My car history part 20: A wise purchase?

I’d travelled all the way down to London on the train with my 6 year old daughter to see a perfect sounding next car: a Mercedes Benz SLK 200K.

Believe it or not, this sporty number was actually one of the most practical cars to suit my needs: sculptured seats that supported by troubled back beautifully; heated, too, to help soothe away my pain; reasonable but not excessive power suited to my commute, but also reasonable fuel economical.

This one sounded ideal in terms of its specs and price – in fact, it seemed too good to be true.

My problem had been with it being a private sale; I’d been concerned about the lack of any guarantee. So I’d called around
the local garages to see if someone could check it over for me.

I’d opted for Halfords Autocentre’s free 12 point safety check.

Never again.

Oh, the guy on the phone at Halfords had been very helpful. I’d explained the situation and told him what time my train would arrive and asked how long the check would take etc etc, and he’d assured me it would all be fine.

The grumpy over worked mechanic in charge on the day though had a somewhat different attitude.

If I don’t have a ramp, I don’t have a ramp“.

Much appealing only left to a half hearted response that if I left it with him then he might be able to do it by the end of the day.

I couldn’t wait til the end of day.

The owner couldn’t wait til the end of day.

My six year old daughter, remarkably patient up to this point, couldn’t wait til the end of the day.

I’d have to make the decision myself.

But how to test drive a two seater car when I’m there with my daughter, without driving off in the car and leaving the owner alone?

I hinted at this possibility.

He didn’t seem to get the hint.

I hinted a little stronger and started suggesting some sort of security deposit.

He didn’t seem to like the idea.

In the end, he suggested that as we were now in a corner of the supermarket car park which was quiet, we could have a drive and my daughter could wait at the side. I didn’t like the idea of leaving my daughter, but she was quite happily playing some make believe game on her own and when I asked, and suggested that I would literally just drive down one straight, turn around and come back, and I’d have her in sight all the time, she was quite happy for me to do that. I got a pang of guilt and even started to say that actually, no, I wouldn’t bother, I didn’t want to leave her, and she – very practically minded for one so young – actually insisted that I test drove it ‘to make sure‘.

As it was, it was a very brief ‘test drive’, as I really didn’t want to let her out of my sights, so I only drove the car for about 100m, turned around and came back again! Still, at least I was able to check the basics, and ensure that gear changes, brakes and steering all seemed ok.

I probably could have drove for longer – my daughter wasn’t concerned at all and was still happily playing – but I had a good feeling about the car and made the decision to buy it.

We shook hands and did the deal. I did an online transfer and he confirmed the payment had been made. The paperwork was
signed over coffee (and apple juice for the little one!) and Mellie (short for Melinda The Mercedes) was all mine!

As we drove out of London and headed for the M1 home, I was able to finally drive her properly – I was terrified I was now going to find some major fault.

The steering and overall handling felt good…

The engine pulled well and sounded sweet…

All the electronics worked…

No, hang on.

They didn’t.

When I pushed the electric heated seat switch, the lights came on… but only for a few seconds. Then they went out.

The seat didn’t get warm.

I tried on the passenger seat – no problem there. Annie was enjoying her heated back.

My seat was cold.


I’d specifically bought this car as I wanted the heated seats (to help with my back problem).

When we’d sat in the car I’d tested it!



I hadn’t.

I’d sat in the passenger seat with my daughter on my lap when we’d drove across the Sainsbury’s car park to the Halfords branch. I’d pushed on the heated seat light on my side – and the owner had pressed his (drivers) side briefly, showing me the LEDs light up.

What I’d not really taken in was the fact he turned it off a couple of seconds after, whilst I was waiting for the passenger side to warm up.

So he must have known the drivers side didn’t work.


Well – it wasn’t the end of the world. I’d just have to get it fixed.

Can you guess how much Mercedes wanted to fix a heated seat??

Mellie - the Mercedes SLK 200
Mellie – the Mercedes SLK 200

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