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Scouting a classic Mercedes-Benz road trip by way of eBay

Here in the Hooniverse, one of our favorite undertakings is the road trip. I’ve personally hit the highway in a variety of machines, including a ’67 Ford Country Sedan, a ’72 Datsun 240Z, and, most recently, a 2013 Chevrolet Volt. All of those trips were to serve a purpose though, and I’m ready to plan a trip that has no purpose other than to hit the road in something different. The catch? I’m going to plan this road trip using items I can find on eBay… including the car.

First up, of course, is the machine that will shuttle this road trip. Seeing as I’ve been lusting after German steel, I figured I’d kick this off with my chariot of choice: A 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280SEL. I’d prefer something pre 1970 (as the tail end is a bit different), but the 1970 version still has the old-school feel that I’m looking for, and this particular example appears to have lived a happy live in Arizona.

Now that we’ve found the car, it’s time to talk supplies.

[Disclaimer: eBay approached us about writing posts on how you could buy a project car and fix it up using stuff purchased through eBay Motors. Crazy, we know. We’re still looking for someone who’ll pay us to drink beer or eat burritos.]

First and foremost, you’re going to need some tools. The car we’re using as our rolling ode to getting away from it all is nearly 43 years young. It’s going to break, it’s going to piss you off, and it’s going to need attention. What’s the easiest way to handle this? Stuff a 122-piece Craftsman tool set into the trunk of the Mercedes. Every socket you’ll need will be in there, and it won’t be rolling around the rear floor area, nor will it be stuffed in a bag with a bunch of other random tools. For less than $100, you’ll have an organized mass of sockets, which will be important as the miles swing past the odometer.

Right next to the tools? Some light reading courtesy of Haynes. It’s a Haynes Manual covering 1968-1972 Mercedes-Benz cars. We’re going to read it before we leave, during our trip, and keep on reading it when we get home… because there’s bound to be something annoyingly unnecessary on this car that requires our attention.

We’re talking about putting a few thousand miles on an old machine here. That means that if something doesn’t highlight itself under the hood, there’s no doubt that you’ll lose a tire or two. Now, you might not actually have a blowout, as it’s more likely that you’ll either slowly lose air from running over a nail or simply find that the old rubber isn’t sitting on the wheels very tightly. In that case, we recommend stashing some Fix-A-Flat next to the tools in the trunk. Sure, you can buy a can for around 10 bucks on eBay, but you can also buy TEN cans for less than $30. Grab all ten… you won’t need them all, but when you get home you can shove the rest in a drawer in your garage and be set with Fix-A-Flat for awhile.

Since the car we picked seems to be in solid shape, we’re not terribly worried about it making the entire trip in one piece. It’s got a stout German mill under the hood, and it was built in the era when German precision meant something (See this post on the Audi A4 for my real feelings about modern German machines). Instead of focusing on the car, we also need to focus on the road ahead of us. Now, we know we won’t be breaking any speed records in this Benz, especially with all 182,000+ miles on its 2.8-liter inline six. Still, it’s can’t hurt to occasionally let the big Benz stretch what legs it has left. That means you’ll need a radar detector. Tim and I have both been  bit by Jonny Law in the past, and we could’ve easily avoided his reach with a little help from our friends at Valentine One or Escort.

This is where you’ll wind up spending the most money on the trip, outside of gas and hotels. The top-of-the-line Escort Passport 9500ix (which I used for the Datsun Drive) will run you over $400. Want a Valentine One instead? It will cost you about the same amount. No matter which you choose, just know you’ve spent your money wisely. The alternative could be even more costly.

Now that you’ve got your basic tools, a bit of tire insurance, and some assistance with Officer Buzzkill, it’s time to think about the second most important part of the journey. I’m talking about the route itself. Sure, anyone can blast from coast to coast in a classic car, but it would be smarter to take in the scenery a bit. I may have rushed in my Datsun drive, but that’s because I needed to deliver a car to someone else. Here, I’ve theoretically purchased my own machine and I’m going exploring. For this, I need a portable GPS. There are plenty of them on eBay, but I’ve settled on a manufacturer refurbished Garmin and called it a day. They all do nearly the same thing, and I’d rather save a few bucks here so I can spend more on my radar detector. If I get lost, that’s part of the fun… If I get a ticket, that’s no fun.

After grabbing all of this gear, it’s time to turn our attention to something that will help turn our attention away from the occasional monotony of the road. Our Mercedes has its original Becker radio… and we’re not touching that delightful piece of artwork. Instead, we’re going to grab in an aftermarket satellite unit, and hide it in the glovebox. The Delphi Roady 2 XM Satellite Radio will grab our favorite tunes from space, zap them down to the car, and the Becker will pick them up through whatever FM station happens to be sharing static.

So there you have it… we’ve found our car and our various accessories. It’s now time to buy it all, plan a route, ditch that route, and get lost in the adventure. Seeing as this is a 43 year old German sedan we’re talking about… it should be one hell of an adventure.

Currently there are "38 comments" on this Article:

  1. Rkw says:

    Best eBay ad campaign ever.

  2. pj134 says:

    I would not have shown your restraint.
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1978-MERCEDES-SEL-

    Better yet… maybe find a 6.9…

  3. wisc47 says:

    Taking a classic, beautiful sedan on a cross country road trip? On the choice of vehicle I say go big or go home…
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/74-1974-JAGUAR-XJ1

  4. Van_Sarockin says:

    I'd say it's time to start driving. You're under-outfitted for the safari, and that radar detector money could be much better spent. Hopefully you'll be much to far from home when things start going wrong to consider turning around. Let the adventure begin!

  5. OA5599 says:

    Given your experience with the similar-vintage Datsun, you might want to stock up on fuel line, too.

  6. Rust-MyEnemy says:

    I owe myself a road trip soon.

    Quite fancy a nice run up through Sweeden and Finland and up to the Arctic Circle, for which I'll have to repair my heater.

    Or head East and take the old beastie accross Europe and down into Greece, for which I'll have to repair my air-conditioning.

    Decisions, decisions.

    • Tanshanomi says:

      On the one hand, the beaches are much nicer in Greece. On the other, Finland has a much lower chance of encountering rioting mobs.

      • Rust-MyEnemy says:

        But in Finland a pint of beer is approx $7. Flash that kinda currency around in Athens and you pretty much own the country.

        • Tanshanomi says:

          So, what you're saying is that you need to drive to Greece, buy a bunch of beer cheap, and smuggle it up to Finland, Bandit-style.

          • Rust-MyEnemy says:

            West bound and up, loaded up and drivin',
            we're gonna do what they say can't be done.
            We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there.
            I'm West bound, just watch ol' "Rust-MyEnemy" run

            Etc.

            • sporty88au says:

              Wouldn't it be "Northbound and up" in this case?

              I wonder what sort of car you would use as the blocker – I can't imagine late-70's Trans Ams are exactly common in Europe. A Ferrari or a Lambo would probably be the wrong tool for the job. Maybe an M3 or a 911? Another option might be an AMG C63. Anyone else got any choices?

          • TurboBrick says:

            Now they did use to have a 2-case limit for imports but EU found that to be illegal, that whole "free movement of goods and labor" thing… so now you can pretty much drive across the border with an Econoline loaded up to the gills will beer and say that it's for your cousin's wedding.

            • Dean Bigglesworth says:

              I know that an Opel Vectra wagon fits 32 cases of beer and cider, 12 cases of wine, some liqueur and three dudes. If i remember correctly that is, i wasn't driving so my memory of the return trip is a bit fuzzy… but it actually was for my cousins wedding. It will be resting on the bump-stops, though.

            • pj134 says:

              So… why your cousin's wedding? Would they say no if you said "I'm an alcoholic"?

              • TurboBrick says:

                They're going to say "that's too much for personal use, we think you're reselling it". Someone's wedding is always a plausible sounding reason as to why your vehicle is filled floor to ceiling with booze.

                I don't know if anyone has used THAT excuse, though.

          • Van_Sarockin says:

            We met a couple from Denmark in Alsace. They vacation there every year. Drive the family down in the van and pulling the camper trailer. They just love the place. And they pack the ting full with enough wine to get them through the next year before heading back. Been doing it for decades. Happy folk.

  7. Alcology says:

    " No matter which you choose, just know you’ve spent your money wisely. "

    Or you could not speed and spend the money on other stuff. As was said previously.

    EDIT!

    Also, instead of buying a new GPS or satellite radio, just use your phone. Don't have a fancy phone with all the new hotness? Pick up a newer phone from a month-to-month supplier like Virgin and you can have GPS, tunes, AND a backup phone. And more money for the fix-a-flat that's going to explode in your car. So use the money saved elsewhere to just buy brand new tires to start.

  8. Tanshanomi says:

    Totally unrelated comment: Got my Hooniverse calendar yesterday. It has no hole punched in it by which to hang it.

    I think you're taking the DIY ethos a bit too far, guys.

  9. muthalovin says:

    Don't forget a tasty beverage for the road. I suggest this bottle of Surge… from 1996:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/UNOPENED-FULL-20-OZ-BOTTL

    I am amazed at the bids.

  10. VolvoNut says:

    Dammit, I did this with my 1990 240, and they didn't pay me. I "won" the car at auction for $1050, and drove it back from Rhode Island to Pittsburgh. You know what they say about a thousand dollar car…

    • FuzzyPlushroom says:

      That you shouldn't pick one from Rhode Island?

      Well, unless, like my '89, it was originally owned by a college professor there.

  11. njhoon says:

    I didn't see anyone post the obvious so I'll do it;
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/AAA-AUTO-MEMBERSHIP-FOR-T

    • njhoon says:

      Uhm, just to make sure, I wasn't trying to be a smart ass when I posted above. It is just that I was on a road trip that turned epic and it saved our butts. A simple trip from South Carolina to Philly that turned into 19 hours and a 149 mile tow.

    • B72 says:

      AAA pissed me off about 15 years ago. I blew a coolant hose while towing a small boat. Called AAA. The driver they sent refused to touch the boat. He wanted me to leave it in the lousy neighborhood I was in. Asked him to tow the boat instead and leave the car, but he refused. I sent him packing, fixed my hose with duct tape, a soda can and a hose clamp, drove home and cancelled my membership.

      It took me about 5 years to give them another shot. They're better now. A few weeks back a friend blew an axle seal while towing a 6500 lb trailer from Albany to Boston. AAA towed his truck and trailer to Boston without so much as a grumble.

  12. cogfriction says:

    Excellent choice for a road trip. I bought a '72 300 SEL 4.5 (that's right, I was crazy enough to buy one with air suspension…WHO WANTS TO TOUCH ME?!?) in the fall of 2011 and regularly use it for my 75 mile round trip commute. Looking out over that gorgeous W108/109 hood as the three pointed star guides you down the highway, you will feel like Abe Lincoln's father's boss.

    Important note – if for some reason you end up on the side of the road, DO NOT assume that the original jack points are intact! They were prone to rusting out which poses a real safety hazard. Lift from the front sub-frame or rear differential if at all possible.

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