Category: Motorized Vehicles

Über-Slëd

As many of you know, I have an affection for motorized vehicles (the  boss is rolling her eyes – “more like ‘addiction’, thank you” she’d say). In the past, I’ve  torque-fed that affection, but after about ten years of such goofing around, I grew weary of what I now fondly call “stupid cars”. Although I am now playing with “stupid motorcycles“, cars aren’t entirely out of my system.

I am overdue to officially blog-unveil the Über-Slëd – so dubbed, most endearingly, by my friend Tom.

She’s a 1991 Mercedes Benz 350 SDL. She currently has ~75K original miles on her clock. For the non-car-nuts in the crowd, the model name dissects as follows:

  • 350 means it’s a 3.5L engine (it’s a straight-6); that’s about 215 in3 for you Americanos.
  • S means it’s an S class – the big guy in the product line.
  • D means its’ a diesel engine – more on this in a second.
  • L means it’s the “long wheelbase” model. What does ‘long’ mean? Just assume that my kids and your kids could play soccer in the back seat and get winded running to and fro.
  • 1991 means she’s older than some of the folks reading this :-) .

She joined the stable in mid-February. For the MB geeks in the crowd, this was the last model year of the W126 chassis, and, yes, this model uses the OM603.97 engine that has a bad rep (deservedly so) for bending conrods – c’est la vie.

So why on earth would someone buy an eighteen year old car? Early-onset dementia is always a reasonable assumption, but there was some logic involved too.

First, I wanted a big car again. My last big car (and my only previous Benz) was a 2003 S55 which was a superb beast (493 hp/516 lb-ft – YOW!), but which I ultimately only kept for a year since the boss wouldn’t drive it. She still gleefully drives my old 1998 Audi A4 2.8 QMS with ~110K miles on the clock. In fact, she seems to have taken a page out of Moses’s book on the stupid old thing, continuously mumbling something about her “cold dead hands”.

I wanted a big car for two reasons: space and safety. I wanted a ton of room in the back for the monsters and all their crap – whether we’re driving to school in the morning, or going on vacation. Oodles of space in the boot was also a requirement, and this car has a three-body trunk :-) . As to the safety issue, I have previously blogged on that. This car is, pardon my French, a fucking tank. Will refers to it ‘studly’.

Of course the challenge with big cars in today’s petrol market is that they’re damn expensive to get from point A to point B. As such (and my second reason for picking this monster up) I wanted to play with alternative fuels.

This old diesel engine hopefully has a few hundred thousand miles left on her. She is currently slated for a conversion to burn vegetable oil. Diesel engines were built from the get-go by Rudolf Diesel to combust just about anything, and Rudy’s first demonstration of his new engine design was a single-cylinder machination running on, of all things, peanut oil! I really like the idea of re-using an old machine (the decades-old car, which is in stellar shape) and fueling it with something that historically has been a waste product.

Obviously I’m not going to single-handedly solve America’s petrol addiction, but I look forward to playing with this stuff. As I like to say, “you can take the boy out of the geek, but…”

Autostrade Hogs!

Last week, Harley-Davidson announced they were acquiring MV Agusta. My head spun.

I assume that the overlap in their markets is something along the line of zero percent. That said, it does seem like a generally intelligent move to help diversify their product offering. This could be a huge win for consumer access, as MV’s dealership network is anemic and HD’s is definitely not.

The deal will purportedly cost HD $109M of which $70M is existing debt that HD will be presumably retiring. It is consistently entertaining to watch non-Italian companies try to run Italian companies. Hopefully HD will fare better at it than other similar historical examples.

Hats off to Claudio Castiglioni and Massimo Tamburini! This all will presumably give Ducati a run for their money in a couple years. Nothing like competition to benefit the consumer!

Why I Drive A Tank

I recently purchased a 1991 Mercedes Benz 350 SDL (W126 S class). The last couple of months have seen me on the receiving end of all sorts of jibes from my friends about driving an “old man” car!

I bought the car for two reasons. First, I can, and will, convert it to run waste vegetable oil. Second, it’s a fucking tank.

This link will take you to a video from Fifth Gear wherein Tiff and Vicki simulate speeding in the fog. The clip is really unpleasant in many ways (no humans were harmed, of course). What’s interesting is that the second car they run into the pack, at 70 mph, is a W126 Mercedes. That’s the one I’d rather be in, for sure. The Fiat is downright terrifying – no chance of survivors :-( .

Finally, this link will take you to a late-1980s W126 Mercedes television advertisement from Australia. Grim, grim carnage, but four-for-four on the survivor front.