishing details before the car is loaded on a car transport truck tomorrow to be delivered to Piraeus so that the folks at AUTOHAUS STUTTGART will undertake the task of refitting the engine and auto gearbox, the propeller shaft, connect all the linkages, fit the new engine related spare parts, align the front end, bleed the brakes and so on.

Just before delivery! The 250 SE is being washed. The Dark Blue color together with the bright-ware is smashing!

The rear end in the original dark blue color looks great!

The rear wheel arch and the repainted hub cap look nice!

What can I say! I arrived while the car was being washed. What is noticeable immediately is how striking all the chrome parts are viz. the dark blue color. The side strips, the wheel arch ornamentation, the bumpers, the imposing front radiator grille, the windshield surrounds, the insignia on the trunk lid, all look great and underlined, I guess just as the designer of this lovely car, Paul Bracq must have intended. Now much more accented viz-a-viz the silver metallic color before I undertook the restoration.

The engine bay is finished by the electrics and ancillary equipment and ready to receive the straight six fuel injected engine.

Needless to say, a number of details need to be taken care before the car can be declared “ready and finished”, at least according to my high standards, but also as befits the effort and the expense already invested in this Mercedes-Benz. A one page list was written down as well as another page for the supplementary parts which will be required to be ordered from Germany. The electrician has finished all the re-wiring jobs and refitting the numerous ancillary equipment such as relays, coil, horns, lights, instruments etc. and has tested that all circuits and switches operate correctly. Amen, another difficult and anxiety ridden task completed.

The interior looks good: re-varnished wood parts, re-colored leathers and new carpets.

The interior looks good although Auto-Stop/Connolly have not finished entirely their work. Once the gar gets back her engine, she will be driven at their premises for a final coat of pigment and several saddle-soap layers. One mishap being that the ash-tray was forgotten to be re-varnished. This will be taken care of as well as few other interior and cosmetic details. One remaining task is to detail clean the roof line and the glass-ware from weather strip glues etc. These task will be taken care of by Pavlos, proprietor of the ‘Detail Clean Center’, conveniently located right next to the Auto-Stop/Connolly premises. The new carpeting looks good as far as the quality of the material selected is concerned but also the color tone and the fit are nicely done.

Detailing tasks under way. Manos is hard at work against the clock for finishing off the list of pendings.

All in all and even after writing two big checks for the body shop and the electrician bills, I feel happy and satisfied with the result! I am now relaxed that the car will indeed be ready for the 39th International Rally starting on 20th September. To boot, I will be soon in a position to send some pictures to HRH Michel de Grèce, showing His car pretty much in a similar condition, close to that when He had first bought this car back in 1967…

Tuesday 17/08/10 update

Expert M-B mechanic Michael Gouliaras oversees the engine refitting in my 250 SE/C

Today’s report finds the car in Piraeus at the AUTOHAUS-STUTTGART workshop, a Mercedes-Benz passenger cars specialist, headed by one of the most experienced, factory trained mechanics in Greece, Michael Gouliaras. The main task is to refit the engine-gearbox assembly and while at it to look after all mechanical details. Among them to replace the end muffler which was found partially rusted. I asked Michael to remove the aluminum valve cover and give it to an appropriate workshop in order to buffer and polish it. It would be a nice touch upon opening the engine hood to face a polished valve cover. Yiannis, his right hand assistant was also instructed to fit the new heat shield plate in between the exhaust and intake manifolds, ensuring a correct temperatured fuel mixture injected into the cylinders for improved combustion.

The replacement gear box oil pan will ensure stoppage of ATF leakage

Upon inspecting the car underneath, I immediately noticed that the new auto trans oil pan was fitted along with its new gasket and sealing compound. Anticipate that this new part will seal properly the gear box as the old pan was slightly warped and could not contain a minor ATF leak. At the same time I asked Yiannis to make a list of the parts which may be required during the engine re-fitting job, so as to ensure that the car restoration is indeed finished in a professional way. Detailing, detailing, detailing, makes all the difference.

With the car raised I was able to inspect for the first time the wax-tar under-sealing job which was expertly done by A + B FOR CARS the previous week. In the engine bay matters looked good. The engine was in position and most hoses already connected. The water temperature sensor was reported damaged (probably during the removal/refitting of the wiring harness), so most likely I will need to source a new replacement from Germany.

It looks like a complete car again! With engine and ancillaries in position, the end of the restoration work is near!

The engine is back in position; most linkages and hoses have been connected.

The 250 SE/C on the car lift at AUTOHAUS-STUTTGART, receives expert treatment for the mechanical works required.

Upon leaving the premises I was left with the impression that the car will be within few more days able to be started and put back on the road. The machinist shop who will undertake to precision balance the main drive shaft (hoping to cure a vibration noticed at speeds over 80 kph) is closed for summer holidays this period, hence this important task will be done early next week when he reopens.

The next and final two steps of the restoration cum back to the original “Dunkel Blau” color respray would be some detailing for the leather interior, cleaning of the skyline and fitting the additional car parts (mostly rubber seals which were omitted from the first parts order). An important part still missing is the replacement Becker Mexico radio. More on that saga in a forthcoming report.

At this point the repainting project has been completed. Now the car is a Roller! Click here for more details!