Old-fashioned Family Vacation: Home, but not without some final hassles

After three weeks on the road in their 1966 Mercedes 230S, the Suddard family had had enough. Plans for a leisurely back-roads return trip soon morphed into an Interstates-only route to blast them quickly back to Florida, where home beckoned.

The family had traveled the more than 1,500 miles up to Michigan on slow and scenic back roads, taking it easy on the old car. Driving the Interstates home was going to put additional strain on the classic Mercedes, since average speeds would rise toward 75 mph.

That strain soon showed itself in some ugly complications. Although it had taken just two quarts of oil to drive the first 2,000 miles of the trip, as speeds rose, so did oil consumption. The unrestored engine’s appetite for 30-weight quickly rose to a quart every 200 miles. That consumption, combined with an oily film that soon coated the trunk of the car, made it obvious that something was leaking.

A cursory inspection — in the dark, of course — revealed no obvious issues. So the footsore family quickly made the decision to keep on driving toward home, stopping every hundred miles or so to check the oil.

Adding a bit more stress was the fact that another problem had slowly worsened. Early in the trip a nearly imperceptible leak in the radiator had been detected; naturally, this leak started to worsen on the trip home, so frequent fillings of the radiator became necessary. The late-night mission to sleep in their own beds soon turned into a blur of stops.

Despite the challenges, the old car held out and brought the Suddards safely back into their driveway. The clock said 2:00 a.m., the oil was more than a quart low, and all involved were exhausted. The sleepy family had completed a nearly 4,000-mile round trip in a 47-year-old, only partially restored classic.

Car owner Tim Suddard said of his trip, “Hindsight is so perfect: Had I had just another few weeks of time to prepare the car, I could’ve fixed most of the things that plagued us. Still, the trip went well overall, and we had a good time. I would head out in this car again in a heartbeat, once we fix a few more things.”

This trip proved that the right classic car can be enjoyed for long distances with fairly decent safety, practicality and comfort. No big surprise there, since Mercedes pioneered safety refinements with the introduction of this W111 chassis car. Fuel mileage averaged a respectable, but not great, 18.5 mpg.

Suddard and his crew will cover the car’s ongoing fixes and further adventures at their website: http://classicmotorsports.net/project-cars/1966-mercedes-benz-230-s/

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