I’m thinking of starting a business – the Any Given Reason Interesting Automobile Relocation Service. AGRIARS, for short, would be a last-minute method of transporting fast cars around the country without having the hassle of booking a truck. It’s a simple concept – put me on a plane and I’ll drive your new acquisition back home for you – I’ll take some photos on the way and then write a story about it. I’ve already helped deliver a 991 GT3 to Sydney, bring an Evo 6.5 Makinen and a WRX back from Melbourne, and an AMG G63 home from Mount Gambier.
My new little business venture evolved further a few weeks back when friend of AGR, Daniel, called. He’d just negotiated the purchase of an AMG E55 Estate he’d found online in Melbourne and was eager to get it home as quickly as possible. He hadn’t the time during the coming weekend to go himself and collect it, and he was too impatient to wait another week. Would I be available to fly to Melbourne and drive back the 350kw, 700nm supercharged V8 wagon on his behalf? Of course. Happy to help out.
Unfortunately working a regular job during the week somewhat restricts my freedom for last minute jaunts across the countryside, so the classic Adelaide-Melbourne-Adelaide combination of the Sunday morning Red Eye flight out and afternoon drive back was arranged. Everything seemed a little too easy, until my 430am alarm was preceded by a 4am SMS from Jetstar: “Flight JQ771 from Adelaide is cancelled. To view and select your new flight options go to…“. Crap – the next Jetstar wasn’t until 1030am, which clearly wouldn’t work, especially given some finely honed plans to attend a Porsche meet in Brighton before departing for Adelaide and being home that night. In my 4am slumber and state of semi undress, I clambered to my laptop to find that Virgin still had three seats left that departed only half an hour later. With the schedule only slightly lagging behind I punched in my credit card details, and two hours later I thankfully observed the glowing sun rise from above the clouds rather than under them.
The warmth of an Adelaide winter morning gave way to grey cloud as we flew across the border, and when we landed into Melbourne it was looking decidedly wintery. In other words, perfect conditions to drive someone elses high powered, supercharged V8 wagon for the first time.
After a small amount of confusion about which exact airport carpark we would be meeting in (turns out there’s more of them than I expected at Tullamarine), I eventually caught up with Craig who had kindly driven the car to the airport to meet me. Craig had owned the E55 for eight years, purchasing it from its first owner in Tasmania, and used it for his lengthy daily commute and to tow his MV Augusta motorbikes with. It had a fair few kilometers on the clock, but it was in pristine condition and had clearly been maintained to within an inch of its life. Craig was moving on, but I detected that he was slightly remorseful about letting it go. After signing the papers on Daniel’s behalf, I grabbed the keys and hit the freeway into the city.
This particular E55 is quite unique as it is the only one in Australia delivered in the Designo paint shade of Havana Metallic, with matching Designo Sand two-tone Nappa leather trim. It’s not for all tastes but it certainly has a lot of presence, and undoubtedly grew on me during my time with the car to the point where I became quite fond of it. And because really, how staid is a silver Mercedes?
First impressions on the highway were of a supremely capable and comfortable long distance tourer, with prodigious power reserves just waiting for the throttle pedal to be merely breathed upon. The weather seemed to be holding out so I opened the sunroof, found Triple J on the stereo, and wound a little more speed on passing cars along the highway into the city.
Despite the high mileage, the E55 really did drive like a brand new car. You could easily have lopped the first digit off the odometer and I would have been none the wiser. There were no squeaks or rattles, everything worked as it should, the motor pulled strongly and the transmission swapped gears cleanly and swiftly. The overflowing service book in the glovebox with full history from new reinforced that Dan had made a good purchase.
Unfortunately my delayed arrival meant I missed the meet so I instead met up with them at a nearby cafe for breakfast. They are also mutual friend’s of Dan’s and were keen to check out his new purchase before he’d even laid eyes on it.
…. like the automatically deployable boot floor. As a side note, Dan reckons that this is actually very handy for loading heavy things without the need to bend right into the car. It still seemed slightly pointless to us.
I had visions of getting some shots of the E55 alongside some typical Victorian red-brick walls before I left Melbourne, so Louis jumped in with me and we pointed the big Merc toward a Southbank coffee shop that was rumored to be full of old Vespa’s. Incidentally, the E55 wasn’t the biggest Merc we encountered that morning.
There are few things as satisfying as settling into a fast, comfortable car and covering mass distances in a day. You get that quiet satisfaction that only comes with steady achievement, without actually having to do anything more strenuous than observe road signs and attempt to eat cheeseburgers without spilling the sauce on your lap.
For longer solo driving trips I’m a recent convert to podcasts, particularly the reruns of Richard Fidler’s Conversations series for the ABC. In regular hectic life, when else do you have enough spare time to listen to back-to-back podcasts and spend hour after hour completely immersed in a subject or person that you were hardly even aware of? In one stretch, I learnt in great detail about the English involvement in the Manhattan Project and the ins and outs of the Maralinga test facility, as I periodically knocked that supercharged V8 down a few gears to blast past trucks. This is how history should have been taught in school.
In another podcast from a much smaller series, I listened to an hour-long interview with Max Mason about his latest Adelaide restaurant project, an Australian Yum Cha place in Chesser Street called The Henry Austin. Max, as you may or may not be aware, worked with us to sort out the catering and drinks for the last Any Given Reason Burger Meet at Penny’s Hill. (hint – keep Boxing Day 2016 free – Burger meet VI).
The rain was starting to get pretty heavy in a few places and I thought about the plane flight across, and how just a few thousand feet above those clouds it was bright and sunny. But I didn’t mind, there’s something quite cosy about traveling inside a warm car on a torrid wet day. And I thought about the contrast too, about how my friend David and I had to bypass this exact stretch of road a few years ago due to a bushfire when we were driving his new Evoultion 6.5 Makinen home.
Passing storm front’s often provide some interesting lighting conditions, and I was almost speechless just outside of Horsham when some bright sun briefly came out and illuminated some vibrant green fields, popping against the dark storm grey sky.
When driving back to Adelaide, I usually find that Keith is situated in that odd location where there’s no immediate need to stop, but you’ll kick yourself an hour down the road if you don’t. With the tank level in the AMG still looking good to get me home, I ran into the corner store for a quick toastie to keep the potential hunger at bay. The fact that the sun was starting to get good didn’t hurt, either.
I really don’t like driving through the Mallee country at this time of the afternoon due to the ever present Kangaroo risk, and Dan’s comments about how the E55 still wears all its factory paint reverberated around in my head. I’ve found in these situations that you can use the cruise control to your advantage; set the cruise at your desired speed and then alternate your left and right feet so that the brake pedal is covered at all times. Hopefully this preparation might reduce reactions times just enough to prevent a collision with some wildlife, but thankfully it was never called upon.
The ambient was a little cool but the outside air was fresh, and I found that having the sunroof open with the seat heaters on was the perfect combination. Throw in the Triple J Hottest 100 of All Time playlist booming through the frankly brilliant stereo and it was a nice way to farewell the day. I love tearing through the hills, but this drive was every bit as memorable for entirely different reasons.
The Princes Highway morphes to two lanes in each direction at Tailem Bend, and from here I followed it down and into suburban Adelaide. By now Dan was getting keener and keener to inspect his new car, so I headed straight for his house.
I had arrived into Adelaide just after 8pm, and was completely spent. Dan and his fiance Danielle dropped me home, and as my little Sunday adventure came to an end, theirs was only just beginning. One fast car safely relocated from city to city.AMG #E55 #E55 Estate #Melbourne #Mercedes-Benz #Road trip #Victoria