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On Two Axles across Europe

Santos and his Mercedes-Benz 710.

Francisco Santos spent three months travelling across Europe in his converted Mercedes-Benz 710.

Setting out

Leaving everything behind, the daily grind and routine, to go for a little adventure instead: almost everyone has dreamt this dream, but only few have made it come true. No money, no time and too much to do – to name only a few excuses that might be even comprehensible. But Francisco Santos proved to be courageous enough: “I just set off in 2006 with my dog Buster, without having a clear destination in mind. I was simply driven by curiosity. The result was a three months’ tour across Europe.”

A mobile home

The 1967 Mercedes-Benz 710, a former Red Cross vehicle, became Santos’ second home. As the standard model does not offer the equipment he required, he converted the bus into a mobile home in 1987. The vehicle features a kitchen including standard technical devices like a fridge, a hot water supply unit for the bathroom and the shower, as well as a central heating system. The bus is also equipped with a self-made washing machine, says Francisco, aged 51: “I ran out of clean clothes – not least due to Buster, who got everything dirty. So I put my clothes in a box, poured water over it and added some washing powder, and then I fixed the box in the rear wheel rim. And about 50 kilometres later, one laundry load was done.” The bus is also equipped with several tanks of different capacities: a 600-litre diesel tank, as well as an 800-litre fresh water and a 400-litre waste water tank, thus guaranteeing a high level of independence. “You can live independently in this car for up to four weeks”, explains Santos.

Classics on tour

Starting in Germany, his tour took him to Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria and Switzerland. At the end of the trip, more than 12,000 kilometers were to the clock. But that’s no problem for this veteran car. Before the trip, only an oil change and a lubrication service were required to make the 710 fit for the journey. Although Santos had to change the diesel filter twice during his ride the necessary spare parts can be found in almost every village.

Human contact

The people he met were very excited about his vehicle, and some even wanted to buy it. But of course that’s out of the question, even though the vehicle is not always easy to manoeuvre. Especially the narrow streets in Southern Europe made him miss the servo steering. But in return, Santos loves his 710’s chassis clearance: “I could park the vehicle on the beach in the evening when the tide was low to wake up in the sea the next morning.”

Will never gather dust

When Francisco Santos isn’t driving through Europe, he manages the development of electric devices in Mercedes-Benz’ large-size vans segment. Moreover, he is an amateur photographer and has a faible for veteran motorcycles. He lives together with his wife and three children in Plochingen, Baden-Wuerttemberg, in South West Germany. What did his family think about a three months long journey? “My wife thought it was a great idea to go on such a tour. And thanks to my netbook and Skype, I was always connected with my family”, explains Santos. Should Francisco Santos ever want to go on a second tour like that, he would need a new vehicle. As he doesn’t have enough time, he sold his Mercedes-Benz 710 in 2009, because this vehicle was definitely made to drive.

Mercedes-Benz 710 at the beach

Mercedes-Benz 710 at the beach

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