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Why the Mercedes-Benz Museum is the perfect place for van fans such as Fran.

Ein Mann steht vor dem Mercedes-Benz Museum

With his project, MB Automobilia, Fran brings to life the history of vans with the star. While visiting the Mercedes-Benz Museum, he finds inspiration for his next restoration.

A flying visit to the Mercedes-Benz Museum.

The Retro Classics – one of the world’s largest exhibitions for classic vehicles – and a visit to the Mercedes-Benz Museum recently brought the co-founder of MB Automobilia to Stuttgart. “It is not the first time I have travelled to Stuttgart to visit the Museum. Every Mercedes-Benz fan needs to come here at least once”, says Fran. Before he restores a vehicle, the qualified engineer precisely studies the original. We accompanied Fran on his visit to the museum and asked a few questions along the way.

Where does your passion for classic vans come from?
Fran: I was searching for a new job and thought this would be a great opportunity to discover the world of old Mercedes-Benz vans. I like the models because the design is both classic and yet diverse. In addition, the vehicles have so many personal stories to tell. That is very interesting. A lot of people come to me and tell me that their father or grandfather had a van like this. Others are amazed that the classic van is still even roadworthy. The vehicles simply have a unique attraction.

A man looking at a Mercedes-Benz L 319

The Spanish van enthusiast, Fran, has lost his heart to Mercedes-Benz classic vans.

A man walks up a flight of stairs in a building flooded with light

Fran visits the Mercedes-Benz Museum at regular intervals.

Breathing new life into Mercedes-Benz classics: MB Automobilia.

Describe how MB Automobilia came about.
When I began working with Mercedes-Benz classic vans, I discovered that I was not the only person interested in them. So I started publishing pictures on Facebook. The idea of MB Automobilia was born. It is not a commercial interest, but rather an opportunity to let others benefit from our experience.

What was the vision behind MB Automobilia – or in other words: why did you want to do this?
The basic idea was to share our experience because I did not want to keep my knowledge about the vehicles just for myself. The whole purpose of MB Automobilia is to create a small community for Mercedes-Benz classic vans. Especially for people who restore the vans. Exactly these people often need a little help and we can all support each other. That is the reason why we publish our difficulties and solutions on the web. To share the knowledge and the passion with others.

A platform for passionate collectors and fans of classic vans.

Over time, you have established a large community – how well networked are you with other van enthusiasts?
I meet people from all over the world, from South America to North America to Scandinavia and even Asia. A lot of them ask me for advice when they have problems. I do my best to help everyone – even if I’m not always successful, because my knowledge is not limitless. But we maintain good relationships. Sometimes we also publish pictures that document our progress. We are a small community of passionate fans. I am convinced that this is a passion that has to be shared with everyone to truly enjoy it. Because we can learn from others every day.

Fran’s ultimate tips for restoring old vehicles.

  • Eyes open when buying: the van should be in the best possible condition when you buy it to keep the necessary work within limits.
  • Down to the smallest detail: the van should preferably be equipped with only original parts to avoid problems with finding spare parts.
  • Be patient: the restoration generally takes longer and costs more than expected. Make sure you are clear about that.
  • Don’t give up: If you truly like the van, then simply keep on moving forward step-by-step, no matter how long it takes.

A garage packed full of Mercedes-Benz history.

How many classic vans do you currently own? Do you keep all of your restored vehicles?
Let’s say about nine vans. My wife should not know the exact number. The original idea was not to sell the vans. Because this is not a business model for me or my friends. But in the meantime, we sell a few vehicles with the goal of financing our own projects. With the money which we receive, we can also finance other projects. It is a type of survival strategy.

What are the greatest difficulties with the restoration?
The main problem is that spare parts are not always available. The condition of the vans is also often problematic. Their owners once replaced them with more powerful vehicles. But because they took up so much space, it was not always possible to store them in a private garage. That is why most of the vans have suffered from weathering and after 40 to 50 years, they are no longer in the best condition. Often, we have to replace a large amount of the body and manufacture our own parts. We cannot always find the right spare parts, that’s why we often have to improvise. But we orient ourselves as closely as possible on the original design.

The four greatest challenges of restoring vans.

  1. Lack of references: a vehicle in perfect condition is not always available to serve as a guideline. In this case, you have to create your own solutions.
  2. The shape: the material of the vans is very challenging to work with in some areas. Finding the perfect samples of the shape is relatively difficult.
  3. The engine: sometimes the original engine has been replaced with a different model that is not a perfect fit.
  4. Various versions: there are often different variants of a vehicle such as “Made in Germany” or “Made in Spain”. The original is difficult to determine. However: you constantly learn and improve.

A man examines the front of a Mercedes-Benz van

The Mercedes-Benz enthusiast, Fran, has made collecting and restoring classic vans is passionate project.

A man poses in front of a Mercedes-Benz classic van

Together with two friends, Fran restores classic vans in Spain, such as the L 319.

A man kneeling in front of a sign describing a Mercedes-Benz van

When Fran is in Germany, he visits the Mercedes-Benz Museum for inspiration.

A man looks through the side window of a classic van

An eye for detail: Fran examines every detail of the van to create a reliable replica of the original.

A man examines old Mercedes-Benz steering wheels and horns

A piece of Mercedes-Benz history: relics from the past.

Photos: Louis Cieplik

More Links to explore: Mercedes-Benz – @Facebook@YouTube


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