Many years ago, in another life, I was editorial director of the Motor World car-buyer's guides. The gig involved long hours and endless deadlines. But it was the closest thing I've ever had to a dream job. Every week, a car company gave me a new car to test, and I got to drive everything, except for exotics. I met my wife while I was testing a Volkswagen Passat. Our first date was in a Toyota MR2. Our second date was in a Porsche 944 Cabriolet (the 911 would come later). She couldn't help but be a little impressed!
At the same time, for the same company, I was editing men's magazines, and wrote about cars in those, too—to give the mags "socially redeeming value." For those articles, I had near-total creative freedom and wrote some crazy satirical stuff—which nobody read except for one PR guy at Mazda.
One week, Mercedes-Benz gave me a fully loaded, $86,000, SL convertible to test for Motor World. I took all my friends joy-riding, let my father drive it, and for one of the men's magazines (whose name I prefer not to mention) wrote the "review" as an over-the-top Hunter Thompson parody titled "Mein Kar" (trigger warning!). Here's an excerpt, originally published in 1990:
My father, having spent most of his adult life confined to Chrysler K-cars and automobiles of that ilk, was anxious to test the parameters of the Mercedes. The war was a long time ago, and though he'd always taken personally the fact that the Third Reich had spent four years trying to kill him, he was also appreciative of the opportunity they'd created for him to tour France at a tender age and learn the art of oral sex from experienced French women.
"Let me drive," he said when I pulled up to his house and lowered the convertible top.
I gave him the wheel and he glided stylishly onto the street, waving to the awestruck neighbors as he drove by.
"They'll think I'm wealthy as a king," he said. "How fast does this thing go?"
"Zero to 60 in 6.3 seconds… not bad for a car that weighs as much as an elephant... and it has a top speed limited electronically to 155 miles per hour, which means it could go faster, maybe 200. It's got a 5.0-liter 322-horsepower DOHC 32-valve V-8 engine. But you know the Germans... a green people. They don't want maniac drivers breaking the sound barrier on the autobahn. But it will still outrun the F-15 Eagle till takeoff."
"Takeoff?" my father said. "Can we handle that much torque?"
"Only in the desert but we can't go that far today."
"The time factor… I need to make a high-speed run to the Canadian border with my Hawaiian pharmacologist, but first I must see my Nazi pimp."
"Your Nazi pimp?" he said, heading north on the Palisades Interstate Parkway at a smooth 95. "Those people should be tried for crimes against humanity."
"Maybe so, but you have to give them credit for technological expertise."
"Yes… indeed," he said thoughtfully. "This is the way to travel."
I couldn't believe that someone from Mercedes happened to see the story. Consequently, it was the last car they ever gave me. It was also the only Mercedes my father ever drove. Unfortunately, I can't find the 29-year-old magazine with the article, which has my father's picture in it, taken outside Mercedes headquarters in Montvale, New Jersey. All I have is what you see above—a lo-res scan I made years ago.
I should send the Boys from Benz a copy of Bobby in Naziland. Because it should come standard in every Mercedes, tucked in the glove compartment along with the owner's manual.
Meet me in St. Louis, Wednesday, October 16, 7 PM, at Subterranean Books. I'll be reading and signing copies of Bobby in Naziland.