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Cars That Me or My Family Used To Own and That I Now Miss #2 – My dad’s Mercedes S-Class

23 Jun

Has anyone seen Arrested Development? It features the Bluths, a family whose fortune is based on fraudulent property development and who end up losing their vast amounts of wealth and living in disgrace, holding on to a few precious vestiges of their wealth. Now my family, to the best of my knowledge, were never involved in fraud, nor were we stupendously wealthy, but we do share one thing in common. The patriarch figures of both our families used to drive a big, 1980s, gold Mercedes S-Class.

I can’t remember how Dad came to acquire this car. All I remember were the big, beige leather seats, the acres and acres of room and the fact that it was the first car we ever had with an electric sunroof. See, children are stupid. I have always maintained that, once the mood for fatherhood strikes me, I will furnish my children, for birthdays and Christmas, with cardboard boxes as presents. Parents spend huge amounts of money on buying little Jimmy or Waynetta expensive dolls, £2000 replicas of 1950s sports cars etc. etc. And ultimately, if the box that these presents arrive in is big enough, the kid will just end up sitting in it. This is also true of days out. Angry parents driving into Brighton in their Vauxhall Merivas and then beating their children along the seafront to the sound of the Merry-Go-Round. If, however, the parents hadn’t been fools, they could have let the kids into the Vauxhall Meriva whilst it was sat in the family driveway and, if fitted with an electric sunroof, have let them spend the day happily wearing down the car’s battery opening and shutting it, climbing over the seats or whatever the little darlings saw fit to do.

I loved the electric sun roof and I loved the car. Perhaps because I grew up in them, 1980s Mercedes always seem very comforting to me. I love their notchy rear headlamps and the orange-handed clock in the dashboard, and the slightly cheesy wood and the metallic twirl of the engine, driven by the ubiquitous automatic gearbox. My Dad may have blocked this out, and with good reason, but one of my outstanding childhood memories was of driving down the motorway in the big Merc, with the sunroof open and Simply Red being played very loudly through the Blaupunkt stereo (which took CDs don’t you know!). Golden days indeed!

Cars that me or my family used to own and I now miss #1 – My dad’s Range Rover

25 May

My dad's looked a little something like this

I still don’t really know why my Dad bought a Range Rover. I know that he was pretty moneyed up in the 80s, and he must have bought this in 1988ish. Presumably with the demands of a small family, he thought that we needed a massive 4×4. As a car mad little urchin, I wasn’t complaining. As kids we took a trip down to Cornwall in it. We stopped in the Ashdown Forest and played Pooh sticks on Pooh’s bridge and then it started to rain a crap load. I just remember the comfort of all the space as I was put into my seat in the back, the feel of the fabric on the interior, a sort of grey velor but nicer than that sounds. But most off all I remember the beautiful noise that came out of its 3.9 V8. An assured hum that let you know that you were being taken care of. Now, in this day and age, I baulk at massive petrol engines moving massive, heavy cars. BMW’s 4.8 V8 for their X5 makes me feel a bit queasy, and the Porsche Cayenne Turbo makes me actually vomit. But you’ve got to remember that in the 1990s, Sat Nav existed for the military and for people on yachts. Perhaps. My Dad’s Range Rover didn’t have electric or heated seats, there was no real computer wizardry, and consequently it weighed about half a ton less than the current Range Rover. Not an excuse, but it means I can sleep at night. Nowadays, were I to buy a big 4×4 for some reason (and I’m not in any position to do so) I would definitely buy a diesel. But thinking back to those innocent times, soundtracked by that beautiful V8 gurgle, when my main concern was trying to learn my three times table and how to spell my own name, makes me feel a bit warm and gooey inside.

If you’ve ever watched Top Gear, and I would suggest that if you’d bothered to find this blog then you probably had, you may have seen Jeremy Clarkson’s ode to the combustion engine and its presumably imminent extinction, with him talking over footage of an Aston Martin V12 Vantage scything through somewhere epic looking. Well for me, the noise that will haunt me when the combustion engine is dead and buried is still the noise of the 3.9 litre V8 of a maroon, E-reg Range Rover.

Just as an addendum, I found this video which sort of demonstrates the sound. No beating the real thing though…..