20090927BlancheI was putting the last helmet away after teaching my morning riding lessons when Bob arrived to pick me up in a white station wagon.  “Who’s car are you driving?” I asked and he answered, “It might be ours.”  I blanched.  Just what we need, another expense, I thought.

We were about to turn our rent in to a mortgage which would involve withdrawing ten thousand dollars from savings and doubling our monthly housing payment.  We’d been a one-car family for nearly five years, embracing the many benefits of this arrangement.  Shelling out $2,300 for a second used car seemed like folly.

But I agreed to ride up to Bynum so Andy and Jill could take a look.  Jill and Andy agreed with Bob that the 1987 Mercedes TD300 was a good, solid car for a price we couldn’t pass up.  Although there were nearly 300,000 miles on the odometer, she still ran as smooth as a youngster, purring along on the road with hardly a bump.  I was outnumbered.

She had seating for seven which included a third seat for two that faced backwards and folded down for to make a flat bed.  Ditto with the back seats.  This car was capable of acting like a pick up truck when she wasn’t serving as a party car!

We all considered Bob lucky for spying her in Diaz’s lot before anyone else had.  Andy said if we didn’t buy her, he would.  That’s when I started thinking about names for our new car.  Lilly was the first name that came to mind.  As in “Lilly White.”  It seemed like a good tongue-in-cheek Southern name.

After nearly two years of running alongside the biodiesel crowd in Christine, our 1995 gas powered Ford Escort, we’d be driving a car many of our friends spent their days making fuel for.  We would finally be able to put our Piedmont Biodiesel Coop membership to good use.

On the internets, we found that the 1987 Mercedes Touring Diesel 300 sold for $40,000 when new.  We loved the write up about this 300TD on a blog titled Hoopty Rides in which the author said:

With absolute conviction, I can say, the 1987 Mercedes 300TD is one of the very best automobiles ever made. Though I don’t have 7 friends, should I acquire a few more, I will be able to bring them with me in absolute comfort. It is a 6 cylinder turbo charged diesel and it was only available in 1987. The W124 body cars (the 80s E-classes) were the last true Mercedes that felt like they were machined from a single block of steel.

That writer also quoted the Mercedes Illustrated Buyer’s Guide:

The modest 300E hides its capabilities… The 300E is among the world’s best cars for the driver. Precise steering and comfortable ride make them particularly good long-distance cars… Discussing the handling of these cars is academic. Anything that you can do to break them loose on the public road is not only irresponsible and illegal, but also unlikely.

At this point, Lilly seemed like too frivolous a name for our new Mercedes.  Her real name revealed itself to me while I was washing my hair.  Head full of white suds, “Blanche!” suddenly popped into my head.  As in Blanche DuBois from “A Streetcar Named Desire,” the southern belle who always relied on the kindness of strangers.  As in a woman from an earlier generation when women were made of sturdier stuff.  As in my initial reaction to Bob’s suggestion that this might be our next car.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

One reply on “HOOPTY RIDE”

Hi Camille,
Funny how our lives seem to somehow stay in parallel despite (unwanted) differences in lifestyle…
last year i bought a 1989 Volvo stationwagon that seats 7 with nearly 250,000 miles on the odometer…
this year i bought a modest house…

love to you.

stay cool.

your friend,
donna in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania

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