• Feuilleton: “The disease of my 380 SLC: contact corrosion.”

This damage needed an expert.

An accident – almost at a standstill. It’s terrible that someone could do such a thing to a deep-sleeping and peacefully snoring Mercedes-Benz classic parked right outside my front door. The left-hand side of its skull split open. I can almost feel the physical pain in my body, and even this therapeutic bit of prose isn’t making things any better. Big or small, I’m well aware that accidents are precisely that: accidents. But those involved in an accident should be clear of one thing in their minds – a classic vehicle doesn’t get damaged. It gets hurt. And so I breathed away the shredded headlamp glass and the outwardly visible current state of the car like a woman in the thick of contractions in a maternity ward. The immune system of my 380 SLC now had to deal with a gaping wound in its front-left flank. There’s only one thing for it: an urgent visit to Mr S. at the dealership on Schlossstraße in Düsseldorf. He’s the only one who understands me and who speaks fluent 380 SLCish. This damage didn’t need me – it needed an expert.

Alex Iwan's 380 SLC before the damage.
Alex Iwan's 380 SLC before the damage.

He murmured, I listened.

I listened attentively while we both orbited around the car like a pair of repair satellites. He murmured, I listened. And he didn’t just diagnose the damage, he also detected a much more critical and infectious disease on my 380 SLC: contact corrosion! “We’ll pay for the broken headlamp ourselves,” said the lady with the guilty conscience, the darkness of night clouding her awareness of how much harm she had done. An expert auditor then started his own orbit in the Mercedes-Benz dealership to assess and price up the damage. It soon became apparent that the accident had also scratched the wing and damaged the bumper. Deep in concentration, the expert then circled around my coffee-brown Mercedes together with Mr S. from the dealership on Schlossstraße in Düsseldorf.

This was actually my moment.

Looking back, this was actually my moment. The two fellows discussed summa cum laude in their technical jargon – energetically talking about this and that… (and, dear readers, let’s not forget about my fervent abstinence towards anything technical). But then my ears started ringing. There it was again, that dreaded term: contact corrosion! “Did you know that all of this here on the outside of your car is actually bolted into place? Today on modern cars, it’s all just glued together, for example these trim elements. We need to look a little closer and keep our eyes peeled for the first signs of contact corrosion.”

Contact corrosion can occur when metals with different anodic indices come into direct contact. For example when stainless steel screws are ­bolted into galvanised sheet steel, and pitting corrosion starts at these points. Contact corrosion? Do I also have a sort of contact corrosion too? Has my Mercedes passed on its illness to me? I often have close contact that I don’t seek. It often comes across to me as though I were a stainless steel screw shoved ­into some sheet steel somewhere. Or vice versa. And what’s the result? Pitting – not nice. And so it happens that I learn this profound lesson in life courtesy of a Mercedes-Benz garage on Schlossstraße in Düsseldorf.