This is the next instalment in an ongoing tale of my old Mercedes SLK 230 Kompressor R170, a series which could have been titled “How to own a classy sports car for next to nothing” or alternatively “How to survive a late-mid-life crisis on a budget”. (Earlier post HERE)
This chapter of the story, however, is rather downbeat. This is early 2021, and we are in the midst of the global pandemic. And Benny (he’s called Benny Benz, BTW) is sat out in the drive looking very sorry for himself. He is SORN’d – which to the uninitiated means he’s off the road untaxed - and with his insurance suspended and his MOT expired. So, is this the end of Benny?
The last year has been, well, unusual hasn’t it? Since last March I’ve hardly been anywhere. I’ve tried to keep the car ticking over on short journeys to the shops and so on - and on just one occasion during a respite in the lockdown - we got the top down and had a great drive out to nearby Snowdonia on a glorious day. Then it all went pear-shaped again, and since then just a maximum run of about 10 miles. This has played hell with the battery, almost constant use of a trickle charger has been the order of the day, which is annoying.
And, a major problem arose. Two years ago, Benny’s horn stopped working. No sniggering, please. It turned out to be an ‘issue’ with a relay unit hidden in the depths of the electronics, and I was lucky to find a video on YouTube detailing a work-around involving a standard car relay and a bit of light rewiring. Happy days, Benny honked again. A year on though, problems returned. Sometimes the car worked fine, sometimes the dash lit up like a Christmas tree, it refused to start, then it would start but bits of it didn’t work. A bit of on-line research led me back to the same relay unit that caused the horn problem.
Again, there were fixes suggested on-line (like HERE), but more severe this time. Enough was enough, I shelled out £160 odd quid for a brand new K40 relay module, slipped it in place and everything worked again. I think since then I’ve probably done about 250 miles in the car, so it was a bit of an expensive fix!
Well, that is of course if I never get the car going again - and that is the big question - will I? What needs to happen? Well, the SLK is an indulgence. I don’t need it, as I have a perfectly good day-to-day car. In fact it, a KIA, has only done 1,000 miles in the last year. (I took it for a service and MOT recently; they said it needed two new front tyres, as they both had cracks, caused apparently by under-use - really?)
To get Benny through an MOT he needs a bit of work. Not much, but one job in particular sounds easy but isn’t. You know that behind your disk brake callipers there’s a shield to stop road muck hitting the brakes? Well Benny’s are all rusty, and one has fallen off. The front ones aren’t too difficult to replace, but the rears are a nightmare. Apart from that, he’s good to go, though probably a new set of disks and pads wouldn’t go amiss and maybe new rear tyres.
So, not too drastic. But of course the really big problem is Covid… if it’s going to slow us all down for another year or so, which appears likely, well Benny is going to live in the yard for a while. Sadly we have no garage, so he’s out in the weather… I have considered a car cover, but it’s pretty windy pretty often here, I can’t see it lasting and apparently they can damage the paintwork anyway, plus they don’t let the car breath. Not decided yet on that one.
OOne thing I do know is that though it has only been a month since the car came off the road, I miss it. I’ve had the car seven and half years, and in that time it’s only gone about 2,000 miles a year, but they were mostly quality miles, mostly roof down, mostly a lot of fun. Come the weekend, if the weather was nice, it was always an option to have a quick tootle around the island (Anglesey) or beyond. Now, Sunday dawns, the sun shines, I go into a humph. And that is just after one winter month – how’s it going to be when the summer comes around? – I’m going to need online therapy at this rate.
I know, I know, first world problem, I will survive. But in these trying times, a bit of fun is what you need, isn’t it? So, we’ll have to see how long I can last without my sports-car-fix. (Oh, and just by the by, for some reason probably explainable by a therapist, I have recorded all the expenses for Benny - and the answer is just over £7,000 - and yes, that includes the car itself - so a grand a year for all that fun driving, not too shabby.)
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