Monday,18 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1377, ( 18 - 24 January 2018)
Monday,18 February, 2019
Issue 1377, ( 18 - 24 January 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Classics in Egypt: From start to finish

He wanted a classic car before turning 60 but when his son brought him a Mercedes, he didn’t like it until he turned it around, reports Mohamed Abdel-Razek

From start to finish

A man who adores everything coming from the golden eras of the past, pieces of living history: something that can tell a story even without uttering a word. Essam El-Dine is a professional doctor who spent most of his career travelling the world, curing people. He barely had time for a sport or a hobby. But Essam El-Dine always had some sort of an attachment to classics — songs, movies, books, radio sets, you name it. “Apart from everything, classic cars always had a special charm in my eyes,” Essam El-Dine said.

Essam El-Dine said it all ignited when he first started working in the UK in the early 1990s. In London he started seeing well maintained British classics like Jaguars, Bentleys and Rolls Royces roaming the streets, and with them his heart flew, spreading love and admiration on every classic car his eyes spotted. “All what I saw were masterpieces made in times when targeting profit, fuel consumption and cheap materials didn’t exist. All what mattered was to collect the finest materials and tailor them into a masterpiece that paid attention to every detail so that you get the feeling that it can feel and speak just like a human being.”

Suspension replacement job

Some say that some cars represent a certain era in history, with the technology they have, or the movies they appear in or the celebrities who own them. “I always told myself that one day I will own a classic car”, said Essam El-Dine. He had no idea when he would check out classic cars on his to do list, but he told his little son, “one day I want you to get me a classic car as a gift for my 60th birthday.” With the years counting Essam El-Dine started sharing his enthusiasm of classic cars with his son who wanted so bad to make his father’s dream come true. After he finished college, Essam El-Dine’s son started his professional career with a target in front of him: to get his father the classic car he always wanted.

“One day my son asked me to take a look at a car he bought and wanted to register it under my name,” said Essam El-Dinee who went to see a 1990 Mercedes W126 500SEL, a modern classic car. At first sight the car didn’t look appealing in Essam El-Dine’s eyes. “I didn’t have any experience in car restoration, so with all the flaws I saw, I never thought we could get it back to brand new.”

Body work in process

Regardless of his first impression, Essam El-Dine didn’t want to let his son down and appreciated his dedication to make his dream come true, so he accepted the gift and registered the car with many doubts that this car could get back to its glory and satisfy his life dream of owning a mint condition classic car he can be proud of.

“My son sensed my doubts, and accordingly I found him doing double the effort to bring back this car to life,” said Essam El-Dine. He said his son started searching the Internet on how to restore this W126 from the ground up. According to son Mohamed, work started from the engine bay all the way to the drivetrain. The Essam El-Dines started with a simple service of the car’s main working parts, like oil changes for the engine and transmission, changing spark plugs and drive belts. The car was then tested for several kilometres before finding several oil leaks from underneath in addition to noises from the suspension system which already was so worn out that it no longer did its job, with the engine cutting off in traffic.

500 SEL

Essam El-Dine says that the frustration increased after getting to know the car even more. Sometimes it was hard to know what the problem was, and if they were lucky to diagnose the error, finding the parts in Egypt was another mission.

The car’s electric problem of cutting off needed to be solved first, and one man who specialises in old Mercedes cars had the magic touch. In a narrow street deep in Giza his shop is located. The car seemed to have been missing the right fuel relay and needed fixing in the ignition wires. “We needed the car to operate like new,” said Essam El-Dine who decided to start an open budget. Essam El-Dine and his son needed first to make a plan from where to start and where to finish, and most importantly, find the right hands in each department. They found the workshops and decided to start first with the mechanics, changing all the oil seals all over the car. They then changed the whole fuel system, from the pumps, filters, connectors, lines, injectors, and relay, then cleaned the tank. All the suspension parts were changed including all the rubber bushings. Tires and main battery were changed then an electric check was again made before entering the body shop.

“The time-consuming part was in finding missing spare parts, like when we had to replace the right electric mirror or trying to find part of the wood trim,” added Essam El-Dine.

Essam El-Dine with his fully restored W126

The restoration journey took exactly nine months. It was an early morning when Essam El-Dine went to the Mercedes’ official body shop in Maadi to pick up his modern classic Mercedes S-Class. He had no idea what he was about to see. “I was stunned once I saw her; it looked like a brand new car,” said Essam El-Dine. It was a dream come true for Essam El-Dine who pined for long forgotten memories, and looks that could bring back the missing pieces of a picture that had been torn by the winds of history. He always wanted a classic car in his life, and the satisfaction increased after he showed up with the car in a classic meet in Cairo. His efforts appreciated by all the classic community in Egypt, Essam El-Dine is now looking for a new project that transports him back to the past.

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