The theft of 94-year-old Doug Marchant’s “pride and joy”, an immaculate 1977 Mercedes Benz, has taken more from the pensioner than just his only mode of transport.

It has also stolen some of his independence.

The retired farmer and mechanic was left devastated when the vintage 300D Merc, which he was still servicing, was stolen from his Port Lincoln home on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula earlier this month.

Sadly, Mr Marchant’s run of bad luck did not end there.

While his daughter was miraculously able to find a car of the same make, model, and even year of his beloved stolen Merc, it was in a different state.

Mr Marchant was not deterred, though, and he travelled to Melbourne to pick it up.

But he was not back behind the wheel for long.

As he made his way through Victoria’s Macedon Ranges the replacement Merc broke down while he was still more than 1,300 kilometres from home.

Doug Marchant in his new Mercedes which broke down at Gisborne, Victoria.(Supplied)

Good Samaritan

Melinda Tairi, a mechanic for the past 15 years, answered the RACV call-out and towed Mr Marchant’s new vintage car to Gisborne.

“He was very devastated that he had to leave the car with us,” Ms Tairi said.

“He was on the ground, trying to help us work it out and diagnose the issue, because Doug has been a mechanic his whole life.”

Gisborne mechanic Melinda Tairi with the dirty fuel filter from Doug’s car.(Supplied: Melinda Tairi)

When he was ultimately forced to make the trip home without his new car, Ms Tairi put it upon herself to try and do everything she could for Mr Marchant.

She set about sourcing parts to overhaul its blocked fuel filter and fuel lines, even working after hours and on weekends.

“I just really bonded and connected with Doug because he’s 94 years old, he’s worked his whole life as a mechanic, and he’s built an aeroplane himself, as well,” she said.

“He’s got a lot of background knowledge and a lot of stories to tell.”

Doug restored many cars, and even built a kit plane after retiring to Charlton Gully.(Supplied: Doug Marchant)

The mechanic then set up an online fundraiser to deliver the car to Port Lincoln.

“I’m a car enthusiast and I could just see it in his eyes that he just wanted to get the car home and drive it, so I’m working as fast as I can,” Ms Tairi said.

An expert mechanic

Have you seen this car? It belongs to Doug.(Supplied: Doug Marchant)

Back in Port Lincoln, Mr Marchant and his family are not hopeful of getting his original Merc back, but the kindness they discovered along the way from Ms Tairi has been immensely appreciated.

“Dad thought that he may walk everywhere after the car was stolen, but it is winter and I thought that it is often too cold and wet for walking,” his daughter Jill Marchant said.

Plus, as a mechanic for almost 80 years and life member of the Western Districts Vintage Car Club who took great pride and pleasure in working on his vintage car, his daughter wanted to get him a replacement.

Doug Marchant’s favourite restoration is this 1927 Chrysler Finer 70, built from two wrecked vehicles.(Supplied: Doug Marchant)

“It has been a rare occasion that dad has not been able to fix something, either in the farming community of Ceduna or for others both in Port Lincoln and across the state,” Ms Marchant said.

“He is still sought after for his mechanical knowledge and is very busy helping others.

“There is no doubt in my mind that if he was born into today’s world that he probably would become an aeronautical engineer.”

A lifelong love

The Marchant children Doug, Mac, and Kath in their cut-off Ford Model T cart on their way to school in Maltee.(Supplied: Our Small Schools 1909-1981 booklet, 1989)

Born in 1930, Mr Marchant grew up on his parents’ farm near Ceduna during the Depression and World War II, going to the one-teacher school at Maltee in a horse and cart made from a Ford Model T.

“Things were pretty hard on the farm,” he said.

“It was wartime, poverty-stricken, and drought as well.”

With no prospects of working on the farm his parents sent him to primary school in Ceduna and he studied mechanics, beginning a lifelong love of engines and vehicles.

Doug Marchant with the Diamond T truck he owned.(Supplied: Doug Marchant)

When his parents retired in the 1950s he took over the farm.

“Everything happened all at once — I took the farm on, I learnt to fly as a pilot, I met a nice lady in the course of flying, and a marriage came up,” he said.

Mr Marchant and wife Leonie moved to Charlton Gully to retire but in 2005 faced the devastation of the Wangary Fire which left nine people dead on the Lower Eyre Peninsula.

Doug Marchant on his 1928 Peashooter Harley Davidson in 1947.(Supplied: Marchant family)

Their property was burnt out, destroying Leonie’s substantial rose garden and several of Mr Marchant’s vintage cars.

Fortunately, the house where the couple sheltered from the fire was spared.

The couple rebuilt but in 2017 they were forced to relocate to Port Lincoln when Mr Marchant experienced ill health.

Mrs Marchant died of cancer three years ago and Doug has kept himself busy helping friends with mechanical projects.

Doug Marchant (right) with his brother Mac in O’Loughlin Street, Ceduna, in 1948 where Mac picked up his new Harley Davidson motorbike.(Supplied: Marchant family)

He visits friends Rodney and Erika Hirte each Sunday to work on machinery, including restoring a 1940s Chevrolet with Mr Hirte.

“Doug had been unable to drive after some ill health and had managed to get his car licence back and had enjoyed his car,” Mrs Hirte said.

“We were devastated when we heard his pride and joy car had been stolen.”

Doug with friend Rodney Hirte. The pair restored this 1940 Chevrolet truck together.(Supplied: Erika Hirte)

The day his car was stolen he had been to Cummins, a 130-kilometre round trip, to help another friend with a vehicle.

But with his replacement Merc on its way to the Eyre Peninsula thanks to Melinda Tairi, the good Samaritan, his daughter Jill said her father was looking forward to being behind the wheel of the model he loved so much.

Posted , updated