Friday, March 1, 2013

Tales From The Cooler: The Persian Conversion

You are looking at the rarest Mercedes-Benz vehicle ever built: a 2011 GLK350 AMG that I spotted last week. How uncommon is this SUV? The exact production number was zero as that model does not exist. It appears the owner of the car added an AMG emblem to its hatch, part of an epidemic of de-badge and re-badge engineering happening here in Southern California. 

When my father bought the first 1964 Mustang in our small Midwestern town, we drew a crowd of people everywhere we stopped. The only problem was the “260? V-8 emblems on our fenders instead of the coveted “289 High Performance” tags. I soon learned folks were buying the Hi-Po emblems and sticking them on their Stangs. I believe the original Mustangs marked the start of the Emblem Manipulation Era.

Here in you-are-what-you-drive land, you can spot examples on a daily basis, like a BMW 328i magically transformed into an M3. There are many Chrysler 300s running around with Hemi badges that are actually V-6s. Some conversion are just plain dumb, like the 1998 Cadillac Coupe De Ville GT that Murilee recently unearthed. Word is that former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal once bought a Mercedes-Benz S500 and transformed it into the world’s first S1000. Even more curious are the people referenced in the title of this story who sometimes remove all the emblems from their rides.

The motivation of these individuals is not always to impress their neighbors – during my Chrysler used cars days a decade ago, we had more than one customer try to trade in their Grand Cherokee 2-wheel-drive adorned with “4 X 4? badges on its flanks. There are no doubt dealers who failed to check the drivetrain on such trades and thus allowed $1500 too much, just as the closed-mouth clients had hoped.

At least one automaker will not be party to this game – if you are looking for a Ferrari emblem for your Fiat 500, you are out of luck as Ferrari retailers reportedly ask for proof of ownership before they fork one over.

Have you ever seen, or God forbid participated in, a case of re-badge engineering?

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