2 July 2013

Old-fashioned Family Vacation: The sweet smell of success

When we last left the Suddards, who were traveling by 1966 Mercedes 230S from Ormond Beach, Fla., to visit us here at Hagerty, they were still progressing north despite experiencing a few problems along the way. So it was with some relief that they made it to Detroit, Mich.

Since Tim Suddard is the publisher of Classic Motorsports magazine, a stop to tour the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn was nearly mandatory for this bunch of enthusiasts. After that, the family headed north along the eastern coast of Michigan toward a stop at Mackinac Island, where they boarded a ferry for the car-free resort area — not a hard sell for this road-weary group. After riding bicycles around the island and doing a bit of compulsory fudge shopping, the tired family rolled into nearby Harbor Springs.

Harbor Springs offered a quick visit with a friend and prominent local car collector who was kind enough to let Tim and son Tom drive some pretty cool classics. The Suddards then headed toward their final destination, Hagerty’s hometown of Traverse City. Their arrival offered the family a chance to reflect on the journey they had just completed with their Mercedes, now affectionately dubbed “Merman” in dual homage to the swimmer, Ethel (think fins) and the memorable monster in “Cabin in the Woods.”

“I wish we had had a little more time to sort the car before we left,” Tim tells us. “But overall, other than the alternator problem and some adjustment still needed in the rear suspension, we found that a well-built, comfortable classic like this old Mercedes is a great way to travel.”

Suddard also pointed out that traveling by classic car is great for people who enjoy talking to strangers, because every time you stop, people want to gawk and talk cars. As for the seemingly obvious pitfalls, he offers this: “Back when these cars were new, that is how people traveled. Our folks would have thought nothing about taking a car like this on vacation. Have things really changed that much?”

After an enjoyable few days spent meeting with the folks at Hagerty and touring the facility, as well as visiting local highlights like the Sleeping Bear Dunes (sleepingbeardunes.com), the family set their sights on home and the nearly 2,000-mile return trip back to Florida. Would their luck and the weather hold?

5 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Chuck Ada,Mn. July 3, 2013 at 15:39
    Why all the concern about breakdowns? I routinely go cross country in old 1960's cars and rarely have to fix anything. I get stranded in these stupid fuel injected cars as you can't do a thing to them along side the road when they quit. Most old cars have minor problems that can be fixed easily and with far cheaper parts. So cheap that spare parts can be hauled in the trunk and the right one to use is obvious, instead of putting one after another on until the your fuel injected junk is running again.
  • 2
    Joe Santana Portland, Oregon July 3, 2013 at 12:22
    When did car journalists begin using "Merc" in reference to Mercedes-Benz? Merc was short for Mercury, back in the day, not that long ago. (Ford discontinued the line in 2010.) The guys at the club refer to their Mercedes's and their "Benz," probably because it sounds cooler than their "Mers." But if you show someone a cherry '48 Merc, chopped and channeled, I think that would discourage future reference. To quote Crocodile Dundee (sort of), "That's not a Merc. THIS is a Merc.
  • 3
    Len G. Stroudsburg, PA July 4, 2013 at 03:15
    I was quite interested in this story when it was first announced, and now more so! Congrats on the successful first leg of "the tour" - I reflect back to my first car, my 1972 Triumph TR6, which, while in the army, after my first leave home in 1984 after completing my first full field excersise in the Mojave Desert, I drove my trusty maroon TR6 from its storage in Monticello, NY to Ft. Carson Co. The trip took three long days (driving late into the night - ah the joys of being young(er)). Along the way, learning the laws and commradre of the road with truckers,motor homes and pretty much everything else bigger than my car! (Amazing how much better fuel milage (and speed) your car can achieve with perfect drafting!) Now, I am looking forward to take my family to visit my brothers out in Arizona in my 1990 Mercedes 420SEL which I bought off my father 13 years ago (I went with him the day he picked the car up new from Benzel-Busch in NJ - another great car story day!) The car (230,000 miles) is fresh out of the garage having just been "serviced" so it should be a mechanically uneventful trip! Long live road trips!!
  • 4
    Scott McElheney Georgia July 10, 2013 at 11:37
    Definitely the trip of a lifetime. But perhaps they have Ethel Merman the actress/singer/Broadway star confused with Esther Williams, the "bathing beauty" of MGM water ballet film fame?
  • 5
    Ralph DeFreece Illinois July 24, 2013 at 18:53
    Reminds me of my first road trip in 1978: Chicago to LA- in a 1963 Rambler 220 with the flathead 6, and no radio ( we did have an 8-track player for music entertainment, and a hammock strung over the rear seat). We barely made a 100 miles before the fuel pump gave out, found one , had it installed and on the road again. With the 3 of us, and all our camping gear, the old Rambler barely made it to 60 mph, but I thnik we were able to coax out about 20 mpg. But after driving as far and hard as we could, it began to be add the oil and check the gas, as the old flathead was eating oil about a quart every 100 miles or so- probably started after one of us overheated the poor old car. But we figured - hey we had enough cash in our pockets that we could always abandon her, and buy anothe beater, or take the bus home. But she got us to Ca, and back, as long as we kept the fluids going into her!. Oh and one other item I forgot about; seeing how the Rambler was a unibody and came from the land of salted roads in the winter, there was some rust in the front shock towers, that after a while began to give us some serious tire wear, due to the failure to be aligned as it once was. Had to buy a tire if I remember correctly....Ah the trips of our youth!

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