“When I was 15 years old, a teacher predicted that I would never achieve anything,” Danny Lucas, now 54, recalls. Those words changed his life forever. After leaving school, he got straight to work in his father’s construction company, later taking it over. He read motivational books and worked long hours, starting at five o’clock every morning, to demonstrate to both himself and to his teacher that he was not a failure, educating himself. All the time driven by his ambition and a passion for Mercedes-Benz. “Even as a six-year-old, I was fascinated by the brand. I sat on my father’s lap in the parked car, a 230.4 (W 115), peered over the steering wheel and saw the star on the bonnet,” Danny says.
Enthusiastic: Danny Lucas can tell special stories about each of his classic cars. In most cases, he also has the corresponding brochure.
Wall decoration: Posters, placards and old advertisements adorn the walls of the Danz Benz museum. Danny can tell a story about each of them.
It was a moment that made a lasting impression on him and first sparked his love for the brand. A few years later, he wrote a letter to the company headquarters in Untertürkheim, Germany, praising “the best cars in the world” and asking the Swabian car manufacturer for information material on the S-Class that his father had bought. The answer was not long in coming: Danny received brochures, technical drawings to fold out and a letter of thanks for his interest, all of which he pinned up on his bedroom walls.
Shortly before his 18th birthday, Danny was finally able to purchase his first Mercedes-Benz: a W 201, manila beige on the outside, dark olive on the inside.
“I wanted to build my father’s company into an empire and drive Mercedes-Benz. Like my role model J. R. Ewing, in the US TV series ‘Dallas’,” recalls the native Briton from the county of Kent in the south-east region of England. The Eurotunnel connects his homeland with France, and when the weather is fair you can see clear across to the other country from the high chalk cliffs of Dover. “Even at a young age, Mercedes-Benz symbolised success for me,” says the father of two, whose enthusiasm for the brand always provided him with a strong sense of stability and consistency after his parents separated. “After buying my first Benz, I could have burst with pride. I cleaned it every day, not a speck of dust was allowed to stick.”
Danny says that he always followed the star, that it offered him a kind of anchor in life. He recently opened his private car museum, Danz Benz – “The Benz or Nothing”. The display areas of the museum – the name of which is a playful derivative of his own first name – captivate with a very special attention to detail. Every niche, every storage option, every ceiling spot is well thought out. Visiting there feels like being in a boutique hotel with themed rooms.
Each vehicle is given exactly the space it needs to make an impact and to tell its story properly. Memorabilia, archive materials and literature are located in the immediate vicinity of each model. Danny becomes a different person when he is in this place; the stories he tells captivate his audience. It is as if he were describing a love story for each vehicle. Anyone who spends a bit of time with him quickly gets the feeling that there is no dream in life which is unattainable. That everything is achievable with the right attitude, hard work and luck. When it comes to the subject of happiness, the entrepreneur recalls a holiday with his father.
“When I was a teenager, we visited the then Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim. My father had bought the new S-Class shortly beforehand, and I saw a 190 for the first time in my life. This ‘baby S-Class’ drove in front of us, and I was just captivated.” It felt like a duet: Danny tries to imitate the flow with hand movements. “My path to the S-Class led me from the Baby Benz to the C-Class and then to the mid-series. The 230 E (W 124) had only one windscreen wiper, which fascinated me and reminded me of a spaceship. Simply brilliant.”
The so-called Dad Route takes Danny and his 450 SEL in magnetite blue-metallic through many small towns and villages.
We are allowed to choose two vehicles, and in them, he shows us his favourite roads. The decision falls in favour of the models 450 SEL (W 116) and 300 SEL 3.5 (W 109). Danny frowns as he looks outside and wonders if we mind the rain. We are in the UK – so no, dear Danny Lucas, we don’t mind at all. First we follow him on what he calls his Dad Route, the route he likes to take with his daughter Holly, 17, and son Jacob, 20, on Sunday afternoons. As he pilots the sublime-looking 450 SEL saloon in magnetite blue-metallic over the narrow roads, he enthuses about his family, about bonding and trust.
About how every bend, every house and every tree at the side of the road reminds him of his family. The divorce of his own parents almost 40 years ago hit him hard and was one of the reasons why he stopped trying hard at school. Danny is honest and open; despite all the sad episodes in his life, it was always his love for the Mercedes-Benz brand that spurred him on to look ahead.
He puts the left-hand indicator on and parks: time now for the same route with the 300 SEL 3.5. A premiere for him, as he has never been out on the road with both cars on the same day. It’s like time travel for him, the ’70s versus the ’60s, one design icon versus another design icon. “The charm of these two old S-Class models cannot be put into words. I can’t stop looking at the pair of them at all,” Danny enthuses.
“No matter how long it’s been since I’ve driven them, if I sit in them and turn the key, they work.” He takes a few steps back and views his treasures, looking down at the wet street in which the two models are reflected. “The two vehicles have survived for several decades. What could possibly happen to me with them?” he asks rhetorically. The quality is incredible; both models were the company’s flagships and the best choice he could have made.
Luck in the cockpit: Danny has always dreamed of the brand with the star. His passion has grown into something almost immeasurable.
Take a break: Anyone who spends a little time with Danny will know that any dream can come true.
Danny is the proud owner of 25 Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Not all of them are in his museum: two are used as brand ambassadors for his company, others are used in day-to-day life.
The time that he spent working from home in 2020 spurred him to find even more memorabilia for him to pair up with his models. And so he reached out to two Germans, among others, bought books from the 1920s, brochures, badges, technical drawings, Christmas baubles. “I acquired a whole host of treasures and stored them all at home.” The idea for his own museum came to him one day when he felt there was a chasm between his cars and the materials that went with them.
“It was like the connection was gone. There were brochures and pictures piled up at home – while my cars were somewhere else under protective fabric covers,” says Danny, who started the interior work on the former storage area at the end of 2020. Once the car lift ordered in China was finally delivered in the spring, Danz Benz was soon ready for business.
Danny steers the 450 SEL towards Farningham. In this village of narrow bridges and narrow streets, a few pedestrians give him a thumbs-up, thereby confirming for him that he is driving a special car. “The evolution from the 300 SEL 3.5 to this 1970s S-Class is incredible; both cars are still perfect for me today – and yet you can feel how the comfort has improved,” Danny sums up. He feels at the moment as if he is cruising down Penny Lane in Liverpool, which makes him smile as he chats briefly about The Beatles.
The country roads lead to Eynsford. In the centre of the village, there is a ford across the river where cars can drive through the water when the level is low, Danny explains. He guides us on to Plaxtol, a place with water mills, an impressive church and beautiful country houses. It’s like being on the road through a film set from the past, with the cars reflected in puddles everywhere and not a human being for miles, just Danny in complete bliss over the perfection of his classic cars.
Family: Wife Debbie and both youngsters share Danny’s passion for the Mercedes-Benz brand.
The sun is slowly pushing the rain clouds out of the way. We drive to Danny’s house, where the youngsters are playing table tennis in the garden. His wife, Debbie, 55, has just been to the groomer’s with Woody. The seven-year-old Cockapoo is a hybrid of a Poodle and an English Cocker Spaniel, adorable and smart. Their son Jacob tells us about the trip he made with his father to the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt am Main in 2019. “Just before we flew to Germany, my father spotted a blue-and-white Mercedes-Benz service car in an upcoming auction. He submitted a bid, and was strolling around the exhibition with me a few days later when his phone rang – he had won the bid,” Jacob recalls.
By March 2020, he had increased his collection to ten cars. “A friend of mine took pictures of the vehicles and said that I should definitely buy two more, then we could make a calendar out of them,” says the boss of now more than 100 employees.
Over the following 12 months, 15 more classic cars were to follow. Every Mercedes-Benz he owned in the past had always been sold to buy the next model. It was only two years ago that he started collecting.
Family time: With his children Jacob and Holly, Danny likes to drive the so-called Dad Route on Sundays.
Walk: Danny finds an outing with his dog Woody is the best way to unwind after a long day at work.
“For me, Mercedes-Benz is like a partner for life. When I read about the founders, it feels as if I am a small part of an incredible journey. The brand inspires me immensely. And every time people who were around in those days tell me anecdotes about my vehicles, I can hardly believe my luck,” says Danny, who would still like to get a 300 SL “Gullwing” for his collection. “Of course, that is still a dream car, but my motto is: Unless you do something to make your dreams a reality, they will never come true.” Fittingly, the Briton wrote a book a few years ago: “Get The Tin Out and Paint The World”, a book about how anyone can change the world if they just get started.
When he takes his classic cars out of the museum at the weekends and drives the Dad Route with them, he is delighted every time he sees a Mercedes-Benz coming towards him. “With an old Benz, you’re always in good company,” he says. That is why he is also a proud member of the Mercedes-Benz Club Ltd. in the United Kingdom. At the moment, he would like to drive his 420 SEC (C 126) from 1989 to Baden-Württemberg, visit design legend Bruno Sacco and have him autograph the sun visor. “The SEC is a style icon of its era. A shape that is just perfect from every angle,” raves Danny. Since he believes in his dreams and wishes, we may also reveal this one here. Even if he himself considers it very unlikely. But he has already shown many people that anything is possible with the right attitude, hard work and luck.
Christmas decorations: A true collector takes delight in anything that reminds him of the brand that holds his heart. Even Christmas tree baubles.