This horror in dark blue was purchased from a trader in conditions of falling light and hissy mist: a cardinal error that even a ingenue of a trainee cleric wouldn't make. "What a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away", as the Doobie Brothers so rightly proclaimed. I had wanted a black one for ages and this seemed close enough; that was my wacky rationale. Plus it was one of the last of its kind, being birthed by the Great She-Elephant Mercedes factory back in the long ago of 1991, so ought to have been freer, when new, of the faults of earlier models with manufacturers continuing to improve vehicles through their production life. Emphasis on "when new."
She was an ex-demonstrator that was purchased by the previous owner at one year old. Like a sentimental fool I presumed an effectively one owner car would have been well maintained throughout its life. There was little in the way of receipts, but there was a replacement service book, retro-stamped by a Mercedes dealer according to their computerised service records, such as they were.
The damnest thing is it drove beautifully smoothly when I took it for a test drive. What could have happened in the intervening period? Was the ghost of Stephen King's Christine inhabiting this Benz?
In the sunlight of the next day, post purchase, it was apparent the car was not pristine. The chromework around the windows was cloudier than Kilmanjaro on a bad day and the lacquer was lifting like Marilyn's Seven Year Itch skirt in a gale. Perhaps the previous owners had left it outside and the acid rain/UV light had worked their foul voodoo? Maybe he'd used washing-up liquid laced with nuclear waste instead of traditional shampoos?
Although handsome from 20 feet away with an absolutely lovely and new- smelling beige leather interior, the engine and exhaust had seen much, much better days. It smoked like a nervous 30s Hollywood starlet accused of atrocities, being interrogated by a time-travelling and befuddled Spanish Inquisition. Once, on a miserably wet-wreathed winter afternoon at a red light as they changed to green, I blipped the accelerator to leave the motorist behind covered in more plumes of grey than a luckless atoll in the 1950s atomic tests. The guy obliterated his horn in protest and I felt both shame and satisfaction in inculcating him to the mysteries of the Brotherhood of Badly Botched V8s.
The exhaust had more patches than a fleet of pirates, but still the holes multiplied like bacteria on a rancid mutt. The sound was throatier than the child of Bonnie Tyler and Jimmy Durante. It totally eclipsed the modern electric dust carts that others chose as transport.
This car was thirstier than Oliver Reed in the Gobi desert consuming 10kg packets of salt. It averaged a laughable single figure MPG that made me weep at the petrol pump, but on the plus side my collection of Shell customer points was certainly unrivalled. Rear passengers would complain they could smell petrol. Of course they could! It was a 20 gallon tank and moored to service stations!
When I tried to sell it, I encountered the most annoying of purchaser types: the Clued-up Tight Wad Who Continues His Investigations Into The Vehicle's Ill Health For An Hour After He's Decided It's Utter Junk. That character must have cost me £30 in fuel alone, as it inefficiently pootled in Park mode, but, to its credit, it never overheated. He detected more faults than an OCD Wimbledon line judge. He noted the air vents in the dashboard were busted since they still operated when they were meant to be closed. "Losing! Losing!" he opined as he pointed to the offending vents in his broken English. He incredulously watched the idling engine falter and hesitate like a terrified horse at the Grand National's Becher's Brook jump: "You 500! Why you shake?!" he asked, although the Mercedes only belched black smoke as if rising to an apology.
I bought her for £3250 and spent about £2000 trying to make her merely awful, including £350 on an AC service. It was eventually sold for £2000. As I watched her go, I didn't realise I'd left a high quality portable Sat Nav system in the glovebox (never returned). It was almost the final insult. The purchaser was a trader who sold it on for nearer £4000. That was a few years ago. I subsequently saw it advertised privately somewhere in the distant north of England where it quickly sold again. The vendor claimed the paint was "gleaming" plus it drove "beautifully". I double-checked the licence plate to be sure it was the same car. Was this teutonic Christine up to her old tricks?
Maybe one day I'll buy her again, mustering a smile for my nostalgic tale.