Stars Collide: Introducing Proud Owner Jenny Welker
Over the years we’ve had the privilege of meeting several rather special individuals – classic Mercedes owners who have come to us for support, visited us at a show or joined us for a driving tour. Often, these individuals go on to become friends and even brand ambassadors. Whether they’re based in Australia or across the road here in Stratford-upon -Avon, we aim to celebrate these individuals in our Proud Owners series; discovering their history, passions and petrolhead spirit.
We first became acquainted with Jenny at the end of September 2021, when she joined our Tour of Wales, arriving with a glorious smile from behind the windscreen of her Arctic White 1993 R129 SL500. Our tours are open to all owners, SLSHOP customers or not. This was an opportunity for us to get to know Jenny and what inspired her to own this iconic SL. As the tour went on, we quickly realised the importance of sharing her own story. A story of a life-long partnership sharing adventures and a passion for hard work, family, and iconic cars.
‘’My petrolhead journey commenced at the emerging age of 15 when I was living in Germany learning our ancestor’s language. I quickly established a friendship group that was not dull by any means. I was quickly introduced to a young man called Uli, who was five years older than me and was the only one with a car. He caused quite a stir with his wild driving habits – this got my attention for good and bad reasons. As time passed, our relationship blossomed and I settled down in Germany with Uli.
It quickly became apparent how dedicated and hard-working he was. Uli had two jobs at one stage – this was of course to fund his interest in cars. Always yellow cars. We got married when I was 21 years of age, honeymooning in our Triumph Spitfire around Scotland. We returned to the UK afterwards only to learn that my father was ill and my mother was worried about the need for them to sell the family business.
Elliotts department store has been our family business since the 1900s and I couldn’t imagine my parents selling up. Uli was happy to move back to the UK and so we packed the VW-Porsche and returned to the island. We took over the running of the store, watching it develop as part of a modern Lymington. Peaks of success enabled us to create lots of memories, many of which were centred around our cars.
The VW-Porsche was replaced by a Triumph Stagg, followed by a TR6, which remains in the family to this day. Uli loved that car despite it causing nothing but problems. He spent many evenings and weekends carrying out repairs – our son Neil only remembers it being inactive and unusable. Uli admitted at one point ‘I might have to sell it’, to which I responded ‘no, you’ve put too much money into it.’
Time passed on through this hectic period with the chapter ending with Uli stating ‘I’ve seen my dream car’. This is where the R129 SL entered our lives. The year was 1997 and Uli had realised his dream to enjoy a vehicle engineered by his nation. The SL500 R129 was built and registered in 1993 and we acquired it from Mercedes Bournemouth. The car was a distinct improvement from the Triumphs we had collected over the years – the electronic systems in the R129 were truly revolutionary at the time and remain fantastic to this day.
Alongside our love for cars, was a love for motorcycles. Uli was a ‘Rotarian’ – the Rotary Retro Automobile Fellowship which is dedicated to the utilisation and preservation of unique, historic, and classic vehicles. We met many wonderful people as part of this group, enjoying trips around the UK, to Castle Coombe, and abroad to Normandy amongst fellow petrolheads. Our last trip together – a motorbike trip across the US and Canada to celebrate our Ruby Wedding anniversary – would be the peak of our adventurousness. We completed the trip all the way up to Anchorage, Alaska.
We returned to the UK and not many months later, Uli collapsed on his motorbike on the way to the hairdressers. Uli was diagnosed with a brain tumour and given two years to live. In true Uli spirit, his smile persevered and he didn’t even consider selling his cars or bikes. We went back to Hanover for Uli’s operation – they managed to remove the tumour and extend his time to three years. This was an amazing achievement, but unfortunately, the tumour returned at different intervals. Uli’s determination and dedication to his family kept him alive for six years. A truly unique individual.
The SL, TR6 and E500 are all preserved in his memory. Despite our son, Neil, not being heavily fond of cars, his children (my grandchildren) certainly are. Young Jack has reserved the Tr6, while 12-year-old Euan has specified the R129 SL as his for his first car. All of these vehicles are a celebration of our time together, of Uli’s passion for creating memories at the wheel and on the back of a motorbike. He would have loved to be a part of SLSHOP’s community of owners.
When I heard about the Wales Tour, I suddenly realised that the SL deserved to enjoy another adventure – Uli would have wanted us to make the most of his favourite car in our collection. This would be my first long trip without Uli and despite this, I removed the cover and trickle charger and gave the car a good thorough clean. After all, rule number one when meeting up with other SL connoisseurs is to prepare the car to be scrutinised, especially as SLSHOP’s team would be sticking the SL on a ramp for inspection.
I was delighted with the tour, especially as a ‘newcomer’ to the group of owners – Sam, Bruce and the team made me feel extremely welcome and I quickly felt a member of the SLSHOP Tribe. We embarked on an ambitious 500-mile round-trip of Wales, exploring the monstrous mountains around Snowdonia, the Swiss-like lakes of the Elan Valley and the rocky coast of Anglesey. By the time I got home, I had covered 900 miles in the SL500 R129 and it didn’t miss a beat.
To summarise my thoughts on owning an R129 SL, or any modern classic for that matter, I was asked by another Wales Tour member Alec, ‘what will you do with the car when you get home?’
‘’Drive it. The car is to be driven.’’