Bobís 220SEb Stationwagon

This is the story of my first Mercedes. The story starts in May 1970 when I found a 1961 220SEb sitting in a field behind a tire shop. The owner parked it there after it had developed "A rather loud knocking noise in the engine". He also mumbled something about running it low on oil. It was a basic car, as all the 220 series cars were in 1961. It was standard shift and had neither power steering or air conditioning.  It even had a cloth interior. The only options it came with were an AM/FM radio and 15" wheels. The body was rust free and the paint was still good. The owner was asking only $ 375 for it. At that  rice I couldn't pass it up.

I towed it home and started  to rebuild the engine. The only surprise in rebuilding the engine came when I discovered that the cylinder head had to be replaced. The price fro the new head was $ 136.00 and I thought this was a bit steep. The price for the same head today is $ 2,250.00. Now that $ 136.00 seems like a bargain. With the engine rebuild I stared driving an average of 350 miles per week.

I n 1971 I installed power steering. Remember the 15" wheels I mentioned before? Well, the cars handling with them at high speed was excellent, but parallel parking was not for those with weak upper arms. That year I also added European headlights.

Although she performed very well,  in 1973 I felt that a little more power wouldn't hurt, so I installed a used 250SE short block. This was a simple operation as the 220SEb cylinder, injection pump and the other 220SEb parts bolted right on to the 250SE engine block. Sure enough, the modified 250SE engine did have more power.

A year later I was lucky enough to buy a 1969 280 SL engine that needed rebuilding. Based on how much the 250 SE engine improved the performance a 280 SL engine would be even better. When I rebuilt the engine I  also installed the camshaft used on the European models. The rebuilt  2.8 liter 180 HP engine sure gave my 220SEb a lot of get up and go. At the same time I felt that I could use some creature comforts, so I added an automatic transmission and AC.

In 1977 after driving her over 80,000 miles, I decided it was time for a change. Although she had served me faithfully for seven years, I decided I needed a newer car. So I started looking for another car. In April 1977 I saw the ad  for a 1967 230S "Universal" station wagon. The price for it seemed fair, but the car was in Texas so I call on it. Well, I felt a car from Texas should be rust free and it was just the
model I was looking for. When called on it, the seller said " There is a little rust and one front shock mount is loose". Based on this information,  I purchased the car and had it driven to San Diego.

When it arrived in San Diego I found out that it was not a Texas car at all. In fact, it was originally sold in Philadelphia and then spent many years in Rhode Island. It had been registered in Texas less that a year. The "little" rust he mentioned was actually major. The climate in Rhode Island had completely destroyed the the undercarriage. The shock mount that was mentioned was rusted away. The car was really unsafe to drive and way beyond saving without a miracle.

There is a lesson in this story for anyone shopping for a car that is any distance away from them. Spend the time and money to go and inspect it, or hire someone in the area to look it over for you. If  I had done that I never would have purchased the 230S "Universal" Station Wagon.

So here I was with a useless expensive rust bucket and looking  for a solution. It took about week for me to figure out what my next move would be. I did find a solution, and it came to me from an unexpected direction. The answer lay in my tried and true faithful 220SEb sedan.

I spent several weeks studying how the "Universal" had been constructed. I measured and remeasured every part that was unique to the station wagon body. The coach works started building these station wagon by using a "chassis only" vehicles. These "chassis only" vehicles came with 4 doors, but no roof or rear body sections. The coach works then built the roof, rear body panels, inner rear fenders, and tail gate from scratch. They also modified the rear doors to fit the new roof line. The chassis numbers started with 111.001 for these special body vehicles. The factory  built only 341 of these chassis.

So here I was with two vehicles, one, my old familiar friend the 220SEb and  the other, the rusted out 230S station wagon. Was it possible to take these two cars and rebuild one out of pair? Well, the answer was yes. First, we stripped the 220SEb sedan down to a bare chassis basically just as it would have come from the factory for use with a special superstructure. Having completed this task, we then stripped all the usable parts from the 230S wagon. Next came reconstruction of the assorted parts and pieces from the station wagon onto the sedan chassis.

We also used the tan interior from the 230S. The "Universal" came with both the optional rear facing third seat and the split center seat.

The 220SEb's original color was Ivory (code 158). The 230S was Dark Green ( code 291). We chose to paint our new creation the Dark Green. I make this process sound easier then it was. It look a great deal of time, energy, and money. I was able, however, to recover over half the purchase price of the Universal by selling the leftover parts. I ended up with the station wagon I wanted and still had my old friend the 220SEb. Many experts have been unable to tell that we had combined the two cars into one.

I continued to used her for daily transportation into 1980 when she was retired and is now used only on special occasions. By this time, I had owned her for over ten years and driven her over 100,000 miles. The replacement car was a M110 chassis 1967 200D Long Wheel Base. But, that story is for another time.

If I had it to do over again would I do it? The answer is yes. In fact, I  recently rebuilt another vehicle in much the same fashion, but that's a second story for another time. Do I still own her after 31 years? But of course I do, By this time I had learned that you never abandon an old friend.

Bob Gunthorp