Monday, August 8th, 2016
It's been a while, hasn't it, which is fine. Just means it's going to take us a while to catch up.
One odd thing about this post is that I'm writing it in August 2016, but the photos and events span from November 2014 to December 2015. Just want to put that out there before we get too deep.
Given that this shot's from 11/27/14, I'm not sure what to tell you, other than that it's out near Point Dume somewhere, heading south of course, and I took the 500 Benz on that PCH drive as often as was reasonably possible. (Note the foreshadowing there. Portentous!)
Back in the Freelance Era (note further foreshadowing), I had a chance to take a 2015 Mercedes-Benz C400 for a spin up Glendora Mountain Road. It was fast in that forgettable modern-turbo kind of way. Handled every corner I threw it at, but the visceral engagement was meh. So it goes these days. I haven't sampled the C450 AMG, which replaced the C400 after a single year of production. It promises to be somewhat saucier (and is now known as the C43 after its own one-year run, if I've got all of this straight).
Taken at the top of Glendora Mountain Road, which ranks right up there, if you're wondering. Just takes hella long to get there from the Westo Sido.
'Round about this time, AutoTrader kindly entrusted a Lexus RX350 to me as a long-term test vehicle. In this case I parked it at the airport. Can't honestly remember where I was going.
Now this trip I remember—Rancho San Marcos with the regulars, i.e. Phil and mercedesmark. An outstanding course with very limited watering capabilities. After some rain, it's one of the best courses in California. Otherwise, it's watered greens surrounded by parched grass baked to a grayish tan.
This was April 2015. Enough rain to make it pretty and playable. The hole is #12, if I'm not mistaken, an uphill par 5 with all sorts of action.
Here's another RX350-powered golf trip, this time to Oak Quarry out in the Inland Empire. That's mercedesmark doing his best "perfect golf swing" impression. We liked this course. It's just far.
I somehow stuffed this 7-iron to about 6 feet and made birdie. I don't remember any other highlights on my part, so you might be looking at the only one.
I promise this website is still about the 500 Benz. Just gotta get through about eight more unrelated photos first. In this instance, I had accompanied mrs500benz to Palm Springs for an education conference of some sort, and I read that a breakfast place called Cheeky's offered a bacon tasting flight. I said cool, let's do it.
Back on topic for a moment, I spotted this post-facelift ('99-02) SL500 with all manner of grille badges in a Palm Springs grocery-store parking lot. It was about 105 degrees, but whatever; the owner left the top down. That's the spirit.
Not long after that trip, I drove the RX350 back to the desert, this time to Joshua Tree. An East Coast friend had a conference in the area. She wanted to do some hiking. What's a freelance journalist with a long-term Lexus going to say to that?
The RX reeked of reliability, by the way, but otherwise I didn't really get the appeal. It was a big, heavy Camry V6 hatchback. But have you seen the resale values on these things?! I'm not convinced they depreciate at all. Shows what I know.
Always plenty of worthwhile scenery out that way.
Much hiking has been conducted since 2014. This is the start of the M*A*S*H hike off Mulholland.
Getting back to the foreshadowing, Edmunds brought me back on staff as of May 2015, and this was the trip we took to Santa Ynez wine country right before I started. That's one of the two Foxen tasting rooms in the background. It was in Sideways, by the by.
Fess Parker's out there too. The guy who played Davy Crockett.
The 500 Benz chilled in downtown Los Olivos while we got sandwiches. Unable to conceal their desire, these guys were transfixed.
Los Olivos is quaint as can be, and it's also the closest town to Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. They flew the flag at half mast when MJ died; we passed through around then. I may have mentioned this.
Photo date says 5/16/15. The Benz was getting up there in miles by roadster standards. I was having frequent thoughts about selling it. The R129 doesn't seem like the kind of car you want to keep past 100,000 miles unless you've got a truly excellent example. I wasn't convinced mine passed that test.
It dug its new home, though. No more deranged parking neighbors bashing their RAV4 doors into the Benz's rear quarter panel. From here on out, it would be based two levels below the street in a controlled-access office garage. That orange Jag F-Type R was part of the Edmunds long-term fleet at the time. You might not fully understand fast until you've driven one of those.
Black plates! I was all over these bad boys as soon as I heard the DMV would be bringing them out. As you're well aware if you live in California, so was like half of California. Didn't take long for me to realize that I had jumped on a very large bandwagon. Oh well. They looked good anyway.
Obviously an aesthetic improvement, "authenticity" (what is it, anyway?) be damned.
Here the 500 Benz rests across from the Red Leprechaun in Long Beach, counting the days until its departure. I didn't know, but I'm sure it did.
There were countless sunset drives like this, back to L.A. from Long Beach after golf. Top down, music up, full-throttling the M119 (what glorious noises it made) at every reasonable opportunity. Not too many cars can make the commute itself such a memorable experience.
I passed 90k shortly before visiting a college friend in Chicago in August 2015. Yeah, time to sell it. I could still claim "low miles" in the ad at this point. Once you hit six digits, that's out the window.
Parked at the airport for the Chicago trip. Against the wall by itself, of course. Door-ding proof. That's why you park at Hilton LAX.
Obligatory deep-dish shot. Lou Malnati's. Not that great. Incidentally, the Chicago Diet is not one I would recommend for losing weight.
Back on West Coast time, here's a Mercedes-AMG GT S on possibly the best road in the universe, the 33 North from Ojai. I occasionally get to drive stuff like this now that my access to the Edmunds garage has been restored. It's a treat, but there's still a certain je ne sais quoi about Benz's older cars. Yeah, the GT S was absurdly fast and sticky, but did I come away wanting one? Not really. It rode too hard, and it was trying too hard to be a 911.
I took some photos nonetheless.
There's a guy at the Recreation Park golf course in Long Beach who drives an R129 SL500, an early one (technically a 500SL), maybe 1992-ish. I've never met him. His car is lowered on some AMG-type rims and always has the hardtop on. It looks well-loved. For some reason I focused on my taillight.
There's a better shot. Makes my soft-top and standard wheels look decidedly dainty.
Man, mercedesmark found himself a sweet Porsche 944 S2 during this stretch. He only had it for a handful of months, but I got to drive it and it was outstanding. I've always wanted a 944. Not sure I'd ever pull the trigger on one, but I do believe the S2 is the one to have.
Just another big-power sports car on the 33 North. The new Corvette Z06 is insane. That covers that.
Can't get enough of what Foxen's got. Here mrs500benz exults in the fact that we finally arrived.
That's what the drought looked like in the Santa Ynez area on 11/11/15. What's most remarkable, I find, is that a little rain over the winter brings the green right back. It's always ready, no matter how dire things may appear.
The whole Edmunds Yugo thing happened in here somewhere. It was...a thing. Believe it or not, I never thought I'd be taking a photo of the 500 Benz's front end from the driver seat of a 1989 Yugo GVL. Let alone one with an American-flag toothpick stuck in the dash.
We took a Tacoma to Sequoia National Park literally a week after we took that Mini JCW to Santa Ynez, and it snowed. A bunch. I hadn't really driven in snow in about 10 years, even though I grew up with the stuff. It was a revelation.
Seriously one of the most memorable drives I've had since moving to California. Snow is fun when you usually don't have deal with it.
Ah, one last trip to Malibu in the 500 Benz. This is off Schueren Rd, high above PCH. If you look closely between the headrests on the dash, you can see the moderately warped vinyl above the dash-top compartment. It's a relatively common R129 affliction, but I've seen enough specimens without it to know that the 500 Benz was simply parked in the sun too often by a previous steward. It bugged me every time I drove the car. Not gonna lie.
One more for posterity. Despite the R129's reputation for fearsome complexity—"over-engineering," as we say in the trade—I came to think of the 500 as a car you just hop in and drive somewhere. All it ever did was start right up and take me places, with a bottomless reservoir of power. I would honestly have zero qualms about keeping a special M119 SL500 past 200,000 miles, let alone 100,000. It's just that this particular 500 Benz, in the final analysis, wasn't quite special enough.
Which meant it was time to start looking for a replacement.
More on that directly.
Welcome, new Benzito!
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