1989 Mercedes-Benz rules the heart

Farm Forum

Soon after graduating from college Tom McQueen let his heart, not his head, dictate his choice of transportation — a 1987 Mercedes-Benz 560SL painted Signal Red. He recalls buying it in December 1987 and selling it in February 1992.

“I was sick,” he says of the transaction. “I needed my little toy.”

For the better part of 20 years McQueen remained on alert for another 560SL to fill the void in his garage — and in his life as well. Unfortunately, the cars he found were either worn out, beat up, or too pricey.

Finally, in June 2013, his perseverance was rewarded when he located a 1989 Mercedes-Benz 560SL painted Anthracite Gray in Naples, Fla., with only 24,000 miles recorded by the odometer.

He learned the original owners had lived in Minnesota. In 1993, the car and the widowed owner moved to Naples. At that time the car had been driven only 1,780 miles.

Several years passed and eventually the owner moved back to Minnesota but continued to maintain an address in Florida where the 560SL was kept. The owner was reluctant to sell her car, but her son convinced her otherwise.

McQueen had seen photographs of the Mercedes and needed no persuading. He went to Naples to buy the 560SL, then settled into the comfortable seats swathed in the cream and beige leather upholstery and drove it home to McLean, Va.

He had to be cautious along the way, because, as he reports, “It ran so smoothly at 90 mph.”

When new, the 1989 Mercedes-Benz had a base price of $64,230, plus a $1,300 gas guzzler tax, as well as a $250 shipping charge. For that amount the buyer got a stylish car with a four-speed automatic transmission, driver side airbag, alarm system, tinted glass, heated rear window, and vacuum-operated door locks.

The steering, windows, and disc brakes are all power-assisted. McQueen points out that his car features the first generation of anti-lock braking. The 15-inch alloy wheels are shod with radial tires. Passengers can listen to the AM/FM radio or the cassette tape player.

After the sun sets or fog moves in, the halogen headlights and fog lights show the way. The interior of the Mercedes-Benz seems to be completely covered in leather, including the steering wheel and even the gear shift knob.

Beneath the hood is the 5.6-liter V-8 engine that develops 227 horsepower. Premium gasoline from the 22.5-gallon fuel tank is injected into the engine by a Bosch KE Jetronic system.

The owner’s manual for the heavy 3,880-pound car describes fuel economy as 14 miles per gallon city and 17 mpg on the highway. Zero-to-60 mph can be attained in 7.5 seconds. Top speed is reportedly 130 mph.

Once McQueen had safely arrived home he began to carefully inspect his car. The previous owner had always kept the hardtop on the car and used the air conditioner. He, of course, removed the hardtop and under it found a convertible top in perfect condition.

To his dismay however, the plastic rear window was discolored and appeared as if it were covered with mud. He unsuccessfully tried several cleaning agents before finding a cleanser that was advertised as useful in cleaning plastic headlight lenses. His pristine convertible top now sports a crystal clear plastic rear window.

With the arrival of summer weather, McQueen is enjoying top-down motoring in his 560SL comfortably riding on its 96.7-inch wheelbase.

“It’s a fun, fun car to drive,” he exudes.

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