MEETING DOLLY

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By John Wessels

Eight years ago, a mother and daughter and set out on journey that unexpectedly would result in the purchase of a classic. Things were tough on the home front and, feeling that her daughter was being negatively impacted, Karin hatched a plan to help her feel a little more in control of her life. And so ‘Choose-day’ was born: every Tuesday they’d do whatever Allana wanted to.

This particular Choose-day, 6-year-old Allana decided she wanted to do two things: buy some Dolly Parton CDs and… a car. Karin had recently had a car accident and although her insurance had paid out, she still hadn’t bought a replacement vehicle. So off they went.

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With the CD bit done, Allana asked how they would go about buying a car. Karin explained that normally you would decide what you need and then research what’s available, but due to a shortage of time they would just use their intuition instead. A long explanation about what intuition is followed, and a list of requirements was made: the car had to be safe, comfortable, unique and colourful.

This list was handed to the car salesman who greeted them at the first car dealership they came across in Cape Town’s CBD – as luck would have it, a classic car outfit. The salesman mentioned a shipment of old Mercedes-Benzes had just arrived from the Free State. This got Karin and Allana excited and the excitement grew when they spotted a beautiful white Merc with red interior. They took it for a test drive, but although Allana wanted to buy it immediately, Karin said that they weren’t ready and needed to do some research.

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Homework started by hunting through the online classifieds for a classic Merc. When she spotted the same model as the one they’d tested, Karin picked up the phone and rang the seller, a Riebeek Kasteel-based Mercedes-Benz collector named Gordon. Gordon advised against buying his vehicle, feeling that it wasn’t a reliable mode of transport for a single mother.

A week later, Choose-day rolled around again and Allana hadn’t forgotten the test drive; she wanted to go and buy the Benz they’d tested. Dedicated to the experiment of letting her daughter have control, they drove back to the dealership. While waiting for the car to be pulled out of the showroom, a gentleman came up and introduced himself as Gordon from Riebeek Kasteel, and again insisted that this model car was not suited to the mother and daughter’s needs. Karin decided not to buy the car. Later, she called Gordon and asked him what else he had for sale and what he thought would suit them.

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Then pictures of a 230S Fintail Merc were sent through. Fate played a hand as Karin got an invite to a family event out Tulbagh way – perfect for a stopover at Gordon to see the 230S in person. It was love at first sight and the car, now named Dolly, was bought on the spot. The classic journey that continues 8 years later kicked off.

It’s a lesson in intuition and instinct. It might have been risky to let a kid decide how to spend R80 000 back then, but even in today’s tough economic climate a glance at classic car values shows that it was a wise investment. Even more so when you quantify the memories made, smiles received and lessons in life and car maintenance (Allana knows how to check the oil and water). 

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14 year old Allana and Dolly on the way to her to her primary school farewell.

Dolly’s a keeper and not even a massive offer will tempt Karin and Allana into selling – there will be no Dolly parting.

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