- The Washington Times - Friday, August 10, 2001

It was 40 years after Ford dropped the two-seat "little bird" Thunderbird in favor of the four-seater model that the "square bird" won yet another fan.
Jeff Surdyk, an Arlington, Va., real estate broker, had been looking for a good 1958 Thunderbird when he learned that such a car was going to be at the fall car show in Hershey, Pa.
With cash in hand and a few friends for support, he drove to the October gathering.
The Thunderbird was there, but any similarity between it and the owner's description of it was strictly coincidental.
A disappointed Mr. Surdyk decided to pass on the T-Bird. Before returning home he decided to see what else was available.
That's when he came across a chocolate-over-cream-colored 1957 Mercedes-Benz 220S cabriolet with a "for sale" sign. The elegant car was well-worn with 118,000 miles on the odometer.
It was late in the day when the owner asked Mr. Surdyk if he were interested.
Mr. Surdyk responded by pointing out several small deficiencies and saying the asking price was far more than what he had or had in mind.
"Make me an offer," the Mercedes-Benz owner invited.
"I don't want to insult you," Mr. Surdyk replied.
After several such volleys, Mr. Surdyk finally pulled from his pocket the roll of cash he had brought to buy the Thunderbird.
"That's not enough," the owner said.
"I agree," Mr. Surdyk said, "but that's all I have."
Soon thereafter the title was exchanged for the cash and Mr. Surdyk was on his way home with the wind in his hair.
"It ran like a little clock," Mr. Surdyk recalls.
The only flaw that occurred on the trip home is when Mr. Surdyk's wife, Patricia, called to see how the trip was going. Because his cell phone was in the car his friends were driving behind him, they were the ones who broke the news to his wife about him buying the Mercedes-Benz.
"I was all set to be angry," she said. She quickly changed her tune when she first saw the car coming up the driveway.
"It was cuter than I thought it would be," she said."It looks like it should be on a charm bracelet."
Mr. Surdyk did some research that disclosed that a total of 2,178 such cars were manufactured between 1956 and 1959.
The 16-foot-long unibody car is firmly welded to the floor-pan chassis. A 1.34-liter, six-cylinder engine produces 112 horsepower, more than sufficient power to propel the 2,750-pound convertible on its 111-inch wheelbase.
Six liters of oil keep the engine lubricated while 11.3 liters of coolant keep the engine temperature under control. A downdraft carburetor feeds the engine from a 64-liter fuel tank.
"It's well put together," Mr. Surdyk comments."It's logical to work on."
The 6.50 by 13-inch tires were removed when Mr. Surdyk had the wheels powder-coated. At the same time the brakes, carburetor and clutch were all rebuilt. In addition, the fuel tank was replaced to prevent the debris in the old one from clogging the fuel line. A twist of a lever connects a reserve tank good for 20 or so miles.
Despite the fact that Mr. Surdyk only drives the Mercedes-Benz with the top down, he did have a new convertible top installed, covered most of the time with a boot secured by 22 snaps. The boot wraps around the cozy bench seat in the rear.
Years of driving left behind a pitted windshield that prompted Mr. Surdyk to replace the gracefully curved glass. The two windshield washers must be hand pumped before the liquid can be squirted onto the windshield.
Inside the leather- and wood-lined passenger compartment is a signal-seeking Becker AM/FM radio. The turn signals are activated by twisting the horn ring on the two-spoke steering wheel in the appropriate direction.
The spare tire stands upright inside the carpeted trunk. Some cars were equipped with two spare tires, one on each side of the trunk. When the car had a single spare as on this car the unoccupied wheel well was covered over and proved to be a handy place to store tire-changing tools.
Mr. Surdyk purchased the well-built Mercedes-Benz 220S cabriolet to enjoy, not simply to display at car shows.
He drives it as frequently as weather permits and is amazed that the handsome car can be turned within a 36-foot circle, nimbleness that rewards the driver in close quarters.

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