Remember in the movie Groundhog Day, when Bill Murray’s character runs into his annoying old classmate played by Stephen Tobolowsky and steps in a puddle each time his day repeats? This R107 Mercedes SL was my Groundhog Day moment, always appearing at the exact same time at the exact same place and annoying me. Why? Because despite its regular appearance, it kept eluding my camera.
Finally, I was able to snap a couple of photos. This SL is a 380, powered by a 3.8 V8. In my rush to take photos, I didn’t notice the strakes along the rocker panels, a stylistic touch that matches the ribbed taillights. Go figure: these strakes were a fixture on the R107 series, but certainly manage to be more subtle than Pontiac’s ribbed cladding, indeed so subtle I never noticed them.
The ribbed taillights were employed throughout much of the Mercedes-Benz lineup for a great length of time. Ford infamously released ads during the 1970s boasting how much its Granada compact looked like a Benz, but they weren’t the only company to pilfer Mercedes’ styling elements.
The Holden VH Commodore, my family’s car during my early childhood, also used ribbed taillights. Well, if you’re going to copy anybody it may as well be a German luxury brand: look at how many automakers cribbed the controversial BMW E65 7-Series’s “Bangle Butt”.
Further down the block and on another day – no, I wasn’t stuck in a temporal loop like Phil Connors – I spotted this Volkswagen Type 3 Variant, better known as the “Squareback”. I usually value period accuracy in classic cars’ appearances but these aftermarket wheels are a sporty and fairly inoffensive addition. Interestingly, from 1963 to 1968 these were also manufactured in Volkswagen’s Australian factory in Clayton, Victoria. VW’s local manufacturing ended in 1968 due to heavy losses, and for the rest of the Type 3’s run these were merely assembled here from completely knocked-down kits.
Finally, while the SL was a regular star of the morning rush hour, this Smart forfour regularly appeared as I left work in the afternoon. I’m going to call this German based on its corporate parentage but the forfour was actually built in the Netherlands, using a platform shared with the Japanese Mitsubishi Colt; I’ve told the story of the forfour before. I never saw this particular forfour without the carry case on the roof and I’ve always wondered what’s inside. Perhaps, to make another film reference, it’s like the briefcase from Pulp Fiction and I will never find out.
Curbside Classic: 1981 Mercedes-Benz 380SLC
Curbside Classic: 1969 VW Type 3 Fastback
Funny coincidence that you should link “the Germans” with “Groundhog Day.” My #1 such automotive experience was a thoroughly German-named BMW Bavaria that for at least a year tailed me once a week or so, on the same road. To add to the effect, the car looked like something out of a horror movie, with no front bumper, mosquito netting for a grille, faded light blue paint, and dents all over. It was so memorable that I still remember the car even though it all happened during the late 1980s. I know that it really was there and was not a figment of my imagination, because more than once I had a friend in the car, and I asked him to look back and confirm that it was there.
My current “Groundhog Day” car is a faded green 1968 Dodge Polara that reminds me of a classic car in another classic 1990s movie, Jack Lemmon’s 1968 Polara in “Grumpy Old Men.” So far I have never been able to photograph it, but if I do, it’s CC-worthy.
For me, up until about a year or so ago, my “Groundhog Day” car was a 1976 Ford Elite in Silver trimmed in Red like the car pictured below. I would see this woman at various places along my 34 mile commute on both sides of the Fort McHenry Tunnel in Baltimore, Maryland. I would see this same car, still being used as a daily driver as much as 3 times a week, if I hit the road at just the right time. Always heading south in the morning; and even occasionally I’d spot her heading north in the evening rush hour. It seemed as though she had the same exact commute as me, leading me to wonder if I should’ve tracked her down so that we could car pool.
Alas, I’ve not seen her in a little over a year leading me to believe she either a) retired, b) took another job with a different commute, c) moved leading to a different commute, or d) traded the car in on something else. My new “Groundhog Day” car seems to be this “Bullet ‘Bird” pictured below, although in this car’s case, I’ve only seen it thrice in as many months… but each time, in the exact same spot on I-95 South in Howard County Maryland….
My groundhog day car was one that I can still remember. A 1971 Oldsmobile 442 that I always saw parked near the Best Buy that I always went to. It was green with two white stripes down the middle.
In that first picture at the upper left is a first generation Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon crew cab. Did GM officially import this truck into the country?
Yes, but badged as a Holden and they were the Isuzu version so are a little different from the NA version. They had a 3.5 Isuzu V6, 2.6 4-cyl (I think, may be a 2.4), or a 3.0 4-cyl turbo diesel. Later on the V6 was swapped for the GM 3.6.
I drove one similar to this for a little while in diesel form, they have not evolved significantly since the early 1990s.
Holden sold the Isuzu pickup from the 1970s and despite the break up with Isuzu they still share the vehicle today but run their own drivetrains.
It is good that you finally captured your Groundhog’s Day car. Mine was a white 64 LeSabre 2 door hardtop. I never did catch it, and now it seems to have moved away.
Out of these three, that Squareback would be my choice. Those were moderately popular among VW people with families during my adolescence and one of the dads in my scout troop drove some of us to camp in one. These might be my favorite of the air cooled VWs.
I had a an Assistant Scoutmaster with a squareback too. And I can assure you we tried to avoid riding in his car on our monthly weekend camping trips, as it was by far the most cramped. This was a time when Country Squires and such were the top draw, even for me. Especially for the ride home on Sunday, when we all stank to high heaven!
So this is what Pontiac got that idea from, I already disliked the R107 due to their stereotypical owners, now I really don’t like it! Although, like all 70s Mercedes the European bumpers/headlights look positively amazing to my American eyes.
The ribbed taillights were definitively Mercedes as far as I’m concerned though. They supposedly were designed so they’d be visible in dust storms or covered in dirt or mud, I mean THAT’s a “world car” – drive it anywhere in the world – and since Mercedes abandoned it in the early 00s they’ve not looked like real Mercedes since (on top of already not being built like Mercedes anymore)
The Groundhog Day analogy is a good one. There was actually a three way cluster for me, at the same major three way intersection nearly daily.
I was in my first ever commute mode in 1990. That summer, I regularly crossed paths with a 1966 Mercury Monterey Breezeway in a nice medium blue. Even better, there was a 1963 Buick Wildcat coupe, absolutely loaded from what I could tell, even an early vinyl top.
I was the third component – my 1972 Pontiac Grandville four door hardtop probably caught a few eyes. It was old enough that I was regularly stopped for a chat at the gas station or car wash.
VH Commodore is a German car its an Strayan built Opel I had one but an SLX not the poverty model shown and the rear lights stayed fairly clean between annual washings.
My “Groundhog Day” car that I saw regularly when driving home after dropping my son off at school is a tatty sky-blue Holden Torana LX Sunbird 2-door.