Merl Wogoman and "Old Reliable"

Saying Farewell to Mr. 190SL

-- A Tribute to Merl Wogoman

By Don Drabik    
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It was the year of the first National Convention in Annapolis, MD. The first time Kathy and I drove "Max" beyond a 100 mile radius of home. The year 1984 was also the first time I met Merl Wogoman. Merl was probably the 190SL Group's most devoted member, the only National Convention he missed was in California because he broke down on his way there and had to have his car towed home. I met Merl in the parking lot of the Annapolis Holiday Inn. All the cars for the show were parked there.
Merl Wogoman at the 2000 Convention..
Kathy and I had returned from sightseeing in Washington DC to find the other owners and members visiting and exchanging greetings and stories about their travels to the first convention with or without 190SLs. Max, with its fresh restoration, was parked next to a white 190SL with Indiana plates and it looked as though it was all original, unrestored and well used. Another first acquaintance, Bud Johnson, introduced me to " Mr.190SL", Merl Wogoman and "Old Reliable". Merl and I realized that we had a lot in common, we both liked to drink beer and talk about 190SLs. Our friendship began in the Holiday Inn bar that Friday evening and has lasted all these years. Merl passed on this last March after his courageous battle with Cancer. Merl had his greatest moments of fame at the South \ Bend National convention that he co-hosted with the Spihers and the Freeses. His 190SL with raccoon paw prints and bird droppings all over it won first place "People's Choice". He  pulled it out of a barn after ten years of storage and drove it to the Convention Center for the show. He also won the one and only "Shortest Distance" Traveled to a National Convention in a 190SL (He lived only a few blocks from the center). Anyone that attended the
Don Drabik with Merl Wogoman and "Old Reliable"
convention was invited to Merl's home to see his 15+ 190SLs and his parts storage, an experience those who attended wouldn't soon forget! Merl truly loved 190SLs. He used his. After having an accident with "Old Reliable" and the rear end of a 911 Porsche, he put in a new radiator, bolted down the hood, taped up the broken headlight and drove it from South Bend to Niagara-On-The-Lake for last year's convention. I know people who own multiple 190SLs, make money from 190SLs and love to drive 190SLs, but I don't think I will ever meet anyone who truly and deeply loved these little cars as Merl did. This year's convention and all the conventions in the future will have something missing for me and for all who knew and loved, Mr. 190SL.

In celebration of Merl's life, Lynn and Charley Spiher hosted a memorial picnic at their farm in South Bend, IN. Charley and Lynn were practically family to Merl. Their love and understanding of Merl was with- out question. Most of Merl's cars, 190SLs and others, were stored on Spiher' s property after the city of South Bend ordered him to remove them from his property. We all took a walk over the hill to view Merl's prized pos- sessions, most of us for the last time. Charley's gray 190SL sat alone in the drive draped in black. There were photos of Merl from his teens to his untimely death. Everyone exchanged stories and experiences about Merl and we all met his sister and twin brother. As the picnic was winding down, Don and Shirley, Kathy and I decided we had one more mission to fulfill, that was to have a beer in Merl's honor at his favorite bar, the "Parkview" in downtown South Bend. We toasted in his honor, finished our beers and drove over to his house, peered over the fence in the back where two 250 coupes and "Old Reliable" sat. That faithful 190SL that took Merl to all parts of the U.S., just sat there quietly waiting, waiting for its new owner to restore it and take it out for a drive to nowhere and back, just because it's" a 190 kind of day"!