The head gasket was blown. I drove it too hot, and now the engine is dead. Repairs too unwieldy to do on my budget. The coolant would just boil over in 10 minutes.
Also, there was a sound like a rake being dragged across the undercarriage when you made a hard right turn. Or too hard a left turn. The front windows didn’t roll down. Or they did, but they would just drop into the door at a diagonal. The stereo was stolen. The driver’s side seat belt didn’t work; you’d have to reach over and stick it in the passenger side and if you had a passenger you’d have to entwine their seat belt with yours and explain this rather unsafe-seeming process to first dates you were getting to go back to your house. The sunroof was stuck closed. The back rear window was always open about four inches because I’d replaced it myself while drunk; I had shattered it with a rock when I locked my keys in the car. Also drunk. Unbeknownst to me the left rear door lock didn’t fully lock and I could have just opened the door. The hood latch didn’t open. Or it did, but you had to reach into the innards of the car with vice grips and yank on the hood latch cable. Eventually the cable would have come off its moorings completely and snaked into some impossible rusty depth of the body and the hood would have been sealed shut. The brakes were going. The master cylinder. The vacuum pump was going. There was no heat. There was no air conditioning. There was not a god damn motherfucking thing you could do about it when it was a hundred nine degrees and the car, with half its windows not rolling down, was like a greenhouse, and you were basically microwaving yourself getting in it on an August day in Los Angeles. It didn’t want to start when it was cold. The starter just cranked over and over and over, first slowly, then quicker and quicker with a horrible metal-on-metal grinding until it turned over and spat out a huge and weirdly stationary cloud of white smoke that smelled like parts of your car that you really need burning, and then you had to lay on the gas for a minute or else it stalled out when you put it in gear. It needed a paint job. I always meant to get a paint job over that worn out silver that looks like primer gray. The signals didn’t work; they didn’t flash and you had to flip the lever up and down by hand trying to keep a rhythm. I got a ticket for a burned out license plate light and it was impossible to fucking fix because every time you tried the bulb just got sucked up into some weird hole behind the impossible-to-get-your-fingers in soot covered bay for the license plate light.
But god damn did I love that car. I’m gonna miss that car so bad. Greta. I bought her for eight hundred bucks. Ten years ago. My beautiful car. Took me up and down the coast, hundreds of miles, blinding rainstorms in the mountains; other cars stalled out in flooded ditches; that car kept going. The 1979 Mercedes 300SD. The W116 chassis, the first “S” class. Flagship of the line. There had been “S” cars before but they were one-off sports cars. This was when mercedes said “fuck it: we’re going to make a whole line of super badass ultra-luxurious sedans” The “S” stands for “suck it, other cars.”
The OM617.950 engine. 3 liter turbocharged in line 5 cylinder diesel, making a very un-astonishing 111 horsepower for a 4700 pound vehicle. but thirty three god damn motherfucking miles per gallon in a 4700 pound car made in 1979, and they last. Half a million miles. Until you blow a head gasket. And you look on craigslist for another car just like yours, and you find one but the guy lives way up a fucking mountain and there are miles of steep slope on a freeway where you can’t pull over and throw more water in the radiator, and when you finally get to the stop light at the off ramp the engine just shuts down; you can’t start it again. You killed it by driving at the redline uphill for 3 miles. I didn’t want you to die this way. Hellfire hot, twisting the cast iron of your engine that had run so strong for 33 years. But you died at a stoplight. Not on the freeway, where I could have been killed. You died where I would be safe.
All over the coast, the mountains, the desert. I loved driving in you. You made me look cool, like a 70’s dignitary from some African country visiting Jimmy Carter. Dark blue leather seats. Perfect. I fucked a lot of girls in you. I got a lot of blowjobs. I had a lot of crazy conversations. I made girls cry. Many tears on your upholstery. We drove to the beach. People always said “cool car” when they got in. Admired your cool ass retro original Star Wars -looking climate controls. Your expanses of walnut. I never did the trick where you pull the seat all the way forward and fully recline it and take off the headrest and it makes a bed. People can camp out and sleep in you. I always wanted to do that. Always thought I would.
What happens now, when you’re gone. I wish you still ran a little. Someone could fix the head gasket. Maybe not now though, too tough to open up the engine and fix the rings to get compression back and all that other shit. Maybe now you have to go to a junkyard. And just sit, sit for years while they pick at you. I’m sorry.
But man, did we have a hell of a fucking run, you and me. Ten years. Eight hundred bucks. Two hundred thousand miles, maybe more. I would have driven you my whole life.
Now I’m gonna buy another one just like you. Maybe some of your parts will go in this new car. Maybe a little bit of you will live on.