Behold – this is what it looks like when a Honda scene kid finally grows the-fuck up. Loool I’m just playing, nobody’s growing up around here. But it’s true that the more seasoned you get, the more you realize that cars are… kind of like suits. You need to keep a few around for different occasions. A suit for going off-road, a suit for raising a little hell, a suit for being proper, etc. At least that’s what I’ve heard. The only suits I own are swimsuits & wetsuits. Anyway – for Daulton Hodges, this particular suit is a custom-tailored 1976 Mercedes Benz 300D. And ‘the occasion’ is to cruise like an absolute fucking gentleman.
The fact is… you can’t buy style like this.
A new Mercedes Benz is mostly a morphed hunk of shit plastic… with an oversized screen & equally oversized payment to attract pricks like flies to watermelon. This Benz, however, is a sophisticated whip. See – us car folks can pull rabbits out of our hat that the Average dickhead Joe just can’t manage. We can create cool. We don’t just consume it. Remember that… and take pride in it. Because that’s authenticity. And no matter how much money or flashy store-bought cars some weenie procures… the one thing they can’t buy… is authenticity. That thing that for you… comes so naturally. And deep down, it bothers them to their core. Actually – I think I heard something like that on Yellowstone. So hell, don’t take it from me… take it from John Dutton.
This Mercedes Benz 300D is elegant AF…
But it also carries a yin-yang element of impeccable grit. You look at this Benz, and it didn’t just get built. Somebody built it. And that’s the quintessential mark of being a true connoisseur. Being a connoisseur – means not falling into the marketing trap of the newest exploited luxury. That’s called being a sheep. But rather, being a connoisseur is understanding what all those people want… but can’t have. Because being a connoisseur takes serious effort, commitment, experience, and time. And that’s something most people don’t have patience for in this day & age. They just want the goddamn hashtag. Yeah… I feel like you guys get that.
So let’s move to the details of this particular 1976 Mercedes Benz 300D.
Daulton Hodges cut his teeth in the Honda scene. I mentioned that already. But it makes a lot of sense when you start looking at the details of this slammed 300D Benz. Daulton is still absolutely into Hondas & other go-fast analog tunable cars. But he got the urge to switch things up, and build something with that lowly gentleman vibe. So he searched around…
And he finally landed on this 1976 Mercedes-Benz 300D non-turbo.
It took a little patience to find the right car, as Daulton found that a lot of these old Benz’s are either shit… or mint. Severely rusted… or fully restored. Daulton didn’t want either of those. What he wanted, was just a solid (affordable) surviver that he could turn wrenches on… and move forward without having to take too many unforeseen steps back.
Sticking to his Honda roots…
Daulton shaved the engine bay, tucked wires & brake lines, and polished that turd Mercedes diesel engine to look better than any Mercedes diesel engine I’ve ever seen. He had a sample of the interior scanned, and painted the valve cover to match. Daulton also removed the vacuum pump on the front of the engine (which operates things like the original vacuum-actuated door locks), and created a billet piece with CAD software. He then had a local machine shop turn it into reality, and it ended up really slicking-up the engine’s appearance when you pop the hood. In case you’re wondering, Daulton upgraded the Benz to later-model electronic door locks. I guess it’s all in the details… as I woulda just quit locking it lol.
For the exterior paint, Daulton chose Grigio Telesto…
A shade you can pinpoint back to Lamborghini. Daulton & his cousin are both pretty capable painters, and tackled the paint themselves… in a paint booth made in the ‘60s. It’s a total respray, you won’t find any of the original baby-blue anywhere.
This Mercedes is a W115 chassis…
But some parts have been retrofitted to look like the W114. Dalton swapped the car to the European W114 bumpers & headlights. The headlights proved to be a tough item to find. And when Daulton finally found them, the seller was super-cool enough to throw in the grille badge that’s on the front of the car now. Apparently it can be traced back to a car club in the ’70s. Often times on vintage euros (or I guess any car for that matter), it’s those little period-correct nostalgic details that really set things off and make you feel the era.
The wheels are ARC AR01s…
17×8.5 +30 in front, and 17×9.5 +22 rear. And of course this Benz is bagged – running Airlift’s 3P management. The steering & suspension have all been fully restored & painted. Daulton came up with a trick-play to use Karmann Ghia shocks on the front (you’ll have to ask him). And the front subframe has been modified so the oil pan practically kisses the ground when aired out.
The trunk display was done by Daulton…
Including the wood work & hard lines. The interior preserves most of the original styling, but it’s been reupholstered & accented with hardwood inlays to match the wood in the trunk. Of course, it has a Nardi woodgrain steering wheel, shifter, and appropriate stereo system by Focal and Precision Power. My eyes can’t quite make sense of it, but back in the engine bay, the radiator is for a ’73 Datsun 280Z, and the oil cooler is for a 93 FD RX7.
Look, we all love our Hondas & Nissans of the golden era…
And a lot of us are probably in that for life. Nothing wrong there! All of those cars offer a hell of a driving experience that’s hard to replicate. But it keeps things fresh sometimes… to venture-out & try a platform that doesn’t have every possible mod-path already extensively mapped out online. It’s fun to take-on a challenge, and broaden your perspective a little bit.
This Benz almost forces you to take a second glance…
And relearn what you thought you knew. This build in particular really brings out the beauty of an old classic Benz. Maybe it’s just me, but I grew up in one of these things – a 240D. My mom drove it for the better part of two decades. And put enough miles on it to go to the moon. I never really considered it a ‘beautiful’ car as a kid… it was a banana. But there really is a lot of elegance somehow hidden in that utilitarian Mercedes design. So stereotypically German, right?
Anyway… let’s cruise! Because wherever you’re going in this thing… you’re gonna look a whole lot cooler when you get there.
Photos by Ben Battles (@battles.digital)
1976 Mercedes 300D
W115 chassis made to look like a W114
Euro bumpers & headlights
ARC AR01 wheels (17×8.5 et30 front & 17×9.5 et22 rear)
Airlift 3P management
Fully restored steering and suspension
Front subframe modified
Custom trunk display
Nardi steering wheel & shifter
Component speakers by Focal & Precision Power
Engine is the OEM 5-cylinder OM617 diesel
Shaved / tucked bay
Radiator is for a ’73 Datsun 280z
Oil cooler is for a ’93 rx7
Custom vacuum pump delete.
Lamborghini Grigio Telesto paint – using Akso Nobel Sikkens paint