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    Why do I suddenly like cars that I used to detest? This question occurred to me recently when, for some inexplicable reason, I bought a low-mileage two-door #1957-Imperial . To the uninitiated, Imperial was a luxury brand built by Chrysler to compete with Lincoln and Cadillac. Virgil Exner was the designer who turned Chrysler around when he joined the company in 1949. KT Keller was the president and chairman of the board at the time and, prior to Exner joining the company, Chrysler’s styling was stodgy, to say the least.

    / #1958-Imperial-Convertible / #1958 / #Imperial-Convertible / #Virgil-Exner / #Chrysler / #392ci-Hemi / #Hemi

    For example, Keller liked a higher roofline on his cars because he believed men should always wear a hat while driving. Exner had other ideas and by 1955 he was able to introduce them, starting with the Forward Look. By #1957 , at the height of his powers, he had designed the Imperial.

    By that time Imperial was its own brand with no Chrysler reference anywhere on the car. It was also Imperial’s best year because the Styling was so fresh and new. It even had a great slogan: ‘Suddenly It’s 1960!’ It gave everyone the impression that Imperial was three years ahead in the industry.

    These cars were built at a time of unbridled optimism. Gas was 25 cents a gallon, the interstate network was opening up, the space race was starting, climate change and cigarettes causing cancer were all so far in the future that nobody even thought about them.

    They were huge, too, built like tanks. I remember Imperials being banned at Demolition Derbies because Their massive frames, far stronger than anything else, were deemed an unfair advantage. Hot rodders in the ’60s cannibalised these cars for their 392ci Hemi engines. When I was a young man, these cars represented everything we hated about American automobiles. They weighed two-and-a-half tons, they got abysmal gas mileage, they couldn’t stop and could barely get around corners. While Jaguar had polished wood and Connolly leather, these American behemoths featured chrome put on with a trowel and an interior like Elvis’s coffin.


    By the time I was able to drive, cars from this era were already over a decade old. They were built before steel was galvanised and they rusted almost immediately. By the time the ’70s and ’80s came around, gas prices had started to rise and most of the cars from this era looked like crippled-mastodons flailing around in some tar-pit. So why the attraction now? AmI trying to regain some part of my youth? Possibly. Or is it because it’s just so different from what we think of as an automobile today?

    First, let me tell you about the car I found. It’s all original and painted in Desert Sage, which is really just another name for pink. A man bought it new for his wife but it was too big for her to drive. It’s 19 feet long and it weighs just shy of 5000lb. She rarely drove the car, and it was parked sometime in 1964 with 64,000 miles on it. There it sat, indoors, for almost 55 years, so there is zero rust and the chrome is perfect. I drove it home on the tyres that were fitted in 1963.
    Modern cars have almost no exterior brightwork. In contrast the Imperial looks like a Wurlitzer juke box. There’s even a massive chrome strip that runs over the roof like some sort of roll bar. The steering wheel is enormous and the gauges are the size of dinner plates. If you have to wear glasses to see the speedometer, you should not be allowed to drive.
    It has push-button drive and all sorts of goofy switches; believe me, they couldn’t have cared less about ergonomics. Trying to figure out how to operate the turn signal took 10 minutes. It has a massive air-conditioner which looks more like a refrigeration unit from a meat-packing plant. You actually have to press down hard on the accelerator to compensate for the 25bhp needed to drive it.

    If you like buying cars by the pound, this is the way to go. Ferraris are about $1000 per pound and cars like this are about $5 per pound. When you hit somebody in a Ferrari the damage is life-altering. Hit somebody in this thing, and you don’t even know it till you get home and find the other car crushed up under your wheelarch. I don’t think I’ve ever had another car that stops traffic like this thing. In a town like LA, where Bentleys and McLarens barely get a second look, folks jump out at stop lights to ask me what it is. One guy in a hip part of town asked if he could buy my interior so he could make a suit out of the sparkly brown-material.

    It’s fun to jump between different automotive worlds. For example, last Saturday was the perfect day; I took the McLaren P1 out for a ride in the hills above LA and then took my wife out to dinner in the Imperial. After all, you need to have one sensible car to drive.
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    Jay Leno
    Jay's #Swedish #two-stroke will get through the snow and woods with ease! #Saab / #Saab-93 / #1958 / #1958-Saab-93
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    The W188 coupes, cabriolets and roadsters were elegant and refined in the best Mercedes-Benz tradition.
    The chrome running over the front arches to the rear is a sign that this is an Sc.
    The plush, grey, leather seats are overlooked by a very rare factory sunroof.

    CLASSIC CHOICE 300Sc Coupe

    Exclusive and rare it may be, but for the lucky owner of this beautiful 1957 300Sc Coupe, this classic Mercedes-Benz is all that and much, much more. Words & Images Richard Truesdell.

    In October 1951, Mercedes-Benz launched the 300S at the Paris Motor Show. Available as a Cabriolet A, a roadster and a coupe, this new star had praise heaped on it by the world’s media, called a “car of the world elites” and a “model for what can be achieved today in automobile construction”. Based on the W186 300 that debuted at the first Frankfurt Motor Show in April 1951 and which was the biggest and fastest German production car of its day, the 300S models took much of the saloon’s technology, style and engineering, but used a 150mm shorter wheelbase. Traditional yet forward looking, the W188 300S was held in the highest regard, something which lives on to this very day with its modern day counterpart, the C216 CL, Mercedes’ 21st century flagship coupe.

    In September 1955, a revised 300S was revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Known as the 300Sc and produced in the same three body shapes as before, the most notable changes were at the back and under the bonnet. Where the original three-litre engine gave 148bhp and featured three carburettors, for the Sc, direct fuel injection was employed, 173bhp now the output from the same 2,996cc, these cars carrying ‘einspritzmotor’ badging (meaning ‘injection engine’). And while the doublewishbone front suspension remained, the swing-axle rear was upgraded, a singlejoint swing-axle with a low pivot point fitted instead. More chrome trim, larger indicators and the addition of quarterlights were among the gentle exterior updates distinguishing Sc models from their forebears.

    The W188 coupes, cabriolets and roadsters were elegant and refined in the best Mercedes-Benz tradition, with a dash of élan as a sporty counterpoint, they were exceptional cars then and today.

    Their exclusivity is also undiminished. Indeed, with the passing years, they have become more rare. Only 560 300S models were built (of all body shapes), but that is more than double the number of 300Scs, of which a mere 200 were built, the production numbers for none of the three variants reaching triple figures. Like the 300SL Roadster, whose #1957 introduction might have stolen the hearts of potential 300Sc customers, contributing to the aforementioned modest production numbers, the factory offered special suitcases for the 300S and Sc models. Like the majestic 300 Adenauers with which they shared so much, these cabriolets, roadsters and coupes were true, luxury continent crushers, powerful cars that could sweep driver (maybe even chauffeur) and passengers across Europe from one great capital to another. Whatever the destination, a journey in any of these impressive 300s was certain to be a pleasure, high comfort and cutting edge engineering ensuring it could be nothing but perfect. And of course, today you have to take the grandeur and exclusivity these cars had when new and multiply it time and again to reach the status held by the remaining examples.

    Just 98 300Sc Coupes were built between December 1955 and April #1958 . Vin Di Bona of Los Angeles, California, is one of the fortunate few to call one of these gorgeous cars his own.


    Unless you are a fan of the long-running American television show America’s Funniest Home Videos, Vin Di Bona’s name might not immediately ring a bell. But if you watch the credits roll at the end of each episode, you will note the highly stylised logo of Vin Di Bona Productions. Now in its 22nd season, America’s Funniest Home Videos remains one of the most popular shows on the American television network.

    Mercedes Enthusiast had the good fortune to sit down with Di Bona and his wife Erica at the conclusion of our photoshoot at his home in an upscale enclave in Los Angeles. His home is situated on land that was once the back lot for 20th Century Fox and lies in the shadow of the 35-story MGM tower, the first skyscraper built in Los Angeles in the 21st century. His 1957 300Sc is not the only Mercedes-Benz in his collection. He also has a 1961 300SL Roadster that he has owned for more than a decade. And to not feel left out, his wife has a 1971 280SE 3.5 Coupe, acknowledged as one of the finest W111 coupes in the US.

    Di Bona’s obsession with owning a 300Sc started back in the 1960s in film school, when he noted that one of his instructors at UCLA, the Academy Award winning cinematographer James Wong Howe, drove a 300Sc Coupe. “Mr Howe was short in stature but a dynamo behind the camera,” Di Bona recalls. “It seemed that he could hardly see over the Mercedes’ massive steering wheel.” As his producing career took off, Di Bona was able to indulge his passion for cars – and the thought of some day owning a Mercedes-Benz 300Sc Coupe was never far from his mind. About four years ago, the search picked up in earnest when he looked over several different cars.

    “This 300Sc was part of an estate in Las Vegas,” he tells us. “I believe that when buying a collector’s car, it’s important to have experts to help guide one in the process. For me, that was 300SL Gullwing owner Don Minkoff. Years ago, at the Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance, Don was showing his own maroon 1957 300Sc.

    Erica and I fell in love with his car. The thought of buying one ruminated for a year or two, and Don consulted me about several cars and suggested I contact another #Mercedes-Benz expert, Gary Clark. Of the three we checked out – one was in Santa Rosa north of Los Angeles, the other in San Diego – the Las Vegas car was clearly the best.”

    The next step was to consult Mike Regalia, well known for his restoration of Steve McQueen’s Ferrari Lusso. “We did an engine compression check on the Las Vegas car,” says Di Bona. “The reason is simple, if the engine isn’t right it’s $60,000 (almost £40,000) to fix. I had already turned down one of the other cars because the engine would need an overhaul.”

    It turns out that, about 20 years ago, this car was restored by noted Mercedes expert Chuck Brahms. The paint on the car, which had been changed from anthracite grey to its current dark blue hue, is now two decades old. Brahms is well known for his restorations featuring dark blue exteriors with contrasting grey interiors, as seen on this car. “And what makes my car really special,” says Di Bona with great pride, “is that it is just one of nine fuel injected 300Sc Coupes equipped with a factory installed sunroof.”

    Di Bona has further plans to make his coupe even more special. He is looking to fit European spec headlights. The first set he acquired didn’t fit as the trim gap was wrong, owing to the fact that these were, in essence, hand built cars. Other work, however, has progressed a little more smoothly. “When I bought the car, second gear had a notch,” he explains. “Rene Luderan at Van Nuys Sports Cars was able to find two new gears. After that we went through the mechanical components of the entire car, rebuilding the column mounted, four-speed shifter.”


    So what is this gorgeous classic coupe like out on the open road? “It’s remarkable how, for a car built in 1957, it has maintained its roadworthiness,” he effuses. “I’m an admitted air conditioning nut, but of all my classics, this is the only one not equipped with air con.” And it is interesting – and pleasing – to note that when we first encountered his 300Sc Coupe at the inaugural San Marino Motor Classic in the summer of 2011, Di Bona had no apprehension about driving it the 40-mile round trip. “I left at five in the morning so there wasn’t much traffic,” he says. “But we headed back near sunset, so on the drive home I had to be extra careful, especially as drivers would get close to admire its classic lines.”

    Of course, those are just the same classic lines that drew Di Bona to Howe’s 300Sc almost 40 years ago. “The styling,” he considers, “the combination of pre war and post war elements, is something I continue to admire to this day.”

    The best thing about this 300Sc Coupe is that it is not locked in some climate controlled garage, it gets driven to shows where others can admire it. Using it like this gives Di Bona an insight into life with a 1950s car few might even contemplate. “One time I sat in a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam for over an hour on a Sunday night coming back from an event,” he remembers. “In spite of that, it didn’t overheat. You can’t say that about many 50-year old cars. That’s a testimony to the robustness of the cooling system and the auxiliary fuel pump.”

    So it seems that not only does this special Mercedes-Benz coupe retain its heart-stopping beauty and classical luxury, its solid German engineering still shines through too.

    JUST THE FACTS #Mercedes-Benz-300Sc-Coupe-W188 / #Mercedes-Benz-300S-Coupe-W188 / #Mercedes-Benz-300Sc-W188 / #Mercedes-Benz-W188 / #Mercedes-Benz-M199 / #Mercedes / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-Adenauer / #Mercedes-Benz-Type-300 / #Adenauer / #Mercedes-Benz-Type-300-Coupe / #Mercedes-Benz-Adenauer-Coupe

    Engine #M199 2,996cc 6-cyl
    Power 173bhp @ 5,400rpm
    Torque 188lb ft @ 4,300rpm
    Transmission 4-speed manual, RWD
    Weight 1,780kg
    0-62mph 14.0sec
    Top speed 112mph
    Fuel consumption 22.6mpg
    Years produced 1955-1958


    One of just 98 ever made, this adored Mercedes-Benz coupe is driven and enjoyed as its maker intended Figures for car as pictured; fuel consumption determined at ¾ of top speed (not more than 110km/h, 68mph) plus 10 per cent.

    This badge signifies the 300Sc’s fuel injection, the 300S had three carbs.
    Luggage straps and a full size spare wheel – ready for the next adventure.
    Buying a mechanically sound car was of prime importance to Vin Di Bona.
    The purpose built luggage fits perfectly into this 300Sc’s boot.
    It is just one of nine Fuel-injected-300Sc-Coupes that was equipped with a factory installed sunroof.
    Erica and Vin Di Bona own a 300SL Roadster and W111 coupe too.
    The four-speed manual has a column mounted gearshifter.
    The combination of pre war and post war styling elements is something I continue to admire to this day.
    The Becker Mexico radio still works well.
    The speedo is flanked by vital gauges.
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    Lost & Found classic choice 180D Ponton

    After German expat #Joachim-Fischer rescued this 180D Ponton from a crusher, the classic Mercedes saloon soon became a firm family favourite. Words & Images Richard Truesdell.

    In the immediate post-war era, Mercedes-Benz needed to be rebuilt from the ground up. Following World War Two, more than 75 per cent of the car manufacturer’s production facilities were nothing more than bombed out rubble. But this gave Mercedes-Benz an almost clean start as many of the facilities in and around Stuttgart were rebuilt, providing the company with state of the art engineering and production capabilities.

    The Type 170, with its pre-war, body-on-frame construction, was the mainstay of #Mercedes - Benz in the period from 1946 to 1953. But at the same time, the company’s designers and engineers were busy readying an all new, modern design for what would become the W120 and W180 saloons. Over time these threepointed stars would be affectionately known as Pontons and, in the minds of many, these elegant looking saloons saved the company.

    With their unitised bodies using a separate but fully integrated subframe, the Pontons enabled Mercedes-Benz to build a wide variety of four- (W120) and sixcylinder (W180) models, including diesels. These all new Ponton saloons had appeal as the German economic miracle gained momentum throughout the 1950s.

    It could be argued that Mercedes-Benz was somewhat late in getting the Pontons on sale, as both DW K and Borgward started production of their post-war saloons featuring modern bodies more than three years earlier. But Stuttgart’s engineers used the extra time to incorporate features that would have great long term significance, especially in terms of safety. For example, while the later Fintails were the first cars with crumple zones and rigid passenger cells, with their unitised bodies combined with the separate front subframe, the Pontons incorporated some of the Mercedes-Benz systems pioneered and patented by Béla Barényi in 1951. This is what we now call the safety cell and it forms the foundation of the passive safety system design found in almost every modern car, where the car’s structure is designed to absorb and dissipate the sometimes massive forces generated in the event of a crash.

    The Ponton’s exterior design, crafted under the direction of Friedrich Geiger and Karl Wilfert, was clean and modern, in contrast to the earlier 170s with their floating wheelarches, characteristic of pre-war designs. In the case of the Pontons, the wheelarches were completely integrated into the body.


    When the W120 was presented in August 1953, the end of World War Two was less than a decade in its rear view mirror. But this didn’t stop Mercedes-Benz from mapping an aggressive export strategy worldwide, including Great Britain and the United States. Although sales ramped up slowly, growth was steady and the diesel models were a small but important part of the model drive. Mercedes’ marketers touted the low operating costs of the range’s diesels, then as today promoting their exemplary fuel economy. In the case of the 180D pictured here, the official figure was a mighty impressive 44.8mpg.

    The W120 180s offered a 20 per cent roomier passenger compartment combined with substantially enhanced visibility over the 170s they replaced. And although they were similar dimensionally, the boot could hold 75 per cent more luggage and the climate controls were greatly improved and could be adjusted separately for driver and passenger. In the Mercedes-Benz line up of the 1950s, the fourcylinder W120/121 Pontons, like the example you see here, could be considered the #E-Class saloons of their day, while the 170mm longer, six-cylinder W180/105/128s were predecessors to today’s S-Classes.

    To begin with, the W120 was fitted with two engines, both carried over from the 170s. The M136 four-cylinder petrol engine produced 51bhp at 4,000rpm, while the OM636 diesel engine produced 39bhp at 3,200rpm (42bhp at 3,500rpm from September 1955, as in the car pictured). Coupled with 74lb ft torque, the OM636 could power the 180D to a top speed of 68mph. All models were mated to a four-speed, all synchromesh, manual transmission, with a column mounted shifter, allowing the 180 Ponton to seat five adults comfortably, possibly six at a pinch.

    The rest of the Type 180 was thoroughly modern with coil springs fitted front and rear. From September 1955, the rear set up comprised a low placed, single-joint swing-axle (previously just a swing-axle). The steering employed a recirculating ball system and was equipped with a steering shock absorber, while the Ponton’s brakes were drums at all four corners with hydraulic assistance.

    If Mercedes-Benz needed to pin its post-war recovery on just one model, especially in overseas markets, the 180 was up to the task. While the star studded 300SL and the luxurious 300 Adenauer grabbed the headlines, the 180, and to a lesser degree the 220, re-established Mercedes-Benz in the minds of car buyers throughout the world with its virtues of engineering excellence combined with a simple elegance that has stood the test of time.


    Which brings us to this car and its owner, Joachim Fischer, a lean manufacturing expert hailing from sunny California, for whom these virtues hold a special appeal. Originally from Germany where Pontons were a common sight during his childhood, his Ponton, a 1958 180D (one of 114,046 built), is a story of reclamation and restoration. Purchased in 2003, his 180D is a driver quality, self restoration that has now covered more than 119,000 miles.

    “My wife Petra and I got lost on a roadtrip to San Francisco,” recalls Fischer. “While looking for the best way to get back onto Highway 101, we drove past a junkyard and the Ponton was sitting in front of it with a ‘for sale’ sign in the window. I think they felt sorry for it and didn’t want to crush it. I turned around and bought it for $2,200 on the spot, despite the fact I had no intention of buying a car at all.

    “I probably overpaid but it doesn’t really matter,” he continues. “The car was not running, was missing many parts and was in very poor condition overall. Its windows were cracked, the seats were torn, rubber parts were missing and the chrome parts that remained had been painted silver. I got the car towed the 400 miles back to Orange County the next day and started a two-year restoration.”

    The forlorn 180D needed almost everything, including new rubber seals, tyres and brakes. The windscreen was replaced along with all the silver painted chrome trim. Fischer’s 180D was treated to a fresh coat of blue paint, replacing its well worn and faded two-tone brown scheme (this car left the Sindelfingen factory in 1958 with grey paint).


    On the inside it received new cloth upholstery on the seats and door panels, along with new headlining. Mechanically, Fischer got the engine running after cleaning the fuel tank. However, although he loves driving his classic Mercedes, over the 10 years he’s owned it and since the completion of its restoration, this 180D has only covered a little over 3,000 miles.

    That might not sound a lot, but it gets driven almost every week to local events in Orange County. This includes regular appearances at the well known Cars and Coffee show in nearby Irvine. There it fits right in with the more than 30 classic Mercedes models that congregate on any given Saturday morning. He also drives it to Cook’s Corner, a well known biker bar in Trabuco Canyon, one of the locations where we photographed the car – it was amazing how much attention the blue Ponton attracted among all the Harleys! And it is a tribute to the car’s design that outside the iconic, sharply modernistic headquarters of sunglasses maker Oakley in nearby Foothill Ranch, where we also photographed it, the Ponton still had a strong, elegant appeal.

    Fischer has two sons and this diesel Ponton plays an important part in their lives. “They just love playing in the car pretending to go somewhere,” he says. “My older son, Paul, is in a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy and sitting in the Mercedes-Benz is just the greatest thing for him. I taught him how to drive the ‘four-on-the- tree’ while sitting on my lap and that is his weekly highlight.”

    While this #1958 180D is Fischer’s first Mercedes-Benz and first restoration project, he has since restored an Airstream travel trailer and has called upon his well honed skills as a cabinet maker to build a wooden boat. And he certainly has got the Mercedes bug, now being an active participant in the International Ponton Owners Group on Yahoo.


    When asked to sum up his Mercedes’ best attribute Fischer had this to say. “The car always starts and runs, no questions asked. The diesel’s torque from only 43 horsepower [42bhp] is just amazing. But compared to a modern car, it’s like stepping back in time. You have to work it. Steering takes a lot of effort and braking requires anticipation.”

    It seems that Fischer has found a great sense of balance with his Ponton. It is restored to a level that makes it a great example of its kind, but not so much that he’s afraid to drive it on a regular basis. And, of course, it’s a classic Mercedes-Benz that his entire family enjoys. What could be better than that?

    It always starts and runs, but you have to work it – steering takes a lot of effort and braking requires anticipation.

    We were lost and drove past a junkyard – the Ponton was there with a ‘for sale’ sign in the window.

    In the minds of many, these cars saved the company in the post-war period.

    JUST THE FACTS #Mercedes-Benz-180D-W120 / #Mercedes-Benz-W120 / #Mercedes-Benz-180D / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-OM636 / #Mercedes-Benz-Ponton / #Ponton

    Engine #OM636 1,767cc 4-cyl
    Power 42bhp @ 3,500rpm
    Torque 74lb ft @ 2,000rpm
    Transmission 4-speed manual, RWD
    Weight 1,200kg
    0-62mph 39.0sec
    Top speed 68mph
    Fuel consumption 44.8mpg
    Years produced 1954 / 1959


    Pontons helped revive Mercedes’ postwar fortunes, setting the standards of engineering excellence for the models that would follow Figures for a 1958 180D as pictured; fuel consumption determined at ¾ of top speed (not more than 110km/h, 68mph) plus 10 per cent.

    The windscreen washer fluid reservoir shows its 55 years.
    The speedo and gauges are remarkably small.
    It took Joachim Fischer two years to restore this Ponton.
    The OM636, normally aspirated, four-stroke diesel.
    A very industrial look for the diesel injection pump.
    Becker Europa II with bass and treble adjustment.
    Retrofitted seat belts feature on the rear bench.
    A modernist setting, but the car holds its own.
    First grey, then brown, Fischer chose a deep blue.
    A column shifter for the four-speed manual gearbox.
    The chrome had been painted silver, so needed replacing.
    The strong patina adds to this well used car’s character.
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    Family affair. This rare 1950s coupe was bought as a basket case in 1972, reports Richard Truesdell, after which it was restored over a six-year period – and to this day remains with the same Mercedes loving family in California. Images Richard Truesdell/Daimler AG.

    “The 300sc was owned by luminaries like King Hussein of Jordan and Hollywood stars Clark Gable, Gary Cooper and Bing Crosby”

    The year was 1978, the car a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300Sc, and the story is of the relationship between a father, his son, and his preservation of his father’s legacy in steel, aluminum, wood and leather. The father, the late Donald Minkoff of Newport Beach, California, was preparing his prized Mercedes for that year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, and his son Mark, then 20 years old, was doing what he could, helping to get the car ready for the event.

    “I was destined to be a car guy from the day I was born,” says Mark, sitting in his office in Costa Mesa, California with his wife of 34 years, Sherry. “My dad brought me to my first NASCAR race at Riverside Raceway when I was just five years old. I remember that Roger Penske won the race – from that point on, I was a big fan of any kind of racing.” Today Mark races a short-wheelbase 911 Porsche he acquired 15 years ago, and a Ford Thunderbird in the Historic Stock Car Racing Series for vintage NASCAR race cars.

    I would crawl around the car as an infant trying to ‘help’ my dad with restoration projects,” Mark continues, recalling that the most memorable was the 300Sc. He was involved in its restoration, along with many skilled craftsmen, and still remembers trying to get it show ready the evening before loading the car on the trailer for its trip to Monterey.

    “My dad was the type of guy who was always doing things at the last minute,” Mark remembers. “The 300Sc did make it to Pebble Beach, and miraculously won first in class and was also selected as one of the 10 most elegant cars in the show. Sherry was there, but at the time we were not married. My father being the frugal guy he was, made Sherry and me sleep on the balcony on a mattress instead of reserving an extra room. I think that tells you a lot of what you need to know about my father.”

    He comments that times have changed greatly at Pebble Beach in the intervening 35 years, that what he and his dad accomplished in 1978 would be impossible today. “We don’t attend the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance any longer,” he tells us. “It has become so crowded. In the early days you could spread out a blanket and picnic with family and friends. That year I was proudly standing next to my dad as he received congratulations from Phil Hill, the 1961 Formula 1 champion.”

    Donald Minkoff wasn’t your typical #Mercedes - Benz owner. Born in Los Angeles in 1929, at the height of the Great Depression, he spent his early years in Alhambra, graduated from Alhambra High School, and there, met and married his wife of 57 years, Erna. Happily, Erna shared his love of cars, especially those with the three-pointed star. This afforded the couple the opportunity to travel often to Europe while raising Mark and his sisters.

    Don spent much of his professional life as a salesman for General Mills products and called on grocery stores and supermarkets in southern California. In the early sixties his route passed by a car dealership where he would see W188 300S Coupe on display, falling in love with it. But even for a successful salesman, it seemed that such a car was beyond reach, although that never stopped Don from dreaming that some day he would own the car the stars drove. The 300Sc was owned by 1950s luminaries like King Hussein of Jordan and Hollywood stars Clark Gable, Gary Cooper and Bing Crosby.

    Over time, as Don become more successful, he moved from the middle class neighbourhood of Encino, north of downtown Los Angeles, to the upscale community of Newport Beach in Orange County, south of LA. Through it all, he never gave up on his aspirations of one day owning a 300Sc. That chance presented itself in 1972, 10 years after his first encounter with the 300S Coupe in that Los Angeles showroom. Purchased for the princely sum of $3,100 (the equivalent today of $17,000, or about £11,400), the car had just reached 100,000 miles. It was something of a barn find, having been purchased from the previous owner who stored it in hut a mile from Mark’s current office.

    The low price reflected its need for extensive restoration, which would become a father-son project over the following six years. While the bodywork was left to specialists, much of the mechanical work was performed by Don and Mark. The 300 series was a special car, with over 1,000 highly skilled man hours applied to each one during its build.

    All components were hand fitted, each item bearing an individually stamped identification number. In seven years of production from 1951, Mercedes made only 760. Of these, 200 were the 300Sc, introduced in 1955 to replace the 300S, and using a new three-litre engine with Bosch fuel injection rather than triple carburettors, which raised power by 25bhp to 173bhp, and torque 18lb ft to 188lb ft. Of these, only 98 were coupes, with very few being equipped with the factory installed sunroof. It is believed that around 60 per cent of all 300 series coupes, cabriolets and roadsters have survived.

    Down the years, Don and Erna travelled often to Europe, and established a successful business importing Mercedes cars directly from Germany. Their Mercedes collection progressively grew, at one time Don owning 10. One of them, a 1956 220SE Cabriolet was a 10th wedding anniversary gift from Don to Erna, in 1963. On the day he gave it to her, he covered her eyes, getting her sat behind the wheel, and saying he bought her a station wagon. But as she smelled the leather, she knew very well that this was no crude, US built truck with a vinyl interior and imitation wood side panels.

    The 300Sc is displayed regularly, at regional events, most recently, this year’s Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance. There, it was parked next to Bruce Meyer’s 1957 300Sc Cabriolet, a car once owned by Hollywood screen icon Clark Gable – and there is a direct link between the two cars, dating back to the days when Don and his family lived on Encino. It seems that Mark detailed the Clark Gable car when it was owned by the late actor’s estate. It was during this time that Don was able to purchase the fitted luggage that now resides in the Minkoff’s 300Sc (we’re thinking that Bruce would love to reunite the luggage with his car but it is likely that Mark will want to keep it with his).

    Don Minkoff passed away on September 15 2010, after a short illness. He was 81, and as Mark will attest, his was a life well lived, especially where his relationship with the three-pointed star was concerned. Since his passing, Mark has faithfully tended to his father’s collection, striving to maintain the cars in perfect running condition, which is something his dad struggled with. “My dad was the type that was happy with how his cars presented but left some of the hidden details untended,” says Mark. “The best example is the under dash wiring harness on the 300Sc. When I refreshed the car after his death, I removed the harness, with all the splices, butt connectors and electrical tape intact. I keep the harness in a cabinet in my office in my ‘man cave’ in Costa Mesa, where I have kept his collection intact.”

    This includes a 1957 300SL Gullwing, it being the ninth from last of the 1,400 coupes built over the three year period. It is probably the most valuable car in the collection, but Mark knows that the 300Sc Coupe was always his favourite. “I am sure my dad is looking down and smiling,” says Mark, looking wistfully at the cabinet with the wiring harness.

    “The 300Sc is displayed regularly, at regional events like the legendary Cars and Coffee show held each Saturday morning in Irvine”
    “The 300 series was a special car, with over 1,000 highly skilled man hours applied to each one during its build”

    TECHNICAL DATA SPECIFICATIONS #Mercedes-Benz-300Sc-Coupe-W188 / #Mercedes-Benz-300S-W188 / #Mercedes-Benz-W188 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-M199 / #Mercedes-Benz-300Sc-Coupe / #Mercedes-Benz-300S / #Mercedes-Benz-300 /

    Engine #M199 2,996cc 6-cyl
    Power 173bhp @ 5,400rpm
    Torque 188lb ft @ 4,300rpm
    Weight 1,780kg
    Transmission 4-speed manual, RWD
    0-62mph 14.0sec
    Top speed 112mph
    Fuel consumption 22.6mpg
    Years produced #1955 / #1958
    All figures from #Mercedes-Benz

    Above. ‘Einspritzmotor’ tells us that this car, unlike early models, has fuel injection.
    Left. Every year Mark takes the 300Sc to varoius classic car events in California.
    Right. The fitted luggage set was acquired later – from a 300Sc Clark Gable owned.
    Right. One of the publicity photos Mercedes issued of the coupe in the mid 1950s.
    Above. Rear seat is best described as cosy, with limited space.
    Left. The 300Sc has 173bhp, a healthy output for the time.
    Below. Few 1950s cars looked as chic.
    Above. The 300-series was offered as the Coupe, Roadster and Cabriolet.
    Above left. This is the cover of the 1951 brochure for the early model, the 300S.
    Below. The polished wood and chromed trimmed dials make for a stylish fascia.
    Above. Mark with the 300S as it is today, 35 years after the restoration was completed.
    Left. Same place, in 1972, with Jim Albin, who carried out some paintwork on the car.
    Left and below. Phil Hill congratulates Don (open shirt) on ’1978 Concours win; Mark is to Don’s right. classic coupe 300Sc.
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    The streets of #Frankfurt #1956 / #1957 / #1958 / #1959 / #1960 / #1961 / #Porsche / #VW

    Greg Cagle was a little boy when his parents lived in Frankfurt, Germany, from 1956-1961, but he was already “a certifiable car nut,” and shot several hundred photos of road and race cars he encountered. He’s working on compiling some of those photos into a book, to be called Stop the Car! Included will be not just commentary about the cars, “but about what it was like at such a young age on a continent still struggling to recover from war, and the means of transportation most people resorted to: mopeds, motorcycles, microcars (which I fell in love with because they were just my size!) and so on.”

    Greg kept good notes, and has been able to identify all but a few of the cars in his photographs. One of the mysteries is this black coupe, shot in September 1957. “It looks to be a conglomeration of body parts from a #Porsche-356 (rear decklid and front hood, anyway) and other cars,” he writes.

    “It is clearly badged as a VW, and the metal script below the rear decklid says ‘Vallore.’ I can find no reference to it in VW history, so I assume it must be somebody’s backyard creation on a VW chassis? The tall roofline, split windshield, and crude bumpers make for a pretty ugly duckling. Does anybody know its history or whatever became of it?” We’ll bring you more of Greg’s mystery cars next month. ‏ — at Frankfurt, Germany
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    CAR #1958 #Aston-Marti-DB-MkIII £260,000 / #Aston-Marti-DB2-MkIII / #Aston-Martin-DB-2/4-Mark-III / #Aston-Martin-DB / #Aston-Martin /

    This car’s survived six decades without anybody feeling the need to comprehensively restore it, says Richard Gunn.

    The high prices of DB-series Aston Martins means many have been expensively rebuilt. So it’s fantastic to see one that’s survived close to 60 years with only minor renovations in all that time.

    Registered in July 1958, this Pacific Blue DB MkIII has seen some club racing, hence the Le Mans-style fuel filler cap, competition clutch and uprated dampers.

    All this features in a comprehensive if disorganised history file. The paperwork dates from the earliest days of the car, and it seems like every bill and correspondence has been kept. The original logbook is there, as well as lots of early letters between the first owner and Aston Martin, plus invoices, service records and MoTs. There is a gap in the history between 1974 and 1984, when it is believed the car was stored. The current owner got it in 2005 and maintained it mechanically – the engine was rebuilt in 2010 – but he kept the exterior original. As such, he body shows some signs of age; it’s presentable on the whole but there are paint issues including bubbling and cracking around both front wheelarches.

    The nose is stonechipped and the finish is dull and flat on the nearside bonnet top, with a small network of cracks there too. Another crack is apparent in the roof above the driver’s door. The chrome is tarnished in places, but this is only apparent up close. The #Avon-Turbospeed 165/95 16 89H tyres have lots of tread left.

    The engine was rebuilt in 2010 and is still very tidy, with its bank of triple SU carburettors topped off by shiny modern K&N cone air filters. All fluids were at healthy levels, and the area under the brake fluid reservoir is free from corrosion. The interior appears completely original.

    It’s well patinated but in a warm and inviting way. Some recolouring of scuff marks on the driver’s side bolster might be in order, while the occasional rear seats have a split in them. The grey carpets have some marks and the headlining is discoloured and stained in spots. By the driver’s footwell, the card lining is a little frayed in its top corner. There were no starting issues from cold, although the DB MkIII gives its best once fully warmed up. The idle does seem a little low, though. When cruising, the oil pressure gauge reads a healthy 60 to 70psi.

    This MkIII pulls well but doesn’t pamper the driver, with heavy steering and clutch, but the gearbox is easy to use. Overdrive didn’t seem to be functioning, however. The brakes are excellent. The fuel gauge and rev counter show fluctuating readings, but the temperature gauge stayed in the normal zone throughout our test-drive. This Aston has some age-related issues but it’s a solid car that drives well.

    The interior isn’t perfect but the marks, scufs and minor creases all add to the aged charm Once warmed up properly the inline sixcylinder engine performs beautifully.


    The Aston-Martin-DB2 is launched in 1950 as the replacement for the previous 2-Litre Sports (retrospectively known as the DB1). Unlike its fourcylinder predecessor, the new car uses a Lagonda six-cylinder engine of 2580cc producing 105bhp, or 120bhp in Vantage spec.

    The DB2 is developed into the DB2/4 during 1953, the extra digit denoting it can accommodate four occupants with its 2+2 seating arrangement. Power is up to 125bhp, then 140bhp when the 2922cc engine is introduced. Windscreen is now a onepiece curved item and a hatchback with larger glass area is introduced on fixed-head coupés (drophead variants are also available). A MkII in 1955 sees minor changes such as higher roof, small tailfins and a modified bonnet.

    The DB2/4 MkIII – usually known as simply DB MkIII – appears in 1957. Power from revised and stronger engine is now 162bhp and front disc brakes are fitted. The trademark Aston Martin grille shape, still in use today, makes its first appearance. Production ends in 1959.

    TECHNICAL DATA SPECIFICATIONS #1958 Aston Martin DB MkIII / #Aston-Martin-DB2

    Price £260,000
    Contact Desmond J Smail, Olney, Buckinghamshire (, 01234 240636)
    Engine 2922cc, inline six-cylinder, #DOHC / #Lagonda
    Power 162bhp@5500rpm
    Torque 180lb ft@4000rpm
    Top speed: 120mph;
    0-60mph: 9.3sec
    Fuel consumption: 18mpg
    Length: 4369mm
    Width: 1651mm
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