When Mark Calvert turns the key in the ignition of his Mercedes-Benz 410 T1 and the engine begins to rumble, his face lights up with a smile: “The van runs perfectly and sounds just like an old diesel. That really contributes to this unmistakable character”, says Mark happily. “The van is 20 years old and runs like it was new – that is what I call quality!” says the Englishman with pleasure when he parks the van outside his carpet warehouse in Doncaster in South Yorkshire. Mark and his team sell affordable carpets to a broad client base. Alongside the company’s Sprinter, the 410 is on the road every day. “Naturally, there are not many extras in here apart from a cigarette lighter”, laughs Mark. “But on the other hand, I can rely on this van completely and that is worth more than air conditioning and other modern features.”
Mark not only grew up with carpets but also a passion for Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Mark himself has not only owned various Mercedes-Benz models, but also his father: “When I was 18 my father bought a brand-new T1 207”, remembers Mark. “So this van sort of reminds me of my teenage years. That is why the first van which I bought was a T1. However, I had to let go of it eventually and that is why I was searching for a suitable successor”.
However, finding this model was anything but easy because used Model 410s in good condition are a rarity in Great Britain. The T1 series was built between 1977 and 1995 – making Mark’s vehicle the newest of its generation. Also known as the “Bremer Transporter”, various versions of the van were manufactured at the plant in Bremen and exported to countries all over the world. “Today you can still find some of them in Eastern Europe, Africa or the Middle East. But the model is very rare here in Great Britain”, says Mark when he remembers the arduous search. Four years ago he finally found a van owned by a man from Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, he was very attached to this vehicle. That is why the man took a lot of convincing: “I did not give up and kept on asking. One day he finally agreed – partly because I also brought my Irish roots into play”, says Mark with a wink.
“This van has no rust at all. Nevertheless, I invested many hours in making sure it looked like new”, explains Mark, summarizing the restoration work. “The great thing about these vans is their simple design: they do not have complicated electronics but have a simple and robust construction. This enables me to do the work that has to be done myself. I do not need to buy expensive special tools. Instead, I can simply use conventional wrenches like this one”, explains Mark. He only used original parts and waited up to 3 years to obtain them. “But now the van will definitely serve me for another 20 years”, says Calvert happily and pats his Model 410.
The garrulous 50-year-old has also inspired those around him with his enthusiasm. A friendly carpet merchant was so impressed with Mark’s vans that he bought ten new Sprinter: “On these photos you can see his new vehicles next to my old Model 410”, explains Calvert and points at a photo of the two vans. “When I arrived at a car show in Leeds a while ago with my Model 410 I thought that only a few people would be interested in it because it is not truly a vintage vehicle”, says Mark. That is why he was so astonished by the many positive reactions. “The people from the local Mercedes-Benz truck dealer were impressed when I arrived with my van”, he says proudly. “Many of the employees had never seen this model because they are so rare in Great Britain. My Model 410 even received its own article in the Classic Van and Pickup Magazine”, explains Calvert with pride.
Even though the van is on the road every day, Mark Calvert takes dedicated care of is vehicle: “To be honest, I treat this van better than a new vehicle”, admits Calvert. “Because you can replace a new vehicle. But not this one. That is exactly why it is so valuable for me”. So it is no surprise that the white van is not left standing in the parking lot but accompanies Mark home at night. As he gently locks the door, we ask Mark where he would like to drive his Model 410. “Preferably to Germany. I would like to take a look at the plant where it was built”, says Mark after taking a moment to think. Back to the roots, so to speak.
Mark Calvert, 50, is the owner of the “Mission Mill Carpets” carpet company in Dorcester, South Yorkshire. Calvert is – just like his father – a true Mercedes-Benz fan and has owned a variety of models. He sold his Cosworth Evolution 1 two years ago in order to dedicate his time to restoring his Model 410.