Words by Chris Tio Photos by Pat Mateo and Jerel Fajardo
Rene Nuñez has been living the life imagined with his Mercedes-Benz’s 1966 250 SE b and 1972 250C Coupes.
There is a simple saying by Henry David Thoreau, which simply proclaims, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” It’s a simple thought that is difficult to grasp, as the common man is always preconditioned to believe that life does not work that way. But every now and then, it happens, and the opportunity presents itself. When it does, one should be bold enough to step through and do so. One of these men is Renato G. Nuñez, or Rene for short.
Rene has always been a quintessential car nut who just loves classic cars. He loves all kinds of classics but the one true love of his heart has always been the pointed star. He remembers spending a large portion of his teenage years hanging out in a shop that specializes in Mercedes Benz. Here, he and his cousin would pass the time staring and swooning–fantasizing about the day when they could also be one day driving and owning such magnificent works of art.
He remembers that one particular car which stood out above the rest and became forever imprinted in his mind, a white 1966 250 SEb Coupe. As he tells it, “We were both about 15 years old when we saw this particular car in an MB shop in Makati where the original owner would bring the car. Being car guys since birth, we talked to the owner and asked him details about the car. He had bought the car new from the dealer then, and took ownership via a European Delivery program, which allowed owners to pick up their car from the factory, drive it around Europe and bring it to Manila. This coupe had all the options that you can think of. Power Steering, Electric Sunroof, factory-tinted glass, Halogen headlights, fog lamps, leather seats, air conditioning.” Rene was ecstatic, as he had already began to amass a treasure trove of knowledge that immediately told him how special the car was. He adds, “These were expensive options back then which cost about another 50% of the value of the base car.” This car became the epitome of Mercedes for him and his dream car.
Rene went on to build a successful career as a gaming executive, and that allowed him to build a closer relationship with Mercedes, by restoring and collecting classic Mercedes automobiles. He was also an early member of the Mercedes Benz Club of the Philippines. He soon began to form an interesting friendship with a fellow enthusiast named Felix Ang, a friendship that would eventually span more than 20 years. But little did both of them know how the friendship would evolve into a relationship with the brand that they loved dearly.
Felix Ang would eventually acquire the master franchise to distribute Mercedes Benz in the Philippines. One of the first people he reached out to was Rene to help build the passion for the brand. “One of the requirements was to put up an active Mercedes-Benz club in the country. At that time there was an informal club existing of which I was a member. Felix asked me if I could organize the group and formalize the club by registering with the SEC. I put him in touch with the more active members of the Club. Hence, the MBCP was established and registered with SEC.”
The success of Felix and the Mercedes brand in the country soon created new demands on their friendship and relationship, “Unfortunately, things got out of hand and the requirements of Daimler AG on the relations with the Club and CATS did not happen. I asked him to give the Club the chance to fix itself. Hence, I formally assumed the presidency of the Club. That was in 2009. Until recently, I was the President for 6 years.”
That direction turned out to be lucky for Rene as in 2010, he was able to finally buy his original dream car, the car he fantasized about since he was 15 years old, the 1966 250 SEb coupe we see here. “I finally came to acquire this car about 6 years ago from a fellow founding member of the Mercedes-Benz Club of the Philippines. He had a Pagoda and this car but he only wanted to keep one classic MB. It was a no expense spared restoration for both cars. It turned out that he was the nephew of the original owner.”
Rene adds, “The original owner owned it for about 30 years and always took care of the car. The nephew whom I bought the car from didn’t have to do much restoration except buy new lights, steering wheel, and tires, which wore down due to age and use.“
The second car we see here is an amazingly pristine 1972 250C coupe. Rene tells the story of this car, “In 2012, I went to Pebble Beach to watch the annual Concours De Elegance and that’s where I first laid my eyes on this beautiful w114 coupe. It was parked in the guest parking across the famous lawn. Whenever I’m in the Bay Area, I would normally pass by Mercedes Heritage in Burlingame and have a chat with Roy Spencer who is the authority in classic Mercedes-Benz. When we were going about a tour of what cars he had, there was the w114 coupe I saw that weekend in Pebble Beach. I asked him about the car and found out that he had just gotten the car from an old lady who had bought it new and decided to let go of the car after 40 years. It had all the service history, manuals, tools, data card as if it was a 40-year old Certified Pre Owned 250C.”
Naturally, Rene attempted to acquire it but it was not for sale then. But a couple of months later he received an email informing him that it was. In a gesture of friendship, he showed the car to his best friend, who coincidentally had the same birth date with the car. His best friend ended up buying the car and had it sent to the Philippines. After some time, in another gesture of friendship, he offered it to Rene. He remembers his friend asking, “Would you want to buy it instead?” Rene replied “Of course! Since it’s the most original W114 coupe one can buy in the Philippines.”
A few years later, Rene began to start evaluating the direction of his life. He reached out to Felix, “I told Felix of my plan to slow down a bit and plans of retiring from gaming. Having been friends for almost 20 years, I felt comfortable telling him this and maybe subconsciously, I wanted to work with him.” He recalls laughing, as Felix did not then take him seriously. “But one time in a common friend’s birthday dinner in December 2014, we suddenly agreed on a Director/consultancy arrangement for 2015. After a few months, we saw the benefit of working together and in March 2015, we formalized the partnership and I assumed the Presidency of CATS Motors, Inc, the original dealership that Felix had set up to distribute and sell Mercedes Benz in the Philippines.”
Rene is now living his dream life, spending days encouraging and teaching his staff about the finer points of the brand. He is constantly sought after by many customers who want his first hand advice on which model to buy, and more importantly, which one will end up a future classic. In essence, this is the true strength of the Mercedes Benz brand, a heritage and tradition that continually builds and strengthens. It is amazing to see the two cars of Rene in the modern CATS showroom gleaming and glistening, as if awaiting the lucky buyer just like when they were new.
The White 250 SEb coupe shown here also turned out to be more than special, as it was discovered that some things are just meant to be. Rene remembers the day after he bought the car; his best friend noticed something that he never noticed before. He told Rene that this car was really meant to be his, as he pointed to the plate, “NGR 686.” Rene was astounded as, “the plate number has my inverted initials on them.” Yup, it was all meant to be, and yes, it is possible to live the life we imagined.