BUYING THE BEAST

A simple journey turned into two hellish days of doubt  – and finally success

 

Life isn’t always simple. Or perhaps I should say that simple things often turn out to be unexpectedly difficult. Like buying a van, for example. We had found the Mercedes 507D on the mobile.de web site, contacted the owners – in this case the German Red Cross branch in Wiehl – and it was just a matter of driving to Wiehl from Starogard Gdanski in Poland, some 11 hours of misery, staying in Wiehl for one night, and registering the van in our name. But nothing went right. The drive to Wiehl turned into hell on wheels. We’d hitched a lift with our lorry-driver friend Frazia and were stuck in stationary traffic on the autobahn for two dismal hours near Berlin during the small hours of the morning… and then we received a text message from the sellers that it may not be possible to change the tonnage from 4.5T to 3.5T. Given our driving licences, we definitely needed the latter. 

 

At the TUV

"Loads of paper work"

From there it was merely a formality. We received the paperwork registering the Merc as 3.5T, then went on to the registration offices for more hours of waiting to buy the export number plates and the new documents.

We were now the proud owners of an immaculate, ex-Red Cross Mercedes 507D with just 44,000 kilometres on the clock – and equally pleased to give our money to people who directly help refugees.

But, as I said, simple things can turn out to be very complicated. Next we had to drive the old bus back to Poland. Easier said than done…

By Olly Duke

German Red Cross 507D

"But nothing went right"

No matter, we were on our way and arrived in Wiehl at 7:30 am. We met Red Cross chief Sven Runkel, who explained that he had been told by someone at a TUV centre (vehicle inspection centre) the tonnage would be easy to change, but when he took the 507 there he was told it would be impossible.

From 4.6T to 3.5T

We pleaded, we begged, we sobbed, but the young inspector just wouldn’t have it. Joanna and I decided that we may as well give up on this one. We started contacting the few other 507 owners in Germany. We were tired and pissed off.  I really didn’t fancy dragging my corpse around the country. But Sven had other ideas. While we were having our afternoon nap (we were knackered, not having slept the previous night) he visited six other TUV centres. At the first five he was told he would have to remove at least 350 kilos. Impossible. Finally the inspector at the sixth said 200 kilos. Hope at last! 

So the next day we removed everything that could be destroyed or dismounted: the spare wheel, the two twin passenger seats, the bulkhead (with a pickaxe), the tow bars, the tools, the snow chains, the lot. We weighed every piece and found we had removed 218 kilos.  We’d cracked it! We went to the weigh house – and yes, the old beast was within the limit.

Dismantling the heavy bits

BUYING THE BEAST

A simple journey turned into two hellish days of doubt  – and finally success

 

Life isn’t always simple. Or perhaps I should say that simple things often turn out to be unexpectedly difficult. Like buying a van, for example. We had found the Mercedes 507D on the mobile.de web site, contacted the owners – in this case the German Red Cross branch in Wiehl – and it was just a matter of driving to Wiehl from Starogard Gdanski in Poland, some 11 hours of misery, staying in Wiehl for one night, and registering the van in our name. But nothing went right. The drive to Wiehl turned into hell on wheels. We’d hitched a lift with our lorry-driver friend Frazia and were stuck in stationary traffic on the autobahn for two dismal hours near Berlin during the small hours of the morning… and then we received a text message from the sellers that it may not be possible to change the tonnage from 4.5T to 3.5T. Given our driving licences, we definitely needed the latter. 

 

German Red Cross 507D

No matter, we were on our way and arrived in Wiehl at 7:30 am. We met Red Cross chief Sven Runkel, who explained that he had been told by someone at a TUV centre (vehicle inspection centre) the tonnage would be easy to change, but when he took the 507 there he was told it would be impossible.

From 4.6T to 3.5T

We pleaded, we begged, we sobbed, but the young inspector just wouldn’t have it. Joanna and I decided that we may as well give up on this one. We started contacting the few other 507 owners in Germany. We were tired and pissed off.  I really didn’t fancy dragging my corpse around the country. But Sven had other ideas. While we were having our afternoon nap (we were knackered, not having slept the previous night) he visited six other TUV centres. At the first five he was told he would have to remove at least 350 kilos. Impossible. Finally the inspector at the sixth said 200 kilos. Hope at last! 

So the next day we removed everything that could be destroyed or dismounted: the spare wheel, the two twin passenger seats, the bulkhead (with a pickaxe), the tow bars, the tools, the snow chains, the lot. We weighed every piece and found we had removed 218 kilos.  We’d cracked it! We went to the weigh house – and yes, the old beast was within the limit.

At the TUV

From there it was merely a formality. We received the paperwork registering the Merc as 3.5T, then went on to the registration offices for more hours of waiting to buy the export number plates and the new documents.

We were now the proud owners of an immaculate, ex-Red Cross Mercedes 507D with just 44,000 kilometres on the clock – and equally pleased to give our money to people who directly help refugees.

But, as I said, simple things can turn out to be very complicated. Next we had to drive the old bus back to Poland. Easier said than done…

By Olly Duke

Dismantling the heavy bits
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