Light restoration required
/ 1967 / #Mercedes-Benz-230
OWNER: Massimo Delbo
I believe that, no matter how old you are, a day when you learn something is a good one. So I should have been very happy when I discovered something I hadn’t known before about my Fintail. But truth is that, instead, my feelings are a little mixed.
Since I bought the car as a restoration project in February 2005, and during the following years of work, I’ve been puzzledby the right rear light because the cluster - a single unit - had a reversing-light lens that was a very strange amber colour. It was too dark to be the ‘right’ white that was shining on the left side, and too orange to be the all-red American-spec unit, the good quality of the part and the way it was moulded looked very original, though, so I didn’t think it was a cheap spare part bought by the previous owner some time in the past.
Looking at the inside of the lens, I could see that the amber colour was not the result of fading by sunlight or heat because the hidden internal corners were all the same shade. Unable to solve the mystery, and not liking the mismatched effect of the two lights, I looked for a new part with a normal white reversing light.
This process was neither easy nor fast, because I didn’t want a brand new cluster, which would look too shiny compared with the left side’s original one. I had to find a used, but not too-used, part.
I bought, for almost no money, five old rear lights, but all of them were too tired to look good. In trying to resurrect one of them I also learned that you can’t separate the chromed frame from the lens, because they are thermally attached. So for a good 10 years I’ve lived with the wrong rear light.
Then, a few days before Christmas, I found the correct piece, in the right condition, from a dismantled Fintail. there was just time to clean the new part, install it and take a picture before tucking the car away for winter. It was lucky that I kept the old one, because I discovered that I’d been wrong and that ‘meddling without knowing’ is the worst thing to do.
What I’ve discovered is that the rear lights of cars sold in France had to conform to a unique French law. We all know that for a few decades front lights had to be yellow, but very few seem to be aware that for two years only, 1966-1967, the right-hand reversing light had to be of an amber colour. For Mercedes-Benz, this applied to Pagodas, Fintails and S-series saloons and coupes.
So now I don’t know what to do. the ‘originality is a must’ side of me says to refit the historically correct one. My aesthetic side prefers to keep the wrong one I have just installed, which looks right to 99% of the population. I have always kept the 230 as original as possible, so I can guess what the final decision will be, but I wonder why, after 13 years of research, I couldn’t have found this out two weeks before I bought the light. I would have been less tempted to change it - and I’d have €200 more in my account...
Clockwise from top: Mercedes as saved from the scrapyard; ‘correct’ (amber) and ‘incorrect’ (white) reversing lights; how the 1967-Mercedes-Benz-230-Fintail looks at present - aesthetically right, yet wrong!