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Saturday, June 15th, 2013

Annual Report: Year 1

What's the proper way to celebrate a year of 500 Benz ownership? Well, let me tell you: it starts with having a couple new parts installed, continues with an early dinner at Malibu Seafood, and obviously ends with a drive up some canyon road—preferably one with a little rocky mountain action at the top.

As usual, the parts were elective: a steering damper (Stabilus-Boge, $25) to tighten up steering response, and a fuel pressure regulator (Bosch, $38) to remedy an occasional cold-start "long crank" issue. My man Larry at Westwood Mercedes needed an hour to put them both in, charging me $50 for his time. One of the many things I like about Larry is that he doesn't mind if I hang around and ask dopey questions as he works. I snapped the photo above while he was fighting with a steering-damper bolt up front, and I have to say, that is a pretty attractive 15-year-old exhaust system right there.

Goddamn, look at that German steel. Trendy exposed loft-apartment piping, eat your heart out.

And I love how the beefy dual exhausts terminate in this demure little muffler on the driver side. You can't even see it from the street unless you crouch down. Does the 500 Benz got motor? You bet. But does it feel the need to tell everyone about it? Unlike the current R231 SL, or indeed the R230 SL, the 500 Benz believes this would be in poor taste. It's another way in which the R129 SL is a bridge between Old Mercedes and New Mercedes: it's got the technology and speed of the latter, but its understated character comes very much from the former.

EDIT: On further review, 1998 was the final year for the concealed muffler; the 1999-2002 R129 models got a protuberant tailpipe, among other generally unfortunate changes.

After the aforesaid stop at Malibu Seafood (trust me, get the grilled Alaskan halibut with potato salad and rice pilaf, and make sure each bite involves all three), I figured I'd head up one of the canyons nearby, but when you're driving north on PCH under a late-afternoon almost-summer sun, there's really no choice but to keep going for a while. So I did, and eventually I realized I was approaching Deer Creek Road—a popular destination for automotive photographers and precisely no one else. It's one of those roads that may only be on offer in California: you turn off, squirt through a few uphill turns, and before you know it you're hundreds of feet above the Pacific, guardrail-free, fighting the temptation to look over your shoulder at the ridiculous vista below.

Well, if you go for that sort of thing.

Top of Deer Creek. Got some good ocean for you in the background.

Pretty? Yeah, no—not without the hardtop on, at least. In fact, the 500 Benz looks rather generic from this angle. Take the massive star off the grille and there's really not much to see here. It's the G-Wagen of roadsters.

Not surprisingly, I like that. It's just like the concealed muffler: this was back when Mercedes believed they didn't have to tart up their cars in order to compete. Stoic lines with a star up front—that was Benz's identity in those days. Outside of Rolls-Royce, perhaps, it's hard to think of a contemporary analogue.

If you're thinking the vegetation looks a bit charred, you're right: the Springs Fire had a go at this area last month. There's a private vineyard across the road that's pretty crispy right now.

But seriously, what a spot. mrs500benz would never go for it, but I would be exceptionally content in that house on the hill.

I insist that driving down Deer Creek is one of the more epic things a man can do, even if the 500 Benz isn't exactly in its element up here. "Slow in, slow out" was my mantra through the turns.

I once took an E46 M3—still my all-time favorite car, if I had to choose—into that dirt turnout on the left for a photo shoot, but in deference to the 500 Benz's pristine underbody, I kept driving this time.

A few turns from the bottom, and it still feels like you're halfway up a mountain. But enough about that. Let's wrap this up with some fun 500 Benz facts and projections.

Year 1 Miles (approx.): 11,000 (current odometer: just over 78,000)

Year 1 CELs: one (my fault)

Year 1 Maintenance/Upkeep: Oh, maybe $3,000

Feelings About Said Maintenance/Upkeep: Uniformly positive

Expected Year 2 Miles: 6,000 (mrs500benz's 2000 Honda Civic EX is coming to town)

Expected Year 2 Maintenance/Upkeep: $1,000 (I'll probably elect to do the motor mounts this year, but that's about the only thing left)

Hey, let's see what happens.

posted in: 500Benzlife  Driving Impressions  


or to comment.

June 15th, 2013 | 8:18pm hollywood time | #3

mrs500benz says:

@damurillo & mr500benz,

You two can suck it.

June 15th, 2013 | 6:45pm hollywood time | #2

500benz says:


We hope you're right, but remember, she has been deprived of freedom and natural beauty for five years now. It will take her some time to adjust.


June 15th, 2013 | 6:37pm hollywood time | #1

damurillo says:

mrs500benz needs to expand her vision. a beautiful perch high upon the Malibu hills provides a great vision.

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