11 June 2013

Summer Vacation, the Old-Fashioned Way: Classic Motorsports owner hits the road in ’66 Mercedes 230S

Tim Suddard, a longtime Hagerty customer and owner of Classic Motorsports magazine, is leaving today on a somewhat strange family trip.

What’s unusual about this vacation is its throwback nature: Instead of flying or taking a modern SUV, Suddard is planning a 3,400-mile roundtrip in a 1966 Mercedes 230S. And he’s taking his wife and two teenaged kids along in the old sedan. Can’t you just hear the strains of “Holiday Road” ramping up in the background?

This three-week odyssey, which is part vacation and part business trip, will hopefully see the Suddard clan making the trek all the way from their home in Florida to visit us here at Hagerty Insurance headquarters in Traverse City, Mich.

“Everyone thinks we are crazy to drive a car this old on such a long trip,” Tim tells us. “People ask, ‘What if it breaks?’ But my answer is that old cars are simple and reliable—and if it does break, it will be part of the adventure. Sometimes through adversity, you meet the nicest people.”

He’s not throwing himself completely on the mercy of the old-car gods, however. “If nothing else, we are well insured and have Hagerty’s roadside assistance, so we will be in good hands,” Tim says.

The whole idea started when Suddard found the forlorn Mercedes on the daily email list from Bring A Trailer and bought it, sight unseen, for $1,600. “It was so ugly and in such bad shape, we nearly turned around when we first saw it in the seller’s driveway,” he admits, “but a deal is a deal, so we ended up picking up the car and taking it home.”

The family soon fell in love with the old warhorse, however, especially after Dad got the classic Mercedes running again and kicked off its most recent incarnation by further abusing it at an off-road SCCA rallycross event. “Despite the rough condition and the mistreatment it had suffered, it drove so well and looked so cool, we just had to save it,” he says.

Suddard plans to chronicle his adventure in a series of articles for Classic Motorsports magazine that will outline all the fun things you can do with your collector car—including a family vacation. (You can read the magazine’s blog on the project here.) We’ll also be following along as this adventure progresses, so stay tuned; we’re sure there’s more to come.

12 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Pedro Perea Colorado Springs, CO June 12, 2013 at 14:28
    He'll have no troubles. My first Mercedes was a 220Sb and I can tell you that the M180 engines are almost bullet-proof, as were all Mercedes engines before the Dark Days after Herren Uhlenaut and Neubauer retired. The 230's engine had a single-row timing chain which some believed to be a weakness. It proved to be durable if not run low on oil. The family will be in a safe, comfy and fun car for the trip.
  • 2
    Tom Tate Boston June 12, 2013 at 14:33
    He'll make it just fine. The AC will fail, a rear brake will start dragging, the radio will only get two stations(both out of range), and it will burn more oil that a Tugboat but they'll have a great time.
  • 3
    Richard WA June 12, 2013 at 14:54
    I took my young children on several cross-country trips in my 1958 Rambler Custom Sedan from 1986-1998. It was comfortable, powerful enough for the mountain passes and a pleasure to drive. The only trouble I remember is leaving Yellowstone Park through the East gate. I forgot to take the car out of overdrive for the steep descent and lost my brakes. The kids thought it was fun squealing around the corners on the mountain road and didn't know how much trouble we were in. We stayed in a nice motel in Greybull that night. Gas prices prevented me from driving the Rambler cross country the last couple years.
  • 4
    Jorge Garcia Southern California June 12, 2013 at 15:10
    No doubt about it!,, they will make it with no problems. Enjoy the trip..
  • 5
    Bill Roesink Wilmington, NC June 12, 2013 at 19:51
    What a great way to spend the vacation. Good luck with the children but I suspect they're pretty good riders by now. Looking forward to following their progress. Please keep up with them in Hagerty news.
  • 6
    jerry mccumby carolina shores nc June 12, 2013 at 21:45
    You do meet nice people in adverse conditions usually. Several weeks ago we were on a trip in my Miata to Colorado. We left Tucumcari NM on a back road to Raton NM and I forgot to gas up. I realized it about 30 mi into the trip and still had 70 mi to go. The low fuel light was on. The only station on entire 100mi was closed we found. There was a small repair garage I had passed so I went back and explained my plight to Issac, the owner. He siphoned a gallon of gas out of his motorcycle which was enough for me to make it back to Tucumcari Refused to let me pay him anything. Out of adversity we had one of the best experiences of the trip.
  • 7
    Grant Barlow Galena, Illinois U.S. June 12, 2013 at 12:51
    One great thing about Mercedes is you can get any part for any car they ever built. I was at my M-B dealer one time and I went to talk to the shop Foreman. He was working on a 1952 220, so older Mercedes are not a mystery to them.
  • 8
    Tom United States June 13, 2013 at 13:23
    A few suggestions prior to travel in an older MB from someone who has one-The rear wheel bearings are NOT lubricated by the rear end lube. Because it is a swing axle oil lubrication is not possible. Instead they are packed with grease, kind of like a front wheel bearing. Unfortunately few people find this out beforehand-then the bearing eats its way through the rear end housing because the grease is as old as the car. You're not fixing something 'simple' when this happens. Rear ends for these cars are pricey and hard to find without needing a rebuild. Make sure the water pump bearings are good. Remove the belt(s) to check it. They will fail if the car isn't driven enough-not sure why- or belt is over tightened-which happens frequently. Like most cars, trash accumulates in the cooling system. Replace the larger hoses (at least) and flush the radiator thoroughly. It's not a fun thing to find out you have a cooling issue on a nice warm day-on the side of the road.
  • 9
    Joe Roberts Fayetteville, NC June 13, 2013 at 06:29
    I saw Tim and his Mercedes at the Pinehurst Concours d'Elegance in May of this year. Yes, the car was entered in the event all decked out as a mid-1960's rally car. I love his approach to this car. It is almost like it is all things to all people. It looks good too. I can't wait to read the adventures he and his family have with their Mercedes.
  • 10
    g flan adks of ny June 19, 2013 at 11:06
    Sounds like fun. I have a 67 diesel Benz but have not ventured that far yet. I'll be watching intently.
  • 11
    Dennis GR, MI June 24, 2013 at 09:28
    I drove my '63 220se across the country several years ago, with no problems! We had a box of Krispy Kreme donuts in the back window. When we stopped to gas up in Grand Junction, CO, a ski bum asked came into the service station to ask who the "old car" belonged to. We were prepared to tell him all about the car, when he asked if he could have a Krispy Kreme! That was all he wanted! We have some great memories of "floating down the interstate in the old Merc!
  • 12
    Jim Monreal South Florida June 26, 2013 at 17:55
    Love those old 220 MB's. Had one when we were still in NY. I wish I still have it. My daily driver now is a 2002 ML55 AMG with over 126,000 miles on it. I intend to keep it forever.

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