In our recently published article by my confederate, Ben Everest, we learned the dangers of buying a 20+ year old Mercedes – sight-unseen – through the mounting financial toll of playing catch-up on decades of deferred maintenance. This is a sound lesson from Mr. Everest for anyone in the habit of buying and collecting older European cars, to be sure, and one I’ve invariably learned myself via the thirty-odd vintage MBs I’ve purchased personally over the years.
With that in mind, it must therefore be asked: What kind of self-destructive, foolish masochist…one who is purported to possess any knowledge or savvy whatsoever about buying older MB cars… willfully purchases a nearly 40-year-old Mercedes-Benz… with over 535,000 Km on the clock….plucked from the frozen tundra of the rust-laden, oxidation haven of the great white north also known as the greater Toronto Metropolitan Area? Not me, that’s for sure…
I bought two.
Of the pair, the car that primarily piqued our interest was the W123: a beautiful 1983 300TDT Station Wagon finished in Petrol Green Metallic (877) over Mushroom Leather (255) interior. The wagon came equipped with European headlamps and some clever, dealer-optioned goodies such as Bosch Yellow Fog lights, Rial Honeycomb wheels & Zebrano wood horn pad cover. Despite owning this 1983 model year example since 1984, we were surprised to learn that Milton was not, in fact, the original owner. Milton purchased the car in September 1984 in virtually as-new condition from a German citizen who had emigrated earlier that year. As it were, in the early 1980s, European immigrants to Canada were allowed to circumvent certain import taxes and fees by bringing with them one vehicle from their home country to be registered in Canada. In this instance, the original purchaser of the 300TDT had recognized the value prospect in bringing with him a brand-new, duty-free Mercedes station wagon that he could sell for a profit upon settling in Canada and, as the datacard shows , he special ordered the car explicitly for this purpose. Accordingly, Milton purchased this practically brand-new Mercedes clocking barely more than a delivery-mile equivalent from a pre-kijijian newspaper classified ad on September 11, 1984 for $36,500 (or $84,174.89 adjusted for inflation).
To understand these cars and their record-setting volume of records, you have to understand the man behind them: Milton Rusonik, a dapper, eccentric 84-year-old Canadian attorney who, if nothing else, seemed to wake up every morning with a packet of Sanka only to diligently hand scribe a new list entitled: “What can I spend money on to replace or repair for these cars today?” Not that I’m complaining, of course, because without Milton’s peculiar attention to detail, including annual underbody rustproofing by “Krown Inc. of greater Toronto”, these two metallic Mercedes would have rotted into oblivion before Alanis Morrissette wrapped her last season of “You Can’t Do That on Television”. As a result of this diligent, annual, nether-regional chore, each car is protected by an inch-thick coat of godknowswhat™ that will leave their underbodies standing long after our robot overlords have laid waste to the surrounding landscape following the apocalypse. In the video interview with Milton linked here, Milton ultimately reveals that the secret to his special undercoating mixture is “used engine oil from a car with a good engine….You spray it on there and the car will go as long as you want it to go”.
The contents of these varied vehicular volumes are hard to describe succinctly because they run the entire gamut for everything associated with these cars throughout Milton’s tenure. Hundreds of pages of notes detailing every squeaky joint, loose bolt, odd sound or other “concern” that Milton had about them; always dated in the top right corner and scrawled in the manic, scripted cursive of a frazzled physician on bathtub speed. The handwritten notes, thriftily written on the backs of scrap pages of old legal documents or real estate and development proposals from Milton’s various business interests perfectly represent the intersection of his inherent frugality and his exorbitant expenditure on preventative maintenance items for his beloved Benzes. He scribbled notes both vertically and horizontally across each scrap page - never wasting a blank space or leaving an ounce of fat to be trimmed.
There are both annual and quarterly hand-scribed calculations on what he’d spent on each car that quarter, or that year, followed by the receipts and service orders to back up his back of the envelope mathematics. There is also, quite incredibly, the original Toronto newspaper ad from September 11, 1984 that advertised the “blue-green” Mercedes station wagon with “aluminum wheels” that would become his apparent obsession over the next 38 years. In all, it is a beautiful, overwhelming and somewhat terrifying tome of what a vintage MB can potentially cost, in exchange for the satisfaction and fulfillment it can clearly give; sufficient to lovingly spend it, and document it, with a sense exuding both joy and religion in the task.
Standing alone, these are two wonderful, incredibly well-kept examples of the best, most efficient and most durable cars that Mercedes had to offer in the 1980s; arguably a peak performance and production era for the hallowed brand. They drive tremendously and perform as intended 100% of the time; a terrific testament to what obsessive ownership can gift you in the form of a classic Benz (or two). Even after sitting idle more than a few of months this past winter in our warehouse, both cars fired up forcefully, immediately and authoritatively; ready and waiting to be driven and enjoyed again, as before.
Yes, alone they are great cars. But combined with the 1,200 pages of detailed and specific history that accompany them, these cars become something much more: They become familiar.
So to Milton and all the similar-such owners gripped in the throes of a torrid love affair with their old, oft-broken Mercedes – regardless of value, collectability, credence or condition – we salute you and encourage continuance of the tradition of care and curation that we all know they, and we, deserve.
Just be sure to get a receipt.
- The MB Market
Photography by Faris Fetyani
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