Insanity reigns at the Shannons Melbourne Auction

The world has officially gone mad, with prices for Kombi vans (aka the VW Bus) reaching the stratosphere.   This to me is a clear bubble market and anyone who has a split window Kombi should sell it now while you can.    You’ll probably be able to buy it back for a third of the money in 5 years.

Offered for auction was an 11 window bus, which reached a hammer price of $158,000 after furious bidding.

Coming back to reality, somebody got a nice deal on a black Mercedes 220a Roundie for $7,500 and under the estimate of around $10-12k.    There was also little interest in a S1 Daimler Double Six Vanden Plas.   This car wasn’t perfect, but it should ahve been worth more than the $3,250 it reached.

A few other interesting cars came through, including a 1981 280CE for $6,500, a very nice W108 280SEL for $17,000, and a nice 6.3 for $50,500.

I don’t know a lot about them, but there was a very nice pre-war Rolls Royce that hit a little over $100,000.

All in all, this auction was pretty standard.   A few good bargains to be had, and fad cars reaching incredible prices.

2015 Rolls Royce Owners Club Concours

I have always admired Rolls Royce and Bentley automobiles, and was impressed with the display at the British Car Show, so decided to go down and see the Rolls Royce Owners Club concours.   The event was held at Linnwood House, which is a historic house located in Sydney’s western suburbs.   The House has some very nice grounds that are perfect for holding a car show.

The show was worth the trip and despite early rain had a good showing of cars.   As well as RROC, the Rover Club and the Daimler club had displays on, and was able to learn a bit more about Rover P5s.   I’m told the Mk2 P5 Coupe is the one to have.

For the Rollers, there was a nice selection of cars including a very impressive range of pre-war cars.  Far larger than any of the clubs I am a member of.   As you would expect the Silver Shadow and Silver Spirit were the most popular cars on display, but there was a good mixture of cars.   My two favorites were the early Bentley Corniche coupe and the Bentley S3 Flying Spur.   The display was worth a visit and I will go again if the times work.


Door mirrors for the Traction Avant

Driving a car from the 50s often means impatient drives roaring around you when you set off from traffic lights, especially uphill.    Sydney drivers are particularly bad for this.

Traction Avants, as with most 50s cars are only fitted with a small interior rear-view mirror and no outside mirror.   This makes parking and lane changing a challenge.

I had seen many tractions fitted with door mounted mirrors so I bought a set from Der Franzose and fitted them today.   The mirrors mount on the leading edge of the suicide doors, with a small braket that allows the mirror to screw on.


As can be seen from the photo, there is a plastic insert to protect the paint and I had to cut the door rubber to ensure it fit.     The mirrors have two adjustment points, one at the base of the stalk and one for the mirror glass.   Despite these I have not been able to adjust the mirrors to my liking.   I can use them if I lean over, so they are better than no mirrors, but I am a bit disappointed by the overall quality and the adjustment range.


New tyres for the 250SE and the DS

Every classic car community has an issue that polarizes opinion and spawns countless threads on Internet discussion boards.

For the Citroen DS, that issue is what is the right tyre for the DS?   Michelin were the owners of Citroen during the entire production run of the DS and during that time pioneered the radial tyre, which was introduced in 1949 and obviously standard fitment to the DS on release in 1955.   In 1965, Michelin introduced the XAS, which was the first asymmetrical radial tyre and the premise was that the inside of the tyre needs to work differently to the outside of the tyre, in much the same was your foot does when you walk.   The XAS was standard fitment on the DS for the 2nd half of its production run, and given most surviving D’s are from that time, the original tyre for most cars.

In 1972, Michelin launched the XVS, which is a high performance variant of the XAS (the shoulder design differs and it offers a higher speed rating).   Michelin still manufacture both the XAS and XVS, although for many years the XVS was the only one available.   These tyres are very expensive, generally costing around AUD$350 each fitted.

The expense of these tyres naturally drive many owners to seek alternatives.   The size required for the DS (180R15 or 185R15  – sometimes written as 180/80 R15 and 185/80 R15) is not common and there are only a few options.   Some of those are light truck tyres that are a very poor choice for the DS.   Other owners fit a slightly different size instead.

This is where the argument comes in.   Some owners will have nothing other than the Michelin tyres and consider them an integral part of the design.   They also raise the point that if nobody buys the Michelin tyres, they will stop making them and they won’t be available anymore.   This has happened with the better type of brake pads for the DS, when a cheaper (but not as good) alternative came out, sales dried up for the good ones and they stopped manufacturing them.   This is less likely on the tyres as the DS is not the only car that uses them, and the prices already only cater to the well heeled DS owner.

The arguments on the other tyres (e.g. Federal, Vredestein, etc) is that tyres have come a hell of a long way since 1965 and a modern radial tyre is better in every way than a 1965 one.   Paying 3x more for something not as good, and on a car that likely does not drive many miles per year does not make sense.

But now there is a 3rd option.   Nankang, a Taiwanese tyre company make a replica of the XVS tyre under their Retro brand.  the tyre is called the Classic 001.   As it is like the XVS, it comes in the 185/80 HR15 size.   I have heard good things about this tyre and it offers the look and asymmetrical pattern for a price very similar to the alternative tyres.


My DS was fitted with XVS, and they were around 15 years old.   As classic cars are not driven daily, tyres need to be replaced not because they become bald, but because they get too old and the rubber becomes hard.   Drive a set of old tyres in the wet and you’ll see what I mean.   This was a good option to replace them with the Nankangs.   I had thought about having my wheels powder coated to the correct colour, but I didn’t have time and there are other things I would prefer to spend money on.   I also had the best of the current tyres put on the spare as it was old and bald.   My local tyre place was able to get them in and they have the ability to balance wheels without a center hole for the hub, which many tyre places do not have (the DS is a French car so must be different in every way, even simple things like how to balance a wheel).

Unfortunately it turned out the fittings to the balancing had been loaned to another shop and the salesman I had been talking to was not aware of this, but in any case the tyres were fitted and even unbalanced and a short drive back they feel better.

At tyre place

I also had the tyres replaced on the 250SE while I was there.   Tyres for Mercedes are not as contentious, although Mercedes did perserve with 14″ wheels for a long time which does limit the selection, and there are some really rubbish tyres out there in this size (195/70 R14) or the easier to get 195/75.   I went with the Kumho tyres for the 250SE.   I went on a long club run in the evening and they went very well.

2015 Shannons Sydney Spring Classic Auction Preview

The regular Shannons auctions are always a great way to see an interesting collection of classic cars and know what they actually sell for.   Many classics languish for months (and sometimes years!) on with ridiculous asking prices, whereas with Shannons you know the actual sale price, not the inflated asking price.

There were two cars in particular I was interested in seeing – the Jaguar XK140 FHC and the Mercedes 280SE 3.5 Coupe.   Both of these cars are on my ‘car bucket list’ and I wanted to see what they were like to understand the final price.   The XK140 in particular, because it was an unmolested car.   Most of the XK140s that have come up for sale in the last couple of years have been modified to look like rally cars.   Personally I think this ruins the car.

The Mercedes was in nice condition and I think that the price guide of $70-$85,000 is about right for this model in this condition.  I would rate this car at about a 7.5/10, although I have not driven it.   It looks fairly original, and the A/C looks like the dealer fitted units from the period.   It has been fitted with a white steering wheel, which is not original, but overall looks like a nice car.   This car also has the options I would want were I buying – Sunroof, A/C, Power Windows, twin arm rests and still has the Becker radio.     It is  in a great colour – and not white which is the most common.   I don’t like white cars.

The Jaguar is quite nice, although there are some areas where the paint is cracking so it is possible there is some rust or filler underneath.   The interior is lovely and unmolested and it stil has the lovely little Jag touches that are gone with those rally recreations.

Some other cars of interest for me were the BMW M6, which I think would be a great buy at that price,  The Jaguar Mk2 (outside its horrid steering wheel, the rest of the modifications don’t seem too drastic),  and the E-Type was lovely.

There was also a 1924 Star Mercury which was a really interesting old thing and about the very definition of patina!   I still believe that the VW Kombi/Microbus are drastically overpriced, but if I owned one I would be cashing in while the baby boomers can’t get enough of them.

My 250SE was built 50 years ago today

My 250SE Cabriolet was produced 50 years ago today, or at least I presume it was, since it has this date noted on the data card, and the first service was December 1965.     The Original owner was the Australian Diplomat Brian C Hill, who collected the car from the factory and apparently took it with him to various diplomatic postings around the world.   It stayed in his family until the 21st century, and outside traveling with Mr Hill, it has always resided in the northern part of Sydney.

The car is an early production example, as the 250SE was only introduced in September of 1965 and given there were only 26 examples made in right hand drive, this car was likely the first right hand drive example.    While I do not know for sure, it is likely Mr Hill waited until the new model had been released before purchasing his new car.    Apparently he has a two seater convertible before the 250SE, I’m guessing a 230SL or perhaps a 190SL.

Over the 50 years since the car was produced, it has covered around 450,000, had a full engine rebuild, respray, new interior and all the usual maintenance you would expect.   I’ve recently put it back to original when it comes to the hubcaps and the headlights, so it looks like a 250SE again.     It has won the Mercedes Benz Club show and shine in 2014 and was a finalist in the 2015 Concours.

After about a 45 year hiatus, Mercedes have finally replaced the W111 convertible models in their line up with their new S Class convertible.   The new car is undoubtedly more powerful, but I’m not sure it has the same sense of occasion as the W111 does.  I wonder if the new car will still be in regular use in 2065?   Mercedes are certainly leveraging the old car in their publicity shots for the new one.

After 50 years on full registration, the car will soon move to the new club registration scheme being offered in NSW.

250SE in front of old Parliament house.

250SE in front of old Parliament house.

250SE reverts back to original headlights

My 250SE was sporting the stacked style of headlights, which are quite popular on these models.   Personally, I prefer the original type.    I had some original lights, but needed to restore them before they could be fitted to the car.


The wear parts of the headlights are the reflectors that dull and rust over time, the gaskets that crumble (as can be seen above) and obviously the bulbs.    The housings are generally ok, although they can be bent if the screws are tightened too much, and the fasteners that hold on the lens can also break.


The reflectors and gaskets are still available from Mercedes, although they have become very expensive.   At minimum you’ll need the main reflector and the rubber gasket that seals the lens to the housing, and the gasket that seals the housing to the body of the car.   The first gasket is important to stop water getting into the headlight and ruining the reflector.   The second is important to seal the headlight to the car as this is a major rust trap for the 108-112 Mercedes.    In addition, you can also choose to replace the fog light reflector.   It is probably possible to also replace the reflector for the indicators, although I did not attempt this.

The picture above shows the difference between the new and old reflectors, and the headlight on the right was probably the best of the ones I had.   Make sure you buy the reflectors from a good source.  I got my foglight ones from an online place and they are a copy that does not fit particularly well and is missing the rubber mounting parts.   The main reflectors I got from MB Spares and not only were they a perfect fit but they came with all the mounts needed.

The old reflectors are quite easily removed.   They are held in by rubber mounts, and they just pull off.   Two of those mounts are adjustable so the lights can be adjusted correctly and do not dazzle other drivers.  The bulb assemblies just screw off also.

Adding the reflector

As can be seen on the photo above, the new main reflector is mounted from the rear, and there are holes for the bulbs that need to be inserted.   The foglight reflector is mounted from the front.  To get the most out of the lights, halogen bulbs can be used, but they need to be special ones that have old style connections.   I bought mine online.

New Bulbs

The right bulbs will only sit in the reflector a certain way due to a notch that helps you locate it.   The original bulbs for these cars are 45w.   This might seem quite low, but I personally would not go higher on a 50 year old car unless I had re-wired the headlights and were using relays instead of sending all that current through the switch.    The small bulb also needs to be put in place before the bulb assembly is re-attached.

The lower reflector is fairly similar to the upper one except that the bulbs are more standard.  At this point it is worth hooking up the light to test it before the lens is fitted.

The first gasket is put on the front of the light in the channel so that the glass lens is held against the gasket by the retainers.   The retainers are probably the weak point of these lights as they crack over time.   One of mine has broken off so I will need to repair it at some point.   Were the car a daily driver this would be more urgent.

The rear gasket is placed against the light housing before it is screwed in.   The housing metal will bend if these screws are over tightened.


The old lights are quite easy to remove.   there is a single screw to remove the frame, and then four screws to remove the light.   There is also an attachment point for the frame that sits at the top that must be removed as well.

Old headlight


From there, the new headlights can be attached and tested.   For those of you who are indecisive, you can have one of each on your cars.


The job is almost complete for me.  I need to repair one mounting point for the lens on the passengers side, and get a new foglight bulb on the drivers side.

The Citroen DS was launched 60 years ago this month

In October 1955, Citroen unveiled one of the most innovative cars ever designed.   There have been plenty of new cars that have introduced a new technology, or even a couple, but the DS was so radical that it immediately made everything else on the market seem old fashioned – And this was just the looks.   Under the covers, the car contained a revolutionary hydraulic system that controlled the suspension, gear change and brakes.   This system would go on to be used for over 50 years and was licensed by other marques such as Rolls Royce and Mercedes-Benz.   In addition, there were other firsts such as the use of plastic on the dashboard, something we take for granted today.

Sadly, while Citroen was one of the most innovative car companies in the world during their heyday from the 30s to the 70s, having the most innovative designs does not necessarily sell cars and Citroen was eventually forced into a takeover by Peugeot.  Peugeot were not really interested in the Citroen approach of going ‘all in’ on new designs and over the years Citroen cars became more and more conventional.    A few really interesting designs did manage to sneak through the net, but today there is nothing that really distinguishes a Citroen from any other car, and the company has finally dropped the last Citroen specialty – the famed hydraulic suspension system.

In a move that highlights the modern car business at its most cynical, PSA have split up Citroen and created a new brand called ‘DS’ which aims to sell tarted up hatchbacks.    It is a sad end to one of the great manufacturers of the 20th century.  They are even offering a 1955 special edition despite no relationship whatsoever to the original car.   Regardless of what is happening with the brand today, Citroen will always be remembered for their ground breaking designs including the Traction Avant, 2CV, DS and others.    Citroen is not alone, a number of the famed brands of the 20th century are a shadow of their former self – take Lancia which is just a Fiat with a chrome nose.

The Citroen Car Club organized an event for the 60th anniversary, to be held at the Campbelltown Steam and Machinery Museum.    While this was quite a contrast from the 1955 Paris auto show, it was a nice choice of venue with a range of different technologies that have changed the world on display.    The Club had a great turn out, with almost 30 cars on display, about half of them D models (including my car).   Unfortunately there were no early cars, but there were a nice variety of 3rd nose cars, from pristine restored cars to a car that has been off the road for 18 years and has recently been recommissioned.      In addition to the D’s, there were a couple of CXs, a GS, a brace of BXs and some more modern Citroens.

As well as the Citroens, the rest of the Museum was well worth a look, including a variety of stationary and traction steam engines, some other classic cars including a group of Cadillacs, military vehicles, tractors.   Some of the stationary engines were providing power for the event, and there were rides on the steam tractors for children.  There were also various ‘sheds’ with intersting things to see from old tools, tractors, farm equipment and so on.

At the day, I was also able to talk to a previous owner of my Traction Avant, who is a member of the Citroen Car Club.   He owned the car in the early 70s.    His uncle worked at the Citroen dealer at the time, and the car had been brought in with an engine problem.    The owner was then convinced to trade the car in for a new model when the problem was partially fixed.    The dealership just wanted it gone, so the uncle was able to let his nephew know about the car and he came down and bought it and drove it back up to Narrabri (via the putty road).   Later the problem was diagnosed to be one of the seals for the cylinder liners, which was allowing water into the oil.   Luckily the owner had a friend who taught mechanics at the local TAFE, and the engine was dropped off to be rebuilt by the students as a project!    A week later, it was re-installed in the car and the paint, which was pretty bad by then was refreshed.   Over the time, the clutch was fixed and other general maintenance performed.    The owner later moved to Bathurst, where the next owner later purchased it.      During his ownership, he was able to trace the car as having been in Melbourne in its early years.

NSW Classic Vehicle Log Book trial starts today

I was down at the RMS today, putting my Traction on the new trial for a logbook style registration scheme in NSW.   I really had been dreading putting the traction on the old historic scheme, but with so many cars I just couldn’t justify them all on full rego, despite how bad the old scheme was.

Under the new rules, you get to use your car for up to 60 days in the year provided that you log the entries in the ‘logbook’ (which is actually a sheet of A4 paper) and you are a financial member of your nominated car club.    The car still needs to pass an annual roadworthy, but you don’t need a pink slip, this is covered in the cost of the registration, which is currently $94.

As the trial is so new, RMS staff are aware of it, but probably haven’t done one before.   The lady who processed my rego today was very helpful, but it took us a while as the first attempt had the car restricted to a particular beach and a requirement that it be floated there.   Needless to say, tractions don’t float.    The finer details of the scheme don’t seem to have been communicated as she had assumed it was a 60 day rego, not a rego you can drive 60 days out of 365.

The announcement implies that the clubs have to participate, but I don’t think they need to do anything to be part of this scheme, just to be part of historic registration in general.

Edit 15/10/15: Looks like the clubs do have to sign up, and the list of participating clubs is available here.   I am a member of the Citroen, Mercedes and Jaguar clubs and all three are now listed as participating.


The photo above shows the logbook, the rego paper that also includes a sticker (unlike with full rego), and the conditions that must be carried in the car.

The plate is quite small, which is a little irritating as it is not long enough to fit any normal mounting holes.   I will have to make custom brackets for every car I put on this scheme.

All in all this is very exciting and finally brings NSW into line with other states.

W108/W109/W111/W112 Mercedes headlight types

The headlights on the W108, W109, W111 and W112 Mercedes are all interchangeable, which means many cars are no longer sporting the headlights they left the factory with.      They are all based on a design introduced on the 300SL roadster in 1957.   The W113, W114/5 and W100 all had similar designs based on this same theme, but those lights will not be covered in this article and they are not interchangeable.   The W110 had simpler, round headlights so is also not the focus here.Inside of a light


The standard headlights for these cars were know as  ‘Lichteinheiten’ as they combined the dipped beam, main beam, fog light, parking light, night clearance light, and indicators in one unit housed behind a single piece of curved glass.

The photo on the right shows the various components with the lens removed.    From the top is the indicator (behind the orange cover), below that the dipped and main beam, with a tiny bulb for the parking light, just above the main bulb.

Below that is the fog light, and to the right of that the night clearance light which can be left on all night if the car is parked with one wheel on the curb and one on the street as is common in Europe.   Only one side can be illuminated at a time.

These lights are also often known as tombstone lights, one piece lights and in the USA, ‘European’ lights.

The glass lenses can be removed and the reflectors are also replaceable meaning they can be completely refurbished.    There are two gaskets one to attach the light to the car and one to attach the lens.

In addition, there are two variants of this light, the first used until early 1969, which had quite a curved glass, sometimes known as the ‘bubble’ type, and the second which was much flatter, and used from 1969 to end of production.

These headlights were standard fitment to all these cars, except for American models, and the 300SEL 6.3.

The difference between LHD and RHD is in the how the lenses focus the light on the road.

Stacked headlights

The other main style are the stacked headlights, which are also known as Americana headlights.    Instead of a single piece of glass, there are two round lights in a housing, and the indicators, fog lamps are separate, although in the same housing.    In the USA version, legislation prevented the indicators being in the same housing, and so ugly separate indicators and side marker lights had to be specified.   The picture below shows a USA model with the side marker lights and central round indicators where the optional fog lights on rest of world cars would be.    The car below is a 250SE that would have come from the factor with smaller ‘bullet’ style front indicators but was later upgraded to the later style found on 280 models.

USA Model

These lights were first introduced in all American models.   This was because the USA at the time had archaic legislation dating back to the turn of the century that mandated sealed beam headlights.    If you are not familiar with sealed beams, instead of replacing just the bulb, you replaced the whole round headlight.   Due to the old nature of these, the light output is truly pathetic and sealed beams are basically unsafe.

The other varient on these, was introduced as standard on the 300SEL 6.3, which used the same basic design but had replaceable bulbs, which were later halogens.   These produced the best light of all the headlights on these cars, and could be ordered as an option on the other v8 models as well.   The anaemic American lights can also be fairly easily retrofitted to this second style to provide adequate light output.   The photo below shows the stacked headlights with the indicators and parking lights in the same housing.   This car is a 250SE that would have had one piece headlights from the factory and is currently being converted back to the original style.

ROW Option