We just made what is probably the least rational decision we’ve ever made. And it’s probably going to cost us between $15K and $20K over the next 5 years. And we’re happy.
Are we crazy? Well, you decide.
This story actually starts about a decade before we were born. It was the early 1970’s and Mr PoP’s grandparents were in a doozy of a car accident. Everyone survived, thank goodness, but the VW bug they were in at the time did not sufficiently protect the family members from serious injuries. As the story goes, grandma had extensive injuries and needed to relearn to walk, etc. After that experience, Mr PoP’s grandfather went out and bought his wife the safest car he could find – a 1972 Mercedes Benz 230 sedan. A yellow one, as it happened.
The yellow Benz was grandma’s daily driver for years, though truthfully, grandma wasn’t much of a driver so few miles were put on it as the years went by… probably 15-20 years or so. Then sometime in the early 90’s (Mr PoP and I were likely still in elementary school), Mr PoP’s grandfather decided the yellow Benz had faded too much and needed to be repainted. So he took it to the shop. Now, we don’t have a firm diagnosis on the state of grandpa’s eyesight (he passed a while ago), but we do know that Mr PoP has inherited colorblindness and that at the time the car was repainted grandpa was shown two different official Mercedes Benz yellow paint chips and he said he picked the one he thought looked most like the yellow the car had been in the early 1970s.
Grandpa picked wrong.
When the car came home newly painted, it was taxi-cab yellow. And grandma refused to drive it.
Over the next decade or so, the yellow Benz (and boy was she yellow now) mostly hung around Mr PoP’s family. When Mr PoP got his driver’s license in the late 1990s, he occasionally took the yellow Benz out, but the family sold the car around the time Mr PoP was a senior in high school. At the time, they remember it having around 50K miles on it.
Fast forward a few more years to 2004. Mr PoP and I are 21-years-old and dating, and I had a summer internship that I would need a car for. While I knew how to drive and had my license since I was 16, up until that point I had never needed a car and had certainly never bought one. But now I needed to buy a car, and luckily I had a great new boyfriend who knew a lot about cars and didn’t want me breaking down on the side of the road when I drove out to visit him. =)
So we went budget car hunting. Max budget of $2500, and I hoped to spend closer to $2K. I was starting to give up and wonder if I’d end up needing to make an offer on the crappy Corolla we had just test driven when Mr PoP spotted a familiar yellow trunk on a side street we were passing in the town about 30 minutes from where his parents lived. He knew it could only be grandma’s Benz and he wanted to take a look at it for old time’s sake.
Lo and behold we walk up to the car and it IS the yellow Benz! And she’s got a piece of cardboard that says “FOR SALE $2,500” sitting in the window. Talk about kismet.
It was adorable. Just like a third world taxi-cab and oh-so-classy. I wanted it. Mr PoP knew it was safe, and also knew that it only had around 5K more miles on the odometer from when his family sold it. So he knew about 90% of that car’s maintenance history and felt confident he could make sure it was mechanically ready for me to drive for 5+ hour long stretches. I’m not sure they’ll admit it now, but Mr PoP’s parents were initially against the idea. Luckily they came around pretty quickly once it was purchased (negotiated down to $2,250) and Mr PoP and his dad graciously put another $200 in parts and a couple of days of labor into fixing it up for me. (Total < $2.5K. Perfect!)
My first car was amazingly gorgeous. I named her Sunny.
Driving around that summer for my internship was awesome. From the original BlauPunkt radio to the adorable triangle wing vent windows that I used most of the time in lieu of AC… though the AC blew cold! I was in absolute heaven. Seriously… imagine a 21-year-old blonde girl wearing a black /white polka dotted dress, big sunglasses, and a giant grin driving this baby.
thought knew I was the coolest girl around that summer.
Alas, all good things needed to come to an end. When the school year started up, I was leaving for a study abroad program and knew there was a good chance I wouldn’t need a car again for several years. So Mr PoP and his dad helped me sell it. We got $2,250, and it had around 59K miles on it as it drove down the road with its new owner in the fall of 2004.
At the time, selling it was a necessary decision. $2K was a lot of money to me then and I felt better having it liquid while in another country than tied up in the value of a car I was still paying to insure and (best case) storing for free at my boyfriend’s parent’s place. And who knew if the boyfriend would still be the boyfriend after spending the better part of the next year abroad, much less where I’d end up after graduating college at the end of the year?
Turned out the boyfriend was still the boyfriend after a year overseas, and became the husband about 5 years after we sent Sunny down the road, and is still the husband another 5 years after that! Along the way, as we stood on our own feet financially (grown up jobs and all), we wished we could have gone back and not sold Sunny. Knowing that things would turn out well, we could have had this awesome car along the way – so full of family history, not only in Mr PoP’s family, but in the little 2 person family we’ve created for ourselves as well.
Or A New Beginning?
Mr PoP searched every so often for Sunny on eBay and kept an eye out on Mercedes Benz forums, but as the years ticked by, we both started to feel more and more certain she had ended up junked. But not too long ago, after reminiscing about favorite old cars with friends over dinner, Mr PoP ran another eBay search the next day.
There she was. A little worse for wear and 73K miles now on her odometer, but the VIN number was an unmistakable match. There were 22 hours left on the bidding when we found her.
So we talked. And talked. And walked. And talked. And had coffee/tea and talked.
There’s a whole bevy of complicated discussions behind what we decided, but the basics are this.
- We bought it. $1200.
- We’re shipping it to FL. $700 (ish)
- There will be other costs for taxes, title, storage, etc.
- Then come the repairs, and heavens knows 40-year-old Mercedes Benz parts aren’t cheap.
The car will probably never be worth more than $5K. Tops. There is no way we can consider this to be an investment or rational. It’s neither.
But working on it will be a labor of love for Mr PoP. A happy hobby to work on and a car that he would love nothing more than to swoop me into and drive across the country whenever we reach FI. And driving it I will feel like I’m 21 again… I even still have that polka dotted dress, though as I’ve gotten older and my eyesight has worsened, the sunglasses are now Rx. =)
So we made the most thought out irrational decision we’ve ever made, but with the title in hand now, Sunny is officially our reason for Happy Friday today. We’re just nervous and excited to see what it looks like when it gets here from the shipper.
Are we nuts? Or what?