- - Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mercedes-Benz hooked Steve Meima at the tender age of 8.

From 1968 to 1973 young Mr. Meima was living in Dusseldorf, in what was then West Germany. His father was about to be reassigned to the United States and wanted to take a Mercedes-Benz home with him.

“My dad secretly wanted a sporty 280C,” Mr. Meima says, but was swayed by the practicality of a four-door sedan and settled for a 220.

“In late 1972 I traveled with my dad to the Mercedes-Benz factory in Sindelfingen to pick up our 1973 model year 220 sedan to take back to the U.S.,” Mr. Meima recalls. “While there we had a private factory tour.”

That visit generated his fascination with Mercedes-Benz automobiles of that era.

Many cars have come and gone since those halcyon days almost 35 years ago. In 2002 Mr. Meima had a 1972 Mercedes-Benz 250 sedan parked in his driveway. He and his wife, Rachel, agreed the time had come to sell the car.

As Mr. Meima was posting pictures of his car on a Web site specializing in German cars he couldn’t help but notice the ad adjacent to his. “Just above my ad was an ad for a 1973 280C in “time capsule” condition,” he says.

There were a few minor problems to overcome. The Meimas weren’t looking to acquire another car, they were trying sell one. Additionally, this one was in California.

“But this was a 1973 280C,” Mr. Meima says. “My dream car.”

Employing all of his sales skills, he convinced his wife of his need to buy this other Mercedes-Benz sight unseen, the one that was 3,000 miles away.

A deposit was sent to the owner, who operated an import auto shop, and during the next two months e-mail questions and answers regarding the 280C were sent coast to coast. At this time Mr. Meima also received a set of detailed photographs of his dream car.

Then, Mr. Meima says, “I sent the final payment and became the proud new owner of a 30-year-old, which I’d never seen in person.”

The seller agreed to keep the car and do several mechanical improvements Mr. Meima wanted accomplished until he could arrange for transport east.

It was in storage in California for almost a year before being trucked to Mr. Meima’s Bethesda home.

Among tasks he wanted completed before taking possession of the car was improved carburetion. Mr. Meima had encountered difficulty on other Mercedes he had owned and found that replacing the original Solex carburetor with a Holley carburetor modified for a Mercedes-Benz solved the problem.

With everything done to the car that he wanted, the only thing left was to sell the 1972 Mercedes-Benz.

Mr. Meima’s brother, Ralph, eventually bought the car at a brotherly price.

That act cleared the way and the 280C arrived in June 2003. The 3,570-pound car was rolled off the truck on 14-inch tires.

Since arriving on the East Coast, the 15.5-foot-long car has been treated to a new set of tires, a new stainless-steel exhaust system, new brakes and a reconditioned 14-gallon gasoline tank.

The Mercedes-Benz was everything he had expected. The powerful 2.8-liter, six-cylinder engine still develops 160 horsepower with no complaint.

Some of the features on the car include air conditioning, power windows and vent windows operated by twisting a silver-dollar-size disc on the door.

A handsome wall-to-wall wood veneer provides a nice accent to the otherwise black dashboard.

The door panels, each with a small storage bin, the side panels, seats and even the carpeting share the same camel coloring. In the center of the back seat is a pull-down cushioned armrest. A Blaupunkt radio nestles in the center of the dashboard.

The wide windshield is kept clear by extralong wiper blades that overlap in the center of the windshield when at rest. Visibility through the rear window is enhanced by the 17 wires that make up the defogger.

A thorough examination of the 280C leads Mr. Meima to believe it has always been a West Coast car because there is not a speck of rust.

“Its a great cruiser at short or long distances and is very comfortable at autobahnlike speeds,” Mr. Meima says. The speedometer can register speeds up to 145 mph.

More often than not, Mr. Meima drives his dream car to work in Herndon, where he is in marketing at the cement division of Lafarge. “The car likes the toll road,” he says.

The 280C is now approaching the 107,000 mark and runs like new.

“It’s ideal for our family of four,” Mr. Meima says. Proof of that came recently when Mr. and Mrs. Meima took daughter Rose, 8, and son, Hughes, 5, on a weekend excursion through Virginia horse country.

With the spare tire mounted vertically on the right side of the enormous trunk, there was no shortage of space to hold the pumpkins, pies and vegetables they purchased at roadside stands.

Mr. Meima thought the ride home, cushioned by the 106-inch wheelbase, was dreamlike.

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