Showing posts with label Mercedes 560SL. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mercedes 560SL. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Prussian Update: My 560 SL Arrived!

Well sorta At least the little die cast doppelganger remains mine. I did feel that it was time for an update/story about my quest and a lot of what I’ve discovered didn’t surprise me. The rules for not getting burned when buying classic cars are essentially the same for a 1989 Mercedes as they are for a 1969 Camaro.
And of course the best advice I got was from Toad. Advice that I’d already taken to heart but it’s never a bad thing to hear it again. “Spend the few hundred bucks necessary to have a qualified, respected Mercedes expert check out these cars.”  Couple that advice with an incredibly thorough and thoughtful website tutorial and I’ve avoided heartache thus far. Heartache avoidance also means to-date, no Mercedes SL.
Only car nuts will want to spend much time at this Mercedes SL tutorial site but let me tell you, it’s sobering and instructive to go through every slide and learn about direct and collateral evidence to support the condition of any SL that might be on deck for purchase. Here are a few examples…
 "Very important body tag w/vehicle ID number affixed. This is the left fender (front) tag. New panels never had tags. No body number on 88/89 560SLs means a replacement fender and a tip to look for further evidence of collision repair. The tags should be on both fenders.” 
“Data tag on core support adjacent to hood latch provided paint code, in this case 568 (Signal Red) as well as vehicle type 107048(560SL) as well as 1 (export) and 2 (automatic transmission). Missing data tag a definite no-no. Philips head screws were always body color. This plate has not been disturbed.”
 “Check where the valve cover meets the aluminum cylinder head for oil residue, a very common situation on any V-8 Mercedes-Benz. Leaking valve covers run oil onto adjacent hot exhaust manifolds causing burning oil stink to be inhaled into driver’s compartment via the cowl vent!”
 “No AC flow through center dash vents signals potential extremely expensive vacuum motor repair/replacement. Contributing parts are buried in heater box.”
 And there are a couple of nuances involved in my SL selection criteria. I choose not to afford ownership of two cars. I live a pseudo-urban life and I don’t do any kind of absurd two-hour commute to work like many around here do. I can walk to my office…when I even decide to go there. My driving is mostly in-town jaunts with perhaps a hundred mile round trip weekend sortie here and there. I don’t pile excessive miles on a personal car when driving to client meetings. That’s what Avis and reimbursable expenses are for. So my SL will be a “modified daily driver” of sorts.
 The idea of having an SL and a frugal little Honda or something like that to perform LFG transport duties doesn’t make sense. I don’t want to buy an SL creampuff and rarely drive it while puttering down the GW Parkway in a Toyota that sports a bumper sticker announcing that “My other car is a 560SL”. I just don’t need two cars.
Besides, one of the things I’ve learned is that these cars need to be driven. You can find 1989 560’s all day long with “only thirty thousand miles on it…driven four months each year and only to the club.” And chances are, at thirty thousand miles, it’s had no service other than a few oil changes. Which means every seal; gasket or other perishable component has degraded. Add $7,500.00 to your budget because that’s what you are going to spend year-one on what I call “the perishables.” My first year surprise update/repair/replace budget is $5,000.00. I add that to the total deal regardless of how well vetted my 560SL candidate might be.
So as of July, I’ve not found the right car that makes it through my budget/condition matrix unscathed. And that’s ok because I don’t want to make a mistake amidst procuring my dream car. I realize that once I own an SL, there are gonna be costs—lots of them, involved in keeping it in shape. Old house-old car…there’s always something to be done to-for-about them.
My trusty little Saab remains in fairly good service and I’ll continue to enjoy it till it either dies thus forcing my car-buying hand or I find the right car. If I don’t find my 560SL dream before the weather gets cold, it might become a 2012 objective.

Onward. In a Saab.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

You’ve Lost That Prussian Feeling

Florence, South Carolina. The late 1960’s. Most middle and upper middle class moms and dads drove American cars. Cadillacs…big Ford sedans or station wagons. Maybe a General Motors badge of some type. My mother drove various versions of gas-guzzling-giganto station wagons throughout my childhood. Small Southern towns were staffed in the 1960’s by adults still holding on to various regional sequelae. But perhaps one thing they had in common with Detroit was that they usually bought and drove…American.
Butcept a very select few. My childhood memories, admittedly, are wrapped in imaginative largesse. It’s my way of reconstituting things in order to make them more palatable. But my aforementioned select few observation remains lucid and correct. There were less than a dozen adult drivers in my hometown who didn't buy and drive American. They were what I call the Prussian Outliers. And to a person, maybe excepting one lawyer (Southerners pronounce it LAW-(like slaw)-YUHR. It’s a pronunciation “where did you grow up” dead giveaway), they were doctors. My total n for this childhood observation was small. But keep in mind, Florence back then was a fairly small town.
Prussia…one historian referred to it as “an army with a country attached.” Yep. Prussia…the antecedent to Germany and assigned by anthropologist Clotaire Rapaille, in his book The Culture Code, such culturally thematic descriptions as Order…Precision…Engineering. Prussian King William Frederic Louis, caricatured by J.J. Tissot, appears rather stereotypically Prussian in appetite.
And Mercedes Benz personified to my childhood noggin’, a unique Prussian morphology…before I was even close to knowing anything about Germany and the cultural precept for their engineering and mechanistic legacy. All I knew was that when my mama was taking us someplace in her gigantic Cub Scout troop carrying station wagon and there was one of the ten Mercedes in town stopped beside us at a light; I could tell it wasn’t originally from around here. For some reason I thought that that…was cool.
Mercedes' Germanic boxiness has always appealed to me. I suppose partly because there’s no ambiguity regarding what you’ve pulled up beside in traffic. Same can be said I guess, for older Volvos and BMWs. And we haven’t yet taken up the issue of engines and drive trains.
Sadly, 1990 represented the beginning of the end for Prussian feelings and Germanic morphology. And it’s been a sad decline. I’ve had love affairs with many different cars but my longstanding, immutable, unwavering affection has always been for the pre-1990 SLs. The Sport Leicht…so practically impractical and geared for the American market, the gas guzzling 560-SL could climb a tree upon request. With a 227hp V-8 engine, the 1989 560-SL arrived about as fuzzy as you could request it. There were only a few options available…heated seats and electronically controlled back rests. Otherwise, this baby was maxed out from the get-go. The 1969 sticker? $64,300.00.
And I’ve wanted this car for years. LFG’s mom used to laugh and say that the 1989 560 SL could be my fortieth birthday indulgence. But LFG would be in need of diapers and her mother fancied Manolos when my fortieth rolled around.
So on my fortieth birthday I was still driving and enjoying quite frankly, the car that today remains one of my favorites…a BMW 318is. Then the newly reset for my forty-fifth year of life...560 SL procurement goal was trumped by check writing to entities non-Prussian and non-car. Maybe I should have hired a Prussian divorce lawyer. (Southerners pronounce it LAW-(like slaw)-YUHR) Shut up.
Post 1989 saw Mercedes begin to slowly lose its unambiguous form. Prussian softness and Continental roundness began to show. Softness began to also characterize their quality ratings. 1999 saw LFG’s mom in need of a car and I declared that I would have no vote in the matter. Or did she declare such? I can’t remember but I do recall that I was good for my word. And it wasn't easy. See the Mercedes above? My former wife was test driving it and the Mercedes sales guy is in the passenger seat extolling the virtues of this little buggy. And I’m in the backseat…silent…but praying to a Jesus that doesn't answer such foxhole yelps. “Please don’t let her like this car…please don’t let her like this car”. It was an attenuated German Toyota...not a Mercedes. The vault like “clunk” that resonated in older Mercedes when you closed the door…you know…the “solid as a rock” announcement received every time you sealed yourself inside; was replaced by a tinny clink when you got in. And there was plastic. Lots of plastic.
Uhlenhaut (above with his personal coupe) and his cohort of engineers would be appalled to see that aberration sporting the Mercedes badge.
Marketing and finance, not legacy engineering demand the type of product pictured above. Market segmentation yields what suppliers often see as a “niche that we need to be in”. That’s code for 
“I’m being seduced by market segments I have no business trying to play in. So let’s go get some of the money sitting in that down-market niche, even though we don’t currently have products for it. Quick! … Hans and Dieter…round something up for us to sell “down there” "
So thankfully Prussian Jesus prevailed and my frau selected a 5 Series BMW similar to this one. BMW was on the cusp of their slippery morphological slide but they weren't quite as advanced in their decline as the boys from Stuttgart.
A year or so later saw mama trade that one for the 5 Series BMW wagon…a solid-ass Prussian tank. The Maginot line would’ve stood an even lesser chance against the 5 Series BMW wagon. Ergo...the Mother’s Morning Out queue in Old Town Alexandria was a no-brainer.
Let’s get back to happier talk…the 560 SL genesis. I love the ever so boxy SL Pagodas from the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s. You can find these in price points that range somewhere between what the mid to late 1980’s SLs will cost you and what you’d have to pony-up for much earlier rag top Prussian iterations.
The predecessor convertibles are sculptural works of art. The 190 SLs are about as Prussian Pretty as I’ll ever need to see. Art and God are present and accounted for right here.
And of course there’s a sister creation…the 300 SL Gullwing. Ralph Lauren has one. Jay Leno restored one and if you are interested in gull-winging it; you’d better have a rather thick wallet. 
Thank God for those with silly amounts of money who restore such classic works of art for posterity.
The Gullwing by the way, is back. And you can have one for a couple hundred thousand bucks. But why would you want it? Take that same amount of dosh and invest in a classic. Why? Because other than the legacy rich impractical doors, nothing about this car’s morphology says Mercedes.
Case in point. Hide the Mercedes badge and you’ve got a Lexus. Or maybe it’s an Acura performance buggy. Or whatever. Oh and by the way, the Japanese luxury segment…Acura and Lexus…why? Unless you don’t want to feel anything…unless your goal is to be transported out of the driving experience versus dialing into the Prussian ride…why?
The ten year old ADG didn’t need a second glance when in the back of his mother’s station wagon; he looked over and saw doctor so-and-so sitting in this. It was one of those cool cars…not from around here.
The much older ADG glances at this 2011 aberration and thinks…Lexus? Chrysler? Acura? And then the lamentation begins.
Stop me now if you can posit a sound reason. Why? …because I’m perilously close to pulling the trigger on this cream puff 560 SL. As soon as I finish this story, I'm calling the owner back to arrange an inspection by a recommended Mercedes mechanic. It’s time.

Onward. From South Carolina. Checking in on my feeble mama.

A.D (ieter) G. II; Traveling.


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