Old performance cars are not particularly fast by modern standards. They are surpassed by a garden variety hatchback in performance. But while they might not be particularly fast, they are a lot of fun to drive on a winding country road. Today I met up with some of the members of the Topklasse forum for a drive to Oberon. I had never been there before – but I will be back. The road between Mt Victoria to Oberon has minimal traffic, is not clogged up with hoons on motorbikes and has wide sweeping corners and 100km/h speed limits.
On the drive we had a 300SEL 6.3, a W210 E55 AMG, a late model C class and I took my E-Type.
The drive was a lot of fun, even if the weather was iffy in the morning – starting from Richmond, up Bells Line of road, then over to Oberon. The Jag performed well, although on the way back I had the brake dragging issue I thought I had finally fixed. It got particularly bad about 1km from home and I had to limp back in 1st gear. Pretty much the entire braking system on this car is new or refurbished, so it is starting to get difficult to work out what to do. The symptoms were different here, a rock hard brake pedal and the calipers were dragging in general rather than a slow release like I had before. The car did go past 66,666 on the way there, so maybe this is the reason.
The Traction Avant has a fairly large oil cap that at least on my car is a loose fit. Underneath it there is a metal plate with holes in it which let the oil drain into the engine when filling and presumably stop the oil from splashing out.
Unfortunately on my car, these holes had been significantly enlarged and that means oil was dribbling down both sides of the engine and creating smoke when it hit the hot exhaust manifold.
My assumption was that the extra holes were leading to excess oil splashing up and leaking out of the cap. Taking a leaf out of the original design my assumption was that if I was to add some kind of mesh it would prevent the oil splashing as much and let it drain back into the engine.
I was able to buy a piece of aluminium mesh from Bunnings warehouse and assumed that a couple of layers would have the desired effect. To start with I settled for four.
I then left on a 200km drive to the south coast. So far I would rate this idea as a partial success. I still had some oil leakage – but not enough for clouds of smoke to be coming out of the bonnet louvres.
My next step is to see if a few more layers are an improvement or not.
The big Achilles heel in the R/C107 chassis is its propensity to rust. They are pretty much bullet proof mechanically, but the rust proofing from the factory was poor and there are a lot of areas where they can and do rust, even in climates such as Australia that are not prone to it. Once the rust gets to a point, the cars are pretty much scrap.
My car is pretty rust free – but I had some rust cut out about 10 years ago. There were four places and they are all common rust points in these cars
- near the front jacking points – dirt gets inside and they stay wet
- the bottom edge of the boot lid – water gets into a lip here
- the front chassis rails – water pools on top in the engine bay
- bottom of the rear window – water gets in under the seal, the metal starts rusting and the window starts delaminating. The window is generally seen before the rust
10 years later, the rust is back in the bottom of the boot lid, and in the drivers side front chassis rail. in addition, there is also rust:
- behind the front wheels – there is a lip here were dirt can accumulate and cause rust
- passengers side boot floor – leaking boot seal or tail light seal
- where the side trim attaches to the car – water gets in the holes in the body
The rust is not bad yet, and very easily repairable at this point. leaving it too long and it becomes problematic to fix. I have also decided to do a full repsray at the same time. The paint on the front of the car is faded and cracked in places, and the bootlid needs to be repainted. The doors are also very faded. The rear part of the car is better because of the rust repairs 10 years ago, but the car is currently many shades of blue. A full respray is expensive but it should rejuvenate the car for many years to come.
I am a fan of the Rover P5, but I don’t have the time, room or funds to purchase one. So the solution is to buy a book!
I purchased this book: Rover P5 & P5B: The Complete Story by James Taylor and overall I am happy with the purchase.
The book does a good job of covering the events that led up to the launch of the car and then the major changes that took place during its life cycle. It covers all the different series of car, as well as the Coupe and Saloon. It also features a buyers guide.
The one thing I feel is missing is a bit more detail about the original 3 liter engine, which given it was a carry over into the P5, I can understand why they didn’t go into a lot of detail. I find this engine interesting as it was one of the last engines that used an IoE layout – that is an overhead inlet valve and a side exhaust valve.
I also would have liked a good appendix at the back with more technical specifications, while the specifications through the book are fairly good – they are not as detailed as I would have liked. It does do a good job of covering the less well known 2.4 and 2.6 liter versions.
Overall it was a good read and a worthwhile addition to my collection of automotive books. Rating: 7.5/10
Today I joined the Mercedes club on a drive to Wollombi, which is a small town on the way to the Hunter Valley. The town was used in the 1840’s for convicts to stay while they built a road from Sydney to the Hunter and ultimately beyond. The Mercedes club has been organizing some rather interesting sounding drives recently so it was good to be able to come along – the roads in this area are very scenic and apart from idiots on motorcycles rather nice to drive on.
It was a lovely autumn day here in Sydney, so a great day to take the 250SE Cabriolet out. The route started in Thornleigh and took the old Pacific highway up to near Peats ridge, then the Old North Road to Wollombi. Lunch was at Mulla Villa, which is a house built by the convicts as they built the Old North Road. There are still convict cells under the house, which are available for a tour, although I had to leave before that could occur.
I also had to collect something in Emu Plains, so instead of taking the freeway back I took Wisemans Ferry road, over the ferry through Cattai, Pitt Town etc – a slower but much more pleasant drive. All in all I drove almost 300 miles, passing the lucky 77,777 odometer reading!
The drive had a mix of old a new cars – my favorites were a midnight blue W113, a pristine white 107 SL and a red 114C.
There are three main ways of getting Mercedes-Benz workshop manuals. The most common these days is via CD-ROM. However the quality of the scans are woeful, and the pictures are generally next to useless (the diagrams are ok if not too detailed). You can also find the old printed manuals on Ebay. Many sellers want silly money for the manuals, but they are available if you persevere, especially on USA Ebay. I’ve slowly built up a collection of the printed manuals, although not a complete set.
The other way is via Microfiche. These manuals were typically available to workshops, but exist in private hands now as many workshops no longer need manuals for cars that were last produced 40 years ago. For younger readers who never used Microfiche in the local library to look up old newspapers, it is essentially a card made out film material with negative images at 1/25th the size, that can be blown up to readable size by using the reader.
I was able to pick up a set of Microfiche from a workshop that no longer services Mercedes from that era. The set is not complete (about 50% of the Microfiche is still there), but it covers models from the 60s-80s which is perfect for me.
I was also able to get the reader, which allows the Microfiche to be read. As it had not been used for many years, it was very dirty but once cleaned worked correctly. The other nice thing about the Microfilm is that it means you don’t get greasy hands on the pages of the printed workshop manual.
The W123 Mercedes has developed a reputation as workhorse the world over, with dilapidated examples still plying their trade as taxis 30-40 years after they rolled off the production line.
But finally a transition is occurring. The W123 is rightfully being considered more than just a workhorse – cars are being restored, books written about the model and images of war torn countries no longer have multiple 123 taxicabs in the background. Nice W123’s can still be had for less than AUD$10k and they are good buying at that money – being the last of the chrome bumper Mercedes but still with the ability to be used as an everyday car. The W123 has eclipsed both of its contemporary S Class stablemates – the W116 (except the 6.9) and the 1st generation W126 – even though they are both arguably better cars.
The beater cars still exist, but are far fewer than 5 years ago.
When I purchased my DS, what attracted me to it was that it was the model I wanted and virtually rust free. It provided a solid foundation, but needed a bit of attention on some cosmetic items to get it where I wanted to be. This post is meant as a summary of some of the improvements that I have done since I got the car.
Instrument Cluster, Temperature Gauge and Radio
- Replacing Targa seat covers with new velour covers (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8)
- Adding headrests for driver and front passenger (see seat covers)
- New Carpet
- New rear shelf trim (included in radio upgrade)
- Fitting the rear interior lights that were missing (Part 1, Part 2)
- New Steering wheel tape (Part 1, Part 2)
- New door cards to match seat covers (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)
- Replacing marine carpet with proper vinyl sill trim (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)
- Renewing the outer sill trim and inner door seals (see sill trim above)
- Replacement of door contact switch and shift gate
- Fitting parking brake pedal cover
- Attaching rear headlining
Exterior & Engine
I helped out a friend today for a wedding with the Traction Avant. Tractions are not often seen as wedding cars, but they are rather striking and work pretty well. For this wedding two Light 15s were used. The big bodied cars would probably work better, but the light 15 was roomy enough for five people. You do notice the extra weight – with only 56 h.p. even four slim bridesmaids mean rather slow progress up hills.
The other light 15 has an ID motor and four speed gearbox installed which probably helps, but the slow progress is part of the charm of these cars. On a humid Sydney day, the ability to open the windscreen was a life saver! While waiting in Traffic one person asked us for a business card as she wanted to use the cars for her wedding later in the year. I don’t do weddings other than for friends, but it does show there would be interest.
Mercedes had rather elegant steering wheels in the 1960s, before safety concerns led to a change to the padded, plastic type. These were thin style, and from an era where driving gloves were the norm rather than the exception. As was the trend at the time, there was a separate horn ring, and a nod to safety with a padded center.
These steering wheels were basically the same for all W108, W109, W110, W111, W112, W113, and early W114 and W115. Early cars had a round horn ring, which was changed in the early 60s to a flatter top. The cars of the 50s had a different design that was similar in concept, but with no padded center and a circular horn ring.
The standard steering wheel was black (ebony) and had a black center pad with the Mercedes logo and a chrome horn ring. Up until the mid 60’s it was also possible to order an Ivory coloured steering wheel with a colour matched center pad. When ordered, the gear stick knob was also Ivory coloured. This was option code 551. This option was discontinued for the updated 1968 models (i.e. the 280s and later 300s). The picture below shows an early finnie with the ivory steering wheel and the round horn ring. Note the end of the gear stick is also ivory.
The Ivory steering wheel is much more susceptible to age and heat related cracking than the black one is, and both are still available from Mercedes, although at significant cost. The Ivory wheel is very popular in more recent years and is often added to cars during restoration, especially to vehicles such as the 280SE 3.5 Cabriolet that were never available with this option. In most cases the gear knob is not changed at the same time, so the difference is quite apparent. These wheels were only ever available with the center pad in the same colour as the wheel, although I’ve seen many ‘restored’ cars have dyed it the same colour of the seats which I find rather garish. The photo below shows a 280SE 3.5 Coupe with the correct steering wheel and gear knob. The flattened top of the horn ring is contrasted with the round one above.
Another popular owner change over is to add a Nardi wheel. Personally I prefer the original wheel, but the Nardi wheel can look good on the W113 roadsters.