Son, grandson preserve major driver of family history: a 1964 Mercedes-Benz 220SE

 
 
Updated 3/19/2019 6:09 AM
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  • 1964 Mercedes 220SE

    1964 Mercedes 220SE Photos by Matt Avery Media

  • Allen and his son, Anton, began reassembly after the bodywork was done and the Mercedes came back from the paint shop in April 2015.

    Allen and his son, Anton, began reassembly after the bodywork was done and the Mercedes came back from the paint shop in April 2015.

  • The car is equipped with an air suspension and the wheels are originally from a 1997 Mercedes CLK320.

    The car is equipped with an air suspension and the wheels are originally from a 1997 Mercedes CLK320.

  • The Mercedes is now powered by a V-8 engine sourced out of a 1995 Lincoln Mk VIII.

    The Mercedes is now powered by a V-8 engine sourced out of a 1995 Lincoln Mk VIII.

  • In the 1960s and '70s, the Rusy family would drive the car to church in Villa Park, the Fabyan Forest Preserve for picnics along the Fox River, usually ending up at Colonial Restaurant afterward for ice cream. They would also drive to the Waldheim Cemetery on Sundays or Memorial Day to pay tribute to Allen's great-grandfather, who survived the Civil War.

    In the 1960s and '70s, the Rusy family would drive the car to church in Villa Park, the Fabyan Forest Preserve for picnics along the Fox River, usually ending up at Colonial Restaurant afterward for ice cream. They would also drive to the Waldheim Cemetery on Sundays or Memorial Day to pay tribute to Allen's great-grandfather, who survived the Civil War.

  • The red leather interior is original to Lyman Rusy's 1964 Mercedes 220SE.

    The red leather interior is original to Lyman Rusy's 1964 Mercedes 220SE.

Lyman Rusy happily strolled into Loeber Motors in Lincolnwood to pick up the new Mercedes-Benz 220SE he ordered back in 1964. His son, Allen, was there to witness it all.

"Dad was so proud," recalls Allen, who, today, lives in Batavia. Lyman had been driving a 1963 Buick Special but was ready for the upgrade.

"The Mercedes was to be reserved for Sundays but soon he was driving it everyday," Allen says. His father commuted from the family home in Villa Park to three downtown Chicago hospitals, where he served as the department head of their physical therapy programs.

It wasn't all work and no play for the Benz or the Rusy family. "We'd regularly take midnight drives to our vacation cabin in northern Wisconsin," Allen says. "Dad would get off (work) on Friday afternoon, we'd pack the car and then drive north late into the night. As a kid, I can remember sitting in the front seat, staring out over the hood ornament at 1 and 2 a.m. in the morning."

Allen & Connie Rusy of Batavia embarked on a 15-year project to save his father's 1964 Mercedes 220SE.
Allen & Connie Rusy of Batavia embarked on a 15-year project to save his father's 1964 Mercedes 220SE. -

Upon Lyman's retirement in 1976, he left the 220SE permanently up at the Wisconsin cabin. In 1993, he gifted the sedan to Allen.

"I started tinkering with it and driving it occasionally," Allen says. The most special jaunts took place in Oak Brook. "Dad ended up in a nursing home there. I'd bring the car and take him out on day trips. It was so fun for him."

While the family's ties with the car were strong, the vehicle's chassis and body were not. All that winter driving had taken its rusty toll. In 2003, Allen and his son, Anton, embarked on a full restoration.

The first step was finding a suitable donor car. They located a 1966 Mercedes 220s at a salvage yard in Mesa, Arizona, that had long been parked in a barn. The body was rust-free and served as the perfect starting point. From there, they grafted in as many parts as they could from Lyman's original ride.

Allen Rusy at age 3. Allen took his driver's license test in his dad's Mercedes.
Allen Rusy at age 3. Allen took his driver's license test in his dad's Mercedes. - Historical photos courtesy of Rusy family

"He took great care of the red leather interior and all of it was used in the new car," Allen says. All the glass and chrome was also transferred from the original.

The father-son duo made a huge modification underhood, installing a V-8 engine from a 1995 Lincoln Mk VIII. That necessitated swapping out the stock steering to power rack-and-pinion steering. Another big change was with the color, which was changed from black to Midnight Blue, a 2007 Mercedes paint color.

Working on the project most weekends, Allen and Anton finished in April 2018. They had the beautiful Benz on display at the recent World of Wheels car show, held last weekend in Rosemont.

Allen's father, Lyman Rusy, once drove the car to Delavan Lake, Wisconsin.
Allen's father, Lyman Rusy, once drove the car to Delavan Lake, Wisconsin. -

"Finally returning it to the road," Allen says, "has brought back so many happy memories."

• Share your car's story with Matt at auto@dailyherald.com. learn about his book at COPOthebook.com.

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