You only have to hear the word boulevard and your brain starts conjuring up romantic images of a stolen kiss on top of the Arc de Triomphe at sunset with the Tour Eiffel golden in the distance and looking down at the very tarmac Claude Lelouch drove his Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL (cunningly disguised as a Feezer 275GTB) to meet then girlfriend, soon to be wife number two of five, Gunilla Friden at Sacré-Cœu in the greatest eight-minute single-take movie of all time, C’était un Rendez-vous (now on YouTube but better on DVD).
Shot with a 35mm camera mounted in front of the radiator, Claude took off at dawn, managed to accelerate through 18 red lights, scare untold Citroen, Peugeot, Camions à Ordure and bus drivers, Parisian pigeons, café au lait drinkers, persons staggering across Rue Pigalle after a big night out before pulling up in the parking lot in front of the Basilica, leaping out and wantonly leaping on the former Ms Sweden who has clearly just walked up the hill to the city of light’s highest point because her then boyfriend, first husband and now ex-husband, wanted to selfishly fang around Paris by himself.
With an underground movie this big, everyone wants to copy it for a bit of product placement. In 2006, Nissan took about a million-person crew with about a million cameras to film five drivers in a 350Z driving to find one woman in Prague. Yes, about as good as it sounds. Three years later, Jay Leno doesn’t find anyone of any gender when he drives up and down Mulholland Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard in a beautiful red-looking and sounding Merc SLS AMG, but it’s a delight to watch.
This is unlike the 2020 shocker, Le Grand Rendevous, unfortunately shot in Monaco by Claude himself and starring Chuck Leclerc, Prince Bert (the serene highness of tax avoiders) and Claude’s granddaughter by Gunilla Friden, Rebecca Blanc-Lelouch, sexistly billed as Rebecca the Flower Girl.
Spoiler alert! Here’s the story line. We open on Rebecca trying to flog a few flowers to the workers of Monaco. She slips on a mask, not to go into a bank with a gun like you and I do when we don the N95, but because she realises that the local coppers, the Corps des Sapeurs-Pompiers de Monaco, might put her in the nick for going nude face when she has to deliver two bunches of Paterson’s curse to Chuck and Bert at the end of this six-minute vomit-making suck-up to Bert and Fezza.
Anyway, Covid has cancelled the GP so Chuck takes a hybrid Feezer for a quick couple of laps of the course with not even a seagull to scare. After the first lap he pulls up at the steps where Bert is standing with a million lackeys all politely clapping because Chuck was able to drive the Italian Tesla without it breaking down or running out of battery.
Then Bert and Chuck go for a hot lap. (I bet you can’t wait to hit the play button on your VCR to watch this.) Then Bert and Chuck pull up in front of the steps of the same building with more polite claps from the courtiers. Then Bec comes up and gives them flowers. Then Chuck and Bert go for a drive and, wait for it, Chuck and Bec go for a drive. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. They take off their masks and smile. Who said Covid doesn’t affect the brain?
But let’s return to Santa Monica Boulevard, from where I am reporting today. Part of the world’s greatest road trip, Route 66, this four to six-lane highway stars in songs, movies, LBGTQ festivals and has been the unofficial test track for hoons fuelled by horsepower, high octane booze, high octane legal THC-infused Cream Crispy Cookies and dreams of high octane, horizontal, nude face/folk dancing. Perfect for our annual test drives on your behalf of all the speed machines Hertz will unwittingly rent to us. Full reports and unbiased reports begin next week.
However, our friends at Consumer Reports USA and Which? Car UK (both buy the cars they test) have just published their best and worst lists for the year. The Which? Car survey, of more than 47,000 motorists to provide reliability ratings for hundreds of cars, found only three managed a full five-star rating for cars aged 0 to three and cars aged three to eight years. The best? The Mazda MX-5 (from 2015). “An incredible 97 per cent of owners of these young convertibles reported no faults whatsoever in the year running up to our survey, with no breakdowns at all.” The worst: the Land Rover Range Rover Sport (2013-present). “This car is particularly prone to faults. An alarmingly high 46 per cent of owners had at least one problem that needed a professional fix in the year before our reliability survey.”
Finally, I don’t know how the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Alloy Gullwing ranks on reliability but I want the “African Alloy” version that was delivered new to Mercedes-Benz agent Joseph Weckerle of Casablanca, Morocco. It’s being offered for about $12m by RM at the Arizona Biltmore & Spa in Phoenix on January 27.
It helps this is the 80th anniversary of Bogie and Bergman in the movie Casablanca, although Bogie drove a Buick rather than a Merc. Despite being built of super light aluminium, this heart stopper is uniquely original with matching numbers. Watch for me and the Merc on the Yarra Scenic Drive. I think this will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.