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Mercedes Motoring.

Mercedes Motoring restores models from the 70s and 80s.

History.

  • Mercedes Motoring restores models from the 70s and 80s.

  • Once again the trend first started in the USA.

    Those wanting to look cool behind the wheel on the West Coast of the USA rarely opt for a new car. More and more drivers are on the road in a recent classic. No wonder that the Mercedes-Benz model series 123, 126 and 107 are sought-after collectors items.

    Mercedes Motoring.

    Mercedes Motoring in Glendale turns such recent classics into gems fit for everyday motoring.

    Mercedes Motoring.

    The automotive heart of the American West Coast.

    The automotive heart of the American West Coast beats in Burbank, Pasadena or Glendale. Nowhere else in the USA are there as many specialist workshops. Around half an hour’s drive to the north of the suburban sprawl of Los Angeles, accident-damaged cars are turned into classics, hot rods are created and recent classics are brought back to showroom condition.

     

    One of these specialists is J. G. Francis, aged just over 40 and decidedly casual in appearance, with a five-day beard, jeans and a vintage shirt. He fell in love with Mercedes-Benz cars just under 15 years ago and ever since has devoted himself to turning older and more recent models bearing the star into sought-after classics. And the customers certainly keep him busy.

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    House number 1721.

    The workshop of Mercedes Motoring cannot be found by accident. No sign, no advertisement and not a single classic car even hints at the automotive gems to be found behind the unprepossessing brick facade of the building. Those looking more closely might notice a rusting Mercedes-Benz hub cap to the left above the fading house number 1721.

    Mercedes Motoring.
    Mercedes Motoring.

    Anybody finding this place knows what he has come for.

    J.G. Francis and his fellow enthusiasts at Mercedes Motoring are hardly able to cope with the demand for restored classics. They are more artists and conservationists than conventional car tinkerers. “Many cars are already sold before we actually start working on them.”

    Anybody finding this place knows what he has come for.

    J.G. Francis and his fellow enthusiasts at Mercedes Motoring are hardly able to cope with the demand for restored classics. They are more artists and conservationists than conventional car tinkerers. “Many cars are already sold before we actually start working on them.”

    Mercedes Motoring.
    Mercedes Motoring.

    The business in Glendale.

    “The market is becoming more and more crazy,” says J.G. Francis, “and that makes it more of an effort to obtain classic cars.

    But fortunately there are still enough out there.” The business in Glendale has little in common with a conventional workshop.

    An oversize version.

    The office looks like a trendy designer loft, with a clutter of workplaces, kidney-shaped tables and armchairs from the 1950s. Everywhere you look there are historical posters, faded owner’s manuals and small parts lying around. An oversize version of a printer’s letter case not only brings tears to the eyes of Daimler fans.

     

    It holds only seemingly forgotten door pins, grab handles, hubcaps and assembly instructions from decades gone by.

    Mercedes Motoring
    Mercedes Motoring.

    The key fobs and badges that once embellished.

    Right alongside it is a stack of dozens of old Becker radios, ranging from the Europa and the Nürburg right up to the legendary Grand Prix. The key fobs and badges that once embellished the radiator grilles of cars from all over the world are a show of their own.

    The key fobs and badges that once embellished.

    Right alongside it is a stack of dozens of old Becker radios, ranging from the Europa and the Nürburg right up to the legendary Grand Prix. The key fobs and badges that once embellished the radiator grilles of cars from all over the world are a show of their own.

    Mercedes Motoring.

    The high-bay storage warehouse.

    The high-bay storage warehouse is home to seats, door panels, carpets and much more besides. Items no longer available elsewhere are obtained from the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, so that the classics are also technically in as-new condition.

    Mercedes Motoring.

    Most of the cars I buy.

    In the workshop itself, the cars are parked so close together that they have to be pulled out by hand, as the doors cannot be opened. J.G. is doing just that with a light-green “Stroke 8” Coupé in order to inspect the interior.

    The seats have been completely reupholstered by his employees, and the odometer reading is less than 90,000 miles. “Most of the cars I buy have less than 100,000 miles on the clock,“ he explains as he carefully pushes the venerable Coupé back into place, “a high mileage is something you just can’t remedy.”

    Replacement parts are often unavailable.

    “And if possible, I avoid buying old classics with a cracked dashboard. Replacement parts are often unavailable, and when they are, they are really expensive.” Francis discovered his taste for Daimler cars almost by accident. “It was quite by chance that I used the 700 dollars I had to buy a 300 SD in the autumn of 2003,” he remembers, “and I spent weeks tinkering with the 300 before it ran properly again.

    Mercedes Motoring.

    Its seat belt buckle nearly drove me insane. But anyway, that was what inspired me to found Mercedes Motoring.”

    Mercedes Motoring.

    J.G. has always been a great car enthusiast.

    In his home town in Nevada he would spend hours sitting on the saddle of his BMX bike, watching a neighbour who operated a car workshop. After an excursion into the property business, J. G. Francis turned his passion for automobiles into a profession.

    Mercedes Motoring.

    For usually more than a fistful of dollars.

    For usually more than a fistful of dollars, he purchases older and more recent Mercedes-Benz classics – preferably dating from 1968 to 1985 – and sells them on at a healthy profit after extensive restoration work.

    It is not the exclusive luxury models that make up the bulk of Mercedes Motoring’s business.

    J.G. himself currently drives a 250.

    Day-to-day models from the W 108, W 123 and R 107 series stand close together in the confines of the garage. “The roadsters are particularly sought-after,” says J.G., pointing to two models from the late 80s, “each of those is priced at just under 40,000 dollars. But nowadays more and more customers want the 123 series, an old S-Class or a Stroke 8.” J.G. himself currently drives a 250 from the W 123 series.

    Mercedes Motoring.

    “But I’ve installed a 280 E engine in it. Now it runs much better,” he comments drily. Most customers attach importance to the greatest possible originality, and they are willing to pay accordingly.

    Mercedes Motoring.

    Now increasingly.

    The classics are completely disassembled, then fitted with reconditioned technical components and a freshened-up interior. Commonly seen cars of yesteryear such as the 300 TDT, 250 or the popular luxury model 300 SDL are now increasingly sought-after by customers. More and more companies rent models from the in-house classic fleet for TV productions and photoshoots.

    Nothing comes cheap here.

    Anybody looking for parts for his own Mercedes-Benz classic is also welcome to pay a visit to Mercedes Motoring. Radiator grilles, sets of wheels or headlamps for the 123 – almost everything is available. But as unassuming as many of the models in the garage might look, nothing comes cheap here.

    Mercedes Motoring.

    At present the team is giving its attention, among other things, to a beige 300 D dating from 1978, a 1975 “Stroke 8” Coupé in blue metallic and a yellow 300 CD Diesel Coupé. Diesel models are particularly in demand at Mercedes Motoring. The company has another 30 or so cars in stock in various stages of restoration.

    Mercedes Motoring.

    Most of the vehicles are sold in the USA.

    “But again and again we also sell cars to Europe, Asia or, most recently, also to Bahrain,” says the self-made Mercedes-Benz specialist, “the demand is constantly increasing – especially for the 123 series.” Which means that he has to range correspondingly far afield to bring classics to Glendale.

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