Frank Wilksen is a veteran of Broom’s editorial board. He has worked as an automotive journalist for over 50 years and tested a large number of cars both at home and abroad.
Some cars remember it better than others. Frank now shares the memories with all of his Broom readers. This time it’s about a 1978 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE, a broken Ford Granda and an American soldier – and some wagons south of Gothenburg…
There are some trips and some car experiences that are well remembered. This 1978 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE belongs in this class, on a reportage trip to Germany was incredibly eventful.
The experience really started when the new Ford Granada 2.0 I originally used for the trip, It ended up as a complete wreck in the collision of a chain of galactic dimensions on the highway A few kilometers south of Göttingen. Sure, there was, yes – on a long ramp at the time there was still a brake ramp on the right side for heavy vehicles that overheated on the brakes and stopped problems in the normal way.
The wreck site at Hedemünden
That’s quite enough, but in the BMW behind me – which didn’t stop until it was inside the Granada rear axle – an American soldier on his way home in Berlin was behind the wheel. Only a two-point belt made his nose hard, but no worse than he agreed to ride with me – when I got a car.
I would come home the same day, anyway – once the remains of Granada were left at a wreck site at Hedemünden.
A Taunus 1.3 was available
Høgger’n was helpful and let me contact the car rental company in Göttingen for available transportation. Here was only Guten Abend and fryd og gammen, and after determining the need in the middle class, the soldier came up with a Ford Taunus 1.3 L offer, as the “only alternative” that was available.
With the motorway to Puttgarden, and fairly long and scenic drives in both Denmark and Sweden, this particular show didn’t put me in an exhilarated state. I was going far, preferably as fast as possible, which doesn’t match well with a car with 59 hp, 92 Nm maximum torque – and a top speed of 138 km/h. And acceleration from 0-100 in just over 19 seconds didn’t tempt too much for the 33-year-old motor journalist with a strong predominance of speed genes!
We have a Mercedes since…
– Do you have nothing else with little energy? I questioned.
– Leider nicht, that was the answer, but my long silence in response provoked additional information, yes:
– Well, we have a Mercedes, but it will be a completely different price, then …
I quickly figured it out in my head.
– Well, which Mercedes is it?
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It took three seconds to say yes!
Yes, it was no lower than the 280 SE, and it was pricey – but then it was also a ride home in style. With a 2.7-liter in-line six with 185 hp, a top speed of over 200 km/h – and acceleration figures that were decent enough in 1978: 0-100 in 9.6 seconds, for a car all at 1,610 kg without a driver. The gearbox was a 4-speed automatic.
I spent about three seconds saying yes!
Long runs at 200
And so, I carried north with me and my new American friend David. I dropped him off at Hannover Airport, then set off on the next 300km motorway meager route, with Puttgarden and the ferry to Rodby in Denmark as the next intermediate destination.
It disappeared, so to speak, and for a long time the speedometer needle was off on the gentle side of 200 km / h. The evening was quiet, and there were no obstacles delaying the progress.
Tank took 96 liters
The car was – of course – just as cool as I had imagined when the lease was done. Cheese quality and excellent on all bends and edges, the comfort on the highway at high speeds was fantastic. Consumption was also a bit unique, the factory-stated average being 1.25 liters per mile, and it probably topped it hard for large parts of the trip north. But with a fuel tank of 96 (!) liters, the range was not so bad anyway …
Across Denmark, from Puttgarden to Elsinore, it went like a game, but then I was suddenly in Sweden, and then it wasn’t fun anymore.
Not fun in Sweden
I drove deservedly ashore from the ferry in Helsingborg at 280 SE late at night, I mean I remember it was 23. The first thing I met were the ihuga customs officers, who found a mixture between me and a Mercedes 280 SE so suspicious that it went straight to the search hall.
He drops the gate, gets out with the driver and gets out with whatever was in the car that wasn’t repaired. The luggage compartment and the engine compartment with a magnifying glass were cleaned, as was the underside of the car – while I stood powerless and cut my teeth for a very undesirable delay on the way home.
Finally, they had to let me go, but I had the strong experience that it was something they did reluctantly!
No pleasant experience there, no.
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The next “highlight” wasn’t on the nice end of the scale either. A few miles south of Gothenburg, I met an old Ford Mustang with two people inside. Rolling slowly, here we were talking about the pace of our Sunday ride!
I simply didn’t have the time and patience to do this, so on my first straight stretch I set out to drive. When I was about to pass a Mustang, I suddenly heard the V8 engine firing properly, a sound that was hard to understand. Obviously Swedish pedestrians should have nothing to do with overtaking a German premium!
Fortunately, the Mercedes sixer responded perfectly. I already had a fair amount of torque inside – so I backed off and, in the direction I was good, left my feet firmly anchored on the throttle for a good distance.
Jaggu I had to blow up too!
The next surprise came on the north side of Gothenburg. Here there was a big police check, in the middle of a black night, but traffic was little – so it was a very short stop.
So that was the end of the surprises, and a good way to move forward? Oh no, it shouldn’t be that simple. In Bullerbygden, not far from the Kung Rane, there was a full stop again: Promilleekontroll!
Thus, the balloon was supposed to be inflated like this around 02.00 at night, before a nice Swedish policeman wished me a happy flight. It was just missing!
He was tired, yeah
It crossed the Norwegian border well without much of a slowdown – and the rest of the trip actually went without other unexpected items of controversial recreational value.
In other words: I was tired when I parked in Slimstad early in the morning.
Enjoyed the turns too
Like I said: The Mercedes-Benz 280 SE was an excellent transport, and we didn’t discuss this. It is suggested that it has enough strength to make the ride comfortable and easy.
Although it was relatively large and heavy at the time, it had a lot to offer as the road was a bit twisty. It wasn’t just straight stretches along the E6 motorway through Sweden and Norway at the time – either.
it was expensive
The Mercedes-Benz 280 SE was a large, luxury car, often referred to as a synonym for “the director’s car”. The length was 4.96 m, the width was 1.87 m, the height was 1.43 m, and the wheelbase was 2.87 m.
What was it costing in Norway at the time? I haven’t actually been able to find an exact answer to that, but prices for other exclusive Mercedes cars a few years ago would have indicated that the 1978 280 SE price was in the range of 190,000 – 200,000 kroner. Or about four 1.3-liter Taunos.
This article was first published by broom.
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