StarTech 2013 at MBUSI in Alabama

Gary Anderson
Jeff Klepac, William West Hopper, Gary Anderson
Every other year since 1985, Mercedes-Benz Club of America has organized StarTech, a national member gathering focusing on technical topics. With over 200 registrants, StarTech 2013 May 17-21 was hosted by the Alabama Section, and included visits to the Huntsville Space Center, a Mercedes-certified collision repair facility, and Barber Motorsports Park, as well as two days of intensive sessions at Mercedes-Benz U.S. International in Vance.

StarTech 2013 at MBUSI in Alabama
 
Photos by William West Hopper, Jeff Klepac, & Gary Anderson

Every other year since 1985, Mercedes-Benz Club of America has organized StarTech, a national member gathering focusing on technical topics. With over 200 registrants, StarTech 2013 May 17-21 was hosted by the Alabama Section, and included visits to the Huntsville Space Center, a Mercedes-certified collision repair facility, and Barber Motorsports Park, as well as two days of intensive sessions at Mercedes-Benz U.S. International in Vance.

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center

Our destination on Saturday was the u.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, where MBCA members were treated to a special tour conducted by guides who had been part of the development team for the Saturn V and Apollo program flight vehicles at Marshall Space Flight Center. Lunch was provided by Mercedes-Benz of Huntsville.

Birmingham’s Classic Car Motoring Mercedes-Approved Collision Center

Sunday a large group of StarTech attendees were guests of Jeff and Diane Bagget’s collision repair center for tutorials on the steps required to repair collision damage to specifications prescribed by Mercedes-Benz, and to enjoy an award-winning catered  barbecue lunch. That’s Jeff with the beard in picture at right.

Barber Motorsports Park and Barber Motorsports Collection

Later Sunday afternoon, participants went to Barber Motorsports Park where we had the opportunity to tour the extensive Barber collection of motorcycles and automobiles before driving our own automobiles on a twilight tour of the race track. Returning to the museum, attendees listened to a panel discussing the heritage of MBUSI before enjoying hors d’oeuvres, drinks and conversation with old friends.

MBUSI Pioneers Panel

A special session that officially opened StarTech 2013 was held at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum on Sunday evening, open to all members attending StarTech. The panel included, left to right, Don Erwin, head of the Economic Development Office of Alabama Power Company at the time Daimler selected Alabama for its first North American plant, Heinz Neunzig, who had been overseas director of marketing for Geländewagen and was involved in the plant location decision, and MBuSI’s first president, Bill Taylor, who oversaw the construction of the plant and design of the first-generation Mercedes Production System. The panel was moderated by MBCA President Steve Dierks. Following the presentation, an hors d’oeuvres reception was hosted by Mercedes-Benz uSA, with more time available to look at exhibits in the collection .

Offroad Test Course

MBUSI has constructed a realistic off-road course on the plant property. The course is used for daily  quality tests of vehicles randomly selected from the assembly line. As a special treat, the MBuSI test drivers took MBCA members for rides over the course to demonstrate the capabilities of the MLs and GLs with their impressive 4Matic all-wheel drive system.

Mercedes Museum and Training Center

Left: Our StarTech base of operations on Monday and Tuesday was the Museum and Training Center at MBuSI, with all our training sessions held in their classrooms and demonstration facilities. Left, middle and bottom: When we weren’t in tech sessions, the museum, a miniature version of the Daimler Museum in Stuttgart, was an excellent place to get an overview of the rich history of the company. Right, top to bottom: In between tech sessions, members and session leaders had informal opportunities to exchange knowledge. Trying to demonstrate a point regarding fuel pumps, one group adjourned to the museum to look at a cut-away engine exhibit. However, within minutes the MBCA specialists realized the model had been reassembled incorrectly after its last use in a training session. Obviously in cases such as this,the only answer was to put all the offending parts back together as they should be.
 
Factory Tours, Final Panel, Social Events
 

On Monday and Tuesday, MBUSI team members conducted groups of participants on special tours of the production plant, including special presentations in the body plant as well as tours through the paint and assembly facilities, to see the MLs, GLs, and R-Class actually being produced. Training Center lunches were underwritten by Leigh Mercedes-Benz of Tuscaloosa and Ingram Mercedes-Benz of Montgomery.
 
The official sessions ended on Tuesday evening with a panel discussion among (from left) Pete Lesler, Drew Tibcken, Heinz Neunzig, Pierre Hedary, Tom Hanson, Jeffrey Brenneman, Jonathan Hodgman and Dave Kinney, moderated by Gary Anderson, and a reception hosted by Crown Mercedes-Benz of Birmingham. Social events during StarTech included several receptions – one of which had a RENNtech-modified ML63 owned by Classic Car Motoring parked in the reception room (left) – and a dinner presentation by Markus Schaefer, president and CEO of MBuSI.
 
StarTech 2013 Technical Sessions

StarTech offered sessions on a wide variety of topics, all presented by specialists in their fields

  • Mercedes Production System • Susan Warner from MBUSI
  • What Wears Out on Older Mercedes-Benz Vehicles • George Murphy, MBCA’s National Technical Director
  • Care, Tuning & Troubleshooting Bosch Mechanical Fuel Injection Systems u Pete Lesler, past MBCA President
  • Performance is What You Make It • Lee Hurley of HESCO
  • Automotive Photography Tips • Gary Anderson, Editor of The Star, the MBCA member magazine
  • Advanced Diesel Cars • Jeffrey S. Breneman, Executive Director, U.S. Coalition for Advanced Diesel Cars
  • Mercedes-Benz Interior Wood Restoration • Jean “Drew” Tibcken of Heritage Woodworks
  • Performance & Your Mercedes-Benz u Jonathan Hodgman, owner of BlueRidgeMB.com
  • Mercedes-Benz Vehicle Valuation • Rob Sass and Dave Kinney from Hagerty Insurance
  • MB W108 & W113 Front Sub Frame Mount Issues • Pierre Hedary of Pierre Hedary’s Mercedes-Benz
  • Restoring & Maintaining Your Mercedes-Benz • David and Sandy Latham from Bud’s Benz
  • Modifications & Mercedes-Benz Performance • Hartmut Feyhl and Tomas Diebold from RENNtech
  • Lighting Systems at Mercedes-Benz • Ralf Jetter from MBUSI
  • Tires – More than just Rubber, the Soul of Your Driving u Doug Brown from Michelin
  • Demystifying Fuel Distribution • Larry Fletcher from CIS Flow Tech
  • Parts for Your Classic Mercedes-Benz • Tom Hanson from the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center
  • Vintage Mercedes-Benz Rally & Racing Modifications • Bruce Adams, Bruce L. Adams & Company

 

StarTech 2013 Sponsors

The organizers wish to thank the following companies for their
generous financial and in-kind support of StarTech 2013:

Mercedes-Benz US International | mbusi.com
Classic Car Motoring of Birmingham | classiccarmotoring.com
Crown Mercedes-Benz of Birmingham | crownautomobile.com
Leigh Mercedes-Benz of Tuscaloosa, AL | Leighautomotive.com
Mercedes-Benz of Huntsville, AL | mercedesbenzofhuntsville.com
Jack Ingram Mercedes-Benz, Montgomery, AL | jackingram.com
Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) | mbusa.com
Bud’s Benz | budsbenz.com
Hagerty Insurance | hagerty.com
Michelin Tires U.S. | michelinman.com
RENNTech Mercedes | renntechMercedes.com
Star Daimler Gifts | stardaimlergifts.com

 

StarTech 2013 Committee

National Chairman: William West Hopper
Event Co-Chairmen: Jim Roberts, Robert Hinds
Registrars: Liz and Don Roberson
Treasurer: Brenda Brown
Lifestyle Events: Carol Wadley, Jane Hinds
Marketing and Program: Diana Quinn, Lisa Juhl
Committee members: Kathy Beale, Mason Beale, Tommy Couch,
Heinz Neunzig, William Powers, Chad Stevens, Daryl Williams, Pierce Williams

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