The Toxic Safari

I’ve got a friend, let’s call him “Rick” because that’s his name. Rick is an interesting guy. He’s got a thing for old Mercedes. I don’t mean “old” like the classic 280 and 300 SLs. Those are beautiful, but let’s face it, you don’t see a whole lot of them around, and when you do, they are probably being carried to some event where the owners fawn over them with great care and threaten you with death for even thinking of touching them. Rick’s not that guy.

No, Rick is into the pre ’90 models that people actually still drive. You’ve seen these cars around, the ones with the badges that mean they’d driven the equivalent mileage between earth and the sun…twice. From what I can tell, he likes them because they are the last of what he calls the “Real” Mercedes. The Mercedes that were over engineered and solid and designed to run pretty much forever with minimal effort. The one models that when painted black are probably driven by the dictators of small Banana Republics and oil rich sultanates. Pretty good reasons to like them, I’d say. His weapon of choice is an 1987 300E. He’s had it for many years and still loves it. Unfortunately, he had a bit of an incident that left him with chewed up turn signal, front fender and door. 2

So what’s a guy to do when his baby gets hurt? Roll up your sleeves and get to work, that’s what! We are fortunate to live in an area of the country where Mercedes are plentiful and so are the places that have the parts! Now, a normal person might have just called up a body shop and had them do all of the work. If you’ve been to a shop recently, you’ll know that is not a cheap proposition. If you are still reading this,  you know that we are not normal people, we’re gear heads (petrol heads for my European friends) and we don’t roll that way! It was time for a pull-a-part safari!

Pull a part is the modern way of saying “Junkyard.” Now when I grew up going to a junkyard was a ritual most boys had with their fathers. It carried every bit as much importance as being told to go into the wilderness and not return until you had killed a bear. I remember going to with my dad to a place that literally had stacks and stacks of cars. Your only direction from the people that ran the place was to hunt around until you found your car or one close enough to it and then hope that you didn’t get crushed by falling cars, stung by hidden wasp nests or just fall over dead of contamination from the leaking fluids of the ancient beasts that inhabited these graveyards. Did I mention that this could be a dangerous undertaking back in the day? Good times!

Well, things change and fortunately this business changed with it. We found the place and Rick found a match for his car online. That was pretty much where the time inspired changes ended. Maybe because it was a Sunday morning, maybe because it was Superbowl Sunday, but the staff there seemed pretty much clueless about where anything was or even how to find it. Hangovers can make you like that, I suppose. That was cool though because we were both in the mood to explore the yard and see what hidden treasures were to be found within.

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This sight might make some men cry.

At last, after wandering row after row of dead SUVs and even dead-er family sedans, we found it! the 300 E that would now experience a partial reincarnation. Our prey has been found! Now the kill must be claimed!

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There is one thing you need to know about both Rick and myself, both of us are your basic office drones, not body men, not mechanics beyond the basic stuff. I’ve painted a car and changed oil and an alternator or two, but that’s about it. I think his experience is similar. You can’t let a little thing like not knowing what you are doing stop you when there’s work to be done.

As you can tell by the angle of the door, we decided that the best way to go about this would be to take that off first. Two hinges, an ornery door pin and a sadistic wad of wiring later, we had freed that door from its position! Never, ever underestimate the power of a bad attitude and a claw hammer!

Once that was over with, it was time to get to the fender…Do you have any idea what it takes to remove a fender from an old Benz? Not as much as you’d think. About 10-12 bolts and a 8and 10mm socket wrench and a claw hammer. Always, always, allways have a claw hammer.

Speaking of socket wrenches….you know how sometimes you give in to the temptation and just get that cheapo set from Harbor Freight? It’s probably not the best idea. Behold, the one and only casualty from our toxic safari trip! 7

That is a busted 10mm socket. See those splits in the side? Those aren’t supposed to be there.

Rick, was apparently a boy scout, because he came prepared! Deep within the tool bag, he happened to have another 10mm socket, so the party could continue.

8.1

And here we have the hunter posing victoriously with his kill! (Read this in David Attenborough’s voice. It’s better that way)

$100-ish bucks later, we head back to my place to do the job because I have a car port and neighbors that don’t complain about such activities as long as I clean it up and don’t go too late.

Since we had just learned how to take a fender off, taking the one off of his car went much faster than the first time. However, since this was his car, I was much more restricted in my claw hammer usage. The upside for me was that since the original fender was already beyond repair is that I could bend the jacked up metal out of my way with semi-reckless abandon. (I’m much better at destruction than construction)

9Here’s the 300e in the middle of the process. Despite my love of Mad Max style post apocalypse vehicles, Rick declined my offer to keep his car in this condition.

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Here we can see the final results of yesterday’s work. The door is going to have to wait a bit, because of all of that devilish wiring and also trying to figure out how to transfer those inside body panels.

I’m actually proud of the work we did here. The body gap isn’t bad. It’s not factory fresh, but not very noticeable unless you knew what you were looking for. Not too bad for a couple of average guys with a Sunday to kill.

It’s just a matter of time on that door though. We’ll figure it out.

Thanks for reading!

I’d love to hear from you on this. Leave your comments and observations below.

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