So, it’s December 2006, and I’ve just been picked up to go Germany, again. Cool! Taking the SLK back to the motherland! One catch though, I’m only authorized to ship one vehicle on my orders. There’s no way I’m getting rid of the 1 of 26 U.S. bound ’00 Designos, and since we just bought, brand new, the wife’s Saturn Vue, looks like shipping one of the cars is on my dime. Checking prices, it’s cheaper to pay for the SLK over the Vue. So, $2200 lighter and a 4 hr. drive from Las Vegas to Long Beach (making sure I have the required “less than a Ľ tank of fuel”), the SLK is on its way “home”.
Surprisingly, the slow boat from Long Beach to Bremerhaven, and truck-ride from Bremerhaven to Mannheim, delivers my beloved SLK pretty much unscathed until I’m forced to violate the front bumper with a required license bracket (not required in Nevada). The only caveat is that I get to put a long European plate on…nice.
So begins the European tour. I have to say, having the privilege of driving in Germany and throughout Europe in the SLK has been a complete blast and cherished experience! The Autobahn, and it’s many unrestricted passageways was an opportunity to see just what this U.S. spec SLK was capable of (155 mph on several occasions, top up & down
). But honestly, the real fun was driving back B roads and exploring the many villages, woodlands and farmlands that dot the beautiful rolling landscape! For those of you who live in the Eastern Midwest (OH, PA, WV and the like), you have an idea of that type of driving experience.
Now, the one not-so-fun part of Germany and driving…winter, and what makes driving the Autobahn on a daily basis cancerous for sheet metal…salt, or whatever they deem environmentally acceptable. And it took its toll. The underbody, the under-seam of the hood’s leading edge and various other areas have developed the dreaded “R” word causing some paint bubbling and visible ugliness; most of it surface only, but some a little deeper.
Of the 7 yrs we were there, the first 4 saw the SLK as a daily driver, in all manners of weather. Knowing what I know now, the Peugeot 206 I bought 4 yrs in would have been the first order of business. It took driving home one night, and a feverish fish-tailing followed by a 540 spin that left me looking at oncoming traffic to decide the SLK was no longer going to be a winter driver (and really didn't have enough butt to keep the rearend in place even with Hankook Icebear W300s!).
Lessons learned, right? So, I plan on having the SLK face-lifted this summer which will include body parts and new paint. In that process, I hope to remedy any unsightly skin cancer.
As all good things eventually come to a close, so it was, in May 2014, it was time to say good-bye to our European Tour and return to the land of “driving is my right”, which it isn’t. For those of you who don’t know, the vast majority of Europeans have a far greater respect for driving and an unmatched level of awareness of its possible pitfalls. Maybe it’s because they can’t get a driver’s license before 18 and it will cost upwards of $4-5,000.
So, repeat, same reasons and routine to prep the car in 2006 (still have and admire the Vue) apply and I again become a little lighter financially (to the tune of $2550 this time around) and the SLK is ready for its journey back to the USA, SoCal style. Only this time, I didn’t have the 4 hr. drive from Las Vegas to Long Beach, but a short 5 minute jaunt from our quaint village to the pick-up location in Kaiserslautern…sweet!
The trip back took a little longer than the trip over because this time the car carrier had delays based on nasty weather and several port stops before arriving in Long Beach. But, there we sat in our rental waiting to see the familiar copper glow in the Southern California sunshine! Now I have to say, while the trip to Germany was uneventful, the return trip was sadly not.
Apart from the expected bird crap coming off the carrier (no courtesy wash), apparently somewhere between Bremerhaven and Long Beach, a shipmate felt compelled to remove the center console sideview mirror control (causing damage), and the factory air compressor from the trunk. Not cool! I also found out why I wasn’t getting any reception on the stereo because they also tried to steal the cell phone module from the rear left quarter panel area (which was removed before I bought the car). My only solace in all this is that the thief apparently cut himself pretty good in the process because there was dried blood on the glovebox and center console. I know it’s not Christ-like, but I hope he got a nasty infection because of it.
So, there you have it! Hope you enjoyed reading my SLK’s European excursion!
Edit: I almost forgot. If you haven't checked my page, here is an unfortunate incident that happened in 2008 on the A8 coming back from a lovely trip to Garmisch. This happened just North of Munich...ouch.