Atascadero’s Sal Orlando was busy Saturday telling the story of his 1961 Mercedes O319D minibus at the eighth annual San Miguel Cruise Night and Car Show.
“It’s a beast,” Orlando said. “A VW on steroids.”
Orlando’s description is apt as it resembles the iconic VW bus of the 1960s, but it’s just larger and has the legendary Mercedes symbol on it.
Orlando explained that he recently finished the restoration and had only taken it to a handful of car shows this summer.
Orlando said he’d taken it to the big car show in Pismo Beach earlier in the summer and even there people had not seen one fully restored.
“Everywhere we have been it draws a lot of attention,” Orlando said. “Ninty-nine point nine percent of the people say they have never seen one. They are pretty rare in the US.”
Orlando said he was looking for a unique van that he could use to take people on wine tours here on the Central Coast and happened to come across a Mercedes minibus in Reno, Nevada.
In its heyday, it had been used by ski resorts in the US to transport to workers to and from work.
The bus seats 15 and could seat more if optional fold-up seats that go down the middle of the bus are in place. Orlando has one of the fold-up seats on the bus to give people an example of what they look like.
Orlando was going to purchase a second Mercedes minibus for the business, but it became too costly.
“It’s not like a Volkswagen where you can go online and fine parts just about anywhere,” he said. “Everything had to be sourced from Germany.”
Orlando hasn’t been able to get the wine tour business going. He’s content now with the restoration and enjoys showing it to people.
There were roughly 200 cars and trucks in the car show on Saturday.
While Orlando’s minibus garnered attention at the north end of the show, Mike and Pam Estrada’s 1941 Ford Super Deluxe Coupe had plenty of people stopping and gawking at their burnt orange-colored pride and joy.
The Estradas live in Paso Robles and Mike said the build took three years.
“My buddy and I did 80 percent of the work,” Mike said. “Everything but the paint and interior.”
Mike said when he bought the car in Clovis it was in a thousand pieces.
“We had to make a couple of trips back and forth to get everything,” he said. “It was one giant jigsaw puzzle.”
The eye-catching paint job is what people see first, but the details — polished chrome, flat black runners along both sides of the car — are what draws people in for a closer look.
The muted black is used on the interior of the car inside the cab and back into the trunk.
Mike said at one time he had 10 restored cars, but now just as the Ford Super Deluxe and a 1964 El Camino.
The San Miguel Cruise Night and Car Show is held in Downtown San Miguel of Memorial Day weekend. Many of the vehicles are in San Miguel on Saturday and are in a separate show in Cambria on Sunday.