The 1966 Mercedes-Benz 220 Diesel converted to electric isn’t the only such project for the guys at German Autohaus in Newhall.
A visit to the 9th Street Auto Repair Shop offers views of sculptures made from car parts, a rainbow tie-dye VW bug and, if you’re driven into a garage at the bottom of the yard, a rare 1950 Czechoslovakian Tatra automatic restoration project that seems to have German Autohaus owner Joseph Jasik a little worried as he recalls those vehicles from his childhood in communist Czechoslovakia owned by the secret police who took the people on the street, threw them in and chased them away, never to be seen again.
Jasik’s latest project is the Mercedes he and automotive engineer Mark Romprey converted to electric by more or less placing the Benz’s body on a 2018 Kia Soul EV. Easier said than done.
“It was 75 horsepower,” Jasik told The Signal from his desk in his store, “and now it’s three times that.”
A look at the vehicle reveals that the conversion was no simple task. The front interior, for example, with its modern Kia steering wheel and dashboard – cut and matched to the Benz exterior – smacks against the Mercedes door panels of yesteryear with manual window crank handles.
Jasik, a resident of Valencia, started the project with Romprey in 2020 just before the pandemic. Romprey said he and Jasik haven’t been working on the car all the time, but have been snacking on it between paid jobs for the past two years. The automotive engineer also said it wasn’t the big things that took all the time – like fitting the wider but shorter Kia chassis inside the Benz body – but rather the little things, which required more. of ingenuity.
One problem was the radiator. It wouldn’t fit under the hood. And so, Jasik and Romprey put it in the trunk. Of course, an electric car always needs a radiator. But it’s that kind of challenge that Romprey and Jasik relish.
Born in Czechoslovakia, Jasik later came to America to escape communism. He said the Communists took everything from him, including his father at one point.
“They put him in jail for six years,” he said in his thick Slovak accent. “So my mother – with four children – they put us in front of the house. Four children with their mother – “You go there by yourself.” And the communists moved into our house.
Jasik said his family moved in with his grandparents, but the communists took their milk, flour and other belongings. Cars like the one he currently has in a garage in his shop – the Tatra – actually seemed to scare him for life.
“You saw that car coming down the street,” he said, “grabbing your neighbor. No one would ever see you again.
Jasik certainly did not have a positive view of communism. He said he was done with his country when, following a trip to America, communists took him in for questioning, fearing he was spreading American ideals. He moved here when he was around 40.
“We came to America with suitcases in hand,” said Jasik’s 49-year-old son, Steve. Steve was only 9 years old at the time. He too is proof that the love of the automobile is in the blood. He is a third generation car enthusiast. Jasik said it all started with his father, who had a car dealership in his home in the 1930s and 1940s.
Before coming to America, Jasik earned a degree in mathematical physics. He also taught future car mechanics their trade and even ran a repair shop there. But he doesn’t quite describe what he does as just car repair.
“I’m an artist,” Jasik said. “My son too.”
Jasik’s son said he had his own plans. An “autoholic”, which is a name he applied to himself, he has car projects, art projects that use car parts, and non-fungible token (NFT) projects. He is also an antique collector. A quick spin through his 1934 Mercedes-Benz 500K/1976 Camaro conversion to a nearby storage unit offered a glimpse of a car with two front and no rear ends (one front goes one way and the other goes l ‘other way). It also has 36 actual luminaries that lined the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard in the 1960s.
“I want to sell them to the city,” he said. “They should light up Main Street.”
Jasik’s son, who occasionally helps out at German Autohaus, said his father had been in business in Newhall since 1983. He added that at 80 his father still works 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, and that he has run 198 half marathons over the past 10 years.
The 1966 Mercedes-Benz/Kia conversion was nearly complete when the guys spoke with The Signal last week. Some upholstery work was still needed, and while some might wonder why the vehicle isn’t repainted, Jasik will tell you it’s because he didn’t want to alter the original look of the car too much. The vehicle, which was used by military personnel and shows a Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton tag on its front bumper, retains its first paint job. Jasik said he added a clear coat, however, as a way to protect the body.
Jasik said the car had a range of 200 miles per six-hour charge. He values it at $150,000.
And while the guys at the shop were preparing their latest car project for an upcoming show, new projects are already online.
“All of us car guys have another project,” Jasik said.
And with that, he pointed out in court what might happen next. Not one. Not two. Many. These projects, however, will have to be stories for another time.