Indiana Anatomy vs. Buckeye University

An old Hoosier geography lesson states, “North Vernon is in southern Indiana, South Bend is in northern Indiana, and French Lick isn’t all it’s cracked up to be”.

So I’m off to PUB 2015, ‘Pagoda University, Blacklick’, an unlikely burg east of Columbus, Ohio, to share owner experience with a peculiar group of devotees to a car produced, briefly, from 44 to 51 years ago.

In 1981, an internal urge, i.e., delirium, resulted in the purchase of an aging two-seat roadster, a 1971 Mercedes 280SL.  With an active business and two pre-teens, calling this impractical would be an upgrade.  Thirty-four years later, the “pagoda”, so named for its reverse parabolic roofline, remains in our stable, running like a ‘schweizer uhren’ (swiss watch).


The group, known by its chassis designation, W113, is an internet fraternity bonded in the digital universe.  Aside from 27 states represented, there are 11 Canadians (Ont, Que, Manitoba, New Brunswick), two Australians, a Swede, Frenchman, and a Dominican, all of whom have ‘met’, online, through the club forum and now transformed into a band of brothers.

The unlikely meeting place, the shop of one Joe Alexander, a mechanical guru, personable yet unrefined, with two bad knees.  His milieu, two acres of shop surrounded by a jungle of cadaver cars, oxidizing under the watchful eyes of cannibals.  And poison ivy.

DSCN3385 DSCN3386


Few people knew that Jim Morrison named his rock group, The Doors, and wrote the lyrics to “Light My Fire” * in 1965 while under the effect of cannabis grown in Joe Alexander’s boneyard.  The evidence below:

You know that it would be untrue


You know that I would be a liar


Attractive rumps on a damp day

Come on baby, light my fire

While the cars are the magnet, they are inorganic.  They are arbitrarily assigned name, gender, and personality when none exist.  They do not suffer headaches, menstrual cramps, or bi-polar disorders and cold shower alert, they don’t know you own them.

The glue in this endeavor, an array of disparate individuals sharing a common passion.  Below, one Stephen B., a retired U.S. Army Colonel, wiping his near perfect example with a turkish towel.  The more he wiped the car, the cleaner the towel became:


A PhD in mechanical engineering, from Quebec,  Inna S., articulate advocate of higher learning:


Below, Rolf D. (333miles, London,Ontario), Johan W. (3333 miles, Gothenburg, Sweden)

compare odometer readings:


Come on baby, light my fire

Many too numerous to mention:

  • An accomplished oil painter, nearly anonymous in the crowd, with a handsome collection of cars cloaked in his loft
  • A state department diplomat (ret.) with an exquisite eye for detail, a Rosetta stone memory
  • Radiologist, used to viewing negatives, with a 15 year restoration in progress; a decade away from conclusion
  • A clothing executive (ret.), sharing this experience with his hometown friend and barber…a drag racer of renown
  • 14 y/o Jacob, a grandson, who may carry the pagoda torch into the next generation
  • Former POW, Hoa Lo prison (aka Hanoi Hilton) USAF pilot and parachutist, whose identity shall remain private

A most memorable moment, sitting on the patio after a delicious Sat. evening dinner, watching the sunset over the Columbus skyline, in the company of three German émigrés discussing the homeland;

  • Rolf D, Canada, struggling over his wife’s declining health
  • Gernold N,  Arundel, Maine, mechanikermeister, born near the French/Belgian border
  • Urban J, Duluth MN, recently widowed, a transplant from Dusseldorf

The wine, average, the conversation was not, as the latter two enjoyed fine cigars of Cuban heritage.

Doesn’t get much better than this……..Blacklick trumps French Lick.

    Try to set the night on fire    


* ‘Light My Fire’ lyrics, courtesy Manzarek/Rothschild Production



Oh, little town of ………….

A requisite tour of the America on Wheels museum in Bethlehem, PA. featured a lunch prepared by nearby Catasauqua, PA “Cathy’s Creative Catering Café’, a business suffering from an overdose of “C”s. Delicious food, however, maybe a vowel from Pat and Vanna is in Cathy’s future.


graphite and ivory 190Sls (1955-1963) in the shadow of the Bethlehem Steel blast furnace (1857-2003) on a 95℉ day

The planned afternoon activity, covered bridges, Rodale organic farm and picnic in Kutztown, PA., exceeded my tolerance. A hot 55 y/o roadster, sweltering heat, humidity, and intense traffic delays melted my enthusiasm, so under the heading, full disclosure; I bolted.

IMG_6116  So cute, even those little piggies

IMG_4132  kiss me, I’m organic

This little piggy may go to market, but my little piggy is going whee, whee, all the way to home to Easton, PA.

Yes, I broke rank. Sorry, the criminal equivalent of automotive treason, punishable by two years on a home-detention ankle monitor, and one conjugal garage visit per month.  Harsh, yes, but the benefits of compost and recycled manure are far less interesting than an unscheduled visit to (hold onto your silly putty ®)………

The Crayola ® Experience; from their brochure, a one-of-a-kind attraction where color, chemistry, and technology magically combine to create a colorful adventure for a child’ s imagination.

The Binney & Smith museum, located in downtown Easton, PA was on my bucket list; the bonus, it was blissfully air-conditioned. Teeming with 4 to 8 y/o future graffiti artists, many of whom had skipped today’s Ritalin dose, I dove right in as if still in Miss Markwalder’s first grade class, Gary, IN, the Wallace School, 1946.

Much like the Hershey Museum, or Kellogg’s watching Fruit Loop production, the Spam Museum in Austin, MN; all destinations that parallel the 190SL fantasy, deceiving oneself as being forever young. Where else will you see the world’s largest Crayon ?



Next stop, Hackettstown, NJ, home to the Mars production facility.  No longer open to public tours, I’m playing the Charles Kuralt card in an attempt to finagle a writer’s pass to….drum roll…..the m&m plant.

M&M_spokescandiesonly 4.7 calories each.


Wish me luck.

Fall Touring, Middle America

dateline: South Bend, IN
0701 hrs EST, 11Oct2014

Alert: contains no Airstream reference; low in calories

Romeo (aka David) and Juliet,

The weather rarely cooperates but that never dampens the spirits of the many attendees.
……or the charming host family.

Appears you were snakebit again by the iffy fall weather on 4Oct2014. As long as the pizza was hot, the brews cold, and the pumpkins ripe enough to bake a pie, who cares. Today, one week later, it will probably be clear, a glorious fall day at the peak of autumn color.

I opted to attend the French Lick concours, also s#itty weather, an o.k. event, but somewhat starchy and a return visit….doubtful. Mostly rich white folks, somewhat cliquish, several regulars on the Amelia, Meadowbrook, Pebble glamour circuit, where it’s proper to wear a blazer, a white panama + have people (staff) to trailer your car(s), prep them, then return home without a single soiled owner fingernail, so help me Maybelline.

Some interesting and rare iron, however, the featured marquee was Shelby Cobra. Really, after looking at 20 white with the two blue stripes, chromed rollbars, some real, some “signed” by Carroll, some ‘re-creations’, mustang varieties; all I could do was look in the mirror and spell nway backwards.

I did meet up with a new 300SL friend, Phil Brown from Oak Brook, IL and rode shotgun as his navigator on the Sat. rally. He bought his car in 1971 when he was 17 y/o…hammered it like a threepenny nail until 2004, then had it restored to 95+ point by Rudi Koniczek in Victoria BC. The color scheme has the “wow” factor.

The 100+ mile drive through the rural southern Indiana hills was exhilarating. Two upscale private collections* made nice stops.

Sandwiched by a retro T-Bird and Mustang,
Stalked by a drone

Phil drives (doesn’t trailer) and isn’t fearful of having fun, so he would never win crystal on Sunday. Translation: his dirt wasn’t as attractive as the others dirt. A good guy, very knowledgeable, with an interesting garage of euro cars.

Bottom line: the 1st Sat in Oct. will be reserved for Fennville in the future.



Phil Brown, a 60 y/o, serious cancer survivor, behind the wheel of his 1957 roadster



Our ‘rare’ 1981 380SLC juxtaposed with PB’s common 198 chassis. Sadly, the canary with dark green rag-top on the right is worth 2X the gorgeous closed coupe on the left ?…NO…20X….?..NO…try 200X. Life, like the weather, is often unfair.

⬇⬆ The ‘people’s choice’ on the highway went to this 114 chassis, a 1972 220D sedan spotted in Paoli, IN. Featuring seborrhea dermatitis in the popular ferric oxide shade, all original.

Optioned with dandruff and the desirable sun roof and; think of it as dandroof. Get out the Selsun® Maroon

*© WDRB, Louisville,KY