Arlo Mudgett: The View from Faraway Farm: Sitting on a good one through the winter

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The plan was to cycle through another toy consolidation to pare down the number of vehicles that I maintain, insure, and store. Since adding a piece of land with a garage and two outbuildings I've got a good place to stash motorcycles and lawnmowers. Between my fiancee and I, we have five children, and we've stored items for various kids over the years. Last winter I gave up one garage bay for one of the kids to store furniture, etc. Well, it is now furniture free and I decided to do a vehicle addition with the ultimate goal of doing a vehicle reduction. In this case, it's all about timing.

Purchasing a motorcycle or a "summer" vehicle in the fall is generally a good idea. The person selling is usually motivated and they don't want to store the thing over another winter. Prices are often lower for this very reason. I have a truck that is coming off lease in the spring, and that's when I wanted to also sell a motorcycle and three cars only to replace all that inventory with one desirable car that I've been eyeing for years; the quintessential gentleman's or Ladies sports car, the Mercedes SL. So the idea was to find a good SL at a lower price to store over the winter in my free garage bay and then sell my three cars and one motorcycle in the spring at seasonal prices. It's a bit of a gamble, but so is life.

Everything I've read in the last few months indicated that the 1985 to 1989 Mercedes 560SL was the car to buy. Demand is increasing and the supply of really clean examples are decreasing. That's all fine and good if you are a serious collector, but I am not. I'm a buy `em and drive `em kind of guy and I'm not expecting a return of any kind on the vehicles I purchase. If I happen to come out ahead when I sell one, great, but I certainly don't view these things as anything close to a good investment. This time around I just wanted a desirable car that I won't take too much of a hit on when it comes time to sell, that's all. I started my search for a Mercedes 560SL convertible by reading the car collector bible, Hemmings Motor News. I checked their online listing and found one in Malone, NY.

It turned into an efficient trip. I needed to pick up some items from my biological father in Fairfax, VT that weekend and I figured we'd cruise over to Malone and check out the Mercedes while we were at it. It really did work out great. The drive over to Malone took us through a rather substantial windmill farm that can be seen from my Dad's home in Fairfax. It simply looks like a bunch of windmills on a ridge just north of Plattsburg that stretch north to the Canadian border. Driving through it was much different. The windmills were staggered over miles of high plains and we figured they were at least 40 miles from Fairfax. Now my Dad knows what those windmills that he sees every day from his kitchen window look like up close.

We looked at the 560SL in Malone and I didn't even want to drive it. As the Brits say, it was knackered. While it was a California car, the sun had destroyed the dash top. The North Country temperature extremes had cracked the paint in certain areas. It was dull, dingy, and the Carfax report that the guy showed me said that there was potential that the odometer reading was "inaccurate." Looking underneath revealed what was probably the main seal failure. Sitting in the driver's seat was like landing your backsides hard on a granite slab as the tired old springs allowed your butt to meet the floor. Not for me. We enjoyed a nice lunch at a restaurant in Rouse's Point and good conversation on the ride back to Fairfax.

There was another 560SL near Fitchburg Massachusetts for sale on a popular auto sales website that looked and sounded perfect. I drove down there and fell in love with the pristine 1989 charcoal Mercedes with its new Hartz cloth convertible top, leather interior, and detachable hardtop. The Carfax report said it had spent most of its life in Ojai, California and it looked it. It must have been garaged because there was almost no sun damage. It drove like a dream, the owner was a true enthusiast and I bought it then and there.

While it isn't show car perfect it was clearly very well cared for. Driving it back to Vermont was a pleasure with the silky 5.6-litre V-8 engine powering it over hill and dale without breaking a sweat. I hope I get to put a few miles on it before I put it up for the next six months in my free garage bay. It will still be well worth sitting on this one through the coming winter!

Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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