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Wagon Wednesday: 2004 Mercedes-Benz W203 C180 Kompressor

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One of the more difficult things as a writer is assessing the dynamic characteristics of your father’s car. Or, to be precise: at a time when he’s sitting in the passenger seat. My formative years as a driver, brought up on car magazines with evocative tales of road trips were spent driving the family trucksters under somewhat constant monitoring, and whenever given free rein, discovering some of the attributes never quite to be reached with someone else in the car.

I’ve now passed my 30th birthday a good while ago, but whenever I’m piloting a vehicle with my father, double my age, there’s an eerie sense of being transported to an age a decade younger. That ends up ruling out the time-honed lairy gravel road Scandinavian flicks in the MX-5 and the immediate throttle response satisfaction given by the TU-series engine in the 205. The watchful eye with decades of road experience may be silent, but the direction is in the air – keep it steady, sudden movements to the minimum. Don’t launch the phone from the dashboard slot under the stereo head unit.

The car in question is one of the more puzzling of recent years, and by itself worthy of closer inspection. It’s a 203-body Mercedes-Benz C-class wagon built a decade ago. Is it a good used buy? Is it a decent Mercedes? What to really make of it, especially since it’s now been in the family for six months?

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Monday Video: Kawasaki catches fire at 247 mph

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Ever experienced the inevitable heat death of the universe while riding your turbocharged 2006 Kawasaki ZX14 at 247 mph? Well, this is pretty much what it looks like, from the view point of a GoPro camera strapped on the bike.

This video was taken at a runway, at a speed event in Finland. The oil return on the bike failed at speed and fire was an inevitable outcome. The rider was able to pull to a halt and bail, and it took a while until the fire crew got to the scene. This meant the fairing melted around the camera as the fire blazed, and amazingly enough the memory card could be salvaged from the GoPro-turned-alien-blob later on.

The latter half of the three-minute video is pretty insane, as that’s what it would feel to be a GoPro slowly engulfed by melting plastic and fiery fire. Wouldn’t want to change places with it.

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Sitting Pretty: (Most Likely) Abandoned 1996 Lada Samara 1500i

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I drive past this off-white Lada Samara almost every day, whenever I grab my car keys and go anywhere. It’s been sitting at the parking lot adjacent to the railway station as long as I remember, and after I first paid attention to it I don’t think I’ve seen it go anywhere. It’s on summer tires, but those were mounted a good few years ago, I wager.

A car so inherently disposable as a Samara, especially one manufactured as late as 1996 when the competition was quite far ahead of the little Lada, doesn’t really stand a chance of being intentionally preserved. This one will probably sit there until someone tows it somewhere to be cubed.

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Wagon Wednesday: 1994 BMW E34 M5 Touring Nürburgring Edition

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As a Northern European car guy, there’s a ton of cars I wish we got but didn’t. And I know there’s a lot of cars that were – even technically – available here, that never made it to the States. The BMW E34 was available with engines ranging from a lowly 1.8-litre four to the wonderful 4.0 V8 or the 3.6 and 3.8-litre sixes in the M-versions, and along with the saloon version, you could get the BMW M5 as a seriously cool wagon version.

The Touring was never exported to North America, and a 1994 car such as this will have to wait a few more years before making it past the 25-year age limit in the States. But here it was, on a rainy mediocre Monday, sitting on cobblestones, not far from my apartment. It’s not always completely terrible to live here.

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Chance Encounter: 1968 Dodge Charger R/T

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It’s probably one of the more random sightings I’ve had happen lately, even if summertime usually brings out the interesting American muscle that is housed in local garages over winter. A ’68 Dodge Charger R/T just casually sitting on a street corner in the old, wooden town here, in drizzling rain.

The car’s been restored recently by the looks of it, and the wheels are modern, even. It’s probably very close to what the owner has dreamed of for a long time.

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The Un-Wombat: Mercedes-Benz W123 200 D Finland-Spec

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Depending of the market, Mercedes-Benz W123:s can be seen differently. In the States, a W123 on the street can be a big-bumpered, biodiesel-swigging 300 D with MB-Tex seats, in Germany, perhaps a twin-cam 280 E with actual leather. Over here in Finland? 200 D with 35-year-old leopard seat covers over whatever they hide. The amazing thing about the example here is that the original owner opted for an actual color, Sahara Yellow instead of light ivory or basic refrigerator white, as those seem to be the predominant color choices for Finnish-registered 123:s.

I was really pleased to see this very Mercedes, as it’s somehow such an outstanding Finnish countryside car. Sure, there’s a little door corner rust and the mileage must be galactic, but it’s commendably straight, clean and obviously operating without duct tape MacGyvering. It’s been such a decent car for such a long time, that there’s no need to replace it with anything else for the foreseeable future.

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Fastback Friday: 1987 Volvo 480 ES

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Let me just begin by shooting myself in the foot, and asking whether the squared-off Volvo 480 ES is a fastback. Is it a hatchback? Glassback? Shooting brake? Doorstop? An anteater? In any case, it’s one of the quirkiest Volvos ever, and it’s their pioneering front-wheel-drive outing.

I’ve always been fascinated by them, so it was crucial to take a couple photos of this one.

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Night Owl: Citroën BX 16 TGI Break

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Ever tried to photograph a car at two in the morning – Sunday morning? Last weekend, I did just that, while being out with friends. You see, this place I like to frequent has a nice view to the street behind it, and the white Citroën BX wagon just peeked out in there. I immediately put down my small Guinness and barged to the patio, which was just about to close.

“You can’t get through here, sorry.” “But there’s a car there I need to photograph!” The exchange was something to that effect. Patience and good manners paid off, and here’s the result: some noisy and blurry shots of a white French econobox. Isn’t it great?

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Truck Thursday: 1995 Jeep Cherokee 2.5

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Every now and then, driving past used car lots, you do an absolutely classic double take. Then you make sure there’s no-one right behind you, hit the brakes and head over to inspect closer whatever it is you just glimpsed.

In my case, it was a red Jeep Cherokee XJ and I did the complete Christine manoeuvre. I was hoping it would be the full 4.0, but that wasn’t the case: it was a 2.5 four banger with not much up its sleeve.

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Wagon Wednesday: 2001 Mercedes-Benz W210 ex-Ambulance

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You often see somewhat run-down Mercedes-Benz W210s in Finland. Due to some quality control issues with the bodywork, coupled with the hard use the W210s saw in their years, as taxis and repmobiles, it’s not uncommon to see significant amounts of rust on the sheetmetal of these turn-of-the-millennium Benzes.

While this 2001 E220 CDI example is pretty mucky, it’s also an example of the variety of Mercedes-Benz platforms, as it’s started its life as an ambulance in some other country. Long wheelbase, tall fiberglass roof: it’s Ecto-1 seen as a Mercedes-Benz.

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