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Fleet Update: Building Memories

I hate when life gets in the way of solid blogging, but that’s just the way it’s been lately. I’m actually somewhat amazed at how much has changed since my last post, automotively speaking, that is. Well, truth be told, there have really only been two changes: out with the Volvo, in with the Cosworth. I love a good Volvo wagon – and I have ever since my uncle had a pale blue 1974 145E wagon. It took four kids and a lot of abuse to kill that car – in fact, even all that didn’t kill it. If I recall correctly, it was still running on three of its four cylinders when it was hauled-off. Great cars. That said, we already have a wagon, and we really didn’t need another one. Besides that, the other side of my grandiose dreams of making it into some sort of killer daddy-wagon was that it would be a wallet-draining exercise in futility. And besides, it wasn’t a stick shift.

Some time ago, my younger (8 year-old) daughter asked me out of the blue when I was going to teach her stick shift. She recalled (all too well, apparently) how I had started showing my older (11 year-old) daughter the finer points of driving a manual transmission when I had the last Miata, to the point that she had started shifting without my help. Not one to be left behind, younger daughter wanted in on that action. And yes, folks, this made me all kinds of proud. The problem was: no stick shift car.

(photo courtesy 8 year-old daughter)

So having decided to sell the Volvo on, I decided to start the hunt for a suitable yet affordable stick shift something, hoping to capitalize on this unexpected father-daughter bonding opportunity, while at the same time providing me with yet another excuse to buy yet another car. Like I needed one (an excuse OR a car). Part of my automotive illness is that when I set my mind to buying something – anything – I start to obsess about it. It can consume as much of my awake time as I let it – and then some. Worse, I find myself considering some of the most God-awful stuff. Rusty old Honda Prelude? Stellar idea! How about a Miata with a frightening body kit, 300,000 miles, and a paintjob that was nice, once? Absolutely! What about a first generation RX-7 that burns more oil than gas? Surely it only needs a tune up, right? Yes, I can rationalize just about anything.

(photo courtesy 8 year-old daughter)

And then, like a beacon of light from the heavens, I stumbled on not one, but two separate internet postings on two different sites for the same car: this 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth (check out this video on YouTube for details on these cars: uber cool!). It was a little more than I wanted to spend, but was still a screaming deal, considering that the engine was rebuilt – including a brand new cylinder head from Mercedes – about 27,000 miles ago, as was the expensive but fabulous hydraulic self-leveling suspension. The car was also rust free and straight, but in need of some cosmetic attention. Not for nothing, that’s the sort of fettling I like. I hemmed-and-hawed for about a week, and finally decided to make an offer – and was accepted.

Every fifth year, I have established something of a tradition with each of my daughters where we take what is called a “daddy trip” that usually consists of us going someplace to fetch a car and bring it home. This time we were off-calendar, but with elder daughter away for a three-day weekend with friends and my wife just needing some time to herself, this struck me as an opportunity to take younger daughter on a fly-in, drive home trip to pick-up the Cosworth. So within a matter of hours we were on a one way flight to Atlanta with a wad of cash in my pocket, with the singular goal of getting home intact.

(photo courtesy 8 year-old daughter)

And make it back we did. Six hours the first day, and another five the second. The car performed flawlessly, and even the iffy 1980s-era mediocre German air conditioning kept up cold and dry, at least when we were moving. Along the way, we talked, she read to me, and, oh yeah: she mastered the 2-3 and 3-4 shifts. Proud papa here, and she was so excited to do it. It’s funny, both of my girls have very girly-girl tendencies, but they’ve also both got just a tad of the motorsports bug. And that’s just cool.


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