Gerboise Bleu

“I call it the Blue Rat.”

Image: The author

The works car park is frequently a mundane beast. The same people in the same cars, day after day. Occasionally though, a visitor might just drive here in something a little more exotic, expensive or preferably just different. 

In the past we’ve had a few Porsche’s, Boxsters and Cayennes though never any form of 911. Once a Mustang was heard burbling through but we believe the driver was lost, for once the exit was pin-pointed, the throttle was floored and the dust disturbed.

There’s even been a Rosso Ferrari 360 and a Rolls Royce Phantom in predictable black when I happened to be gawping out the window within the same week. Sadly on both occasions, on my lunch break neither of the cars were to be seen again. In previous episodes, I’ve mentioned it’s a wealthy area; they probably parked up looking at how much real estate to purchase. 

Even the Powers That Be drive pretty ordinary vehicles. Nothing fancy, flash nor loud. So as you can probably understand, when something even slightly different does appear and in this instance requires help in parking, it can make my day. 

Outside the unloading bay are seven spaces at a forty five degree angle to the wall. That section of wall has claimed many a wing or bumper, the unforgiving stone containing the scrapings of many differently hued victims. But I am not pointing a finger and laughing at hopeless parking skills, for it is a tricky spot to manoeuvre, in or out at the best of times. 

One lunchtime and eager to purchase sustenance after a long morning meeting, I heard the distinctive purr of the V8 around the corner, my view restricted by another wall that delivery lorries often forget to miss. 

And there she was, a Mercedes SL in that tricky squeeze between another car and that bloomin’ wall, the driver attempting to see the narrow gap and thread the needle. Now you can see it is most certainly not a pristine example, more well used, hopefully not abused. 

Arresting my haste, hand signals became more trusted than a lovers embrace. Luckily, the driver responded to the pinched fingers, the “halt” palm, the directional twirl of the wheel and within a moment or two, we were there; safely parked up – the stone wall annoyed at not claiming another victim.

Owing to the rather inconvenient proximity of a sizeable piece of stonemasonry, stock images have been used. (c) lexclassics.nl

A quick blip of the loud pedal and engine off, driver out carefully avoiding everything and then a beaming smile and a thank you heading my way. A delicious pinking sound could be heard. Raising my hand as a form of saying ‘no problem’ I began to walk away only to hear the driver ask me something.

Turning to hear him once more, I then realised this chap had the most amazingly deep yet charismatic voice I believe I’ve ever heard, a human V8 if you please. Think Barry White but with mellow intonation; no medallion or flouncy costume in sight. Enquiring if he was in the right place (he was) I then offered, “nice SL.” He fixed me with a quizzical look. “The Mercedes, nice model the R 230, 300 horsepower, use it much?

It’s my wife’s car, I call it the Blue Rat.” His warm tones softening my perplexed expression. “It does make a nice sound but isn’t really me. I prefer the BMW with more room.” It was only afterwards that I considered it a black seven series; E38, nothing modern.

My question was “why the Blue Rat?” 

Well look at the thing. That front end has the teeth of a rat that’s found it’s dinner in an Egyptian sewer.” A pause followed by “and the arse end is the Rat heading back for more.” Whilst partially shocked, this fellow’s demeanour and delightfully lilting voice left me simply wanting to hear more but my mumbling about a refined car for touring along with it being a modern classic obviously fell on deaf ears.

Image: The author

She liked the colour and once the salesman had done his spiel, it was something of a done deal. Naturally I had to pay and it keeps her happy but you can’t get anything like what she needs for holidays in it. Gerry the Yank can get his golf clubs in there but we don’t play golf.” We both glanced at the now gently pinking, Jasper blue seventeen year old Sports Liecht. He nodded, smiled, departing with a farewell then went inside leaving me to ponder my sandwich along with the car in question. 

My new friend who drives a Stuttgart-er but prefers one from Bavaria refers to the car as a rat. I’ve never heard such an analogy. What do our readers think? 

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

10 thoughts on “Gerboise Bleu”

  1. I have never particularly liked wedge shaped gts or sports cars.

    Maybe it does have a rodent like profile.

  2. Good morning, Andrew. I think the disparaging rodent analogy is a bit harsh, but this generation SL is certainly less accomplished than its sublime R129 predecessor. It’s part of that millennial generation of Mercedes-Benz models that abandoned the discipline of the Sacco-era engineering-led design in favour of more rounded organic forms, with wildly varying results. At one extreme, the W220 S-Class was a light and sleek looking design that looked rather understated (perhaps too understated for its role?) after its imposing (bombastic?) predecessor. At the other extreme, the W210 S-Class was an ugly, flaccid lump of a thing. It’s only redeeming feature was a propensity to rust away enthusiastically, ridding our streets of it in a relatively short time.

    The SL in question is a quite nice overall form, but marred by the need to accommodate the metal folding roof. The boot to wing shut-lines, tail light shapes and, in particular, those gloss black triangular fillets either side of the rear windscreen are all rather unsatisfactory. The front is ok, if a bit undistinguished for a Mercedes-Benz flagship. The company apparently recognised this and enlarged the grille considerably in a rather ham-fisted facelift that dispensed with the rather nice “twin” headlamps:

    The best I can say about this SL is that its a great deal better than the execrable current model, which Eóin skewered so brilliantly in this DTW piece:

    https://driventowrite.com/2018/01/16/autopsy-mercedes-benz-sl-r231/

    1. Apologies, all, I’m getting everything wrong this morning. It was Christopher, not Eóin, who wrote the piece I referenced above.

  3. Naming or nicknaming cars after animals isn’t that uncommon, but I’ve never heard an SL called rat before. My favorite animal nicknames for cars in my own languages (Dutch and Frisian) are:

    lieveheersbeestje, Dutch for ladybug – Fiat 500, especially when it’s red
    (weg)luis, Dutch for (road)louse – Fiat 500 or small cars in general
    Snoek, Dutch for pike – Citroën DS
    Snoekebek, Frisian for pike-mouth – Citroën DS
    Kattenrug, Dutch for cat’s back – Volvo PV444

  4. Well, I think calling it a rat is a little harsh, but what do you expect from a BMW driver 😂. I had the earlier model, the R129, affectionately know as Myrtle. She was pristine and one previous lady owner, 12,500 miles when I bought her. I’ve considered the R230 model but heard too many horror stories. The latest, a fellow Club member, has spent in excess of £1.5K trying to sort the reversing lights. They stay on all the time. If you simply take the bulbs out you get that annoying warning light on your dash. He’s even changed the gear box control module to no avail. He now has tapped over reversing bulbs . MB can’t seem to solve the problem 😂.

    1. “The latest, a fellow Club member, has spent in excess of £1.5K trying to sort the reversing lights. They stay on all the time. ”

      When putting the vehicle into reverse doesn’t just switch on the backup lights, but also the rear camera, parking sensors, reverse mirror alignment, backup bell… and God knows what else… this is what you end up with.

      Imagine what happens when all that electronic junk gets contaminated with magnesium chloride de-icer.

      The long haul trucking industry found that out about the electrical consequences of magnesium and calcium chloride about 7-8 years ago.

  5. Another interesting article Andrew so well done. Not sure about the rat analogy myself as I have always like the shape of this model. I actually think that your “friend” really was the owner and the nonsense about the BMW was exactly that. When you see him next you should see if he will ‘fess up’ as the street speak goes.

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