Category Archives: Mercedes Benz

10 years ago: Oldsmobile’s chickens came home to roost

Finger lickin' 98

Finger lickin’ good 98

It was ten short years ago that the very last Oldsmobile, an Alero sedan, rolled off the assembly line in Lansing, Michigan. It was in Lansing that Ransom E. Olds started building vehicles in 1897; General Motors absorbed the company in 1908 before which Olds had departed and founded REO,  building cars and trucks that bore his initials.

In 2000, more than four years before that last Olds was built, GM had announced its plan to phase out the brand, a sharp contrast to the comparatively instant deaths of Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer in the wake of the company’s 2009 bankruptcy.

Sharp Cutlass

Sharp Cutlass

Olds had been on a downward spiral since the mid-90s, despite some innovative offerings. That decline followed tremendous success: Olds’ domestic market share was over 5% as recently as 1985 — actually higher than Toyota’s that year.

We offer some Oldsmobiles, captured in the wild, as a tribute to what had been American’s longest running marque.  That distinction has been ceded to Buick which started up in 1899 and, miraculously, survived the infamous GM brand purge of 2009.

First is a 1990 Toronado Troféo: It’s certainly a big come down from the original ’66 streamline moderne-styled Toronado in terms of groundbreaking design. Its front wheel drive technology had become common place by this time so, as is said, “no big whoop.”

This is what a Toronado looked like in 1990

This is what a Toronado looked like in 1990

 

..and here we've been thinking this is the name of some kind of flourless choclate cake.

..and here we’d been thinking it’s the name of some kind of flourless chocolate cake.

Olds dabbled with smaller cars over the years.  Here’s a brazenly badge-engineered ’73 Nova that masquerades as an Olds Omega.  Nobody was fooled at the time but now it’s a nifty left-field leftover from a bygone era.

Omega: NOT a Nova (much)

Omega: NOT a Nova (much)

What about this ’77 Cutlass Supreme?  Does it recall a soda fountain treat or a Motown girl group on any level?

Waterfall grill before the fall

Waterfall grill before the fall

If you want to live really large we suggest an ’86 Custom Cruiser wagon. This particular one commutes regularly between Provincetown, MA and Palm Springs, CA. We think this very merry Oldsmobile in the very embodiment of the “Family Truckster” paradigm.

Wood is good!

Wood is good!

Cutlass was a hit name for Olds, having been launched in 1961 as a bucket seat model of the mid-size F-85.  It soon became its own line and, thereafter,  branched into Cutlass Supreme and Cutlass Ciera sub-models. Their shared root name was just about the only thing the two had in common with Supreme continuing as a traditional rear wheel drive car with Ciera a front wheel drive mid-size line. Here’s a Cutlass Ciera S with international flair.

Flag Day fender bender

Flag Day fender bender

Oldsmobile’s 88, introduced in 1949, was the inspiration for one of rock ‘n’ roll’s first hits:  Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88.”  This ’92 Eighty Eight Royale is one of the last generation of 88s and soldiers on despite some gnarly roof scale.

Eighty Eight is classier if you spell it out

‘Eighty Eight’ is classier if you spell it out

Throwback Thursday special

Throwback Thursday special

At the time of its final demise, only Daimler, Peugeot and Tatra had longer runs in the motorized vehicle business than Olds.  Daimler is still very much with us through Mercedes-Benz and Peugot was just revitalized with a boatload of yuan from China’s Dongfeng Motors. Tatra made  absolutely the hippest behind-the-iron-curtain cars of all time: full Buck Rogers/AstroBoy styling plus a rear-mounted air-cooled V8.  We could go on but note that Tatra still makes huge trucks in the Czech Republic to this day. Olds was GM’s first (of many) sacrificial lambs.  Let’s hope it’s the last.  Did you hear that, Buick?

Fast fade for Olds

Slow fade for Olds

Check out this Toronado commercial from 1966, the first year for the most innovative model ever offered by Olds in the post war era. The spot stars race driver Bobby Unser and, ironically, Shorty Powers, the voice of NASA’s Project Mercury.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

 

In praise of older Mercedes

Pagoda, not Toyota

Pagoda, not Toyota: 1970 280SL

Mercedes Benz has been around, under one name or another, since January 29, 1886 when Karl Benz patented his home-built internal combustion-powered Motorwagen.

Autobahn burner

Autobahn burner:  1971 280SE

In recent years, the company that Benz founded has transcended its roots as a maker of hand built cars to become a mass manufacturer.  This is typified by this year’s launch of the CLA 250, the first front-wheel drive Mercedes to be marketed in the US, the starting price for which is under $30,000. It’s a bargain in Mercedes terms, the cost being just a bit north of top of the line Camrys, Accords and Fusions.

Classy commuter

Classy commuter: 1969 280SE Coupe

In the 50s, 60s and into the 70s, quite a few Mercedes were, if not hand built, hand finished and were priced accordingly.  We took an inventory of some examples that we’ve encountered over the past few months.

Note: Model year designations are approximations as year to year changes were often subtle.  Thanks for your understanding and if you have any corrections to offer, please don’t hold back.                     The Management

A full range of befinned Mercedes sedans, introduced in the 60s, seemed to ape the lines of humble Ramblers of the late 50s; we suspect a lot more  of those Heckflosse (fintails) survive today than do AMC products of the era.  We saw this somewhat neglected example parked on a Palo Alto street.

Das alte Heckflosse

Das alte Heckflosse: 1967 220S

How about this bulbous 190SL roadster we found the other day?  We admit it: we’re suckers for body color matching hubcaps and big fog lights.

Pontoon fender roadster

Pontoon fender cutie: 1959 190SL

Back atcha

Bumperlicious: 1959 190SL

It’s pretty unusual to find a “Pontoon” (after the shape of the fenders) 4 passenger cabriolet these days as the collector market has them going for upwards of $150,000.  The beautiful veneered dashboard and horsehair padded convertible top underscore the craftsmanship that went into making them so special.  That notwithstanding, we did discover one being driven on a late night errand quite recently and parked with the windows rolled down. That’s some real down-home gemütlichkeit!

Cabriolet, not convertible

Cabriolet, not convertible: 1960 220S

Adenauer era fun ride

Adenauer era fun ride: 1960 220S

Special mention should be made of the “Pagoda” style 230 – 250 – 280SL removable hardtop-roadsters built between 1963 and 1971.  The slightly concave hardtop and tall “greenhouse” marks it as one of the most beautiful, delicately styled Mercedes of all time.  Prices are heading for six figures but we know of a few that are used as daily drivers, such as this un-restored example.

Pagoda profile

Pagoda profile: 1970 280SL

On a much larger scale is the 220SE Coupe.  Its sporting affect belies the fact this is a true heavyweight, tipping the scales at 3329 lbs, more than 200 pounds heftier than a 2014 Camry.  The doors do, however, close with a  bank vault-like thunk.

Coupe de Stuttgart

Coupe de Stuttgart: 1969 280SE Coupe

Hightone hardtop

Large scale grace: 1969 280SE

Coupes, cabriolets and roadsters are exciting but even the sedans exude an air of calm, elegant confidence.  We offer this veteran early 70s autobahnstormer as evidence.

Benz rear end

Benz enz: 1969 280SE

Three pointed stare

Three pointed stare: 1960 220SE

Video here from Mercedes Benz Classic Center with lots of Pagoda goodness and an episode of  Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee webseries starring a 1970 280SL and Alec Baldwin (he’s a comedian??)

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benz-o oilers: destined to rule the road for eons

TX-CA commuter car

TX-CA commuters

This is as close to an indestructible car as ever there was.  It’s a 1982 Mercedes Benz 300D, a stolid cruiser, built on the legendary W123 platform. The diesel motor is good for a million or more miles and the body, if minimally cared for, should last into the next century.  Its proud owner is Viviane who has named it “Ms Evelyn.” She has no qualms about driving it back and forth from deep in the heart of Texas to Northern California two, or more, times per year   Ms Evelyn is as stock as possible; the original upholstery is intact, the snappy body color wheel covers and trim rings are clean as a whistle and that period-correct roof rack is nice utilitarian touch.

Benz-0 booty

Benz-0 booty

They made more than one!

They made more than one!

Since these workhorses seem to last forever, it’s likely there’s one lurking right around the corner from you.  We encountered Ms Evelyn in Las Vegas but this one, in a soothing shade of hellblau, was parked just steps away from FeralCars.com headquarters. And, as if to prove the point we’re trying to make about their ubiquity and stamina, we snapped a shot of a dunkelblau example that zipped by just a second or two later.

Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 12.16.18 AM

These long-lasting MBZ diesels also come in a large economy size as with this 300 SD from the middle 1980s that was built on the S Class W126 platform.  Note the biodiesel sticker in the back window.  This goes a long way to explain why this dreadnaught exudes a nice aroma that brings to mind county fair fare found at you-name-it-we’ll-fry-it stands that warrant an extra dose of Lipitor®.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 11.13.52 PM

 

Diesels are, typically, harder to start when it’s cold but this video of a 300 SD starting without problem on a 16ºF (-7ºC) morning after standing all night sounds a clattering note of reassurance.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com  OR through our Facebook page.

Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it the attention it deserves.