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Would You Put a Moustache on the Mona Lisa?

Would You Put a Moustache on the Mona Lisa?

A woman's perspective of living with and loving a Mercedes-Benz Maniac

Authored by our own Bonnie Fancy.

Reprinted with permission from The Star Magazine. May / June 2010 Issue.


Most of the Mercedes Maniacs I know are purists. They want their classic or antique car restored to as close to the original as possible. They admire the engineering and design of their Mercedes. They find the old AM radios sufficient. The interiors are perfect. There is just the right amount of chrome. To the Mercedes Maniac, even the original colors are perfect. If they must change the color they will choose one that was available for that model. Everything must be original. Nothing should be customized. To do so would be like drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa.

The current trend toward chopping, customizing and generally pimping up the car might be okay for a non-Mercedes, but even that offends the purists among us. Ernie and I were attending a generic car show at the Fitchburg Airport when we came across the black Mercedes that was considerably lower than it was originally meant to be. It looked weird, to say the least.

At the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale this year there was a 1955 Chevy Custom Pick-up with a Mercedes Benz engine and drive train in it. The instrument panel was also from a Mercedes as were the wheels. One of the announcers suggested that somewhere there is a Mercedes with a small block Chevy engine in it. This may be why it rained so much in Scottsdale this year. Even the sky was crying at the thought of such desecration.

Recently West Coast Customs did a S550 Mercedes for the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) show. When the car was finished, it was an eye-catching vehicle. It just wasn't a Mercedes.

Selling highly customized cars is also problematic. You have to find a buyer with taste similar to yours in order to get what you put into it. No, I just don't get it.

But that got me thinking. What about having a modified class at our next concours d'elegance? I can just picture it. Someone could show a ponton with a flame job on the front and fenders and a huge air scoop sticking out of the hood. It could compete with other non-standard paint jobs, such as gull wings with feathers painted on the doors, and eyes painted around the head lights or pagodas with pin stripes.

Then there are engines. An innocuous looking 300D becomes a monster when the hood is popped and there sits a V12 gasoline engine with all the trimmings. A Chevrolet V-12 might work, if you have a shoe horn big enough for the job.

Headers and anything else to make the car louder will certainly draw attention, at least as it drives onto the field. And let's not forget the stereos. Huge sub woofers buried in the trunk next to an even huger amplifier. The obligatory music for this is anything with a lot of percussion. If this doesn't make the driver deaf, then he already is.

The interior of this car will be zebra striped leather with a computer in the console and even more speakers. The dark red paisley head liner would make an interesting contrast to the upholstery. There would be LED lights along the exterior roof line and an air brushed eagle on the trunk lid. This would be so rad; it would attract all kinds of attention. Some of it might even be positive.

We could have a competition as to who could make their car bounce the highest. I think this has to do with hydraulics. A lighter weight car such as an SL would probably win over a big 300, so we may have to divide the competition into several classes.

A class for Monster Uni-Mogs might be interesting. All the owners would have to do is install huge springs and shocks and the wheels and tires from a semi and they'd be in business. We could line up a bunch of non-Mercedes and have a driving event in which the drivers of the raised Uni-Mogs would drive over the line of cars, non-Mercedes of course.

On second thought, maybe we should stick with what we are doing. All of our judges know the criteria for judging a car based on originality and quality of restoration. How would they judge a pimped up car? What criteria would be used? Then there is the club mandate to consider. The Mercedes Benz Club of North America exists to promote an interest in the Mercedes Benz automobile as it is manufactured. To include modified cars would go against this mandate. If that weren't bad enough, think of Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler rolling in their graves

While including modified cars would attract visitors to the show, I would bet, and keep in mind I'm a Scotch Yankee who only bets on sure things, that our members would stay away in droves. They want the car as it was manufactured. To change it would be like painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa.

I am a dog lover which doesn't mix well with Ernie's passion for Mercedes. It took me a while to convince him we needed a dog. Yes, “need”, if we can “need” a third and a fourth car, then we can “need” a dog.

Max, our first dog was a Heinz 57 with a bit of collie in him. He was not interested in the cars and tended to avoid them. He did serve as a good excuse as to why my car got returned with an empty gas tank. “Max did it, Mom. He took your car after I did, but it's okay; he has a license.” Several years after Max died; I got our present dog, Piper, a border collie. If ever a dog could be said to be a Mercedes Maniac, it's this one. We have to spell “car”, “ride” and recently “garage.”

The first rule Ernie came up with was “the dog will not ride in my car”. That didn't last very long. Now they run errands together on Saturdays, and the rule was amended to “the dog will not ride in any of the antique or classic cars, especially the Mercedes.”

That didn't last long either. Ernie was ready to put the Fairlane convertible in the back garage after it had been in a parade when Piper decided a ride was in order and hopped in. I wish I had taken a picture of Piper riding in the back seat as if he were some sort of executive and Ernie the chauffeur. It's only a matter of time before there is tell tale dog hair in the back seat of the Mercedes.

Other people are also adamant about dogs in certain cars. John Piekarczyk's dog Jack has never ridden in anything but a Mercedes, but even he isn't allowed in John's show car, a 560 sec.

There is a certain amount of logic in this. Dog hair in the car is a deduction at a concours. Dog hair is very hard to get up. A blanket in the back seat isn't much of a help. Dogs tend to rearrange these things to their liking, which means some of the upholstery gets exposed not only to dog hair, but to claws. Dog hair flies and settles on the back of the front seat, the floor and any place else in the interior. It is also accompanied by a distinctive doggy odor. I've tried to teach Piper how to use the vacuum, but he refuses—something about no opposable thumbs.

In general, dogs are not necessarily good at a concours. Male dogs like to mark their territory by urinating on things, especially freshly Armoralled tires. At certain times female dogs will attract every male for miles around. All dogs will do their business whenever and wherever the spirit moves them. This does not add to the pleasure of an event, especially if you are the one who steps in it. Usually I work on the concours, so I'd rather not have to stop to clean up after Piper. Since he won't clean up after himself (it's that no opposable thumbs thing again), he stays home with his friend Jenny, who takes him for rides in her car.

Although he would probably enjoy rallies, I've never taken Piper on one. Most rallies that we do end at a restaurant, and I'm reluctant to leave a dog in a parked car, especially in the spring and summer when the interior temperature can get up over 100 degrees in no time flat even with the windows slightly open. Chuck and Char Swanson bring their dog to Farberrallye every year. Gustav is large and stays at the hotel while the rally is going on. He is calm and friendly and no one seems to mind his presence. In fact he is a welcome addition. Piper is too lively to keep in a hotel room. He would tear it apart. You have to know your dog's limits and be realistic about bringing him along.

Piper finds Ernie's workshop/garage fascinating, unless it's too noisy. Just the sight of Ernie near the grinder will send Piper on a visit to the neighbors or further. When Piper is at the garage, Ernie has to be sure to put interesting things up out of doggy reach. Various automotive fluids, such as transmission fluid, windshield washer fluid, and antifreeze smell inviting to a dog. They are also lethal. Piper has his own bowl at the garage and Ernie keeps it full of fresh water.

Another problem area is chewing. Young dogs who are still teething will chew on anything hard including wooden dashboard trim. These things should be up out of harm's way. Chewing them can be hazardous not only to the item in question but also to the dog and not just because the finishes might be poisonous. The reaction of the car's owner might also be hazardous to the dog.

Moving cars around the yard can be risky. Piper insists on herding anything that moves and isn't a sheep. Since drivers can't see him, we've taught him to lie down off to one side when a car is making noise. Once the engine is off, we call him over, so he can investigate and say hello to the driver.

I realize that not everyone likes dogs, and some people are even afraid of them. Piper senses their discomfort and like the good shepherd he is, he snuggles close to them and licks their hands to calm them down. Naturally, this has the opposite effect. This is another reason Piper doesn't go to many club events. Between the people who are afraid of what he might do to their cars and the people who are afraid of him, it just makes more sense to leave him home. He is happier at home, and the event is enjoyed by all who attend, not just the dog lovers.

Bonnie Fancy