Peak Hour Outtakes: The Germans

mercedes sl 3

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.

mercedes sl 2

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.

mercedes sl 1

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.

holden vh commodore

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”.

volkswagen type 3 squareback

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.

smart forfour

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.

Related Reading:

Curbside Classic: 1981 Mercedes-Benz 380SLC

Curbside Classic: 1969 VW Type 3 Fastback