Whenever Al Marks is driving his 1966 Mercedes SL 230, his wife of 53 years, Mary, has a good idea what’s going through his mind.
“I can tell,” Mary said, “how proud he is of his son and what he has accomplished.”
A little over three years ago, after Al bought the white Mercedes in St. Louis, he took it to his home in Bella Vista, Ark., and realized it needed a paint job and a little body work.
The perfect person to do it was his son, John, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force. John restores Plymouth Barracudas and has a little shop area behind his home in Warrensburg, Mo.
“I said, ‘John, you take the car,’” Al said. “I did some work on it and got it prepared a little bit. But he is a perfectionist. The next thing I know the car is in a 100 pieces. He said, ‘We have to do this right.’”
Al knew then his 1966 Mercedes was going to get more than a paint job. He gave his son the freedom to do whatever was necessary to make the car look new.
During the process, John, an A-10 Thunderbolt pilot, had to put the project on hold. He had to serve another tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Al knows all about military life. In fact, it was during his time in the Navy that the seeds of one day purchasing a 1960s-era Mercedes first took root.
While in the Navy, Al worked on cars while on his ship. When he was back in the United States, he occasionally went to Reno on the weekends and gambled.
One time, his lieutenant offered Al his brand new 1960 Mercedes SL 190. It was a car that the lieutenant bought in Hong Kong and brought back to the United States.
When Al got behind the wheel and drove it to Reno, it only had 365 miles on it. Unfortunately, when Al was driving it back to the base, he hit a patch of ice and ended up in the hospital. The car was totaled.
The lieutenant was happy that Al survived and wasn’t worried about the car.
“As years went by, I ended up working for Mercedes for 23 years,” Al said. “After I retired, I really liked to have a car like the one I wrecked. I couldn’t find any because the 190s I saw were in pretty bad shape and not repairable.”
The 1966 Mercedes that Al bought was fixable.
John eventually returned home and went back to work on the Mercedes, slowly transforming it from white to red.
“In all it took him about eight months to finish the car,” Al said. “When it was finished, it was beautiful.”
Al took it home to Bella Vista in early 2013. A few months later, he replaced the tan upholstery with the white and red upholstery. The 1966 Mercedes was now car-show ready.
“The first show we took it to was a foreign car show, and we got first place in that,” Al said. “We started taking it local shows and pretty much won a trophy at every show we entered.”
In the last two years, Al and Mary have lived in Warrensburg, Mo. They appreciate all the help they have had with their 1966 Mercedes.
Last fall the Mercedes was having some engine trouble, and Al knew exactly where to go to have it fixed. He talked with Roger Shuler, owner of Shuler Autohaus in Fayetteville, Ark., about it, and Shuler drove 250 miles to Warrensburg and had the car towed to his shop.
The major problem was the fuel pump, but Al had Shuler fix everything while he had the car.
“He fixed all the other minor things, and two weeks ago he brought it back,” Al said. “It is in perfect shape now. We took it to Sedalia the other day. It is perfect. Mary said it was as smooth as her new Mercedes.”
Mary owns a 2014 Mercedes SLK. She said people ask them why they buy Mercedes.
“Our answer for that is as long as they send him a pension check, we are going to buy them,” Mary said.
Plus, Al has a history with Mercedes that endears him to the brand.
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