A few weeks after arriving in California I sold the Jeep. Although I had continuously owned 4X4 vehicles for over 20 years, usually as a backup vehicle or for snow days, I didn’t think I needed one anymore. A few weeks later I was in Tampa, FL and I saw a light blue/grey 2001 Mercedes Benz S 500 at a dealership. The car belonged to the owner of the dealership and I assumed he had taken good care of it. It was also the nicest design of all the large sedans. Performance was something I had not thought of since I left the UK, and the S 500 with it’s 302 hp V8 suited me perfectly. It was a great long distance cruiser, and the acceleration when passing another car on the interstate, always managed to put a smile on my face.
Since Cris Bangle was hired by BMW to be the Head of Design and utterly changed the look of the BMW in the mid 90’s I hated their new boxy look. The BMW used to be beautifully sleek… Anyway, that only left the Audi, which although it was a great car, it looked like a used soap bar after spending the night in a wet soap dish.
Unfortunately in 2007 Mercedes changed the styling again. Later in 2007 I had a couple of friends that searched high and low for the lowest milage 2006 S500 they could find in the country. They still have them and they’ve babied them over the years. I also believe the W 220 (1999-2006) Mercs were the best looking models of recent times. Maybe that just shows my age.
I took a few long trips in the S 500 and it was a great car for covering long distances. Miami to Tampa was nice because we could go really fast on Alligator Alley. One problem I had driving to Miami one day was that the pneumatic suspension died while I was doing 100 mph. All of a sudden the front of the car dropped down a few inches. I pulled over and looked at the wheels. There was barely any clearance between the wheel and the top of the wheel arch. I called the dealer and he said to get it to the dealership in Miami ASAP. Easier said than done in the middle of Alligator Alley. I tried to raise the car with the Airmatic switch in the dashboard, but it didn’t move. I decided that as long I could turn the wheel, I was more or less ok. I slowed the car down to 55 and lumbered into Miami. The next day I got it back from the dealership and found myself a few thousand dollars lighter. The Airmatic air suspension had broken.
A couple of months later I drove the S 500 to California with my youngest son, Lucas. It was a great trip. We went from the heat and humidity in Tampa to a snowstorm in El Paso, and finally arriving in the glorious weather of Southern California.
On New Year’s Eve that year, I lost the S 500 to my other son, Nick’s exuberant enthusiasm after a wild party in LA. It was totaled. Fortunately nobody was hurt, except Nick’s pride.