Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee has gone through some great rides in its eight seasons on the Crackle internetwork, but the two latest episodes had two my favorite classics and two of the few classic cars I’ve driven: a ’55 Mercedes Benz 300SL “gullwing” and a ’64 Studebaker Avanti.
I drove a red 300 SL a few years ago at an automotive writers event, when Mercedes brought a few cars from its collection at its Classic Center in Irvine. Seinfeld talks about the car briefly at the beginning of each show; believe me, what he goes through just to get in and out of the car is very true.
I found it to be powerful, noisy and scary, because while it still looks great, it’s a 1955 car with wobbly steering, questionable brakes and a jiggly ride. But it looks great and was a thrill to drive.
The Avanti was a revolutionary look for its time, designed by a team under the direction of Raymond Lowey in a rented house in Palm Springs. Seinfeld says this is “somewhere outside of Las Vegas” and I guess Palm Springs is “somewhere outside of Las Vegas.”
Anyhow, the car was the baby of my late friend Dennis Burns, who let me take it out for a cruise one hot afternoon. The Avanti was a last-ditch attempt by Studebaker to get folks into its showrooms. It was based on the Lark, which competed at the lower end of the automotive spectrum and itself was a heavy restyle of a platform that dated back to 1953. So in some ways, the Avanti and 300 SL are contemporaries a decade apart. More wobbly steering, questionable brakes and a lot of noise and jiggles. But what a beautiful car, inside and out.
Seinfeld’s show is fun if you haven’t seen it; only about 20 minutes, he picks up a comedian and they drive to a restaurant to have coffee, yacking all the way. Saturday Night Live legend Lorne Michaels gets a ride in the Mercedes; actor/comedian J.B. Smoove gets the Avanti. The topic is generally the craft of comedy, but because they’re both comedians, it’s a very enjoyable 20 minutes or so.
Thanks to Crackle for the screen-grab photos.