Paul Spira and his “magic car”, a 2001 Mercedes-Benz SLK320

Paul Spira, seen with his wife, Caryl, purchased this 2001 Mercedes-Benz SLK320 in 2012, shortly before being diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer.

Staring straight ahead in his hospital bed, Paul Spira couldn’t avoid seeing the picture of his 2001 Mercedes-Benz SLK320 convertible.

Tinned to the bulletin board was his incentive, said his wife, Caryl.

“It became the central thing,” she said.

It was the spring of 2013. After successfully beating a rare form of nasopharyngeal cancer the year before, Paul Spira was diagnosed with sepsis, which developed in his chemo port from the cancer treatment. The infection settled into his knees, ankle and hand.

Doctors gave him a 50-50 chance at survival.

“When he was in the hospital and couldn’t walk or anything, I had the picture of the car printed,” Caryl Spira said. “I told him, ‘You need to drive this car again. You need to get out of here.'”

The process wasn’t easy. Paul Spira, the pastor at Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church on Fairfield Avenue in Fort Wayne, had to relearn how to stand, walk and use his left hand.

“It was literally like starting over,” he said.

During his cancer treatments in 2012, the newly purchased little six-cylinder 320 with some serious acceleration became the “Magic Car.” For the married couple of over 30 years, being able to put the top down, crank some music and “just drive” became therapeutic.

While fighting the sepsis, the goal became a quest to return to the “Magic Car.”

Every day, Paul Spira would look at the picture of his car. He remembered how driving it during his seven weeks of cancer treatments in 2012 allowed him and his wife to escape. When behind the wheel of the Benz, he could forget for a while the pain and stress of fighting off an aggressive cancer, not to mention the strain of chemo and radiation treatments.

“When I was able, we would go out, take the top down, listen to some tunes and just run away,” Paul Spira said.

Finally, after 49 days in the hospital, Paul Spira was released.

It still took to the end of the year for the pastor to move around and walk without a walker or cane, but he was home and out of life-threatening danger.

And he was able to return to the “Magic Car.”

“The first time I got back into it, I know that I still had the walker and remember tucking it in behind the seats,” he said.

The inspiration to beat first cancer and then sepsis was the Benz. His faith in God guided him, while his desire to return to the road with his wife at his side pushed him.

“It’s a very thankful feeling; it’s very freeing,” he said. “You just get in there and forget about troubles.”

Spira is now five years cancer free and four years departed from the sepsis, an illness he called “way worse than the cancer.” The SLK320 is still and always will be the “Magic Car” to both of them.

When their schedule allows, Paul and Caryl will pack up (lightly, they add, citing the shortage of space) and hit the road to a destination unknown.

They will just…drive.

A simple action to many, but something that means a lot more to the Spiras.


Do you or someone you know have an interesting story about a car? From classics to customs, we want to hear about it. Contact Justin Kenny at 260-461-8263 or via e-mail at jkenny@news-sentinel.com with details.


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