Beauty Isn’t Just Skin Deep
Next October will mark my first year with Traveler, my Mercedes-Benz C300. And I’m here to tell you that driving down the road and seeing that cute little three pointed star standing up at the front of my hood is Still magic…
I went to my local camera store (there’s a really good one all too conveniently located just a few blocks down Falls Road from where I live) yesterday morning to buy some ink cartridges for my art room printer. I really need to get going on those wedding photos I took for a relative last month. I was driving Traveler because I also intended to go to the hardware stores out in Cockeysville to get some stuff for the yard work I intended to do this weekend. When I got to the camera store I parked on the street, in front of what looked to my eye, bizarrely, like a Mercedes-Benz pickup truck.
I figured it had to be some guy’s old Mercedes sedan that had been converted into a pickup truck, because while Daimler is one of the world’s biggest truck manufacturers, as far as I know they don’t make small bed pickup trucks. So this thing I was seeing in my rearview mirror had to be a conversion of some sort…
…Well…no. It’s a Toyota Tacoma. It’s owner stuck a Mercedes grill onto it. If you look closely can see the bolts holding it over the Tacoma’s own grill. It fools you though, because of the shape of the Tacoma’s hood. If he’d put a little more work into it, it could be very convincing.
But he’s not an enthusiast. (and I know its owner is a he because I saw him come out of the store shortly after I took these…) He’s just being cute. If he could afford that Tacoma he could afford a decent second hand Mercedes from around the timeframe that grill comes from. And if he’s willing to flutz around with the truck to make it appear to be a Mercedes he could put some effort into working on an older one and getting it running. He just wants the look.
I didn’t buy mine for its a status symbol value. I don’t care about that. I bought it because the way they’re designed and built just takes my breath away, and has ever since I was a teenager. And now that I actually own one, I really regret not buying a used one when I could have afforded it. It might have been more work to maintain, since Mercedes owners typically don’t get off of their cars until they’ve racked up tons of mileage. But it would have been worth it because then I’d have had one to enjoy for more of my life then I have.
There are flashier cars. I was browsing a car enthusiast blog the other day, reading a thread asking which cars had the best interiors. Of course, there were plenty of photos of Bentleys and Rolls Royces in that thread. But I was astonished to see how many people in there actually liked the look of the Cadillacs. Huh?? There were tons of Cadillac photos in that thread. One person posted a shot of the inside of a Maybach. There were several Audi interiors posted. A couple Maseratti. The Maseratti were really nice looking. I didn’t see anyone posting any Mercedes shots. One idiot claimed the Maybach was just a glorified ‘S’ class. Well it isn’t, but if I had the kind of money that buys a Bentley, I’d buy a Barabus tuned ‘S’ class instead.
Yes…in my dreams…I know… But that’s where my head is at with cars. Style takes second place to engineering and craftsmanship. At least British luxury car sumptuousness has real artisanship behind it. The leather is all hand sewn in a Bentley. It takes one skilled craftsman an entire day to do the leather work on just the steering wheel. That’s what your money is buying. Seeing people drooling over a Cadillac interior in the same breath seems grotesque. If we actually put that much effort into the substance of our cars here in the U.S. I wouldn’t mind. But we don’t. That Toyota with the Mercedes grill tacked over its own isn’t all that much different from certain U.S. car models that essentially did the same thing back in the 1970s and 80s…
1975 Mercedes-Benz 240D
1979 Ford Granada
They even gave it a cute little hood ornament. Of course, the Granada wasn’t as expensive as the Mercedes. But even for the money you paid it wasn’t as well made as it could have been. The irony here is that, particularly back in the 1970s, Mercedes styling was considered somewhat stogy…a bit boxy and drab. But by then even your average Ford buyer knew they were solid as bricks. What Ford was trying to there was copy that boxy stogy Mercedes styling a bit…but not too much…as a way of making its buyers think they were getting the engineering of a Mercedes too.
An analogy I like to use is…think of a nice, simple Ikea desk. Simple…basic…functional…not brazenly stylish, but beautiful in its own straightforward way. Now think of that very same desk…but made out of solid mahogany, with mortise-and-tenon joints, and drawers on rails so perfectly fitted and balanced you can open and close them with your little finger and they don’t make a sound when you do. That’s what it feels like driving Traveler. That’s why driving it is still magic. I didn’t buy it to impress anyone. I love to drive. I love exploring the highways. Now I have a car that seems to love it as much as I do. For all its creature comforts Traveler is a rock solid piece of engineering. I have Never owned a car that was as able…and…eager…on the road as this one.
Just yesterday I took a drive to York Pennsylvania and wandered around for a bit with one of my cameras and some black and white film. I’m headed out the door now to go somewhere with that camera again. The price of gasoline has been keeping me from behind the driver’s wheel for too damn long and the weather this weekend is great for photography so I’m out the door. Household chores can wait. And that little three pointed star on my hood leading the way down the road is as magic as the next horizon.