Guest Post: Owning an R170 SLK230

Editors Note: This is part two in a series by Nick Gruzevskis about owning a Modern Mercedes convertible – in this case his R170 SLK230.   The first part can be found here.  

Sometimes the journey on improving a classic car seems to be more fulfilling than using the car. I’ve now owned the Sally the SLK since July 2022.  Every time I looked at the colour
combination of silver and the two-tone interior (red/black) I thought wow what a great colour combination, but then when I got closer to the interior plastics, specifically the paint
on the plastics she had all seen better days.

In my last update I wrote, I stated “the quality of the interior plastics vinyl paint is awful. Last September I decided to attack this problem, removing all painted interior trim pieces. I knew I would need to be careful when removing trim, as the plastics can quite literally crumble/break in your hands. Given my SLK had been garaged all its life I thought I’d be ok.  Still, some of the plastics quite literally broke when removing screws or panels. It was also obvious interior had been re-painted at least twice, maybe three times.

After removal this is what interior looked like:

I dropped off all the trim pieces to Bill Moussa at BM Leather Creations, where the paint needed to be stripped, the plastics that were broken went to the plastic welders, then back to Bill for two coats of two pack paint and two coats of clear. It is a long and arduous task and not cheap just given the labour required. In between dropping the plastics off, I purchased a 2001 S430 and then sold it a few months later. When seller asked me why I was selling it, I said I needed to focus on getting my SLK back on the road. Anyway, I digress.

Fast forward to Feb 2024 and interior plastics were all ready for collection. Bill had done an amazing job. Now the rest was up to me, to carefully re-install.

I picked a good day to re-install, temperature was expected to be 34C, in a garage that wasn’t insulated. I started early and by midday I had most of the interior trim back in. I did have a heart stopper moment when the roof wouldn’t go up or down but found the cable connecting to the roof button wasn’t fully pushed on.

I can’t believe the transformation; the interior just looks fabulous. Sally the SLK is now ready for the AOMC British and European Day on the 18th of February.

Author:  Nick Gruzevskis is a contributor to, and the custodian of a great collection of classic and modern cars.  Links to some his other articles can be found here

Wheels 2024 Queanbeyan

Today was the annual Wheels car show in Queanbeyan.   This is one of the biggest multiple marque car show in the Canberra area and is akin to the Eastern Creek show in Sydney.   I joined the Mercedes-Benz Club of the ACT as part of their display.

MBCACT always puts on a special display for this show and Wheels 2024 was no different.   The goal was to show the different generations of the S class (and predecessors) and the E class (and predecessors).   I wasn’t able to go last year, but the theme was AMG cars.   In 2022, I took my 450SLC and the theme was a car from each year from the 50s to today.

In order to show the different generations of the S-Class, I was asked to bring my W111 Cabriolet.  This was a great opportunity to take the car on a longer trip now its running properly.  Of course, less than a week after I agreed to show the car, the power steering pully disintegrated, but I managed to get a used pully and have it installed in time.

Wheels 2024

On the drive there, the engine ran perfectly, but the ride wasn’t all that good.  I think it may be related to the tyres, perhaps they have flat spots.    They are 8 years old now, so its time for a change.

As in 2022, the show was good.  MBCACT was allocated a much smaller area this year, although there was actually plenty of room at the showground.   Probably something that can be addressed for next year.

There are some nice cars in the MBCACT and this year was no different.   I had a very original 230S W111 on one side of my car and an immaculate 280S W108 on the other.    The 230S is still with the original family.    Having all the S-classes lined up allowed for the different design features to be observed from one generation to the next.   It was intresting to see that the W116 still had tiny vestigial fins.  Kind of like the vestigial legs of a whale.

The rest of Wheels 2024 was also very good.  There was a lot of variety.  For example, it was quite cool to see a Stanley Steamer puffing around the showground.    A bit smaller than in 2022, but that probably had to do with the weather.  While the morning of the show was hot and sunny, the day before had been stormy and storms were forecast for the afternoon.

On the way back, the rain was torrential.   All the modern SUVs were pulling over onto the shoulder, and few seemed to understand how to operate their rear fog light.    The W111 Cabriolet just kept going, albeit at about 50km for long stretches.

MBCNSW January 2024 Night Drive – Princes Highway

We started our 2024 night drive schedule with a drive south.    This month’s drive was held a week earlier due to the holiday long weekend and the absurd double demerits regime in NSW.  In the days before the drive, there had been torrential rain, but luckily the weather fined up on the day and it was just a bit overcast.

The recent rain did have one impact – we had to change our route along the way.    This was to be the same route we did in July 2022.   However, McKel Ave, which would have taken us down into the Royal National Park was closed.   We decided it to just skip that bit and focus on driving the Princes Highway (and avoiding the Princes Motorway).

As the weather had been terrible, it was quite a small turn out this time, three cars.   I took my 1977 450SLC and there were two W124s – a 230E and a 300E.   The small group made for a very relaxed drive and easy to modify the route.

Princes Highway

At the starting point, we briefly spoke to a man with a HR Holden Special on a trailer.   The Holden looked pretty good, and had been earmarked for a full restoration.   Apparently this guy does a full restoration every three months in his home workshop, equipped with a spray booth.   We were all a little envious of the parts prices on that era of Holden as well.

The drive turned out to be nice and cruisy and a good way to start the 2024 night drives.

Touring Tasmania in a classic car

I’ve been touring Tasmania in my 1990 Mercedes 300TE this last week and a half.   While there are regular classic events here like Targa Tasmania I’ve been quite surprised how few classics I’ve seen touring around during my time here.   It’s a great place to go touring in an older car.  Not only is there great scenery, but there is little traffic, the temperatures are not too hot, the roads are mostly great, and its not speed camera infested.

I drove down from Sydney and took the car on the Spirit of Tasmania.

In addition, the roads are quite twisty so quite fun at legal speeds.   Based on this trip, at some point I will probably plan a road trip to Tasmania to explore more of the great roads.

Touring Tasmania in a classic car

The purpose of this trip was a family holiday.   There are plenty of travel blogs that cover the main sights to see, so in this article I will mostly focus on the roads I enjoyed driving on.  I ultimately did 2,400km in Tasmania, plus the trip to and from Geelong.

Devonport to Launceston

This was one of the biggest surprises on the trip.     When I disembarked the Ferry, my destination was Launceston.   Instead of taking the clogged up A1, I took the back roads to via Exeter.   This was primarily the B71.

There was almost no traffic and it was a great one our drive to Launceston.    I had time to check out the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania before I collected my family from the airport.   The museum was well worth it.

Given I enjoyed this drive, I also took the B71 back to Devonport for my return ferry.

North East Tasmania

The first full day of our trip we explored North East Tasmania.    The A3 is the main road here.   At least east of Scottsdale, its pretty good.    We went via the Bridestowe Lavender farm, so took the B81 for the first part of the trip.    All of these roads were pretty good.

After Scottsdale, we headed on the A3 towards the little blue lake.     The road to the little blue lake is paved, but only to the little blue lake.     After that most of the roads east of here are unsealed.   We headed to Eddystone point lighthouse.   This is nearly all unsealed roads, and I don’t think worth it.   In retrospect I would have stayed on the A3 towards Pyengana instead.   Our destination was St Helens, and there was a dairy and bush walk we could have done in the time that would have been preferable to a 100km of unsealed roads.

Some of the roads are not really maintained properly, the GPS wanted to send us down a road that would challenge a billy goat.    Of course the 300TE handled the regular unsealed roads very well, I just don’t enjoy driving on them.

Great Eastern Drive

We spent two days on the east coast.     We went north from St Helens to The Gardens to start the drive through the Bay of Fires.    This was one of our best days on the trip.    The bay of fires was amazing and the road down the coast is great and full of amazing sights.

2023-12-31 10-56-01

Over the two days we did the main road (A3) from The Gardens to Triabunna in various stages as we checked out the Bay of Fires and Freycient National Park.   The Bay of fires was our favourite including clambering over rocks to the blowhole at Bicheno.      The fish and chips in St Helens is great, whereas the Lobster Shack in Bicheno is a bit overrated.

Overall, taking the A3 from Launceston all the way in towards Hobart would probably be a good drive, although we didn’t stick to the A3 the whole way.

Around Hobart

We did a few drives around Hobart.   The first was getting there from Little Swanport on the east coast to Hobart Via Oatlands.    The first part of this drive was pretty good, but the roads around oatlands were not as good – rough and very narrow.    When we left Oatlands we made the mistake of taking highway 1 which is terrible.   Next time I would have paid more attention and taken the B31 which looks a lot better.

The A1 was full of drivers who drive a 30km below the speed limit.

From Hobart we also did a few day trips, the first was Bruny Island, which was a lot of fun.   There is one main road down Bruny Island with some side roads.   Its not a bad road, but quite busy.   I wouldn’t go there just to drive the road, although as a tourist destination Bruny Island is worth it.

Touring Tasmania in a classic car

The next one we did was Port Arthur.   These roads are pretty good, although quite busy in places.     Better than Bruny Island comparing roads.

The final thing we did before leaving for Strahan was Mt Wellington.   It was very cold and wet that day, so no view.   Also not as fun a road in the wet as it would be in the dry.

Hobart to Strahan

The drive from Hobart to Strahan was one of the best of the trip.     We were on the A10 nearly all the way.   The first part getting out of Hobart is a bit boring, but about an hour of Hobart this road turns great.

The section from Derwent Bridge to Queenstown is probably the best of it.    Getting into Queenstown involves going over the mountains and then down via multiple hairpins.   The scenery is quite amazing as Queenstown is the result of the mining companies being allowed to do whatever they wanted.   Rampant pollution created acid rain and denuded the hillsides turning the place into somewhat of a moonscape.    It was much worse in the 90s when I went through here as a child, but its a huge contrast from the lush rainforest from earlier in the drive.

Tailings from the mine have also turned the river orange, which is quite the sight.

Touring Tasmania in a classic car

The section from Queenstown to Strahan wasn’t bad, but mostly road works so hard to evaluate.

Strahan to Cradle Mountain

I think this was the best drive of the trip.   We went via Queenstown as we wanted to check out the town and didn’t have time on the way in.   from there we went to Sheffield, Mostly on the A12.

This road was highly enjoyable and I would come back to Tasmania just to drive it again.    There are great up and down sections, sweeping corners, great scenery and more.

Cradle Mountain to Launceston

There wasn’t an obvious alternative to highway 1.    My kids were not going to tolerate me adding significant time in search of a better road, so we took highway 1.  What a dreary road.   I think the main take away from this entire article is to avoid highway 1 at all cost.

What we didn’t do

Our trip didn’t take us to the north west of the state, and the south west is largely inaccessible.     We also didn’t visit the central part of the state.

2023 Fleet Update

With 2023 at a close, time for another fleet update.  Like last year, I will cover the highlights and lowlights for each car, major worked performed, how much I used them and plans for the future.   In 2023 I managed to drive my classics almost 18,000km.   Classics need regular use or they deteriorate badly, so I’m glad I was able to drive them so much.   I would sell a car I don’t drive regularly, unless there was a specific reason preventing it.    The cars are listed in order of their use in the year.  It’s not exact, as I note down the odometers after each fuel up, however it evens out.

I don’t own a modern car, so I use the logbook days across all my classics any time I need to go somewhere.

Highlights and Lowlights

The big highlight was the Concours Run, my road trip to Melbourne and back the scenic way.   I passed 20 years of ownership with the 450SLC, and It was also a highlight finally getting to the bottom of the issues with the 250SE.  While it was sad to see the the 300SE and 280SE go, it was a good first year with the 300TE.

Fleet Changes

I sold two cars in 2023.   The first was my 1986 300SE W126.  I was sad to see this car go, as it had been a great daily driver for the four years I owned it.   With my kids growing up, the 1990 300TE is going to be a better choice as a car that is used for family duties.    Therefore, I sold the 300SE and bought the 300TE.  My 300TE is a 1990 model and so far proven to be a great car.

I also sold my 1979 280SE.  I’m glad I was able to get that car on the road and running so well.   However, the opportunity to buy the W116 I have always wanted presented itself, so I’ll be unveiling the replacement soon.

Both cars have gone to great homes, so I’m really pleased with that.

1987 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC

It was a very eventful year for my 560SEC.   I took the car down to Melbourne for the MBCV concours, and to Canberra for the MBCACT concours.   The car did very well on both trips, although I did have to limp it home 500km with no alternator.   In order to have the car ready for so much usage, I had the transmission rebuilt.   The car drives so much better now.   Since I returned from Melbourne, I’ve noticed the car is losing coolant, so I will need to get the bottom of that.


  • KM Driven: 5,400
  • KM on Odometer: 174,500mi (280,500km)
  • Spend Level: High
  • Availability: Very good
  • Highlight: The concours run
  • Lowlight: Losing my alternator on the concours run
  • Work this year:  New speakers front and rear, rebuilt transmission, rebuilt alternator, drag link and alignment.
  • Plan for 2023:  Work out why it’s loosing coolant.

1990 Mercedes-Benz 300TE

My 300TE was a new addition at the start of the year.  It replaced my 300SE.  It has proven to be a really good versatile family car.   I prefer it to my wife’s newer S211 E350.   So much so that I took it on a family road trip to Tasmania, where I still am as I write this.

I had a few things to do to the car this year, but overall I’m happy with the purchase.   I also got to know a great group of hands on W124 owners.


1987 Mercedes-Benz 560SEL

It was a fairly uneventful year for the the 560SEL.   I used it on quite a a few good club events this year, like the Amazing Rally and the Berry car show.   It also saw quite a lot of use as regular transport.    I had planned to take it to Sacco day, but the drivers side window regulator failed in early November, and I’ve not had a chance to look since.    I’m very close to passing 340,000km which will be a good milestone for the car.

2023 Fleet Update

  • KM Driven: 2,200
  • KM on Odometer: 339,500km
  • Spend Level: Negligible
  • Availability: Good
  • Highlight: I took the car on some great club events this year.
  • Lowlight: The drivers window regulator failing the night before Youngtimer Sacco Day.
  • Work this year:  Rebuilding the Hirchmann power antenna.
  • Plan for 2023: Fixing the drivers window regulator.

1977 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC

This year there were no major trips in the 450SLC like last year.   I used it on a few club events and quite a bit as a driver.   I’m really enjoying having the Becker Mexico in place, I should have done this years ago.    The car had a major service this year and in March will have the timing chain replaced.

2023 Fleet Update

1965 Mercedes-Benz 250SE

I continued to battle the running issues that have plagued the car for the last 18 months or so.   Finally, they seem to be solved with a 123 Ignition distributor.     I took the car on a couple of night drives and displayed it at the German car show before the power steering pulley broke.

Given all the time the car was running poorly or unavailable, I’m surprised I managed to drive as much as I did.


  • KM Driven: 1,250
  • KM on Odometer:
  • Spend Level: High
  • Availability: Poor
  • Highlight: Finally fixing the running issues
  • Lowlight: Losing my power steering pulley when the car was running so well.
  • Work this year:  Fitted a 55A alternator and a 123 ignition.
  • Plan for 2023: Replace the power steering pulley and fix leak in the heat exchanger.

1965 Jaguar E-Type

No major issues with the E-Type this year.   The E-Type gets used the least as everyday transport as compared to the other cars.  I find myself using it for many of the test runs for the Mercedes Club night drives.  It is in its element on the twisty roads we prefer for those drives.    I think I detected a hint of noise in the clutch throwout bearing this year, so I may have a clutch job in my future.

These cars got a bad reputation for reliability, but I find mine to be very reliable.


  • KM Driven: 1,100
  • KM on Odometer: 70,850mi (5 digit)
  • Spend Level: Negligible
  • Availability:  Excellent
  • Highlight: Trouble free drives
  • Lowlight: none
  • Work this year: none
  • Plan for 2023:  Nothing specific.

1970 Citroen DS21

I actually used the DS quite a lot this year.   I just didn’t take it on any long trips.   I think I ended up with 40 entries in the logbook.   Most of these were fairly short trips, hence only recording 600 km on the odometer.    It was a fairly trouble free year for the DS, I just had some work done to the spheres to fix the ride quality.

2023-05-07 08-29-26

1979 Mercedes-Benz 280SE

I sold the 280SE this year, so only had access to it for the first few months.   Since selling the car, I’ve seen it a few times at club events with its new owner.    It now has even more work done and is looking great.

  • KM Driven: 450
  • KM on Odometer: 223,000km
  • Spend Level: Negligible
  • Availability: Excellent
  • Highlight:   The car went to a great home
  • Lowlight: Selling the car.
  • Work this year: Fixing the sunroof switch and adjusting the SLS.
  • Plan for 2023: N/A

2023 Fleet Update

1986 Mercedes-Benz 300SE

The 300SE was sold first in the year, which was the main reason the KMs were low this year.    Since I sold it in January, I drove it pretty much daily until I sold it, as I knew I would not get an other opportunity to do so.

  • KM Driven: 450
  • KM on Odometer: 298,500
  • Spend Level: None
  • Availability:  Full until sold
  • Highlight:  The car went to a great home
  • Lowlight: Selling the car
  • Work this year: None
  • Plan for 2023: N/A

National Automobile Museum of Tasmania

While I was in Launceston earlier in the week, I visited the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania.   This is a nice little museum quite close to the centre of Launceston.   I had driven down to Tasmania in my 300TE, and had a few hours to kill before picking up my family from the airport.   The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania was a perfect way to do that.

The museum seemed to have a dual theme of Australian Motorsport and cars that were significant to Tasmania in some way.    It also had a huge collection of Motorbikes.   As I understand it, the museum does not own most of the collection – they are on loan.   This probably means the collection rotates over time.

There were a couple of highlights for me in the collection.

The first was the 1974 Citroen DS.  This was the winning car from the London – Sahara – Munich World cup rally.   Citroen DS’ had a surprising amount of success in long distance endurance rallying.  Not only was this car a winner back in 1974, but it was also entered in the 2013 Peking to Paris rally too.   The car had 47,000km on the clock from these two events.  The London to Sydney rally is probably the more famous, but cars did not win in that event.

National Automobile Museum of TasmaniaAnother car I found particularly interesting was the actual car that was rescued from the 1975 Tasman bridge disaster.   A ship hit the bridge causing a section of it to collapse.  Four cars went into the Derwent River and the occupants lost their lives.   This one almost joined them, but the automatic transmission pan caught the edge of the remaining section of bridge.    After the miraculous escape, the family never sold the car, and it remains in original condition.

National Automobile Museum of TasmaniaIt was also interesting to see the 1976 BMW 530MLE, a South African built predecessor to the M cars.  I hadn’t been aware of this car, and apparently only six survive.  Another car it was surprising to see in a Tasmanian car museum was the Rolls Royce Phantom VI which had been the official car for the Governors of NSW.

As well as the exhibits, the museum had quite a good gift shop and I picked up a few interesting magazines to read.   The museum is well worth a visit for anyone in Launceston.

Sydney to Launceston Road trip

I’m currently in Tasmania on holiday with my family.    Our goal on this trip is to tour around Tasmania so a car was a must.    On a trip like this, I had two main options.   The first was renting a car – either paying an arm and a leg for a miniature van, or squeezing a family of five into something horrible like an MG ZS.   The second was driving my own car down and touring around in that.   This could have been my wife’s modern car – an S211 E350 Mercedes, or one of my classics.   For me, it was an easy choice and I decided to take my 1990 Mercedes 300TE.

To prepare the car for the trip, I did some preventative maintenance over the last couple of weeks.   There were a couple of things I didn’t get around to, such as replacing the noisy blower motor and the front arm rest.   They can wait until my return.    The night before I was still fighting with my bluetooth module working intermittently.    I have set it up, so I can see the status LED by removing the shifter surround trim.    I could see it was trying unsuccessfully to pair with my phone.   After doing a factory reset, I was still not able to reliably collect, so I replaced the module with a new one. I also fuelled up the night before.

I wanted to leave early so I had plenty of time for things to go wrong on the trip, so I got up at 5:00AM and left at 5:20AM.   In retrospect, I think this was a mistake.   In the end I had many hours to kill at the end, and I really could have used that extra hour of sleep.   I didn’t sleep all that well, so I was quite tired when I started out.

My first leg was fairly uneventful.   I stopped for breakfast at Sutton Forest.  The weather leaving Sydney was wet and foggy.

Sydney to LauncestonI had planned my next leg to be much longer, but I only made it to Goulburn before I started to feel rather drowsy.   I stopped to buy a couple of drinks at the service station and stretch my legs.   My stretches were observed by the Big Merino, one of the plethora of ‘big things’ that are to be found in regional Australia.  The 300TE was running well.

The big merinoNeither the Big Merino or caffeinated drinks were enough to combat my drowsiness, and I pulled over again at a rest area just outside Gundagai.    I’m not normally able to sleep during the day, but I thought I would attempt a short nap here to recharge my batteries.   It actually worked.  I didn’t sleep properly, but I dozed off for about 30 minutes.   That 30 minutes of half sleep made a huge difference and I felt quite good after.   I always thought those government signs advising a power nap were wishful thinking, but it really worked for me in this instance.

Sydney to LauncestonWith my power nap on the road to Gundagai, I was able to make it through to Holbrook without incident.   This was the furthest I had ever been on the M31.   While I’ve driven to Melbourne twice, I’ve taken the scenic route both times.     The scenery on the M31 is OK, although not a patch on what is available on more indirect routes.

Holbrook is quite a nice little town and I stopped for a short break.  I was curious to see the Oberon class submarine, HMAS Otway, the hull of which is in the middle of the town.   I had also planned to stop at the bakery in Holbrook, but there is a huge line and I didn’t stop.   By this time, the 300TE needed a fuel up.   I had covered 549km at 11l/100km.   I think that is pretty good.

HMAS OtwayIt was at this point something rather strange happened.   Once I refuelled the car, I moved away from the bowser to a regular parking spot to check the oil.   The petrol station was very busy so I didn’t want to hold up a bay.   I noticed a loud and strange noise coming from the front of the car.    I was a bit perplexed what it could be, as the key was in the office position.   Since I was parked on top of where they top up the petrol station’s tanks, in the I assumed it was coming from some kind of pump in the tank, not my car.

Turns out I was wrong.  I checked my oil, which was still full, and attempted to re-start the car.   The key did nothing.   I checked I wasn’t in gear, or anything stupid like that.   The car wasn’t.   I went back and looed under the bonnet, and I could definitely hear something making a loud noise, but before I could work out what it was, the noise stopped.   Once it stopped, I was able to restart the car as normal.

I can’t think of many things that can spin with the engine off and the key in the off position.   I can only assume that the starter was still spinning, but not engaged with the ring gear.   Whatever it was, it was using a lot of power.  When I checked my battery monitor log while killing time in Geelong, I could see a huge current draw around that time.   It was around 12:20PM.


From Holbrook, I drove right through into Euroa.   The traffic got heavier as I entered Victoria.   The speed cameras also got far more prevalent.   In Euroa, I stopped for a short dinner stop.   After all the fog and rain of earlier in the day, it was now over 30C and quite sunny.

After Euroa, the traffic built up and the speed cameras got more frequent as I entered Melbourne.   The traffic flowed surprisingly well.   I was expecting to see a few classics driving around.  The only car I saw on H plates was a Toyota Landcruiser from the 90s.

I got to Geelong right on 6PM.   I had 3 hours to kill, as I had a text message from the Spirit of Tasmania informing me that I wasn’t able to check in until 9:00PM.   By this point, I was pretty tired, so would have liked to check in earlier.  This trip really showed off how good the seats are in the W124.  I didn’t feel any discomfort at all for driving such a long distance in them.

I had dinner in Geelong, had a bit of a walk around and waited in the car until it was time to drive to the port.  When I got there, I found a lot of cars had gone much earlier.   I think next time I would have gone around an hour earlier.  I think I would have gotten onto the ship earlier than I did.   They send that message to stagger arrivals as they know some people will come early anyway.

Sydney to Launceston

It took about 45 minutes from arriving to be driving onto the ship. During that time, I didn’t see one other classic.  Just acres of SUVs and dual cab utes.   The lead up was like being in a 45 minute traffic jam, as you most slowly forward from time to time.   It is still better than the horror that is air travel.

Sydney to Launceston

Being a low car, I ended up on deck 6.   One of the staff who saw my wagon came up and asked me about it.  Turns out he has two Rolls Royce’s back in Tasmania.   A Silver Spirit and a Silver Cloud III.   They both looked very nice from the photo he showed me on this phone.    He also told me that I would probably see quite a lot of classics on the road in Tasmania.   Their special interest registration does not require a club, and allows for over 100 days use on a logbook.

Sydney to Launceston

I booked a cabin, which turned out to be on deck 7.   My cabin was one of the interior cabins with no windows.  I didn’t get the point of windows on a night crossing.    The cabin was clean and well equipped with a nice ensuite bathroom and four beds.    Since my family were flying down, I only needed the one.

My only criticism was that the cabin was too hot for my taste, and the bed was a bit hard.   There was a thermostat in the room, and it did actually work, but I still wasn’t able to get the cabin as cool as I like to sleep.   At first it was really hot, but it at least became tolerable.   I like to have my room really dark when I sleep, which is an advantage of a windowless cabin.

The onboard internet does not work in the cabins, and I even had no reception when docked at the port in Geelong.

Sydney to LauncestonThe cargo areas are locked during the voyage, so brought a little day bag with me with a change of clothes, toiletries etc.    I was lucky as the seas were very mild for my crossing, with only 1m swells.   I was surprised how fast the ship goes, at 27 knots.

The next morning I woke up around 7AM and was able to to check out the ship and have some breakfast.   They have a lot of facilities such as movies, various lounge areas, a bar, restaurant etc.    The food was OK, but not great.

We docked about 15 minutes late, and then each deck was called.   They started with deck 5, then deck 3, then my deck 6.    It was a fairly painless process getting off the ship.   The only thing I didn’t like was how careless most of the passengers were when waking past the cars with their bags.  I had people constantly bumping into mine.  It didn’t help that I was in the middle lane in the middle of that deck, so there were a lot of people to get past my car.    The paint is not the greatest on my 300TE, but I wouldn’t want to be parked where I was on a show car.

Sydney to Launceston

My family were not arriving to Launceston until 3:30PM, so I had plenty of time to get to Launceston before they arrived.    The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania was very close to my hotel, so I planned to visit the museum before I picked them up.   I’ll cover the museum separately.

I took the scenic route to Launceston and I’m glad I did.    The road was excellent, full of great scenery and sweeping turns.   Tasmania is very green compared to the rest of Australia.  The guy on the boat was right – I already saw a lovely Jaguar Mk2 and a Mercedes 380SEC.  I refuelled in Exeter, returning 11.3l/100km.   Not bad considering the long process to board the Spirit of Tasmania.

On my Sydney to Launceston Road trip, I covered 1070km over two tanks of fuel.   Instead of wasting money on a rental, I now get to drive my own car in Tasmania and not suffer the misery of air travel these days.

Preparing my 300TE for a family road trip

In January, I’m taking my family to Tasmania on holiday.   Instead of renting a car down there, I’m driving down and taking the Spirit of Tasmania.   I’ll collect my family from Launceston Airport as they will fly down.   Due to the cost of the Spirit of Tasmania, its actually cheaper to do it this way.   It works out well, as they are not interested in the long drive down.

I’m taking my 1990 Mercedes 300TE on this drive.  Now I could have taken my wife’s modern car – a Mercedes E350 Wagon.    However, I far prefer driving the 300TE.   The E350 is not as irritating as most modern cars, but I would still rather drive the 124.   I also think any issues are more likely to be dealt with easily.   An ECU or Airmatic problem is going to end the trip.

In order to reduce the odds of any issues, I had a few jobs to do to the car.    None of them were mandatory, but I think good preventative maintenance.   I have previously covered some other work I did on the car such as refurbishing the instrument cluster, attempting to change the centre vent and changing the speakers.

This trip should take me past 380,000km for the car.

Starter motor replacement

A few months ago, I noticed that when I started the 300TE, the starter motor did not seem to full disengage, and I could hear a bad noise like it was still just touching the ring gear.  It only did this a few times, but I really didn’t want to be stuck with a bad starter by the side of the road.   A Bosch remanufactured starter wasn’t all that expensive and seemed like good insurance.    I had this done at a workshop.

Preparing my 300TE

Tailgate soft close mechanism

The S124 has a soft close mechanism for the tailgate.   All you need to do is gently close it, and the motor will latch the tailgate.   Recently, mine has started play up.   The motor does not engage when it should, but there is a sound coming from the back like the motor is trying to work at other times.   This was mostly when I closed it firmly to bypass the soft close, or when I turned off the ignition.

I bought a second hand soft close mechanism, and gave it to the same workshop who did the starter.   They swapped the two mechanisms over, but it was still playing up.   They also did some troubleshooting.   Using a multi-meter the microswitches seemed to register when the mechanism was in a position, but they did not trigger the motor.   When the motor was triggered, it was at extremely low voltage, and the noise was coming from something else in the mechanism.

Soft Close

After troubleshooting for a bit, and getting nowhere, we agreed to simply disable the mechanism for now, so it doesn’t flatten my battery while I am away.   The car still works, without the soft close feature.

Oil and Filter change

As part of my trip preparation, I did a routine oil and filter change.  My hoist is currently broken, so I pumped the oil out manually.  I used Penrite HPR15 – 15W/60 Full Synthetic.

Preparing my 300TEWhen I do an oil change, I like to remove the fuel pump relay and use the starter until oil pressure registers on the gauge.  I don’t think its strictly necessary, but its something I like to do.

Bluetooth Module wiring

When installed the correct Becker 1402 in the car, I wired in a hidden Bluetooth FM injector.   This had mostly stopped working.  Occasionally it did work, which made me think the unit was bad.

The Bluetooth unit is under the dash wood in front of the shifter.  I removed the dash wood to get to it, assuming it would need replacement.  When I removed the radio, I immediately saw the problem.    In my install, I used a relay to trigger the blue tooth unit to turn on from the antenna trigger wire.  One of my crimp connections was loose.  When I moved the radio, it came out.  To fix the issue, all I had to do was put on a new connector.

2023-12-19 17-54-35

New Battery

When I first purchased the car, my battery tester noted that the battery was a bit marginal.   From the service history, it had been installed in 2017.   It probably had another year or so in it, but in November, Supercheap had a big sale.   I got a new battery for 30% off and installed it for the trip.

Auxiliary fan cut in

I’ve never been happy with the temperature of the car in stop/go traffic with the A/C on.   It sits just above 100C.   Since I owned the car, I put in an 80C thermostat and replaced the viscous fan coupling.  Those made improvements, but I it was still hot in traffic.   Given the properties of R134A, I find that it works better if the radiator is not that hot.   I’ve planned to make a fan controller box with a variable resistor like I did for the 560SEC.   However, I’m terrible at soldering, so I have not had time.

For this trip, I just wrapped the resistor around the pins for the fan sensor, and put a new plastic housing around the pins for the wiring.   This is not perfect, but should bring the fan engagement point down to the mid 90s.
Preparing my 300TE

Key spare parts

One advantage of driving a very common car, like a Toyota Camry, is that there are parts available wherever you go.   This is not the case in a 30 year old Mercedes.   I packed a few parts that are probably not necessary, but may be helpful on the road.     The first is a new serpentine belt and tensioner.   As a rule, I don’t like serpentine belts.  If you lose an accessory, you can’t just remove that belt and continue.    However, that is what the M103 is equipped with.   This is not something I can do by the side of the road, but having the right belt and tensioner means I can be towed to any garage for a belt change.

I also brought a voltage regulator, and a distributor rotor and cap.   Plus a few standard Mercedes relays, fuses, some wiring, cable ties and basic tools.   I take more when I go on the road trips with my friends, but I have a whole boot available, and we are pushing the cars harder.

I managed to get all this stuff squeezed into the side storage areas in the cargo area.

MBCNSW December 2023 Night Drive – Galston Gorge

Our final night drive for 2023 was an old favourite.    I ran a poll a few months ago for some of the regulars on the night drives to identify drives that there was interest to revisit.   The drive from Galston Gorge to Cattai Ridge Road, Galston Gorge road and Old Northern Road was one of the most popular.   I really enjoy this drive myself as it has some sections with tight ocrners as well as some faster parts along the old Northern Road.

Generally the roads are in good order, except for the section of Pitt Town Dural road which is quite rough.   Most of these roads were all repaired after the floods a year or so ago.

On the day of the drive we had eight people registered.   It had been a very hot day in Sydney at 39 degrees.   The meeting point was KFC Asquith.   Since we were meeting there at 9:30PM, and it was fairly close to closing time, I figured it would be fairly quiet.   It was actually incredibly busy with a long line for the drive through.   Not being a fan of KFC, I was rather surprised.

It was before the drive even started that the hot weather claimed its first victim.   We had a Lotus 7 on the drive.  However, when it arrived at the meeting point it was running very hot and missing.   After it was reluctant to start the owner decided to bail out on the drive.

Aside from the lotus, we had a good mix of cars.    I took my 1965 250SE Cabriolet.   It’s finally running very well the 123 ignition.   It also has nice cold A/C.    In addition to that, my old 280SE made an appearance.   The new owner has sorted out the A/C, fitted new shocks and continued to improve the car.   Last time we did this route, I was behind the wheel of the 280SE, so it was great to see it make an appearance at the night drive.  We also had a 450SLC, a R107 500SL as well as three W124s.

after Galston Gorge

From KFC Asquith, we set off and regrouped before going through Galston Gorge.    Galston gorge has a series of hairpin turns, followed by a faster uphill section.   From there, it was some of the tight corners of Cattai Ridge road followed by faster sections.

We finished the drive at McDonalds and a few of us went in for something to eat.

After the drive, I had about a forty minute drive home.   About 10 minutes in, all of a sudden I heard a terrible noise from the engine bay of my car.  It sounded like somebody had put a handful of nails in a paint tin and was rattling it up and down vigorously.   The steering also had a terrible feel to it, like it was partly assisted and partly not.   I figured that I had an issue with my power steering pump.

I pulled over to have a look.   There was plenty of fluid in the system.   The noise seemed to be from the general area of the pump.   The pully didn’t seem to be quite on straight either.   There wasn’t much I could do by the side of the road, so I called for a tow truck.    I didn’t want the pump to completely grenade and fill the steering box with shrapnel.   In addition, I didn’t think the car would be all that safe to drive.

Needing a tow after Galston Gorge

I called the tow truck at about 12:10AM.  Originally I was told it was not going to come for four hours.   I wasn’t enthusiastic about that timeframe.  However, after the operator looked at the address more, because I was stopped on a main road, I qualified for a priority tow, so the time was cut down to two hours.   It turned out to be a fairly reasonable estimate.

Needing a tow after Galston Gorge

By the time I dropped the car off at the storage unit where I keep my cars, it was 3AM before I got home.    The 250SE is booked in already for some other work in March, so it is probably off the road until then unfortunately.

I’ve actually been pretty lucky.   I’ve been driving exclusively classic cars for 20 years and over 200,000km.   This is only the third time i’ve needed to be flat bedded.

450SLC lug bolt replacement

I fitted a set of original AMG Penta wheels to my 450SLC two years ago.    At the time, they did not come with lug bolts.  Luckily, I had a set from the replica Fuchs wheels that were on the car when I purchased it.   The replica Fuchs wheels were the Australian made copies that were so commonly fitted on Mercedes of this era that were not sold originally with alloy wheels.    My 280SE had the Italian copies.

The set of lug bolts I had were quite scruffy, so I attempted to clean them up by soaking them in a metal cleaner and then using a clear coat on the heads.     At first, it seemed like it was working.   However, it was apparent within a couple of weeks that my bolt restoration hadn’t worked very well.   I now had ugly rusty looking bolt heads.

450SLC lug bolt

I’ve had this on my todo list since that time.   This week I finally purchased a new set of bolts for the car.    I really should have done this sooner.   Not only were the heads rusty, but the coating on the actual bolts had deteriorated to the point where the threads were getting rusty too.   Luckily I had used a little copper anti-seize as they came out easily.       In the photo below, it is pretty apparent which is the old bolt in the box of new ones.

450SLC lug bolt

Such a simple job has really lifted the car.   Not only do the new bolts look much better, but the rusty threads are not going to be a problem in the future.    As with before, I put a tiny dab of copper anti-seize and tightened them by hand.

450SLC lug boltInstead of wasting all that time trying to restore the old bolts, I should have purchased new ones in the first place.   I probably spent almost as much on metal cleaner and clear coat, plus my time.

I now finally have 450SLC lug bolts that are in keeping with the car and wheels.    I’ll probably keep the old ones as spares just in case I loose one.  I don’t plan to put them on a car again except as a stop gap.

450SLC lug bolt