Coupe de Grace II ….three plus decades later

Carchitecture
VIN: WDBBA25ABB002268
MODEL: MB 380 SLC
MILEAGE: 93,250
s-l1600-3Factory brochure 1981

In April, 1981, an engineer/inventor living in East Grand Rapids, MI, drove to Loeber Motors in Chicago to take delivery on a special order Mercedes Benz 380 SLC coupe.  One of only 3,789 produced from very late 1980 through 1981, the model designation was quite rare, however, adding nothing to the value*.  The MSRP $46,638 at purchase was reduced to $43,000 cash ( = $ 117,850 in 2016 $).

Norman Rautiola selected the coupe for his wife, Kathleen, who drove it 88,500 miles (~ 3000 mi./yr) until it was donated to the Holland, MI Hope Rescue Mission 32 years later.  Always garaged, no pets, non-smoking, the primary miles gained on the fair weather commute between Grand Rapids and the Nartron Corp. HQ in Reed City, MI.

CEO and founder of Nartron, Mr. Rautiola holds > 1400 patents, notably the first keyless entry system for automobiles, and in 1995 Nartron invented the electronic sensory device for touch screen technology.  Listed by Inc. Magazine as a top 50 innovator in the nation, the list of Nartron 1sts is extensive.  Of signifigance to car enthusiasts, many of the patents will be utilized in the inevitable development of the perhaps unwelcome “driverless vehicle”.

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Courtesy JEFF BRODDLE | CADILLAC NEWS©, 10June2008

The Apple I-Phone on the left and the control panel on the right being held by CEO Norman Rautiola have one thing in common: sensing technology pioneered years ago by Reed City’s Nartron Corporation.

As 2nd owner, I found the car to be exceptional, requiring attention to only normal areas of maintenance to drive in “as new”condition;

  • replacement of outer sway bar links, bushings, steering dampener, rubber suspension components
  • Oxygen sensor and idle control unit
  • Radiator hoses and thermostat
  • Precautionary, replacement of OE timing chain tensioner, strengthened timing chain guides, and new chain rails

Adding four Michelin Defenders, aligned and balanced, resulted in a safe, reliable, modestly spirited ride.  The profile is elegant, the 111 inch wheelbase a far more comfortable ride than the 97 inch SL roadster, and much better proportioned.  Although the roadster has the open top panache  (overrated), like ø Miss Piggy, the coupe, with the sun roof open, is like ♥ driving with Marilyn Monroe in shotgun.

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 ↑ 2x click to enlarge

A big plus, the increased length and lowered footwells, allow exceptional room for two additional passengers…think, Helen Mirren and Vanna White.  Backseat comfort, unlike most coupe designs, which are restricted to dwarfs, snot-nosed kids, or double amputees.

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Finished in 473H, “champagne”, the color varies from japanese pewter to gold, depending on the sun.

Note, below, two examples of the short version, which appear rather clumsy with the elongated bumpers.  Ugh, insert a frown face, in both directions, a double yuk.

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Below

  • the burled walnut transmission, hazard, and window lift cluster
  • rear seat with armrest, sumptious pleated cowhide
  • unusual butt-end leather stitching (only year offered) vs. standard piping

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Investment grade, the coupe would only rate a D, however, for driving pleasure at < 12% of the original purchase price, a resounding A for the purist. The coup d’grâce never sleeps, it just needs to be rocked.

 Not for sale

*IN THE U.S.A., 1972-1980, the same coupe wore a 450 SLC badge, and in 1982 it became the 500 SLC.  All three, virtually identical, less minor differences in cubic inch displacement of the V-8 engines. Euro versions were available in six cylinder, however few were imported.

 

©insightout2016

 

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).

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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.

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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

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You know that I would be a liar

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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:

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

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

compare odometer readings:

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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

©insightout2015

 

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.

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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 ?

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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.