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
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.