There is a blog I look at from time to time called “Aussie old parked cars” where the author takes pictures of interesting cars he/she sees in daily use around Sydney. In particular, most of the photos are around North Sydney and Neutral bay, an area I am quite familiar with.
One entry that stuck out to me was a W108 300SE, a model that is rarely seen on the roads these days, due to only 2737 being made and the unfortunately most of them being junked since.
When it was introduced in 1965, the W108 and W109 series occupied the ‘S class’ spot in the Mercedes-Benz range. (although Mercedes only started to refer to the S class with the advent of the W116). At that time, you could order:
- W108 – 250S
- W108 – 250SE
- W108 – 300SEb
- W109 – 300SEL
Note here that the 300SEL was a W109 and not a W108. The main difference is that the W109 has Mercedes air suspension and a long wheelbase (later there were LWB 108s, but not at first). In addition, W109s had better interior appointments (i.e. more wood, seats in leather and same style as the W111 two door etc).
The 300SE and SEL shared the M189 ‘big six’ which was an all alloy long stroke motor derived from the engine in the 300 limo from the 50s. The 300SL gullwing also had an engine derived from this model but is a rather different beast, despite what you read on all the car ads. The M189 was a great engine but it was very expensive to recondition and given its low production, parts were always hard to get and expensive. Today even basic parts like the distributor cap are 5-10x for a 250SE.
So the 300SEb was a hybrid between the 250SE and 300SEL – the big six in the shorter body with steel springs. it was also the only 300SE not to have air suspension until the W126. Its problem came in late 1967. The entire W108 range was replaced and the new 280S and SE replaced not only the 250 models but also the 300. The M130 was the last and best derivative of the M180 small six and delivered almost as much power as the M189, but with less noise given its steel block construction. There were also economies of scale standardizing on the M130 and eliminating the costly M189. Even the 300SEL got the M130 after late 1967, albeit with a hotter cam, and later v8 models followed for both the W108 and W109 which are the ones everyone wants now.
That left the 300SEb as an orphan. With high running costs and a new model out, vales plummeted. Unlike the two door cars, or even the W109, small engine problems could quite quickly exceed the value of the car. Thus, many were junked, sometimes to provide an engine for a two door or LWB car. Many more had their engine replace with a 250 or 280 engine. Outside this photo, it is years since I have seen one. Unfortunately the car in the picture looks rather tired. lets hope that the owner keeps it running. Its nice to see it sporting the original two piece hubcaps and original plates – I wonder if the M189 still soldiers on under the bonnet?
When I got it, the DS had threadbare blue carpets. The previous owner also had a blue DS, so I suspect at some point he upgraded the carpets in that car and the blue ones were in better condition than the carpets in the red car. In addition it had marine carpet on the box sills which for a DS Comfort should be vinyl.
I had ordered some new carpets and the correct foam for them from Citro Classique, and while I haven’t had a chance to fit the sill vinyl, the carpets are fairly easy to fit. To do it properly there are little tabs to hold it down but I am not going to use those until after I have done the vinyl and the carpet sits in place quite happily.
The rear foam is a lovely thick piece with a cut out for the seat belts. It is important to note that if your car leaks into the back seat the foam can stay wet and attract rust. The foam however is great for sound deadening and provides a very comfortable ride especially in bare feet.
The carpet simply lays on top. I went with a slightly darker shade than is standard so it does not show the dirt better. I also think it goes better with my grey seats. The front foam is in three pieces, with the centre piece much thinner than the outer pieces. It also didn’t fit as snugly, perhaps RHD vs LHD? The middle piece being thin does seem to be correct according to La Nuancier DS.
After that the carpet again slides in, with some fiddling to make sure it fits around the brake button and accelerator pedal. These pictures also show the marine carpet on the sills which will be replaced soon.
Previously, I had removed all my suspension spheres to check their pressure. Their pressure was checked at the Citroen Club tech day, and found to be acceptable. Given I had the system de-pressurized, I also wanted to change the accumulator sphere. The accumulator acts as a store of system pressure. This means that the pump does not have to run all the time but only when system pressure drops below a threshold. It is quite easy to hear the pump kick in, run for a few seconds then cut out again with a click. A faulty accumulator will cause the pump to run very frequently, which is not ideal.
My pump was cutting in every 6-10 seconds, which is very frequent. Given I was not sure how old the accumulator was, I had purchased a new sphere to put on the car, however I had delayed because despite this being a service item, it is extremely difficult to remove from the car. (see this thread on Aussiefrogs). It is a rather poor design on Citroen’s part, and to remove it took two hours and two people. Ultimately, I had to use a breaker bar and strap wrench to unscrew the sphere, and then removal from the cavity where it lives is even more difficult. The regulator is attached to the side of the engine (passengers side on a RHD car), and the sphere screws in to the bottom of the regulator. The regulator and sphere can be removed as a unit, however you need to unscrew a number of hard lines and attaching points in a tiny space between the engine and wing. Alternatively, you can jack the engine up a bit, then move the sphere up and to the front of the car slightly, then down in front of the cross member.
In the photo you can just see the green of the sphere and the blue is a hand coming from below the car to try and guide it past all the obstructions to release it. Re-installation is just as fiddly as the removal! After closing the bleed screw, and re-attaching all the suspension spheres, my cycle time had more than doubled to about 20 seconds. Not perfect, but much better.
While the car was on the lift, I also cleaned the stainless steel sill protectors. I found that sugar soap worked very well.
Today was one of the regular tech days organised by the Citroen Club. I always enjoy the tech days, even if I am not doing much to my car – you can see the other cars, talk to the other members and sometimes learn how to do things by watching what other people do.
One of the tricks I learned today was simple but effective. When removing spheres, use a baby’s nappy to catch the LHM that will invariably leak out from the sphere. Larger is better.
The tech day was held at a semi-rural property owned by a club member and Citroen GS enthusiast. He has plenty of room in his sheds for a large supply of GS parts and some parts cars out back to. He also has a CX Ute for when things need to be moved around on the property. As you can see, it is in showroom condition.
I had removed my spheres previously to have them checked, and re-gassed if necessary. The Club has the equipment to do this. However, my spheres were not in need of re-gassing.
Central to the Citroen DS hydraulic system is a set of ‘spheres’ that hold hydraulic pressure. The spheres have an internal diaphragm so they can contain gas on one side and hydraulic fluid on the other. One is used for each wheel to provide the suspension, as the gas forms the ‘spring’ and the amount of fluid in the sphere controls the ride height. One is used as a place to hold a buffer of system pressure, called the accumulator, and one some cars, and additional sphere provides additional brake pressure (like another accumulator, but just for the brakes).
There are two types of spheres. The original split type that are re-buildable, and the newer one piece type that are disposable. You can run either type, although at least on the suspension, the two piece type are apparently better. Since all the accumulator is doing is providing a pressure buffer, most people use a disposable unit for this.
If you let the sphere get completely flat, the diaphragm will most likely be damaged, and the two piece spheres will need to be rebuilt (and the one piece discarded). Therefore, it makes sense to remove the spheres every year or two and have their pressure checked and set to the correct level for the car (i.e. front and rear are different, sedans are different from wagons etc).
To remove the spheres, firstly they need to be loosened about 1/4 a turn with the suspension on high and pressurized. This is especially important for the rear. It is normal to use a strap wrench to do this. It should not be particularly difficult, however on my car I found that even with a 1 metre breaker bar it was very difficult to crack the spheres.
It should not strictly be necessary, but I had to remove the air cleaner assembly to get the front sphere off. Once the sphere have been slightly loosened then the car needs to be set to the lowest suspension setting and the system pressure released via the screw on the side of the pressure regulator. Once this is done the spheres can be removed by hand, with something to catch the hydraulic fluid that will spill.
The spheres for the front and rear have different pressures, so it is important to make sure that the spheres are not mixed up.
I had also wanted to replace the accumulator sphere, and replace it. My hydraulic pump needs to kick in every 5-10 seconds. This could be because the accumulator is flat and not holding pressure. It also could be an internal leak in one of the other hydraulic components such as the centrifugal regulator, or the steering rack. Since my accumulator is the disposable type, and I had purchased a replacement, I wanted to change it.
However, despite breaking a chain wrench, I was unable to remove the accumulator. I will likely have to remove the entire pressure regulator assembly, which is quite fiddly as all the hydraulic lines need to be removed and new seals fitted. Something for another day.
The 280CE came over to the garage to continue the items on the major service, namely:
- New Spark plugs
- Transmission fluid and filter
- Rear end fluid change
- Brake fluid flush
We used NGK spark plugs as they offer non-resistor plugs that are easy to find. The original spec for these cars called for non-resistor spark plugs, which are much harder to find now. The plugs that were already in there were Beru and in reasonably good condition.
For the transmission, we changed the fluid, filter and pan gasket, but didn’t drain the torque converter. When doing this it is important to not over tighten the pan and warp it and ensure that no debris is allowed to get inside the transmission.
The brake fluid was was much easier using a vacuum pump to make sure that all the old fluid was removed from the lines.
I have tried a few times to get the rear trim that sits between the C pillars to not fall down on to the parcel shelf.
My first attempt was to use the correct clips, however the trim would fall down over bumps. My second attempt, was a 3M product, which is sort of like Velcro and sold in little squares at the hardware store. This also fell down very quickly. My third attempt which worked better was some Velcro from eBay. Instead of little squares, I had a whole strip. After a few weeks, this also fell down. The problem was that the adhesive on the back of the Velcro did not grip the cardboard like material that the cloth attaches to.
My third attempt was to first use duct tape on the back of the trim to provide a better surface for the Velcro to adhere to, and use more Velcro to lessen the pressure on any one particular part.
This time, I purchased two strips of Velcro, enough to cover the entire rear of the trim piece and the part of the chassis that it attaches to.
This full cover of Velcro allowed the trim to stick well even with only some contact. I am confident of this solution, surely the fourth attempt will work?
after checking all the connections, the Retrosound Model 1 is now back in the E-Type and I also replaced the cigarette lighter while I was at it. The cigarette lighter had rusted internally and was no longer working – and on longer drives the battery in the GPS was not cutting it. Replacing the cigarette lighter was fairly easy, although the replacement had a shorter collar which I needed to extend with a piece of pipe from the hardware store.
It is good to have a working radio in the car. While on the test drive, the glass cover of the speedo fell off, which looks like it just clips on. I have re-attached it, but it does not seem as secure as the tacho. Will have to wait and see if the fix is good.
I attended the Mercedes Club Concours this year. It was a lovely day, 18c and a great turn out of cars. Also got to talk to some interesting people and hear about their cars. Unlike the last time I went in 2012, the older cars are starting to come back, they seemed to stay away for a few years, for one reason or another. Regardless It’s good to see them back. There are still a surprising number of late model cars entered, which personally I don’t see the point of a 2013 car in a concors event, but each to their own I guess.
I took the 250SE, and and entered it in show and shine. Highlight of the show was the 1950s 300S, a lovely 220SE Cabriolet with Safari seats, a beautiful blue Ardeneur plus many more.
The Retrosound Model One I have in my Jaguar had stopped working – symptoms were that the display was lit up in every possible place (i.e. like a digital watch showing 88:88). This had happened before, and the cause turned out to be one of the 12v lines was not connected. The Model 1 uses two 12v and a ground – one that is always live and one that comes on with the ignition. In the Citroen, I have wired up a dash switch so I can listen to the radio without the ignition on as it does not have an ACC position, but I have not yet done this in the Jag as there is no obvious spot to do it.
To check the fuses in the Jag, the radio needs to be removed anyway – and it can be removed in a single ‘unit’. In theory the fuse panel can swing out with the radio installed, but it does not on mine, nor did it in any of the cars I test drove when purchasing it. I wired the radio up originally to make it easy to remove, with three quick disconnects.
One of these was a bit loose, so I put on a new end. This was not the problem. Next was to re-connect the battery and use a multimeter to test the power lines with ignition on and off.
Using a multimeter showed power where it should be – always on for the yellow wire, with ignition for the red and black for ground. The inline fuses for both wires were also ok. Given the whole unit can be removed from the car, it is easy to bench test.
A quick bench test showed that the radio was working correctly, so I had to head back to the car to check the wires again. After quite a lot of trial and error I found what looks like the problem. The wires all work correctly with the fuse panel open, but not when it is closed. Two changes seemed to help. Firstly making sure the yellow wire had enough slack so it was not under pressure when closed, and secondly taping up a wire that had broken off the interior light fitting. No time to re-install the radio today, but it looks like the problem was that simple. I also now have a simple bench tester I ‘made’ out of an old switch I had, as well as a cigarette lighter adapter.