I am an auto enthusiast, but I did not grow up as an auto enthusiast, I’ve gone through small, yet numerous journeys to get where I am today. During this series, I will share in some of my journeys, and journeys I would like to take later to further myself as an auto enthusiast. In the last installment of Tales of an Auto Enthusiast, I discussed what forms an enthusiast; is it the home life, or where you grew up. While I think both have their merits, in my own case, it was my first car that brought about my enthusiasm. Part II – Tales of a Young Mercedes-Benz Owner.
I believe the first car any one owns can be the deciding factor of whether they’ll become a lifelong enthusiast, or if they’ll just think of cars as tools and never learn to see them as we see them. In my case, my first car helped me develop a lifelong case of auto enthusiasm. Before you morn my hopeless condition, let me tell you what it’s been like to be a young gentleman with a Mercedes Benz. In short, despite a lot of negatives, it’s been great, and I’ve never regretted buying my car. But, I’m getting ahead of myself; let me start from the beginning.
It all started many eons ago; actually, it was three years ago. I came into some money and after I spent way too much money on crap I didn’t need, I waded into the first time car buyer pool, and it sucked. After I figured out how much gas would cost, and insurance, and registration, and other stupid adult things, I didn’t have much left over for a car. Also, the car I really wanted, an E46, was kind of hard to find in the condition I wanted for the price I could pay. I ended up looking at cars for several weeks, and to no avail. When I thought I found something I wanted, there turned out to be something wrong with it in one way or another. But then a break came in form of a 2000 Mercedes C230 Kompressor listed for too much so I passed it up, but my friend helping me search also came across it and said we should look at it, and I figured it couldn’t hurt. Long story short, it needed a little work (according to Sears, HAHAHA!) but I talked the owner down $1,000 and walked away happy. I didn’t have a single problem with it for probably 6 months or more, and then while driving around with my friend, the car developed a misfire.
Now, at the time, I knew nothing about cars, I didn’t even think I would know how to change a battery, that’s how bad my ineptness was. I got the car home in limp home mode, I let it sit for a few days, and when I came back out and the CEL was off and the car ran fine, but I drove it around real quick then let it sit for a few more days, and after I came back out, the CEL came back on and straight over to my mechanic it went. While I was an inept idiot when it came to not knowing much about cars, I knew a CEL was bad, so I got it fixed. It ended up being a bad coil and it cost me about $300. While I thought that was a lot, I knew going into the whole German car ownership thing that it would not be cheap. I had also planned for such problems so I didn’t sweat it.
It was shortly after this incident, when I took it in for the B service, that I got into the enthusiasm game. After I spent $400 for an oil change and thankfully new serpentine belts thrown in, I decided to fix the other issues the mechanic found, which included a new fan clutch and a new coolant expansion tank. After some searching on the good old forums, I found out how to do these two things, and decided while I was at it; I would replace all the coolant hoses. After several hundred dollars spent in parts, I spent half a weekend day and finished both jobs in a spectacularly easy fashion. I was hooked after this. I enrolled in automotive classes and started learning as much as I could about my car.
Now that we’ve established that in my case my car transmitted the enthusiast bug, we must discuss the main point of my tale, and that is: what’s it actually like owning a Mercedes at such a (relative) young age. Well, it can get frustrating at times, but it’s not the car’s fault, its people. Negative comments are much more common than positive ones when it comes to my car. People like to make fun of my car, and me, a lot. This included co-workers; actually, it’s mainly co-workers. There were a few kids in school that made of fun and me and my car, but co-workers have been the worst. I have attributed this mostly to jealousy. The people spewing the negativity usually own a shitty car, so they feel the need to talk down to me and talk crap about my car. But this negativity storm is not just directed at me and Mercedes owners, it’s all owners of German cars, I believe. My (former) close friend had a 2003 330Ci that people gave her tons of shit about, they talked shit to her and about her car in much the same way people did to me. We had both experienced the same thing: jealousy.
The car itself has also presented some annoyances. Gas mileage in my particular car sucks, but it’s really down to the fact that I rev it out pretty much every single time to hear to exhaust, and I the surge in acceleration the car provides owing to the way torque is developed from the supercharger. Things also tend to fall off the car and break owing to the fact that car was built in the prime of the DaimlerChrysler era. All the plastic also tends to be a tad brittle owing to the fact that the car is thirteen years old, so when I go to take something apart, I usually break it, oops. I haven’t had any major problems mechanically though, that was until I met the right tech who decided to find everything that was wrong with the car, stupid bastard. Curious to know what I need, well, I need a new supercharger, differential, motor mounts, transmission mount, and I need to re-build the driveline. All this should cost me about $5,000 in parts alone, so looking forward to that. But, like I said previously, I expected all of this. Actually, I expected more problems that would leave the car incapacitated, of which I’ve only experienced one such problem, but I knew it was coming; the battery gave out on me, almost a year after I tested it and it failed, and it was the original battery, so not really a problem considering batteries aren’t really expected to last 13 years. Where the car has come to pay off though is in driving it and just looking at it. I don’t actually drive it that much, mainly because I’m too cheap to go on pointless drives into Ojai or Malibu, so I mainly keep it clean and then admire my handiwork, which is pretty admirable to my eyes, and others. I would go on more pointless drives, but I enjoy doing it while with someone else. Some of the best times were when my friend (the 330Ci owner) and I took both of cars out at the same time, which was rare since we usually just took turns driving our cars. We were such a menace, but god it was fun. I would always beat her because I would push the envelope so much farther than she would. Even when we didn’t piss everyone off, we had such a good time just racing each other at low speeds, I miss those days.
So Mercedes ownership has come at a price for me, not only literally, but figuratively. But, I don’t care. I love my car, a lot. There is nothing more that I enjoy than getting into my car, getting comfortable in the sport seats, looking out the windshield and seeing that three pointed star on the hood, then take my fully electric key, which I find awesome and so cool, and start the 2.3L supercharged four-cylinder engine that sounds awesome with no muffler. I sit and wait for the idle to settle, all while getting to enjoy the low burble that is very un-four-banger like, then take off at speeds that are much too fast, and listen to the exhaust bounce off everything and set off car alarms, I’ve yet to get tired of this.
Yeah my car can be a huge pain in my ass, but if it weren’t it would just be boring and reliable, and who wants that, I want excitement. I’ve always said reliability is boring, and I think that should be the motto of all German car owners. And for my fellow German car owners that have experienced some of the same issues involving people just remember:
People suck, but cars are awesome.
(McLain Neville, or His Stigness as he is known to the internet, was born and raised in California and has not left yet except to visit Germany on an exchange program. He is an ASE Certified Technician and former Volkswagen Factory Technician.)