Baltic Sea Circle: Scandinavia-Rally with Dad & an old E-Class

Auto rallies are a familiar concept today. Many people may even consider them “old hat” — and nowadays that would also apply to a 21-year-old E-Class. But I think people’s impressions depend on their perspective. The Mona Lisa is a good example of that. In this blog I’d like to present to you my own Mona Lisa, which will receive its first dab of paint in Hamburg on June 16, 2018.

The story began last summer, when two thoughts met and fused to form a spectacular idea. The first of these thoughts had been haunting me for some time.

The first of these thoughts had been haunting me for some time. A few years back, my father gave up his job making body-in-white truck components in a medium-sized company and began his well-deserved retirement. At the time, I thought he was beginning the best years of his life. Why? His debts? – All paid! His children? – All taken care of! His garden? – Big enough and doing fine! I thought his only problem would be to decide whether to take his morning walk before or after breakfast.

A pensioner can do anything – besides doing nothing!

And that’s exactly what happened — but I also assumed that he’d find some new hobbies. Of course I didn’t expect him to become a brilliant pianist one day, but I did hope he would find an activity that kept him cheerful and mentally fit. Unfortunately, my hope was not fulfilled.

My father was enjoying his retirement a bit too much, in my opinion, and focusing more strongly than I had expected on simply doing nothing. I wanted to change that, and to show him that there’s an incredible range of adventures out there, all waiting for him to master. So I decided to look for ways to prove to my father that a man born in the 1950s can still do almost anything — except lounging around and doing nothing. After all, our mental and physical performance depends strongly on what we demand of ourselves.

Scandinavia instaed of Orient

This idea popped up in my mind again and again, and in the meantime I was also pursuing a second line of thought. Inspired by a coworker, I decided to participate in a rally. I wanted to find out what it’s like to drive right through the forests of Scandinavia and experience nature from a perspective I had never had before. But unfortunately, I had previously not found the right trigger.

Back then, coworker had been a participant in the Allgäu-Orient rally. I had been seriously playing with the idea of participating myself, but the political situation, at least at that point in time, was a bit too risky for me, so I didn’t feel comfortable enough to actually sign up. But then, through a fortunate coincidence I found out about the Baltic Sea Circle rally. I was sold on the idea right away.

Our rally

While I was wondering whom I could get to accompany me, my father called to ask me to make an appointment for him at the repair shop. He had made a dent in his bumper while backing up with the trailer. Suddenly the idea was born! My first thought, an engine with lots of potential and performance, met up with my second thought, the right fuel. All we needed now was the right car, and we’d be ready to go!

The participants of the Baltic Sea Circle rally, which circles the Baltic Sea, have to drive their own cars, which must be at least 20 years old and may not cost more than €2,500. In this case, you shouldn’t associate the word “rally” with noisy little cars racing along unpaved roads and bouncing over every bump. This particular rally is more like a camping vacation for people who are thirsting for adventure — though the adventure doesn’t include Lake Garda or a camper van.

The rally lasts for two weeks and starts and ends in Hamburg. Between the start and finish lines, the participants (ideally) drive 7,500 kilometers and cross nine countries: Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. It initially sounds interesting and maybe even pleasantly feasible. But it becomes tricky if you keep in mind that the rules for the rally forbid the participants to drive on highways or to use navigation devices (except in cases of a medical emergency). It sounds as though completing the rally may only be possible for a few experienced drivers.

For us, there were two more problematic aspects: my father is the kind of man who never asks anyone for directions when he gets lost, and I have rather weak sense of direction. But in my opinion, the latter fact was the secret ingredient that would make this idea a wonderful adventure — perhaps the biggest adventure we would have together as father and son.

I registered our team, paid the entry fee, and started to think about what kind of car I wanted to have as our reliable companion.

The car

The car I chose was a W210 – E430. There were two simple reasons for my choice. My father, like so many other people, had once fulfilled his own dream of having a brand-new Mercedes — in his case, a W210 — handed over to him at the customer center in Sindelfingen. Together with my mother, he had worked and saved up for it for what seemed like an eternity. The second reason was that I had long been looking for a reason to fulfill an unreasonable dream of my own. I wanted to drive a V8 one day, and the thought of driving a V8 in this rally seemed absolutely unreasonable.

We had found our car! Unfortunately, we were forced to make compromise regarding the car. Our dream car had a long list of faults that could be corrected only with the help of professional mechanics.


Our enterprise was supported from the very beginning by an independent repair shop, where the car was inspected, examined for defects, and repaired as part of a sponsorship campaign. Our aim was simply to make the car drivable, not to win a beauty contest. We weren’t bothered by dents and scratches! Incidentally, I should mention that the car is now in the hands of its ninth owner and has been driven for 485,000 kilometers.

In addition to the repair workshop’s sponsorship, my brother, who also works at Daimler, was so enthusiastic about the idea that he helped us out with a generous cash donation. As a result, we had two sponsors, and we put stickers on our car to advertise that fact.

Together with a few friends and coworkers, we put all of our stickers on the car to give it that individualized rally touch. That was a few days ago, and the car is now ready for its adventure. We can hardly wait to start out from Hamburg in our road cruiser.

A good cause

In addition to looking for sponsors for a project, we also gave a lot of thought to which projects we wanted to support through our participation. Every participating team must be a member of at least one charitable organization and must support it with a donation project at The goal is to collect at least €750 in donations by the end of the rally. There’s no right or wrong way to choose an organization to support. That’s why we decided to use our participation to support projects that from our viewpoint deserve to exist but don’t get enough support from We decided to support three projects, and we want to donate €1,000 to each of them, so we’ve set ourselves the ambitious goal of collecting a total of €3,000.

Through our participation we are supporting the following projects:

  • Survival aid in the Horn of Africa — digging wells for drinking water (German Red Cross)
  • Solidarity with women and children/against violence (the Frauenhaus women’s shelter in Stuttgart)
  • A soccer club for young unaccompanied refugees (Lutheran counseling center in Bonn)

We, my father Hüseyin and I, would be delighted if you could support our donation Project.

I also hope I can inspire some readers to find a similar father-and-child project to participate in. For my part, I’m glad I’ve tackled this project. At the beginning of this year, my father had a stent implanted in his heart, and that reinforced my feeling that I had made the right decision. There are some things you should do during your life as long as you have the opportunity.

The hotline

If you’d like to read our future blog entries or follow us on Instagram or Facebook, you can visit us on our homepage at There you can always find our precise position as determined by a GPS tracker, as well as further information we’d like to share with the rest of the world during our rally.

Ilhan Ercan started his career with Daimler after his studies in 2009. Since 2016 he is the contact Person for Daimler Trucks Powertrain for engineering topics.