Spaulding was among several other owners of vintage Mercedes SL roadsters who gathered last week at the Teays Valley home of the judge's long-time friend, Carroll Hutton, whose car collection includes a 1970 Mercedes 280 SL.
"We've known each other since we were fingerlings," said Hutton, who lived in the same apartment building with Spaulding when both were starting their careers. Hutton credits Spaulding with helping him launch his second career as an underwater salvage contractor after working for Kroger for many years.
Also on hand were retired coach, teacher and school administrator Charles Kuhl of Scott Depot, retired Tag Galyean and Smith Motor Car employee Brian Smith of Hurricane, and Dick Daugherty of Dunbar, co-owner of West Virginia Used Auto Sales of Cross Lanes, and operator of the Spirit of West Virginia excursion sternwheeler.
Kuhl worked briefly with Hutton at the same Kroger store in Kanawha City in the 1950s and remained a friend since then. Kuhl became acquainted with Spaulding several years ago, when he pulled into the parking lot of a Teays Valley restaurant in his 1983 Mercedes 380 SL as Spaulding walked by, and the two began trading tips on the care and maintenance of their vehicles.
"I always wanted one of these," Kuhl said, as he stood near his two-seat roadster, "but I didn't get mine until 2004. I bought it online from a guy in West Palm Beach and had it shipped up here. ... I keep it in the garage a lot, and just drive it up the street once in a while."
"Having worked at a Mercedes dealership, I always liked these cars," said Smith, who owns a 1985 380 SL. While most owners of the vintage roadsters drive them on a limited basis, "you can really put some big miles on these cars, if you keep up with them on maintenance."
Sightings of roadworthy Mercedes SLs from the '70s and '80s aren't all that rare, said Daugherty, who bought his 1988 560 SL from a car dealer in Richmond. "We have a couple of 1979 450 SLs on our lot now," he said.
Hutton jokingly called the informal meeting of local owners of the iconic German-made car "the first gathering of the Putnam County Panzers. I'm sure we'll be doing some Sunday afternoon cruises to go get a hot dog and see some country in the months and years ahead."
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.