Dr. Ronald Swartz

1957 Mercedes-Benz

Dr. Ronald “Ronnie” Swartz is an adventuresome soul. Bitten by the hiking bug in the early ’90s, he has been high and low, from Patagonia to Bhutan, Iceland to Mt. Kilimanjaro, and many places in between. So you wouldn’t expect him to drive an ordinary automobile, would you?

Swartz’s “love car” is a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL classic –a white convertible in pristine, showroom condition. “When I look at my car I get an extremely satisfied feeling,” he says. “I have owned several classic cars, but none came close to how special my vintage white convertible is to me.”

The handsome, 58 year-old vehicle came into Swartz’s life in 2003. “I did a national search, and I was pleased to find this one in Seattle,” explains the busy urologist who is in private practice at Touro Infirmary. “Most of all, the car was recommended by someone I had grown to trust. When I purchased it, some minor restoration had been made, but it was in overall excellent condition, and I have done nothing more except maintain it.” 

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The car came with 75,000 miles and Swartz has added another 25,000 in the 12 years he has owned it. Needless to say, there is another car in this busy physician’s life. “My other means of transportation is a 2010 Subaru Forester,” he says. “It is the only car I have ever purchased new, and it is very reliable, but definitely not special.”

What is special to Swartz is being a member of the organization dedicated to the 300SL cars that were the first iteration of the SL-Class grand tourer, the fastest production car of its day. The toned-down Grand Pix, car tailored to performance enthusiasts, was introduced in 1954 and the coupe was available until 1957. “There were about 3,300 of the cars built,” he says. “To be a member of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Club you have to own or appreciate the unique car. The group holds a convention every year – drawing from 20 to 60 cars. Some are driven to the conclave, others are trailered.”

Every year, Swartz journeys from New Orleans with his wife Ellen Johnson, a publicist, to the 300SL convention. Previous locations have included Palm Springs, Lake Tahoe, Newport and Sedona. “This past year, the convention was in Banff, Canada,” he says. “When we got there the first part of September, there was an early snow storm. It was magical to see the handsome line-up of 300SL vintage cars in the snow.”

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The Swartzes hosted the five-day 2013 convention in New Orleans. “We couldn’t provide attendees with hills on rally day, but we did offer the best food and music the group had ever experienced, Ronnie says. “We were pleased when a local lawyer who works on Poydras Street tracked us down during the convention to say he looked out his window and was mesmerized to see the fleet of beautiful cars parading by.”

One of the benefits of going to the convention is that Ronnie always checks to see if there is a 300SL specialist nearby. “If I need something done to my car, I leave it with the specialist in the area and then have it shipped home after the work is finished.” He also notes that his local friend, Steve Armstrong, has helped solve problems in the past. “I am also grateful for his help with changing the oil,” he says.

Ronnie especially enjoys going to the convention to get his treasured car out on the open road. “It belongs on the road,” he says with a smile. What’s the gas mileage like on his treasured vehicle? “Poor,” he says.

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“I enjoy the fact we have a very diverse group – from a member who bought his car for a few thousand dollars in 1970, to the billionaire who owns 100 valuable cars, including a 300SL,” he says.

Ronnie has definitely been a “car person” all of his life. “My first car was a 1949 Oldsmobile convertible, a gift from an aunt in 1958 when I was 15,” he says. “Back then you could get a driver’s license at that age. I will always remember that car, as I associate it with gaining my independence.”

Fortunately, Ellen is a big supporter of Ronnie’s hobby. “Since he was a young boy, he has always been an avid car fan,” she says. “His collection of cars has been more focused on beautiful design than speed or muscle. Over the years, most of the cars he has owned have been beauties from afar, but rust buckets underneath. Actually, many times what he owned was measured by whatever he could afford as a medical student or resident, and when he trained in England he brought an old Bentley home.

Ellen likes his current choice. “I call her ‘Luscious’ and I am careful never to be jealous of her,” she says, adding, “The car is definitely a ‘her’ and she is without a doubt ‘the other woman’ in Ronnie’s life – and quite a beautiful lady.”



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