Rich Man, Poor Man

A couple of weeks ago I was checking in for a flight from Newark to Orlando when a little message popped up on the kiosk screen and asked me if I might like to upgrade to first class.

I usually scroll past these temptations without any further thought than to wonder who actually pays hundreds of dollars extra to go the same place Economy goes, but this time I was intrigued. I had just worked two events and 10 days straight, with five to seven sales calls a day during the weekdays in between, and had driven some 1500 miles in the process. The little devil on my shoulder had a point when he said, “Screw it, you deserve a little pampering.” Once the angel on the other side pointed out that I might even be able to catch up on some stories if I had a little extra room, I stopped hesitating and hit the “yes” button.

I boarded (first, naturally) and found one of those airliners designed for international flights with an entire sleeping-cocoontype seating area. While the folks out back got their peanuts, I enjoyed a wonderfully prepared lunch. By my third glass of wine, I had settled into watching the free movie while forgetting all about the stories I had to finish. I have to admit: It felt good.

I rarely waste money like this, even though after thirty years at the same job as owner of two national car magazines, I’m doing all right for myself. I credit most of this to the fact that I have worked hard and driven used Miatas when my friends were leasing new Porsches. My swamp Yankee upbringing puts me at odds with the usual notions of success, so rather than live large, I pay down my mortgages. Those of you who know me realize that I am more comfortable slogging around in the mud at the Import Carlisle swap meet than I am hanging with the cufflink and smelly-cigar set at Monterey.

I’m reconsidering my membership in the proletariat, though, and it wasn’t the plane flight that did it. You see, a few weeks ago I sent Mercedes public relations head Rob Moran a note to request a meeting. While we have an excellent relationship with companies like Porsche and BMW, I felt we could improve our rapport with Mercedes.

Our meeting got put off due to a scheduling conflict, but two weeks later a new Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG 4Matic showed up at our door, delivered personally to me courtesy of Rob Moran. Apparently my point had been made.

Ironically, despite my affinity for old cars, I am not generally impressed with new ones. I consider most of them overpriced, overcomplicated, and of suspect reliability. I actually looked at this S-class and muttered to myself, “What kind of a douchebag would buy a $172,000 Mercedes?”

It turns out that I would like to be just that kind of d-bag. Sure, this car has some $40,000 in options, but it is also just amazing. The acceleration, thanks to 577 horsepower, is staggering. Rather than doing smoky burn-outs, this car accelerated like I’d pushed the hyperspace button: No drama, no real noise, just whoosh! and away you go. It pulls so hard, my wife—no stranger to automotive shenanigans—actually got dizzy.

Remember the scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” where they opened the ark and the Germans all just melted? It was like that, only this time the Germans did the melting.

I could spend a lot more time rhapsodizing about its ability to actually drive itself, or the insane levels of comfort that include side bolsters that automatically tuck into your side on cornering, or the back seat’s TV screens, foot rests and tray tables, but I’d have to like rich-guy stuff to notice all of that. And I don’t. Really. My life is fine, and I’ll be okay once I put in a few hours welding on the Tornado’s frame.

If putting an S63 AMG 4matic sedan in your garage is the payoff, however, I finally understand why people would spend so much time and effort to get rich. Maybe in my next life…

Join Free Join our community to easily find more Mercedes-Benz articles.
View comments on the CMS forums
ronbros Reader
2/16/15 5:27 p.m.

new cars keep getting better, and old guys keep getting older.

but i do understand what your saying Tim.

also do enjoy your life, its shocking how fast it goes(like 577hp German rocket ships).

TxCoyote Reader
2/17/15 8:02 a.m.

Tim, the key is to get (insert car maker here) to give you there newest models for extended testing every year and then you can have the latest and greatest and not spend what a moderately priced house cost.

Rupert Dork
2/17/15 9:07 a.m.

In reply to TxCoyote:Good Luck With That! I'm not sure these two magazines' readers are exactly the high priced automakers potential market. But were I Tim, I'd probably give it a shot. All they can say is no.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
2/17/15 10:01 a.m.

Rupert---- I would have thought the same, but according to our latest reader's survey the average reader of Classic Motorsports is pretty affluent. 62% of our readers are making more than $100K a year, and 22% bring home more than $200K. We didn't ask how many own private jets, or yachts, but we run into a surprising amount of uber-wealthy folks at events who are fans of CMS.

I can't tell you how many times I've been at an event speaking with a "regular" car guy, when the question of "what do you have in the garage" comes up. "Oh, I have a D-Type Jag, a Ferrari 250 Lusso, etc." There are plenty of car guys who seem to be average Joes......but in reality are anything but.

It appears that our readers are a good target for the high-priced automakers. Of course, one trip to Monterey is about all the convincing one would need!

TR8owner HalfDork
2/17/15 10:48 a.m.

"I can't tell you how many times I've been at an event speaking with a "regular" car guy, when the question of "what do you have in the garage" comes up. "Oh, I have a D-Type Jag, a Ferrari 250 Lusso, etc."

Was talking to a guy about his TR8. He then told me he also had a TR6. Asked him if he had any other cars and he replied "got a Ferrari Daytona, but I don't drive it as much as my Triumphs".

Rupert Dork
2/17/15 12:28 p.m.

In reply to Joe Gearin: That's interesting. The $200K people might be shoppers. At $100K people are probably the average Joe's most places. Maybe a nice car.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
2/17/15 1:27 p.m.

^^ I hear you. A guy making $100K in say....L.A. isn't exactly swimming in cash. However, someone making that sort of money here in Central Florida would be doing quite well.

I do run across many extremely wealthy CMS readers when I attend events. These guys may not represent all of our readers, but the big $$ guys are certainly out there.....and reading. The funny thing I've noticed is that the truly rich readers are usually pretty darn nice and approachable--- they're just car guys like the rest of us----just with a lot more options!

Rupert Dork
2/17/15 2:10 p.m.
Joe Gearin wrote: ^^ The funny thing I've noticed is that the truly rich readers are usually pretty darn nice and approachable--- they're just car guys like the rest of us----just with a lot more options!

I agree.

TR8owner HalfDork
2/17/15 8:06 p.m.

In reply to Rupert:

I used to write for a now defunct CDN classic car mag about twenty-five years ago or so. Did some articles on some valuable cars with very wealthy owners. I'd cold call them and it was always amazing how the second I told them we wanted to write about their toys I'd get the "well come on right over" response.

stu67tiger Reader
2/18/15 6:58 a.m.

A bunch of years back my son and I were at the Lime Rock Vintage show. Touring the paddock, we came across a collection of old Trans Am cars from the golden era, cars I'd seen race there back in the day. My son was looking in the window of an ex-Penske Javelin, when the owner comes running over saying NO NO NO! Instead of chasing him off, he says to go ahead and open the door and have a seat. So my son got to sit right were Mark, and probably George did when I saw them.

So I have to agree. Car guys are car guys, the rich ones can buy better toys.


Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA Dork
2/18/15 10:03 a.m.

German car makers still make parts for their older models LONG after most manufacturers give up on making parts for theirs. We buy those parts. Mercedes knows anyone "borrowing" a $172,000 car will write about it so they keep their name in front of a bunch of people who may be inclined to think Mercedes for their next project. So the product placement doesn't just affect the more affluent folks reading CMS. I'm sure they understand the benefit they'll receive from us proles as well.

Besides, CMS built up an old sedan, filled it full of Suddards, and drove it all over the place. Mercedes got yards of ink from the name repetition alone. Those articles have me thinking about finding an older Mercedes, filling it full of Genuine Mercedes Parts, and taking a road trip with my lovely bride.

Forty grand worth of options. I don't know if all the cars I've ever owned total up to 40 grand....

racerdave600 SuperDork
2/18/15 10:39 a.m.
Rupert wrote:
Joe Gearin wrote: ^^ The funny thing I've noticed is that the truly rich readers are usually pretty darn nice and approachable--- they're just car guys like the rest of us----just with a lot more options!
I agree.

I've found this true also. It gets tiring to read how bad people with money are all the time. Part of my previous job was to interview many of the successful people in town (and we have a ton here), and to a person, they were extremely nice and did more for the community than most people could imagine.

And I would go as far as to say that without people with money, our sport would dry up and disappear. Someone has to pay all the R&D and for all the shops and tracks to remain open, as well as buy all these cool cars new. It's certainly not us cheapskates that build cars out of junkyard parts.

ronbros Reader
2/18/15 6:53 p.m.

agree with racerdave, if rich people didnt get bored with life they would never try"fixing up an old car".

back in early 50s,at least around Boston area, only guys playing with hot rod cars were hard working types,with average incomes. then as more richies seen them with cool looking girls, just having a ball talking cars and street racing. it was exciting and they came into the scenes.

case in point summer 1952, had a 1939 Mercury convertible, this girl student from Sweden, was here in USA,northeast, to keep company to a student at MIT Boston, he had NEW Yellow Porsche shipped in to just go back and forth for school. can you sense money? big money.

well the girl kinda liked my obnoxtious loud car, so some how me and her friend set up a race on the famous highland ave,3 miles of divided hyway,straight.

well that Porsche never had a chance on acelleration or top speed, before we ran out of road. and do know what you are gonna say,should have raced on a twisty road.

well the girl was totally excited and the rest is history,(for summer), she had to return to Sweden, and never heard from again, MIT guy was studying Nuclear fission stuff,and i had little knowledge of it.

all i can say is,i was there and did it,

frenchyd New Reader
4/25/15 2:34 p.m.

In reply to Joe Gearin: Not all Ubber wealthy can afford to be nice and approachable.. Once aware that someone may have an abundance of money there are plenty of people who will try to convert some of that money for their own use..

If you think car salesmen can be pushy at times imagine what some downtrodden person with a tail of woe could be like.. Or someone with something expensive to sell.

Then too there are those who came by their wealth through luck in selecting parents to be born from (inherited wealth) They may have generations of entitlement behavior to emulate and wind up cruel and insensitive as a result..

Bottom line? Car people can be wonderful no matter their economic position as long as they are enjoying cars..

Our Preferred Partners