Help me – I’m trapped!

A com­bi­na­tion of our £500 Mercedes-Benz and some un­der­sized park­ing spa­ces bring a rail­way sta­tion car park to a stand­still

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Living With Classics - NATHAN CHADWICK

Quentin Will­son, star of TV and colum­nist for our sis­ter mag Clas­sic Cars, was on the wire­less a few weeks ago field­ing ques­tions about how car parks weren’t keep­ing up with the rate at which cars have grown.

He wisely pointed out that sim­ply blam­ing SUVs was short­sighted – all cars have grown. You could prob­a­bly fit an orig­i­nal Ford Fi­esta in the boot of the cur­rent one.

I was re­minded of this upon re­turn­ing to the S-class in Peter­bor­ough rail­way sta­tion’s car park. The Mercedes is a big car now, so one can only imag­ine what it must have been like in the early Nineties – and ours is the titchy (ahem) short­wheel­base ver­sion. I was trapped.

Curses, thought I. To my left rear, a Land Rover Free­lander. To the right rear a large es­tate of some kind, to my left a Ford Fo­cus es­tate and to my im­me­di­ate right, what can only be de­scribed as an au­to­mo­tive cod­piece – an enor­mous BMW SUV wear­ing an M badge; about as far away from the Ul­ti­mate Driv­ing Ma­chine as you can imag­ine. And im­me­di­ately be­hind me? Another of the blasted things, parked so far over the front of the bay as to al­most block the en­tire road. I knew get­ting out of this would be chal­leng­ing, but af­ter five min­utes I’d got it a good 10 de­grees out. Sadly, this meant that I had a grand to­tal of 4in in which to move. Now this is when some driv­ing god will point out that this should be easy, with a com­bi­na­tion of mir­rors and adept use of the throt­tle. And doesn’t it have park­ing sen­sors?

Well, yes it does have sen­sors. In fact, if it had the pretty but point­less sticks that rise out of the boot in early W140s I’d prob­a­bly still be in the car park, ek­ing out a mea­gre ex­is­tence on Star­bucks pani­nis. But this one’s got radar park­ing sen­sors, so wher­ever I moved they screamed in uni­son front and rear, the dis­tance in­di­ca­tors full to the brim each way. And the elec­tric mir­rors? Their con­troller stopped work­ing months ago, and for a chap of my height, the mir­rors only af­forded a vi­sion of Bruno Sacco’s rear wheel arch de­sign. The throt­tle? Dead for half the way down, and then ter­ri­bly lurchy.

So there I was, win­dows wound down, my S-class park­ing sen­sors scream­ing like a drown­ing Game Boy, inch­ing back­wards and for­wards. Worse still, a crowd of on­look­ers was start­ing to form. Mainly those want­ing to get home, though I’ve a feel­ing some were watch­ing purely for the sport of it.

Still, they were largely sup­port­ive, judg­ing by the winc­ing rather than screams of blood-cur­dling anger be­cause I had dared to be in the way. Even af­ter 25 min­utes.

Sweat was on my brow now. This had to be done. Should I get out and push? Do I give up? Is a diet of pani­nis re­ally that bad?

Fi­nally, sal­va­tion. Well, kind of. The owner of one of the BMW SUVs am­bled over, mut­tered ‘use­less ****ing ****’ and blasted off, barely miss­ing the Mercedes’ be­hind. Ex­tri­ca­tion be­came rather eas­ier af­ter this, and I was free, much to the plea­sure and ap­plause of the as­sem­bled on­look­ers. Only I’d backed out the wrong way and was now fac­ing the queue. Errr…

There are a few take-away points from this. Al­ways re­verse in, as driv­ing in­struc­tors in­vari­ably ad­vise. Car parks too small for to­day’s gar­gan­tuan cars. And fi­nally, why use the train when the S-class is so much bet­ter at those long jour­neys...

Nathan strug­gles to ex­tri­cate the S-class from a rail­way sta­tion car park. Group of in­creas­ingly im­pa­tient and an­gry com­muters just out of shot.

That Even the gen­er­ous park­ing spa­ces at CCW's lo­cal su­per­mar­ket strug­gle to bert 17ft of £500 Mercedes. Than pink ice cream van is prob­a­bly eas­ier to park.

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