The Pursuit of Stuff

If you frequent car shows, you know how these events have a way of channeling behavior in certain ways. People participating in car shows can have a bit of a herd mentality. Case in point: enthusiasts tend to pursue eye candy in the form of factory optional equipment. Owners like nothing more than to show off their tidy collector car next to other tidy examples that are exactly comparable in every way except one—some rare optional factory-installed gizmo that has long been unobtainable. Moreover, to these owners, the more options the better. It's the logical progression of fussy owners doing what they do. It's gilding the lily. And yes, it's a nuclear arms race.

A vintage Nardi from 1966
For owners of US-spec Mercedes, the task of assembling optional equipment from back in the day is simple since so few options were available on a higher end model like an A124 Cabriolet. In comparison, Euro-spec Mercedes had a plethora of available options.

This was also true even back in the 60s when Mercedes in Europe might be fitted with special horns for mountain driving ("town horns"), a ZF 5-speed transmission, a Reims short-wave radio adapter, or even a turntable. (Clearly, the factory did not know how to say "nein" to European customers with special requests.)

In comparison, choices were limited in the US in the 90s. Cabriolets were generally delivered "loaded" with leather, air, power top, etc. Many also had ASR (traction control) as mine does, a trunk-mounted CD changer, and sometimes even orthopedic seats. European owners, on the other hand, could select a 5-speed automatic, a 5-speed manual transmission, a Sportline suspension, different ventilation controls, scads of wheels . . . plus the ability to outfit an A124 with more austere specs like a 2.0 liter 4-cylinder motor (E200), cloth seats and a manual top.

My favorite option available on a US car, however, was the optional wooden wheel from the era. The same diameter as the standard wheel, it's a simple bolt-in upgrade. The matching high-gloss burlwood at the top and bottom of the rim do wonders to warm up the interior.

Owners seeking to upgrade a 1990s leather steering wheel should either troll eBay or look for Mercedes parts cars from the era. R129 SLs are always a good place to start.

(Mind you, make sure not to confuse modern-day look-alikes on ebay with the period factory wheel, which is stamped throughout with typical MB markings and made with the quality you'd expect from a Mercedes wheel.)

There's a lot to love about a wooden wheel. It's a tactile upgrade that you see and feel each time you go for a ride. Without fail, it rewards you.

If a steering wheel upgrade is in your future though, wood isn't the only factory option. There's also the smaller diameter leather-wrapped Sportline wheel.

The optional burlwood + leather wheel 
The 1990s Mercedes wheel is a handsome piece of work, but it's nothing like a huge 1960s "Officine Nardi" wooden wheel. Those are a piece of art in your hands. You can practically feel the history of a vehicle as you grip a vintage Nardi. (No, the optional wooden wheel for the Cabriolet is nothing like a vintage Nardi, but with an airbag at its core, it's also nothing like it in a collision.)

No nuclear arms race here. I'm happy to have my wooden wheel and quit while I'm ahead.


  1. i saw many blog related to the cars like car wreckers perth car collector, dream cars but yours have good and managed collection in my opinion


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