A fading polaroid photograph of a man beside a gleaming maroon vehicle is as close as Dave Koszegi has ever come to his late father Bela’s prized possession: a 1968 Mercedes Benz 300SE.
At least, that he can remember.
Special ordered brand new from the Alberni Mercedes Benz dealership with a three-litre high performance six cylinder engine and beige interior, the maroon machine was later traded in, when Koszegi was just a toddler, for a Ford LTD Woody Wagon that would accommodate their growing family.
“My whole life I’ve heard stories about how great a car it was and how [dad] had to get rid of it because of me,” Koszegi said. “I was the fifth child and it didn’t have enough seats.”
Five years after his father’s passing, Koszegi is still searching for that car.
Most car enthusiasts know the difficulties of tracking down a classic car, particularly when you are looking for a specific make, model and year.
Add a specific VIN number into the mix and you have yourself a needle in a haystack.
“Maybe it’s in a collection somewhere, and I just get to see it and take a picture – or maybe it’s neglected in a barn, maybe it’s gone, but I thought I should look for it,” he said.
“I feel like the car is just sitting right there, somewhere, waiting for me.”
“Every year I don’t is another year lost and it may never show up again.”
A well-respected physician by day, Bela Koszegi also had a real passion for cars.
“As a kid growing up in Port Alberni, in the evenings we’d go out for a walk and he’d always want to go to a lot and look at cars and talk about them,” he said. “He liked nice cars.”
That passion has been ingrained in Koszegi – a former pro-rally racer, hobby racer and self-described ‘car nut’.
Koszegi has been able to trace the vehicle to the Edmonton, Alberta area, thanks in part to
a phone call his family had received when he was young from a woman who had purchased the car.
But even after an ICBC search, searching shipping ports and European specialty shops, Mercedes Benz clubs, amongst other means, the trail goes cold.
The woman who had called from Alberta sold the vehicle in the
90s to a third owner, also in Alberta, but there are no records of it being insured past the year 2000.
“My guess was that it perhaps finished being used around 1999-2000 in Edmonton and got parked and is sitting somewhere,” Koszegi said. “I don’t know what else to do anymore.”
He added that the car would not be of high value, which might make it more difficult to find.
“If it was perfect it might be worth maybe ten grand and if it’s wrecked – $500.”
However, what makes Bela’s Mercedes different is the three litre high performance six cylinder engine he had custom installed, instead of the standard V-8.
Back in 1968, Port Alberni was home to a Mercedes Benz dealership for a brief period, and Bela wanted that particular engine as it was similar to that of the famous Gullwing, a Mercedes racing car.
“It was a special order car and it took eight months to build, and cost $8,000,” Koszegi said.
Over the years, Koszegi has owned about 200 cars and has tinkered with some interesting projects, including a 1954 Porsche sold to him by his high school teacher. But finding and possibly restoring the maroon Mercedes which once belonged to his father would top the list, he says.
“I’ve got three kids now and it would be so awesome,” he said. “I’d have it for a keepsake and take my kids cruising in it.”
Anyone with information on the car can contact Dave Koszegi at 250-720-9125 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
* Niomi Pearson is a freelance journalist formerly from the Alberni Valley