Behind the White Wheel

Behind the White Wheel

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nuts and Bolts of Owning a Classic Car

This post contains the essentials for owning a classic car. I was inspired by an article Jeff Miller, the webmaster of, wrote few years ago. I highly encourage every classic car’s owner to read it before taking his/her car out on a sunny day and every potential owner to use it as a guide for acquiring his/her first classic.

Owning a classic car is totally different from owning a modern vehicle! The owner must keep in mind that:

All classic cars need maintenance and care. One must get familiar with the car in order to be able to complete routine maintenance work, and to resolve minor fine-tuning issues. The task is simple, just pay close attention to maintenance works so as to limit the probability of a sudden failure.

Make your car shine as if it were new; the more often a classic car owner maintains his / her car, the more attractive the classic car will look once it is on the road…continuous efforts to maintain your car in shape do pay!! What’s more striking than a deep shining black paint or an immaculate chrome grill?
Allocate an hour every week to clean your car and three hours every 3 months to wax it using the finest accessible products. Remember, the more you allocate time and effort, the more rewarding the results will be!

Acquire and read the owner’s manual, this document contains valuable information that is often overlooked. Also, some cars have a factory workshop manual; this manual highlights the maintenance / repairs procedures needed to perform any work in the most efficient way. Of course, many owners won’t be able to perform complex mechanical, electrical, and body work by themselves, but reading the workshop manual will familiarize them with the reparation procedures and help them get an idea about the real costs.
Build your network of other classic cars enthusiasts and resources: join local and international groups and forums, establish contacts with experts in parts and reparations…etc.

Keep in mind that technology used in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s (for instance) is not quite complex when compared to today’s standards. This is a double-edged fact, on one side you will be able to understand easily how things work, but on the other you should not expect performance, road handling, and sometimes efficiency to be comparable to that of new cars! In other words, you should without any doubts know for example that a 1970 car might develop starting problems when the weather is cold, problems that are seldom encountered in new cars!

Learn about unique features and options specific to your vehicle’s model! Learn about the recirculating ball steering in a Mercedes-Benz Ponton, about the air suspension in a Citroen DS, about the different colors available on a 1975 Peugeot 504 etc... Try to enjoy these unique features and understand their importance in the well-being of the driver and passengers back then.

Discover the meaning of the various plate numbers in your car such as the chassis number, the engine number, the color code etc... This will help you determine where your vehicle stands vis-à-vis its model - is it an early model or a late one with some amendments?

Become familiar with the full range of your car’s model including the sedans, breaks, coupés, cabriolets, roadsters, as well as some special models that were manufactured for special markets and learn how every range differs from the other.

Finally, take a moment to imagine yourself back in the 1950’s, 1960’s or 1970’s! Life was uncomplicated back then! Your car reflects this in several ways.
Find a small mountain road on a sunny day, roll down the window and drive…Enjoy your car, enjoy every aspect of it, every reaction, every noise…and be proud of yourself for being able to drive an antique car that you’ve learned how to maintain…

Sunday, February 21, 2010

How everything started...

My first encounter ever with a classic vehicle was during the summer of 1987; I was seven years old and was heading home with my father after spending the day at Broumana, a summer destination in Mount Lebanon. I remember pretty well seeing a dark red Mercedes 180 ponton driving ahead of us, out of which a strange noise was coming. When I asked my father about this noise, I remember him explaining that the noise sometimes comes out of the muffler when driving such cars downhill on the third gear. I was instantly fascinated by this car (which I have only seen from behind) and started searching for a "matchbox" car that might look similar to it. My passion for old Mercedes-Benz cars started to develop further when my aunt got me a 1/18 Mercedes-Benz SSK made by "Burago". I started collecting model cars while constantly searching for a 1/18 Mercedes-Benz ponton.

Years passed by, and one day in 1995 on my way back from school, I saw a white Mercedes-Benz ponton, a 190b freshly painted but "deprived" of many parts. The owner offered to sell the car at USD 12,000, which was very expensive for me (I was only fifteen back then and could not afford such a price). So I decided to pursue my search for a real ponton, a 180 that would need restoration but which would be fairly complete and affordable.

In April 1995, I found my ponton, a 1961 180b whose owner had passed away several years ago. The car had not been utilized for many years and needed lots of reparation works.
The restoration project started in May 1995 with the goal of bringing the car back on the road by the summer of that year!

The car was thus repainted, the interior (with original front bench seat) and the chrome redone, the engine and the suspension overhauled, and most of the sundry never-ending meticulous details.

I've owned my 180 ponton ever since 1995; that is for almost 15 years! I drive it often especially during the summer and the winter when it is not raining.

People often wonder, how could a Mercedes-Benz 180 ponton attract a 7 years old boy? Frankly I don't know, sometimes I think though that the secret lies in the ponton's design - simple and popular yet very classy...For many, the Mercedes-Benz 180 ponton reflects the golden years of Beirut, the dolce vita years before the civil war erupted in 1975. People look at these cars with a feeling of nostalgia. I cherish this car that has been part of my life for almost 15 years; I have restored it, I have learned how to maintain it, I know every single detail in it, every single wire, every single is maybe my way of getting a glimpse at Lebanon's golden years, years I never got the chance to experience!