A few weeks ago, at the conclusion of this year’s SCM 1000 Tour, SCM Publisher Keith Martin announced that the theme for the 2023 edition would be Cars of Germany. Precisely one millisecond later, his network of enablers started passing along leads.
After a few false starts, SCMer Ron Rader connected Keith with award-winning restorer Rex Nguyen, who was representing a 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C for a client. In no time, the SCM fleet grew by one with a one-owner, totally original car. “Das Blaue Bombe,” as she was quickly christened, wears a shiny coat of Deep Blue paint, and features power windows, A/C, and a four-speed automatic transmission.
As luck would have it, I was already committed to visit Los Angeles, where the car was located. Of course, I shamelessly mentioned this to Keith — and was rewarded with an impromptu road trip.
I arrived at Rex’s shop last Friday afternoon. He gave me a complete run-down on the 250C, including a briefing on its operation and a list of known issues, which included a carburetion problem that caused it to occasionally hesitate and, in some cases, stall. The workaround was a deft touch with the accelerator pedal.
I pulled out of Rex’s facility in blistering heat, with the temperature almost reaching 100 degrees. I headed north on I-5 for Portland, some 1,000 miles distant, in a car that probably hadn’t covered that cumulative mileage in the past five years. What could possibly go wrong?
The first 45 minutes were anxiety-ridden. When I filled the tank only a minute after leaving Rex’s, it took seven cranks to get it to restart. This weighed on my mind and made the thought of stalling in traffic a big concern. I overcompensated by pulling away so slowly that it elicited a few impatient honks.
Heading north out of Los Angeles means hills, lots of them. The moment I started climbing the Grapevine, the highest pass along I-5 in California at over 4,100 feet, the temperature gauge followed suit. My eyes were glued to the needle as it approached red. I not only was not running the AC, but I also turned on the heater to help battle rising temps.
The temperature finally stabilized and I was careful to not push it. Once on the other side of the pass, the needle returned to the optimal horizontal position. I was careful to not use the A/C on hills from that point.
Once we got to know each other, Das Blaue Bombe and I started to build trust and I appreciated her relaxing vibe. The 250C received numerous thumbs up as it cruised at 75 mph, which is merely table stakes on I-5 in the 450-mile length of the Central Valley.
The more I drove the car, the better it got. After being fairly dormant for years, the steady miles were loosening her up and I inadvertently found myself at 85 mph at times. But the car was a thirsty thing, averaging only about 13 mpg on the highway (translating to about 47 cents/mile).
After 13 hours, I arrived in Portland a hot, sweaty mess. I had powered through Oregon, only stopping for 15 minutes total for gas. When I pulled in at 10 pm, I was tired and badly in need of a shower. I declined Keith’s invite to meet up, but just like a kid on Christmas morning, he snuck down to the garage to get a peek at his new car.
We got together first thing on Sunday for a quick run. He was an instant admirer as Das Blaue Bombe charmed him with her effortless driving and stunning good looks. I explained the issues with the temperature and how I thoughtfully went without A/C.
After a bit, he asked if the green light on the center console had been on the entire time. When I answered in the affirmative, he smiled and explained that I had been running the A/C compressor the whole time and had only turned off the fan. All that sweating for nothing!
Now Keith knows he can run Das Blaue Bombe with the A/C on and without any worries thanks to my self-sacrifice. The car will serve him well on the SCM 1000 next summer in Spokane, WA.
To receive updates about the 2023 SCM 1000, go to www.scm1000.com
If it needs a radiator, have the original one recored. Don’t get an aftermarket radiator, because it won’t fit. Ask me how I know.
World’s Finest Motorcar, I think, is what they used to call them. Entirely appropriate, even with carburetors.
I have the more modern ’79 300CD…..great cars.un appreciated