In the past couple of weeks I’ve watched as two of my customers with high miles and years of service work leave the shop for the last time. While one of them really kind of leaves a hole in my heart it was time and I actually made the call on both of them.
I’m going to start with the one that I am probably most proud of, Mrs. Clay’s 1984 300SD Turbo Diesel. I’m not really sure when I started to work on her car but I know I have been working on it for over twenty years. Phil and I opened PT Service in February of 1987 and it wasn’t too much longer after that this very nice (dare I say old?) lady showed up wanting to get some work done to her car.
Over the years Mrs. Clay became one of my most loyal and valued customers. There were times when she would winch at the cost of a repair but always fixed the car because she knew it was worth the investment from a reliability point of view. She loved this car, it was one of the last things her late husband bought her before he passed away. The one owner 300SD had around 75,000 miles at the time they bought it and over the years she drove this car everywhere and I mean everywhere. Mrs. Clay was never one to fly somewhere when she could drive. There was a time when she had so many speeding tickets she had to take driving school to keep her drivers license.
I really never knew when she would call or where she was at when she did call. As she often does sometimes she just shows up to either ask me questions or to show me something she deemed important. On two of those occasions she stopped by just to show me the odometer on the 300SD. The first land mark mileage she stopped in front of my shop with exactly 400,000 miles showing on the odometer. Again some years later she stopped in to show me 500,000 miles proudly displayed on the odometer.
But likHowever like all cars they really don’t last forever in these parts of the country. Our winters and all the salt they use on the roads slowly eats away at the metal. Even though Mrs. Clay had fixed all of the rust as it popped up and even fixed it from running over Bambi, twice, other things are not as easily fixed. This was the occasion the day she showed and as soon as I seen the car I knew things were bad.
This day was already a bad day for me. First thing that morning a gentleman walked in to my shop “pissed because my car don’t run” as he put it to me. You see I had just spend the last three months putting the motor in his car back together after some other “shop” had “fixed” it. This car had 200,000 miles when it drove in that day wanting me to check the cam timing on it because he didn’t think it ran like it should after this other placed worked on it. I’m not going to go into that long story now but let’s just say I spend sixty five hundred dollars on this car and had it in prefect shape for him and the drive back home to his place in Washington state. When he walked into my shop and said those words my first thought was now what the hell is wrong with this thing. I was never so glad to see a pair of tail lights in my life as I was when this 400E left. It wasn’t until he reached into his pocket and pulled out the packet of photos of the car that my heart really sunk. Yes he walked away from this mess of twisted metal.
Now I have Mrs. Clay in the drive and I knew before I even looked in the left front wheel well I knew what I was going to find. The rust had chewed away at the front suspension and broke front anti-roll bar. While that may not have been that big of a deal on other cars this was a major deal on this Mercedes. Without going into major how-to’s and why-for’s I’ll just say this part helps locate the front wheel and is a major job to replace. Now completely deflated at the end of a pretty crummy day I had to stop and take stock in what was going to happen. I got Mrs. Clay into a rental for the weekend so I could stop and think about what the next step was. But I knew in my heart that the 704,000 mile 300SD wasn’t going to get repaired this time. I was broken hearted, Mrs. Clay was broken hearted, but I knew it was time. Time to find her a much newer car for which she could start her high mile adventures again. It took some time but I did find her a very nice one owner 2001 E320 (gas this time) in Los Angeles, California. When the seller asked me about getting it shipped back for her I told him there is no way she would even think of not driving this car back. So a few days later after, as she put it, “a very nice train ride” to the west coast she pulled up to the shop to show me her new car.
While we were both sad that the ol’ 300SD was no longer on the road she was delighted with her new car. While I had lost the shop high miler to rust it’s heart will still live on. You see Mrs. Clay sold the 300SD to a nice older gentleman form Sioux Fall South Dakota. He builds custom hot rods for a living and has a 1949 Ford pickup that he is going to put the motor and drive train in. How cool is that? A Mercedes five cylinder turbo diesel in a old Ford pickup.
This is the last time I will see this great ol’ car in this form. It has taught many, many thing over the years. In a small way I will miss seeing it as it rattles up to the door and looking at the odometer to see how many more miles it has rolled up. But a small part of me finds comfort in knowing that it’s heart is still going to be giving life to something else even older. Maybe on of these days I’ll hear the familiar rattle that only a Mercedes OM617 five cylinder turbo diesel has and look up and see this noise coming from a 1949 Ford pickup. One can hope and dream can he?