- - Thursday, September 15, 2011

A discerning woman is Rebecca Feldman. She knows what she likes even when she has little or no knowledge of the subject at hand. Years ago, after seeing a picture of a Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC, she informed her husband, Jack, that it was the car for her.

She was amazed that she never saw one of the distinctive cars on the road or in parking lots. Only once did she spy one, while on vacation in Florida. She thought it was even prettier than in the picture.

In 1998 Mr. Feldman was visiting Louis Zuckerman in Bethesda when Mr. Zuckerman’s wife, Greta, asked him to move his car that was blocking her car in the garage. He moved his car and as he did so the garage door opened and beside her new car was a 1980 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC.

“That’s my wife’s car,” Mr. Feldman thought, remembering her declaration years before.

He learned that the Zuckermans purchased the stylish car new from the Herb Gordon dealership in 1980 and the base price was $41,033. Mr. Feldman says the only option on the well-appointed car was the electric sunshine roof, which this car has.

Mr. Feldman learned that the 16-foot, 4.5-inch-long car had been driven only about 58,000 miles and 45,000 of those miles were accumulated in the first nine years the Zuckermans owned the car. After than the car was parked more than it was driven until finally, in 1992, it was driven into the garage where it sat for six years.

He explained to the owner that the car in the garage was his wife’s dream car and asked could he possibly purchase it. He was informed that there was a long list of people who had already expressed interest in the car if it should ever be sold. Still, Mr. Feldman persevered and along with his wife was finally granted an interview with the owners. It quickly became obvious that the original owners were seeking to find a good home for their treasured automobile.

The two wives were on the same wave length during the first interview and a second meeting, a dinner, was planned with the entire Feldman family in attendance.

They evidently passed muster because a deal was struck with the caveat that Mr. Zuckerman was to make the long-dormant car roadworthy.

In October, 1998 the long-awaited telephone call came. The car was ready. The entire family drove up to Bethesda where the deal was consummated. Mrs. Feldman settled into the leather driver’s seat behind the two-spoke steering wheel of her dream car and motored home to Stafford, cushioned by the 111-inch wheelbase.

Most of the rubber had deteriorated so all of the hoses and belts had to be replaced along with the 14-inch tires. Many of the gaskets also required replacement.

Mr. Feldman carefully examined his wife’s new old Mercedes-Benz and found that somewhere in the past all four fenders had kissed the frame of the garage door. Additionally, the flanks of the handsome car had all the usual nicks and dings usually found on cars that park in a public garage.

With all the damage corrected and with the original paint wet-sanded by hand, the Mercedes-Benz was sprayed with a clear-coat finish. Both bumpers were readjusted and, once straightened, were polished to a like-new sheen.

The 275.8-cubic-inch V-8 engine still delivers 160 horsepower to the rear drive wheels through a three-speed automatic transmission. Bringing the 3,750-pound car to a halt is a chore left to the four-wheel power disc brakes. For such a heavy car the handling is quite nimble with the steering wheel moving lock to lock in only three turns.

The original Becker radio had been replaced with a Sony radio. Mr. Feldman located a shop in Maryland that stocked the original Becker radio, which now rests in the dashboard where the original radio once was.

After the car was brought back to like-new condition, the Feldmans drove it back to Bethesda to show the original owners that they had indeed found a good home for the car. Mrs. Zuckerman quickly inspected one corner of the back seat where years before someone had spilled something that stained the leather. The new owners had found a leather upholstery shop that made the stain disappear.

The odometer has just now rolled over 67,000 miles and Mrs. Feldman reports highway mileage on a recent trip to the Shenandoah Valley at 20 miles per gallon. The fuel tank has a capacity of 23.8 gallons. Mrs. Feldman is amused by the government-mandated speedometer that registers speeds only up to 85 mph.

She never tires of standing back just to admired the sculptured body panels of her car. “I like the simple lines of the car,” she says. “This car is me,” she concludes, but she had known that all along.

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