In Fall 2003 J.G. Francis purchased his first Mercedes-Benz for $700. His passion for restoring cars back to their original condition, a cleverness for entrepreneurship and unconventional way to make a living has led to the success of Los Angeles-based Mercedes Motoring. Fascinated with his creative process and attention to detail we sat down recently to learn more about his labor of love.
1. What made you start taking Mercedes Benz’s apart?
I’ve been taking things apart since I was about six, and although it’s in my nature, I have no idea where or who it came from. My Greek Grandfather owed a deli, my Dad ran a casino, my Mom… well, I guess part of it comes from my Mom. She’s always in the garage making a birdhouse or carving a gourd. Anyway, to answer your question, what made me start taking apart Mercedes-Benzes was sheer fascination. I had always wanted to, so I did. That’s been ten years ago now, and I’ve taken apart 300-400 by now.
2. When did you realize it was your passion and it could keep the lights on?
I realized it was my passion right from the start. From an aesthetic and engineering standpoint it’s hard not to be blown away by the designs of Mercedes-Benz. I fell for them immediately. It took a while to learn how to pay the bills doing so. I had to step up my game and figure out ways to build these cars better than others, not to mention I in no way wanted to be associated with a car salesman. So with a good amount of effort I took the whole idea and elevated it to a level that seemed to really set me apart.
3. Do you focus your work on specific models or years?
I stay pretty true to 1968-1989, my favorite years being the early to mid-seventies. That’s not to say all the other years aren’t great too.
4. Do you think that your attention to detail sets you apart and why people seek you out from across the globe?
It is almost certainly what sets me apart. I’ve been focused on the details, again, since I was a little kid. It’s just part of my neurotic obsessive makeup, and I don’t feel debilitated by it, I feel lucky. My lifestyle has set me apart as well; my travels and adventures across the globe in old Mercedes’.
5. Do you follow the original factory techniques in your restorations?
Well, it’s hard to know exactly what those techniques are, but I would have to say yes. At the very least, I duplicate to the best of my ability what the factory did themselves.
6. What’s your favorite Mercedes Benz?
I guess I would have to eliminate a mid-fifties 300SL roadster since I don’t have $700,000 to buy one, however, my second choice would be any W114 chassis coupe from 1968-1973. I own two of these models.
7. Can you let use know a little about your upcoming trip?
Me and a few friends are planning to fly down to Argentina and buy several ultra rare factory build W115 station wagons. These were only made at the Argentina Mercedes-Benz factory in the mid-seventies and nowhere else in the world. Once we buy the cars we plan on taking an epic 3-4 week road trip across five or six countries in South America. We will be documenting the entire trip on Fools Be Trippin’ (dot com).