Several pieces of what was once a sort-of finished Mercedes V8 project were piled neatly in the workshop of classic bodywork specialist, Ian Taylor Body Repairs. But I wasn't deflated by the seemingly backwards step - quite the opposite. Finally, and for the first time in my life, I'm having a car I own painted.
The old nag isn't plunging into the deep and unknown waters of finished-project status without a fight, though. ITBR staffers Steve Poole, George Wilson and Lewis Taylor unearthed some horrors getting the car on its way to the primer stage. Both rear wheelarches had decomposed from the inside out, the boot floor was rotten beneath a layer of lead roofing cladding (installed during my student days as a budget sound-deadening solution) and the wings were severely dented.
No matter, though. The chaps at the bodyshop's Horley, Surrey, base carefully corrected the steel's maladies, tapping out dents and replacing the rear arches with a fresh set from You 2 Body Panels. More rot was discovered on the bottom corner of the passenger door, where water had trickled in through corroded window rubber. As far as I'm concerned, turning snotty bodywork into something even vaguely passable is utter voodoo. So when new metal was fabricated, let in and made pretty in the time it takes me to draw a wildly inaccurate cardboard template and then make a complete hash of panel beating, I was as jealous of their skills as I was pleased to see them lavished on my weird old Mercedes.
With a dent and rust-free husk, there was only time to smooth out the holes where the 230E badge used to bolt into the boot before the naked body was re-clothed in primer. I know this borders on the custom-car side of proceedings, but I'd much rather leave my Benz's engine displacement to the imagination of others. And I always thought the bootlid looked a bit cluttered with two giant chrome badges tapped into it.
After chief painter Rod Platt gave the shell a stroke with the orbital sander, it was in the booth for primer, drying and guide-coat and then out for another tickle with the sander. Which is pretty impressive, especially considering I'd only rumbled into the ITBR workshop a week prior to the car's first shot in the booth.
While we were waiting for the second coat to harden, Ian showed me the other classics he's got on the go. As well as his own show-winning, sign-written Austin A35 van, waiting in the wings are a re-shelled Bedford CF van (which used to be a camper), a Mercedes W108 coupé, an engine-converted Moggie and a very poorly Mk I Escort.
In fact, the W108 was finished in such a nice shade of Anthracite that I decided it was good enough for me and ordered the same original Mercedes paint.
Safe in the knowledge that my converted Mercedes- Benz was in good hands, I departed with thoughts that, the next time I saw the stately saloon, it would be shiny, grot-free, fully functioning and, dare I say, finished.