My entire family is obsessed with cars – the automobile gene is hardwired into our DNA.
Quite a few anecdotes about my father revolve around automobiles – his fondness for touring the countryside in a Mercedes-Benz Ponton as Prime Minister of Kashmir and driving across the frozen Dal Lake in a Land Rover. Then there is the amusing story about the cabinet minister who borrowed the Prime Minister's official car and surprised the driver by offering an exorbitant sum to replace the "motion" that broke on a steep incline!
A list of cars that my brother has owned in just the past five years would be longer than this blog post. During our college days, he owned the first true-blue dirt bike and the first Yamaha RD 350 in Kashmir. My initial ride on that monster RD 350 got me addicted to speed – and there is probably no motor law or speed record that wasn't broken on those bikes.
Over the past fifty years my eldest brother's family has owned the Tata Motors dealership for Kashmir. Like their current partnership with Fiat, Tata Motors used to have a tie-up with Mercedes-Benz and his office naturally featured Mercedes-Benz memorabilia. One print in particular remains vivid in my memory – an open Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racer hitting a vulture at high speed.
Occasionally I would receive MB goodies in the form of key-chains, swiss knives and calendars. One calendar hung in my room for years beyond its expiry date. It featured high-quality prints of Mercedes-Benz models over the years. When the calendar was finally removed, I had a hand-carved walnut frame made for one of the prints – a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL.
Stimulated by the current TV ad featuring Michael Schumacher and the Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS – the modern MB/AMG interpretation of the classic Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing – I put on my racing/googling overalls and after a marathon Google Image Search session, I tracked down both the images. Here they are for your viewing pleasure – which I doubt can match my own.
So, no prizes for guessing my favourite car of all time. Over the years I have drooled over many cars – the Lancia Stratos, the Ferrari Testarossa, the Bugatti Veyron, and almost all models from Aston-Martin and Lamborghini but IMHO the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing represents the pinnacle of automobile design. It is the model against which all other designs are to be measured (and found wanting!).
As attractive as the Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS may be – the original is still the King.