Meeting Dolly - The Story of an unplanned classic car ownership experience

Eight years ago, one Tuesday, an unsuspecting mother and daughter set out for what would turn out to be the beginning of a journey to purchase a classic vehicle.

By John Wessels

Following one's intuition became the lesson of this day for Karin, who dedicated the day to whatever her daughter, Allana, wanted to do. It was a "Choose-day" after all. Karin was going through a divorce and things felt out of control for her daughter. They hatched a plan that every Tuesday they would do whatever her daughter wanted to do. And so Choose-day was born. Every other day mom Karin could choose, but on Tuesdays it was all Allana’s choice. What Karin never could have imagined was that a car would become the ultimate purchase on one particular “Choose-day”.

When Karin asked her daughter what she wanted to do, she had to hide her disbelief when her 6-year old said, "Mom, I want to go and buy some Dolly Parton CDs and a car.” Karin had recently had a car accident. The insurance had paid out but she still hadn’t bought a replacement vehicle.

So, off they went with only their intuition to guide them.

After the Dolly Parton CDs were bought, Allana asked; “How do you buy a car, mom?” Karin answered that one would normally decide what you need from a car and then do some research about what's on offer. "But we don’t have time for that today, all we have is our intuition,” Karin answered. Then a long explanation about what intuition was followed. 

Together they quickly made list of what they were looking for from their "new" car. It had to be safe, comfortable, unique and... uhm, colourful. This was the list they gave the bemused car salesman that greeted them at the first dealership they came across in Cape Town’s CBD.

He informed them that a shipment of old Mercedes-Benzes had just arrived from the Free State. This news got Karin and Allana excited. They spotted a white Mercedes with a red interior and took it for a test drive. Allana wanted to buy it immediately. Her mom said that they weren’t ready yet, and that they still needed to do some research on the vehicle.

Enter Gordon, who answered the phone number in the classifieds advert that Karin called. He was selling exactly the same model of Mercedes that the two girls had seen in the car dealership, but for half the price. Gordon is a fanatical Mercedes-Benz collector living in Riebeek Kasteel. He advised Karin not to purchase the vehicle as he didn’t think it was a reliable model for a single mother with two young daughters. 

The following “Choose-day” when Karin asked her daughter what she wanted to do, she nearly fell over backwards when her daughter said she wanted to go and buy that white car with red seats they’d seen the week before. Dedicated to the experiment of letting her daughter have control on a Tuesday, they drove from Hout Bay to Cape Town's CBD.

While waiting for the car to be pulled out of the showroom, a gentleman came up to Karin and introduced himself as Gordon from Riebeek Kasteel. Again he said that this car was not a good model to buy. Surprised by the unbelievable coincidence of seeing Gordon in Cape Town, Karin later phoned him and asked him what else he had for sale.

Gordon sent over pictures of a car that would become known as "Dolly". A family visit to Tulbagh created an opportunity to stop at Gordon’s home. When they saw "Dolly" they fell in love with her and bought her on the spot. An unplanned classic car ownership journey started on that day and still continues 8 years later.

Karin has since received offers on the Mercedes, even from overseas collectors, but the answer has always been a definite "no". Remember, it wasn’t the mother who bought the vehicle... Her daughter's intuition resulted in the purchase.

But what are the signs your body gives you when your intuition is speaking? Some people speak of "goosebumps", or a strange sensation in your stomach...  Whatever the signs, it is the consequence of an immediate, intense desire. This is what occurred on that beautiful day when Dolly came into this family's life. This vehicle's purchase was all about immediate instinct.

Dolly, a Mercedes-Benz 230 S "fin-tail" is grey in colour on the outside, but bright red on the inside, much to Allana's approval. 

Purchased for R80 000, Karin is now in a position to sell the Mercedes for R250 000, but it's not for sale. This is a true classic, a real find resulting from the intuition of a 6-year old child. 

Yes, it’s a simple, old car with no mod-cons, except for two rear seatbelts that were added when it was purchased. Allana, now 14, knows how to service Dolly's water and oil requirements. After all, it is essentially her car... “Without my daughter and the “Choose-day” experiment, I would never have bought a vintage car,” said Karin.

Dolly has been a real find for mother. She will be a keeper forever and not even the highest offer (well, maybe) will tempt the mother into selling.

When I dream of classics, this is the type of classic I dream about.


  • A lovely story; especially since Classic car stories featuring women don’t come up very often.

    Dennis Cook
  • What a great read at a time where good news is rare. Thank you John Wessels, I look forward to reading more.


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