Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
3/6/12 1:47 p.m.
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The morning of January 14th was clear, crisp and cool, and our 1966 Mercedes-Benz 230 S sedan was ready for its big rallycross debut. Not big in the sense that it would make headlines, but because this was a big deal for the car. We had only owned it for a month. We thrashed to get the car safe enough to drive the 70 interstate miles to the event, compete in a hopefully non-embarrassing fashion, and then still be able to drive home.

This was an inaugural, regional rallycross event for the SCCA Central Florida Region. About 25 preregistered entries were expected, but that number nearly doubled on the day of the event.

We had no illusions about beating rally-prepared late model Subarus, but we were going to give it hell no matter the competition. For those not familiar with rallycross: It's one car at a time through a pylon-lined course on an unpaved surface. Autocrossing on dirt is the best way to describe the sport.

On the highway as we headed to the event, we were again surprised by the 230 S's road manners. There was not a wobble or vibration all the way to our 80 mph cruise speed. There was barely even any wind noise. The seats were comfortable and the car was confidence inspiring, even fun. The only thing that absolutely ruined the driving experience was its loud and hideous aftermarket exhaust.

Once there, the event was a blast. We quickly figured out that if we stayed on the power, the car would not jump out of second gear. That allowed us to keep both hands on the wheel and drive the damned thing. With this figured out, we managed some decent runs and finished middle of the pack. Not bad for a bone-stock luxury sedan from the 1960s.

We learned some important things as well. For one, Vredesteins make fabulously smooth road tires, but they are not designed for off-road use: We were traction limited. Were we to get serious about rallycross, we would pick tires with a more appropriate tread pattern. We were also reminded that limited-slip differentials are wonderful things for off road use. It's just too bad our car didn't have one. We learned that SCCA RallyCross is timed in a cumulative fashion, so if you go off course on just one run, you really hurt your chances for a top finish. Finally, we learned that an old fintail Mercedes is a nice handling, fun car to flog at the limit of traction.

While several other modern cars were overheating, damaging their undercarriages and having trouble, our old Mercedes soldiered on. When it was all said and done, we got in the car and drove home with absolutely no problems. What a great day. What a fun car. Yes, we are in love and are going to do a lot more with our old fin tail.

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