Mon, 04 Sep 2000

Habibie's Mercedes Benz most attractive in show

JAKARTA (JP): Dozens of people took a close look at a silver 1954 two-door Mercedes-Benz sedan, which was on display along with 300 others in the parking lot of the Front Row restaurant on Jl. Gatot Subroto in South Jakarta on Sunday.

The car was possibly the most attractive automobile at the one-day exhibition, titled Mercedes-Benz Classic Contest and Sale, due to its unique design.

"She's beautiful, isn't she? You know what? She belongs to Pak Habibie," the driver of the Mercedes 300 SL told The Jakarta Post, referring to former president B.J. Habibie.

"She has quite a history, though. Why don't you ask that man over there. He's Pak Habibie's private secretary," the driver said, indicating a man with gray hair called Rubianto.

Rubianto knew all about the long history of the German-made car.

"The car was found in a village in Jambi by a medic. The Mercy once belonged to a rich villager who had eleven wives. The car was abandoned in the 1980s after the rich man died," Rubianto told the Post and other curious visitors.

"It was his eleventh wife who inherited it and abandoned it. The car was later considered by locals as a sacred thing that fell from the moon due to its unique exterior," he said.

Rubianto said the car was later bought by a collector who then sold it to Habibie because he could not repay the bank for money borrowed to restore the car after its long period of neglect.

"Pak Habibie heard there were two of this limited edition car in the country, so we are looking for the other one," Rubianto said.

The car was among about 300 Mercedes-Benz automobiles on exhibit.

Chairman of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Club Indonesia (MCC), Ridwan Pohan, said participants of the event had come from Yogyakarta, Surabaya in East Java, Bandung in West Java, and Bogor, some 60 kilometers south of here.

"About 100 of the cars are here for the contest," Ridwan said adding that there were two categories in the competition.

"The first one is the vintage cars contest where originality of parts is the most important thing. The other category is the customized contest where we judge an owner's creativity to modify his or her car," Ridwan said.

The panel of jurors said it was hard to qualify a car for the first category.

"Old Mercy's with original parts are almost non-existent," juror Yulianto, a collector of two classic Mercedes, said.

"So I can say that they all have been customized."


The event which was held to commemorate the first anniversary of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Club Jakarta also attracted visitors looking for cars to buy.

Forty-nine-year-old businessman, Benny, was seen carefully inspecting several cars which were for sale. Each car had a piece of paper on its windshield telling the type, the price and the owner's cellular phone number.

"I am thinking of buying this type," Benny said, indicating a 280 S type.

"But I think I'll look around some more," Benny said adding that there were many other units from which to choose.

A senior member of MCC, Ronaldi, said that the number of participants was unexpected.

"It's a surprise to have participants as many as today," said the collector of old Mercedes-Benz sedans.

Ronaldi said the club would change its name to the Mercedes- Benz Club Indonesia soon so membership would not be restricted only to classic car owners. (jaw)