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. March/April 2008 Issue.
If you are not into the technical aspects of you Mercedes, tech sessions sound unappealing. I once fell asleep during a talk by a man from Michelin. You might say I was “tire-d”. However, tech sessions have their good points.
Most of them are at restoration shops, or given by people selling a product or a service. Even if you are not a do it yourselfer, attending these programs is helpful. First they give a name of a company that you might need some day and secondly, they give you a basic knowledge of the service they offer. It's never enough information to do the job yourself or start your own business, but it is enough so that you don't feel like a complete idiot when you look into having something along those lines done even if you don't use that particular company. If you are afraid you will forget the name of the company, just ask for their business card. They are always happy to oblige.
When your local section has a tech session, it is usually at a restoration shop. Since I am married to a do-it-yourself restorer, I attend and check out which tools he gravitates to. Who knows? He might get one for Christmas or his birthday.
Many national tech sessions are held in conjunction with other events. Starfest comes to mind. Along with a concours, a rally and various autocross events, there are usually some talks by chromeplaters, tire companies, people selling winterizing or cleaning products, and restorers who talk about what it takes to restore a car. There are even sessions on how to write and produce a top quality newsletter, attract new members, and that sort of thing.
One year, Ernie wanted attend two of the sessions, but their times overlapped, so I attended the one on chrome-plating and took notes. Some speakers don't like people taking notes, so always ask first. Most will not allow photography and say so up front.
Startech is a three day event devoted to the technical aspects of the upkeep and restoration of Mercedes Benz. These are fun to attend because there are always things for the technically challenged. The time we went, there was a tech session on quilting by expert Linda Poole. This was more interesting than tech sessions on winterizing a car or anything else automotive, and I don't quilt. There was also a tea party or luncheon for the women. In any case, Startech is a nice weekend away from the daily grind with plenty for you and your Mercedes Maniac to do. I do urge you to attend at least one session on some aspect about the care and maintenance of your car. You never know, it might come in handy someday, especially if you have to have the “other” car repaired.
We all have at least one car that's not a Mercedes. I have found that the information I get at tech sessions is real useful when dealing with the “other guys”. They seem to think that just because I'm a blonde woman, I know next to nothing about cars and have the IQ of a slug. Thanks to the tech sessions I've attended I've gained just enough knowledge to be dangerous. The “other guys” are never sure just how much I do know.
Visiting private car collections may also sound rather dull. They aren't. We have seen many beautiful car collections over the years. Yes, the cars are beautiful, but the real treat is looking at the Maniacs' faces. We visited Bob Bahre's collection in Paris, Maine . The thing I remember most is the look on Ernie's face as he entered the garage which is built into the side of a hill, making it possible to put cars on both levels easily. He was slack jawed and weak kneed at the sight of several dozen cars in an immaculate garage. He was like a kid in a candy store who could look but not touch, and no, Mommy wasn't going to buy him any. Still, just looking was enough to put a smile on his face.
He still raves about the Astor Collection in Irvine, California . It was the last collection of many on the Route 66 trip. On that trip many of our meals were catered affairs at museums and private collections. In Oklahoma City we ate at the Cowboy Hall of Fame and Museum of Western Heritage . Across the road and a short shuttle bus ride down was Don Bolton's private collection of pre-World War I cars. At the Kemp Museum in Springfield, Missouri there were two 500K's, but most important to us was the red 220 which had been restored by the late George Grasseler, a dear friend and a driving force in the Minute Man Section.
One Minute Man event was a visit to the A-Z car collection. There is a car for every letter of the alphabet. The owner said he got the idea from his wife. He told her he had cars which started with A, B, and C. She suggested he just finish out the alphabet. Some of the cars are from Europe and were never heard of here, but there they are in a large garage in Maine .
If you are into photography, the older cars like the Mannheim are visually interesting and make for good photographs. The biggest problem with collections and museums is that the vehicles are parked too close together to get a clean shot unless you have a good wide angle lens. It is also a good idea to get pictures of the people in attendance. When George Grasseler died, everyone had pictures of his cars, but the only picture of him was a blurry one taken through the sight of an antique Gatling gun which was on display at a private collection we visited. Just why there was a Gatling gun among the old race cars and airplanes, I never did find out.
Sometimes I let Ernie wander by himself while I talk to the other spouses who have just come along for the ride. If I have nothing else in common with them, and that is seldom the case, at least we all love a Mercedes Maniac who has never outgrown his need to play with cars.