May 15, 2008

OG AMG Mercedes Benzes Laying Down Black Stripes Across My Breaking Heart


In case you haven't guessed, all these years of station wagon smacktalk are really just about me trying to alternately psych myself into or talk myself out of getting an actual family car. Or maybe it's a friend car? Because as long as we don't take anyone with us anywhere, our family still fits fine in our beloved and increasingly impractical 1985 Mercedes 300CD coupe.


For the amount of money we pour into it each year, we could probably be pulling up to the preschool pickup line in a new E-Class or Volvo XC70 like everyone else. But then, of course, we'd be pulling up in a car like everyone else. And so we cruise along in our slightly odd but truly awesome old car, which is really all the car we need, anyway. Plus, it gets like 30mpg, and the particulates the diesel emits help thicken the atmosphere, which blocks global warming [right?]


But now it turns out expensive, loving care, Cheerios dust, and the occasional Pampers [size 3, which has the nicest ratio of surface area-to-superabsorbing polymer granules] stuck under the rear floormat to absorb the unsourceable leak are no longer enough. The spring tuneup found spots of rust in the floor and wheel wells, the visible tip of a no doubt larger rustberg that can't be ignored. If this beautiful old car is going to make it to 500,000 miles as anything but a string of eBay auctions, it's going to need a real repair/restoration. Which means crazy, illogical money, sure, but also time, which means significant time off the road.

Whether we decide to double down triple down and restore it ourselves; mothball it until I somehow end up with a garage workshop of my own, 40 extra hours of free time, and the ability to do anything more than change a fuse; sell the car to some vegetable oil-cadging hippie; or give it to one of the young, single Mercedes fanbois who work in our garage; we're going to need another car. One that presumably doesn't require more coddling and patience than both our kids combined.


Which means this is a really, really awful time to find out that AMG actually made tuned versions of our classic [i.e., dowdy] W123-chassis Mercedes. I'd always figured the sports tuning AMG's didn't really kick in until the late 1980's. And though I now know that AMG--A and M were both Mercedes engineers who left to set up an aftermarket tuning shop in G that has since been wholly acquired by Mercedes--began by making a racing version of the utterly awesome 300SEL 6.3 in the 1969, I had no idea they touched the W123's.

But sure enough, they'd blackmatte the chrome, leather-line the dash, and add ground effects and tuning enhancements to any Mercedes you brought them. And they also created their own insane signature sports versions like the AMG 500CE, stuffed with a 5-liter V-8, and the AMG 280TE station wagon. After finding these last night, I'm now comfortable with the idea of not needing an AMG W123. But not becase of the ridiculous rarity of intact cars, nor the near impossibility of finding vintage AMG parts. It's the idea of looking like a two-bit Ukranian gangster. But just look at those tires...

Awesome: Various AMG W123's photo gallery [ via]
scans, photos, brochures, and discussion of the AMG W123's []
Crazy 2+yr homebrewed Mercedes coupe V8 conversion tale [mbca]


It's hard to overstate how hot Russian (NOT Ukranian) Gangster steez are right now, and that means one of the big German sedans...Think Bourne Supremacy/ tint...S Class Merc or 7 Series Bimmer...If 2.0 is your last iteration of life giving, you'll all fit comfortably for decades. They've both got massive trunks, and you get a matching gun-metal roof rack for driving vacations...

[i was thinking of Bourne, too, actually. Or Ronin, but of course, that was a stock 450 SEL 6.9... The Ukrainian reference is to this AMG 500CE tribute restoration in Ukraine, which is amazing, but kind of gangsterish. -ed.]

You still have the 2CV in storage? It's got four seats. Bring that over and run it while you restore the Merc. Problem solved!

[solved, compounded, same thing. Maybe I could swap the front ends and put'em on eBay -ed.]

...and if you get the AMG, it can figure prominently on your

[Or New Jersey-style, like this one -ed.]

Russian Gangster is so hot in Jersey right now:
'96 750il fo cheap:
all 12 cylinders are presumed included w/this sale

[you're having a lot of fun with this, aren't you, Gerhard? If you have any connections in .DE for getting an AMG wagon, we should talk. -ed.]

We didn't have an AMG, but we did have a brown 1979 300CD and my-oh-my was it a wonderful car. Did LA to NC and back in that with my family and it never missed a beat. Shame yours is dying off, but having owned an '81 300D, I know from the expense. Good luck!

On a serious note, you should just get a used Audi A8L. All wheel drive and a cavernous back seat area so the kidlets won't be kicking your seat or encroaching into each other's territory during long drives.

[it's definitely on the list, along with the A6 Avant and the E320 CDI. And the 1st gen Scion xB with a decent interior and a Jetta TDI wagon for when we chuck it all and go into stealth mode. So we're a bit all over the map at the moment, but 30+mpg is a weighty factor. maybe I'll do an elimination bracket on the site... -ed.]

Ooh, I'll do a shout-out for the first gen Scion Xb. I've had one for the past 2.5 years and it is awesome. We only have one kiddo, but it fits the carseat and two adults pretty comfortably in the backseat. Also great for lugging lots of crap back from IKEA and the MPG can't be beat. Or the price for that matter.

{what would you change about it, after 2.5 years with it? -ed.]

Evidently, I am having fun with this.

While my Deutschland connections have all gone deep cover, you'll only have to go as far as Larchmont to score an E-AMG wagon...

If you really wanted to play up the int'l espionage angle, there's another available in Annapolis (ok, Bethesda - but still):

Someone will have to contact the Harmony Ball Co. to commission the matching hematite trucknutz.


Even though I drive a Subie Forester XT (luv that turbo), the price of premium keeps going up. In Cap. Hill, I see more and more Mazda 5s. It's got good gas mileage, twin sliding doors and 2x2x2 seating so you can even carpool with it. The Mazda will not win any races (or beauty pageants for that matter) like an AMG. However, it's about the only Japanese-style tall wagon w/ 3rd row we've got here in the US. I know that the Honda Stream coming in a year, but I've heard rumors that they're not importing the model with the 3rd row. It's a shame. Considering American's rediscovery of fuel efficiency, Honda would make a killing. But they'd also likely eat into their Odyssey sales.

[I've heard the same thing about the Stream. And I like several of the Madas, the 3, 5, and 6. If the m5 were a little funkier somehow, I'd be sold. -ed.]

I've pretty much narrowed my choices down to the Jetta Sportwagen TDI or... well, that's it. I love that car after sitting in it again at the auto show here. The interior looked better in black than the tan one on the "Golf Variant" version at the Tokyo Motor Show...

(Actually to be honest, I only sat in the passenger seat; my daughter wanted to "drive". I think she's sold on it too... )

If a crazy wave of thriftiness hits me though, I may actually look at the Hyundai Elantra Touring when it hits Canada this summer... that's a pretty cool little hatchback for less than $20k...

I have to say, if you're considering the xB, I'd look at the new one. MUCH safer than the old version, which made the interior roomier by pulling all the battening out of the doors. Death-can, to be sure. Also, the old one was extremely lightweight. The new one has added width and heft and feels like a much more solid ride. It's also a little faster.

That said, we're probably going to be buying an Elantra, as it gets much better gas mileage. But my God it's boring.

I've got a 1985 280 TE AMG for sale. I'm the 2nd owner. Anybody interested? Also have a 1985 500 SEL AMG.

Sorry I didn't include my #'s. 760-580-4653

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