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Our Three Mercedes Benz

Story ID:10094
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Fresno CA USA
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This story may be a bit long but I wrote it for my kids and thought I would share with you.

Our Three Mercedes Benz
By Chuck Dishno

In 1975 I was working for Fresno County Dept. of Education running a large printing department. Roz and I had been married since 1970 and were living on our small horse ranch in nearby Clovis. Roz was driving a 1962 Impala and my car was a 1965 Dodge Dart. Both were in good shape but since Roz’s daughter was attending Fresno State University we were always short one car. Roz’s sister sold her 1968 Impala but to me it was a piece of junk with too many things going wrong with it. I had had it and was dreaming of a Mercedes. I knew I could never afford a new one but one day I was cruising the local Mercedes used car lot and found a beautiful white 1966 Mercedes 230S. This was a 6 cylinder gas model with those beautiful classic old Mercedes body lines. I was in love with it. The next day Roz and I drove the Impala to the lot and made a fairly good trade. The Mercedes had 50,000 miles on it and the asking price was $7000. With some haggling they gave me $3800 for the Impala and we were now the proud owners of a beautiful Mercedes, my first.

We really enjoyed that car and drove it many miles including several trips to Montana and a couple to Ensenada, Mexico. I had put an additional 70000 miles on it with no mechanical problems.

In a 1975 issue of the Smithsonian magazine I read an article about how Mercedes had shocked the engineering world by coming out with the first 5 cylinder car, a Mercedes 300D diesel. This fascinated me and I had to see and drive one.

The next morning I stopped by the local Mercedes dealer and asked the owner, Ralph, about the new 300D. He told me he only had one and wouldn’t be getting any more a month or more as they were being sold as soon as they arrived from Germany. I was not to be out done and said I had my heart set on a white diesel Mercedes either a 4 cylinder 240D or the new 300D. I figured out that I could save money on fuel since we had a diesel tractor and a 100 gallon diesel tank and could buy ranch diesel for 32 cents a gallon.

Ralph said he would be glad to place an order for me but not to expect to get my new car for about 8 months. I guess I was a little stubborn and began to stop by every day and see if he had changed his mind. One day he said he needed to keep the car as a demonstrator but if I would let him keep it for another 2 weeks he would sell it to me. I said that would be fine and two weeks later he took my 230S in trade and I was now the proud owner of a unique car, the only one in Fresno. The price was $12,400 but they gave me almost $7000 for my 230S. We were both happy.

All went well and we loved the new car. It was cheap to drive with my ranch diesel and even diesel at stations wasn’t that high. The only problem was on long trips, finding diesel in out of the way small towns.

In 1978 Roz’s son, David was stationed in Germany paying back his 4 year commitment to the Army for putting him through UCLA dental school. David and his wife Joanne had been there about 3 years when we decided to pay them a visit and tour that part of Germany. Our trip would be a month long and we could either rent a car or use public transportation.

It was deciding what to do that I thought of buying a new 1978 300D and taking a European delivery. I had heard of people doing this and saving almost enough to pay for their trip.

The next day I stopped by the Mercedes dealer to inquire about European deliveries. I will have to admit I wasn’t dressed to well as I had put in a hard day at my printing business. I was dressed in an ink stained shirt and overalls. I walked in, nodded to the only salesman who seemed to be on duty. He was dressed in a tuxedo and looked at me like I had just fallen off the freight train. I inquired about buying a new Mercedes and without looking up he pointed to a rack of brochures. I was looking through them when my friend Ralph came out of his office and said, “Hi Chuck, are you ready to buy another 300D.” I said I was and wanted to know about a taking a European delivery if I could get someone to wait on me but so far I have been pretty much ignored. I commented that maybe I wasn’t dressed to his salesman’s liking. Ralph glared at his salesman and said, “Never mind, I’ll take care of Chuck.”

Ralph and I sat at a table while he explained how the European delivery worked. He said I would fill out a contract to place the order then before I left the US I would have to pay for the car plus shipping back and insurance for the month we used it. The estimated price would be $17,800 but subject to change as the time got near. This was March and the earliest delivery was on August 4th which just happened to be my birthday. This was quite a savings as to buy a new one in the US would be about $24,000. Not only that but we would save car rental and when we got the car back home we would only have to pay sales tax and duty on the $17,800.

We made the deal with a small down payment, and then went home to plan our Germany trip. David set up the air flight on a 747 which was used mostly for military dependents. What a trip that was. I think the airline had added many more seats to accommodate all those wives and children. The flight from LAX took about 9 hours and the cabin was filled with a cacophony of screaming kids with the omnipresent odor of wet diapers.

We arrived in Frankfurt on August 1st and were scheduled to pick up our new Mercedes on the 4th at the Mercedes factory in Sindelfingen, near Stuttgart. Included in the package were train tickets and cab fare from Frankfurt to the plant for the 4 of us, about a 5 hour trip.

On arriving at the factory we were met by a special escort who took us to the cafeteria for lunch then on to a tour of the factory. He said out car would be ready about 2pm and for us to sit in the waiting room for us to be called. When we got there I was amazed at the different nationalities of people waiting to pick up the various vehicles.

Promptly at 2pm a man dressed in coveralls came in and called, “Mr. Dishno, your car is ready for you to inspect. He then took us to the garage area where another man raised the hood and doors to point out all the features and how to take care of our new purchase. David was standing back with my camera taking pictures while I accepted the delivery. We then got in and the man handed me a slip to take to the fuel station and get a full tank of diesel. After that we drove across the road to get our insurance voucher and make arrangements for delivery back to Long Beach, CA.

This was August 4th and since we planned to be there a month, we made arrangements to drop the car off in Frankfurt on September 1st. Wow what a month that was.

We stopped by Patch Barracks on the way back to Aschaffenburg where they were having a bizarre and ended up buying two 7 foot tall 100 year old grandfathers clocks. They were too big to get into our new Mercedes so we went home and the next day, David borrowed a friend’s small hatch back car, went back and picked them up. That was my first experience with the Autobahn. Wow do they drive fast

David and his wife, Joanne, rented a small house on an old farm near Aschaffenburg where David was stationed. We stayed there for several days then decided to go exploring. David had some time off so we drove through the back roads stopping at almost every small town, especially when you could smell the local bakery where we would load up on cheese and fresh bread for our lunch stops.

David had to go back to work so the next week Roz and I visited many old German landmarks and a few castles. The third week I had made arrangements to tour the Heidelberg Printing Press plant. We left Heidelberg and drove through Austria, Lichtenstein and on to Basel Switzerland. We even took a trip into the Swiss Alps. The next day we boarded a cruise ship to take a 1000km 5 day trip down the Rhine River. David drove the car back to their place and picked us up 5 days later in Rotterdam, Holland. We then drove on to Amsterdam for another 5 days before heading back to David’s place. The next and final week was a trip through the Soviet corridor into Berlin where we stayed 5 days then back through the corridor to make our drop off date to ship the car back home. We dropped the car off in Frankfort two days before we left for home. The shipper said it would be about 6 weeks in delivery to Long Beach, CA.

Our original intention was to sell the new Mercedes and keep our 1975 300D but the new one had many more features we decided to keep it and sell the old one. I say old one in jest because it was less than 3 years old and had only 35,000 miles on it.

I had paid $12,400 for it and decided to ask $14,400 since the price of the 1979’s were announced and I figured I might really make a profit. I put an ad in the local newspaper and received many calls but all thought I was asking too much. One man came by, looked at it and took a cashier’s check out of his pocket made out for $12,000. He asked if I would accept that check and I said I would but he would have to give me his personal check for an additional $2,400. He said I sure drove a hard bargain and should be a car salesman. He then took out his checkbook and wrote the check. We were both happy, I had made enough to almost pay for my month’s vacation and he had a beautiful car.

Roz and I drove that 1978 300D for over 25 years and put on over 300,000 miles. The only repair in those years was a new set of injectors, a water pump and a rebuild on the alternator. I sold the Mercedes about 6 years ago for $2,000. Who says those Germans don’t make things to last.