x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

My Car: Mercedes S500 was a dignified friend who impressed many

The Munros bid adieu to their five metres of fun Mercedes S500 that has become "part of the family" as they prepare to relocate to New Zealand.

One of them has to stay behind: Naomi and Ben Munro with their children Jack and Tyson and their loyal but unnamed family servant, at rear. Callaghan Walsh for The National
One of them has to stay behind: Naomi and Ben Munro with their children Jack and Tyson and their loyal but unnamed family servant, at rear. Callaghan Walsh for The National

"We never gave it a name, but it's always been part of the family," says Ben Munro, construction worker, rock guitarist and soon-to-be-former expat.

For the past 10 years, this unnamed Mercedes S500 has been in his family but now he is looking to sell it and move back to start a new life in his native New Zealand. "It's a bit like losing a family member, but at least I get to keep my Harley-Davidson, which I can ship back. Bikes are easier like that."

Ben and his wife, Naomi, were given the car as an engagement present in 2003 by Ben's father, who had bought the S500 almost new with just 20,000km on the clock. "I was looking at his Mercedes and thinking I'd like one just like that, but something a little bit smaller," says Ben. "So I asked my dad how much he thought an E-class would cost. He didn't say anything and then he got up, went outside, came back with the keys and said, 'You can have this one.' "


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"We were blown away," recalls Naomi. "We took it for a spin round the block, and I asked Ben, 'You reckon he's for real?'" A week or so later, it was signed over to the couple.

Because Ben drives a company Land Cruiser - as well as his Harley on the weekend - Naomi has taken primary ownership of the Mercedes. At first it was daunting as the car is more than five metres long and she is 5-feet-1 in height. "It took a while to get the seat adjustments right so I could reach the pedals, but after that it's been really easy to drive. It's a real pleasure to drive, and it's incredibly luxurious. More than anything, I like the parking sensor, which makes something so long ridiculously easy to park."

It caused some surprise when Naomi took it out for the first time, to the University of Wollongong in Dubai, where she used to work in HR. "The first day I took it to work, I had told my boss that I had a new car but he didn't realise what it was until he walked past it in the office car park," she recalls. "When he saw this massive thing in my space, he called me and screamed, 'Are you serious?' It turned into a joke in the office for quite a time after that."

The car has also become a hit with visitors, and Ben and Naomi have often used it as a limousine when picking up friends from the airport. "One of the things I like most about this Mercedes is the fridge inside the armrest on the back seat," says Ben. "We would turn up to the airport in this great big luxury car. Our friends would get inside and after a few minutes, we would offer them refreshments that would be nice and cold, and just what you need after a long flight. That's been really special, and everyone has loved the service."

The car now has 135,000km on the clock and the family has grown to four, with Jack and Tyson coming along after Ben and Naomi were married. As we speak, Jack is a little more wrapped up in his own miniature electric Hummer, but he still has time to give an opinion on the Mercedes. "It's great," he says with a beaming smile.

For the time being, the Munros are preparing to leave their home in Umm Suqeim, where they have lived their whole married life, in April. Ben is looking forward to starting a new career in hospitality in New Zealand's Bay of Islands, where his parents have bought a lodge. And he knows he will miss the Mercedes once they get there.

"In Dubai, cars like this are all over the place," he says. "But in New Zealand, you will hardly ever see another one like it. The trouble is, we drive on the left over there and this is right-hand-drive car, so we just have to sell it, simple as that. I can just make a small change to the bike so it's legal in New Zealand, but we have no choice with the car. We'll really miss it when we are over there."