OK I think I have a better grasp of the situation now.
I've had the dash of my 98 ML320 off (blend door mtr) and it seems that this one will hafta come off as well. Not a big deal... just time consuming and persnickity (good thing Mercedes puts in all those extra screws.. I have a few leftovers from mine in case my buddy's is missing some
It seems that a repair attempt on the connection between the arm and the flap might be worth the effort. However, that box on ebay is so cheap I just might grab it for spare parts.
BTW this site is a great resource. I feel like I am an apprentice at VW again.