We’re happy to share a true-life tale of two stylish gals who have been very long term pals. Meet guest writer Donna Loren. Is the name familiar? It should because you certainly know her as a frequent featured Shindig performer and for her roles in such feature films as Muscle Beach Party, Bikini Beach, Pajama Party, Beach Blanket Bingo and Sergeant Deadhead. As The Dr. Pepper Girl she got to tell the world about the “Treads, Threads and Treasures” sweepstakes, the grand prize of which was a Mercedes-inspired Excalibur.
Her hit records include “I’m in Love with the Ticket Taker at the Bijou Movie,” “I’m Gonna Be Alright,” “Johnny’s Got Somethin,” “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” “(Remember Me) I’m the One Who Loves You” as well as “Love’s a Secret Weapon,” “Among the Young” and, of course, “It Only Hurts When I Cry.”
Donna sent us a few photos of her 1970 Mercedes Benz 280SE, a car which we’d thought of as very macho, stolid and certainly with a very powerful, almost intimidating, presence. Donna doesn’t quite see it that way in the story she tells about that big bad Benz we so admire. Yes, she’s the original owner = Feral Cars solid gold, a super smash (but not smashed) hit for our readers. We were delighted when Donna provided a detailed and very personal treatise on her continuing relationship with car that’s more of a friend. A friend she calls ‘Betsy.’
Note: we also captured a similar 280SE in the wild so we included shots of that honey into this post; it’s a birds-of-a-feather kind of thing.
Betsy and Me
“I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”, the classic we all love and adore, was not the dream I was having just weeks before a Christmas day in sunny California,1970. I was dreaming of a Mercedes Benz! She was black and red…a hard top coupe, a 280SE. I saw her so clearly, so vividly that when I awoke I told my husband, Lenny, about my dream. He absolutely adores Christmas and so do I and while listening attentively — one of his greatest attributes — we both entered the Christmas spirit and decided to turn my dream into a reality.
Lenny and I had a history with cars. We met in 1967 over an introduction by our mutual friend, Carl Scott. I was 20 years old and the proud owner of a 1967 red corvette convertible, the first purchase I demanded from my parents who controlled my career. $4800.00 cash, paid in full at Schonlaw Chevrolet in Hollywood. I felt incredibly liberated when I drove my first dream car off the show room floor. Actually, I only learned to drive at 19 due to traveling incessantly for Dr Pepper and never really had leisure time for anything other than my career.
When the 1968 Stingray, T-Top Corvette came out I freaked. The lines were so aerodynamic and innovative, I just had to have one! So, I gave my ‘little red’ Corvette to my ‘dad’, who was also my manager and ordered a white exterior, chocolate brown (chocolate being one of my obsessions) leather interior. I recall driving it on the 10 Freeway at midnight at a speed of 110 mph until I felt airborne. Never did that again! Of course, the 10 was so new then it was virtually empty so at the Overland offramp to the Sepulveda Bridge I stepped on it…the only car on the road.
By then, L.W. and I were engaged and planning our wedding. Tragically, only two months after our marriage, in March of 1968, Lenny’s mother passed away, leaving behind many treasures including a Cadillac Eldorado, which I inherited. My grief stricken father-in-law insisted I sell my new Stingray to drive a more safe automobile. The pressure was on and emotions were high so I acquiesced and agreed to accept the inheritance. I drove that ‘boat’ for over a year ..after having our first child, a son, my Joey. That Eldorado was so out of scale for the likes of my 5’3″ stature and an infant child whom I would put in a car bed in the back seat. I remember getting into minor fender bender (no injury) and saying to myself,” No More!”
And then the dream occurred. Thank God for miracles like My Girl Betsy. L.W. and I contacted our business manager, Larry Stern, and told him we were on the quest for a Mercedes Benz hard top; black exterior with red interior. He researched and found one in Alhambra. “Where’s Alhambra?,” we asked ourselves, West Side kids and only traveled east on familiar routes to Hollywood and Burbank. Larry escorted us to the Alhambra Mercedes dealership and there she was: my dream car. Once more, the thrill of driving off the showroom floor in the car of my dreams, literally was indescribably euphoric. Lenny was my passenger and, in our 15 years together, he only sat behind her wheel, maybe, three times.
I called her Betsy from the beginning. She wasn’t just 3000 lbs. of metal, she was a member of my family. Everything from baby buggies to surfboards were part of her serving our family of three beautiful children, Katie, Joey and Anna. One time when Anna was an adolescent, she asked me to pick up some friends of hers. At least one dozen preteens layered themselves like lasagne in Betsy, pressing their derrières against her back windows!
When My Girl celebrated 25 years with me I turned her into a Classic beauty, and painted her Butter. I had already replaced her interior in the 80’s with the parchment color she still has today. The original red carpeting remains, as well as the Becker radio and air conditioner that still works fine, although I rarely use it because I feel a pull on the engine. When my daughter Katie visited me in Hawaii we were driving to Mariposa, a well known eatery at Ala Moana in Honolulu for lunch. Katie’s face was turning red as she waved her arm out of Betsy’s window. “Mom”‘ she exclaimed, “its hotter in here than it is outside.” We broke into hysterics over my eccentricities.
In 1995, Betsy and I moved to Hawaii with my fiancé, Jered Cargman who had been my prom date. In Honolulu, I found a mechanic who loved, adored and owned vintage Mercedes. Betsy now has a new engine , authentic to her model with only 27,000 miles currently. When I had her repainted she was stripped down to the metal and treated for any rust so, to this day, she is in very pristine condition with an abundant history of incarnations.
I am presently living in the high desert where she loves driving on nearly vacant mountain roads. Was it a dream or a vision I had? ..an insight to a new reality for a relationship I have had for 44 years now? Through some hard times I thought I’d have to surrender her and thank God miracles happen so that our beautiful love affair advances into our senior years and that’s the way I intend for it to be til the end of my life…Betsy and Me.
Thanks for the great story about your fast friendship with your BFF from Stuttgtart.
As a treat to Feral Cars readers we offer a recent performance of Donna ripping it up on “Muscle Bustle” from Muscle Beach Party, backed those “Spring Little Cobra” chart busters, The Rip Chords.
It’s not an understatement to suggest that the Mercedes 280SE coupe is, essentially, a hand-built automobile. This means that acquiring one of these rare birds is not, necessarily, a move predicated on a sense of thrift, if you catch our drift. Nonetheless, we’re convinced these will continue to appreciate in value over the coming years so this car is also solid from an investment point of view — not that you’d ever want to dump a cultured, grande dame for a contemporary, plastic-filled model. Here’s one that looks good in nearby West Palm Beach so if you’ve made some extra cash on your paper route and are looking to ride in style this could be the power move.
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.