It’s easy to be sniffy. In the 1990s, a wealthy Middle Eastern fella asked AMG to knock him up a few Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing sports cars, with some personal embellishments.
It was a pretty discreet, radar-dodging operation. Six cars were apparently shipped to Brunei; another five exported to customers elsewhere.
These were some serious embellishments, too. Out went the in-line six and its 1000-mile oil changes; gone was the manual ’box and, apparently, most of the swing-arm rear suspension. In came a 6.0-litre V8, coupled to an automatic gearbox from a modern SL, disc brakes and power steering. The suspension looked lower, was supposedly multi-link at the rear and was finished with AMG wheels in low-profile rubber. Tasty? Umm.
One surfaced recently, owned by the guv’nor of Japanese design brand A Bathing Ape. He has opened his apartment/studio to the public for a while, and in it is a 300SL AMG with camouflage finish.
And here’s where the sniffiness begins. I’ve seen a picture of this car on classic car-oriented social meeja outlets. Tea was spat. Beards were stroked. Someone called it an insult to Mercedes.
I wonder if it’s better not to mention that the AMGs were made from original shells? They weren’t recreations. Real Gullwings were harmed in the making of this picture.
Now, it is not, I will admit, my cup of tea. A few years before these SLs were commissioned, I started reading Performance Car magazine and it shaped the way I view cars. I crave handling and steering purity and agile responses, so I suspect I’d prefer a 300SL that has skinny tyres and a race-tuned six-pot to one with a four-speed automatic and an engine doubled in size.
But an insult? A travesty? Sniffiness? No, no, no. Cars are to be enjoyed, however you choose to enjoy them. If I’d picked up Max Power instead of Performance Car or Autocar & Motor in the early 1990s, my appreciation of cars might be very different.
But here’s the thing: I’d still like cars. Those who like dragsters like cars, too. Ditto people who like VW campers. Even people who like Vauxhall Novas made of 50 per cent filler are car fans. Every one should be embraced, because we are too thin in number to turn against each other.
People who walk into the ‘Bape’ studio are seeing a real Mercedes 300SL, and they’ll go away remembering it. If it wasn’t there, they might be looking at a sofa or a pair of trainers instead. And that would be a pity.
Any car enthusiasm is better than no car enthusiasm. And if it’s not your cup of tea? Well, not everyone likes tea.