Curbside Classic: 1973 Mercedes 450 SE – Hello Darlin’; It’s Nice To See You


For some unfathomable reason, this Mercedes is taunting me.  Taunting me in the same fashion the ever-so unvirginal high-school girl would taunt the school’s biggest male geek in all those bad 1980s high-school movies.

This Mercedes is taunting me by speaking in her native tongue:  Sie lieben doch exotischen Mädchen, Ja?


Why this taunting, and why is it creating a weird temptation?  A Mercedes of unknown age, in stale beer-piss yellow should have no intrinsic appeal.  The actual color is undoubtedly called something like “Swiss Mountain Lily”, but this shade makes the car look like a white Mercedes with a tragic case of jaundice.

Yet this chariot still tempts me with a temptation so extreme, I’m starting to quote Conway Twitty songs.  The Mercedes is correct; I do like exotic things.

Dammit, it’s not a black Chrysler–actually, it couldn’t be any further removed from one–but it has been tempting me twice a day for nearly three weeks.  Maybe it’s a matter of proximity, being directly across the street from my latest black-Chrysler conquest.  But no, it is not proximity, but something deeper.


Maybe it speaks to my ancestry.  Despite my great-grandfather’s whacking out of all the unnecessary letters in my surname, I’m primarily of German descent; thus, maybe it’s a tribal sort of thing–no, that idea is simply ludicrous.

Or is it?  Living in a town filled with people of similar heritage, I could buy this Mercedes and fit right in; in fact, as a transplant here, it might even help me.

Scratch that: A high percentage of locals drive GM A-bodies that have been on the road 20 years–either those or four-wheel drive pickups. Hey, wait a minute–that describes my garage; OK, maybe that isn’t really it.

Yet I look at this Mercedes, and it keeps taunting me by saying things such as:  Ich will das Sie mich arbeiten wie ein gemieteter Packesel.


The temptation to drive it like a rented pack mule is pulse-quickening, in a twisted and perverse way.  Why would I want an ancient Mercedes, a 450 SE I strongly suspect to be a ’73; in other words, a car nearly as old as I am?  Even if this series ran until 1980, I’m too cheap to buy parts for it; hell, a Mercedes power-window motor could cost more than this vehicle’s $950 asking price. And as Mrs. Jason reminded me, we are about to license a fourth vehicle in a household with a total of two drivers. No, buying this wouldn’t make a lot of sense.

Even so, a little mental searching is in order, as I need to figure out what fluke of nature happened decades ago to prompt this irrational attraction.

Nobody in my family has ever owned a Mercedes.  We were always Ford, Chrysler and GM people, since the cars they built didn’t really care if you said, “Screw the maintenance schedule”.  It’s likely this Mercedes has DNA that does not allow it to be indifferent to neglect.


Perhaps it is the high-quality engineering for which Mercedes in renowned.  Engineers do tend to speak to each other in tongues, so maybe some Mercedes Engineers of Yore are beckoning me, in the old romance language of FORTRAN, to listen to what their years of hard work are trying to tell me.

That 4.5-liter V8 definitely makes itself heard.  Its 190 horsepower from such a relatively petite displacement was pretty phenomenal at a time when only a few 7.5-liter Thunderbirds could muster anything north of 200 horses.  The 4.5-liter engine in this package does make it appealing, in a halter-top-and-blue-mascara-at-the-disco sort of way.


Yes, I did have an affinity for Mercedes–long ago. There was that book about the history of Mercedes automobiles, sold to a stranger at a garage sale many moons ago. No regrets; that flirtation was simply a season of life. Or was it?

With all this contemplation, various realizations are erupting like Mt. St. Helen.  When the wife was pregnant, I did suggest “Mercedes” as a girl’s name. Although the idea was resoundingly vetoed, perhaps it was simply content from my subconscious bubbling up to the surface.


One undeniable component of its appeal is pure mischief.  How cool would it be for Mrs. Jason and me to pull up to various social functions where, amongst a sea of Dodge and Honda minivans (as well as the obligatory A-bodies), this Mercedes would proudly proclaim itself for all to see?  Who cares about age; a Mercedes is timeless.  If they were good enough for Janis Joplin to croon about, they must be about as good as Bobby McGee.

The mischievous part of this equation is really starting to resound within me.  This was the Mercedes driven by J.R. Ewing during the first seasons of Dallas; mischief was one of his natural talents, and that certainly appeals to me on a baser level.  But beyond that, this Mercedes appeals to me on many, many levels.

In the midst of this contemplation, my rational mind interrupts, telling me that my fantasy of this sultry temptress of a Mercedes is, like many other fantasies, one best played out in one’s imagination and never acted upon.