What's the Best Car You've Ever Owned?

Illustration for article titled What's the Best Car You've Ever Owned?

Car ownership is a gamble. Owning the perfect car can easily turn out less than perfect. Buying a crappy car can sometimes work out a lot better than expected. You really never know. What‘s the best car you've ever owned?

A lot of us have owned terrible cars. For whatever reason, the manufacturer, the dealer, a previous owner or perhaps something more evil doomed the particular vehicle you happened to buy to be truly terrible. If you haven't experienced terrible car ownership, surely you have heard the horror stories of those who have. What you don't hear or think about nearly as much are the good cars and their story. The less dramatic and profanity free stories of the cars that provided years of no fail service and put a smile on your face. That's exactly the car this week's QOTW is concerned with. We want to hear about the good ones.

You know the car. The one you didn't have to do anything to except basic maintenance. The car you bought for almost nothing that somehow provided you with a lot more than you expected. Even the car so good, so reliable, and so fun to drive that you didn't mind paying for it every month. It's the car you miss when you have problems with the car sitting in your driveway now. Perhaps it is the car sitting in your driveway now. What is the best car you've ever owned?


The answer to this question for me is a simple one, my $650 1985 Mercedes-Benz 300D Turbo (not pictured) is the best car I've ever owned. The summer before I went to college, through a series of automotive misadventures, I ended up nearly broke and in dire need of a car to drive to school. I did the logical thing and went to a sketchy car auction, happily purchasing the oldest car there, my 300D. The car showed 318,000 miles when I bought it, and the odometer had been broken for some time. Despite this, after a set of rotors and 2 junkyard tires, I drove the car for a year and a half with almost no issues.

Unfortunately, the combination of an old diesel engine, sub freezing winters, and lack of a way to plug in the block heater in my apartment complex eventually led to selling the car. After adding quite a few miles and driving through a whole salty New England winter, I got back every cent I put into the car upon selling it. Best of all, after leaving my possession the car was repainted and retired to warm weather duty, where it remains today.

So tell me, What is the best car you've ever owned?

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Reborn Pyrrhic

Funny that a W123 Benz was chosen for the article image. The best car I've ever owned was a '77 Mercedes Benz 300 D.

I was in college and broke, had less than $1000 to buy a car. I found the Benz on Autotrader, the owner asking $1200 OBO. I had always heard about how reliable those cars were so I called the guy and agreed to come see it.

When I got to his house in Coconut Grove, Miami, this guy had another six Benz. An older mid 80s 300 SL, a brand new SL 600, a 300 TD wagon, a late eighties 420 SEL and a 380 SEC, and an E60 AMG. This guy was a Benz nut.

He explained that the 300 D was his first Mercedes, and that he was running out of place to park them. He had just bought the AMG.

The 300D had about 180,000 miles, was mechanically sound with full service history, but the a/c didn't work anymore, and had some rust on floor boards. Tires were new and there was a new stereo too. I told him I was going to college and didn't have $1200, so I offered him $900 and he took it.

That car ended up being perfect for me. I was 20 and had a few speeding tickets and one reckless driving for street racing a VW Scirocco 16v. One more ticket and I'd be walking, so selling the Scirocco and getting the Benz was perfect. It was slow, it was comfortable, it had great fuel mileage, and it was a Benz!

I learned quite a bit about wrenching on cars on the Benz too. In the two years I owned I change the alternator, battery, radiator, rebuilt the vaccum pump, changed suspension bushings, etc. Reliable it was, and parts were surprisingly cheap too.

One of the best things was the Mercedes Benz Club of America. Despite mine being by far the cheapest Benz in the local South Florida chapter I wasn't shunned away, and would rub elbows with older dudes driving six figure Benz during the monthly meetings.

Through the club I also found out that Mercedes Benz will provide free road side assistance to any Benz ever made, whether new or old, a 90k exotic or a 900 buck beater. I used the roadside assistance a few times when my alternator was going bad, and a guy would show up in a blue service wagon, give me a jump, and all he asked for was a VIN. I cancelled AAA thanks to MBUSA.

I left the Benz mostly as it came, adding only tin on the windows (no a/c in Miami dictates tint!), newer speakers and a genuine German license plate on the front bumper. Once at a parking lot in Miami this German dude saw my bumper and approached me speaking in German. Although I studied it for two years I couldn't understand what he said. Once he realised I didn't speak German he switched to English and told me that plate was from his hometown and he was wondering if I was fromt there too. He said his dad had the same car in the same color in that same town in Germany. Small world...

I drove that Benz up and down Florida few times. Miami to Gainesville was a seven hour afair, windows open and sunroof ajar to cool me off in Florida's summer. I drove to Atlanta a few times too, and the old timer never left me stranded on the Turnpike. My biggest trip in the Benz was my first coast to coast, from Miami to San Diego with a girlfiend. I ended putting almost another 100k miles on that old Diesel.

When my little brother just turned sixteen he needed a car, I was joining the Army and figured soon enough I'd have enough saved to buy a better car (doh!) and with a steady job I'd be able to buy somethign newer. I gave my brother the Benz with almost 270,000 miles. I was perfect for him for the same reasons it was perfect for me: big so it fit all his friends, comfortable, slow, frugal, and he could say his first car was a Mercedes.

Unfortunately the story doesn't end well, as my brother crashed the Benz after aquaplanning on a typical day of South Florida downpour. The insurance totalled it, as it was a high mileage rusty old car. I found out about it only five months later. Needless to say I was sad to see the Benz die like that.

Although I haven't taken my word for it yet, I vowed myself I'd own another old diesel Benz sedan again, either a W123 or W124. I better get it done soon as they are getting older and older, and rarer and rarer every day.