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.