MBCNSW November night drive to Bilpin

Last night was the now annual night drive to Bilpin.    On this drive, we start in Windsor and then up Bells Line of road to the Bilpin Apple Pie Cottage.    The owner is a club member with a R107 and he opens up for us and serves apple pies and coffees.

The night drives are always more popular as we head into summer, and the night drive to Bilpin in particular is one people find fun, despite the very late night.

night drive to BilpinOn the drive, we had all classics this time, plus a Mazda!   Surprisingly, W116’s led the charge with three cars, two 450SEs and my 280SE.   There was also a very nice W108 280SE, a pair of W124s, an R107 500SL and a US spec W126 300SE.

For the drive from Windsor to Bilpin, the owner of the Silver Green 450SE and I swapped cars.   Both our cars are 1979 cars, mine a 280SE imported six months later and sold in Sydney, and his sold originally in Melbourne.    It was interesting to get out of a 280SE and straight into a same year 450SE.    Both cars should have new front shocks fitted, so they were pretty even in the suspension and ride category.    The 450 having the slight edge due to the anti-squat feature which is very nice.

The 450 obviously has a lot more torque than the 280, and that torque comes in much lower on the rev range.   Wheras on the 280 you need to keep the revs high and its usual to pull back a gear going up hills, the 450 had the torque to do what it needed in top (3rd).    Both engines make a great sound, but different.   The V8 is a grunty rumble, vs on the 280 you can hear the twin cam top end as you rev the car up to its 6,500RPM redline.    The 280 is lighter and more nimble up front and you can tell the difference.    While they are both great drivetrains, I think the 450 has the edge.

Overall the 280 is probably in better cosmetic condition, inside and out than the 450.  Where the 450 stood out is that leather is a nicer material to sit on that MB-TEX.   As I have fixed the springs on the 280 seat, The 280 was a bit more comfortable.    I think the 450 probably has one broken spring, not two that the 280 had on purchase.

night drive to BilpinThe 450 has just had a lot of work done on it, as it is a car that was rarely used for some years.   These cars don’t respond well to sitting.   Its running very well, and the engine is smooth and has real urgency.   Probably the two next things for the owner to do is address a vibration while braking, and look at why the car was running at 100C on a cool evening just cruising along.   It’s a great car and I expect to see it continually improve.

On the night drive to Bilpin, we took the scenic route to Bells Line of Road.   On the way we managed to find a group of lost Kangaroos.  Normally the Roos are active at dusk and are not seen this late.   This group managed to hop onto the road and put a scratch on the door of the R107 500SL.   We were very lucky it wasn’t worse.

The rest of the drive up to Bilpin was uneventful and we all had a good evening eating apple pies before returning home.   It’s a two hour drive for me to get home from Bilpin, so it was pretty late when I finally arrived, but worth it.

night drive to Bilpin

MBCNSW 60’s models photoshoot

The Mercedes club is planning a feature in the magazine for models of the late 60s and early 70s.   They have previously done features on the 107 series and 124 series.   To accompany the article, the club organised a 60’s models photoshoot for some nice examples of various models this morning.   I was asked to attend, as my W111 Cabriolet is one of the few that gets regular use.

60's models photoshootWhile I was there, I was able to snap a few photos with my own camera.   Of course I had to be very careful not to get in the way of the official photographer, who was trying to set up each shot with the right angles.

The cars of this era are among the very best ever made by Mercedes-Benz.   It was great to see such a line up in one place.   There were 11 cars in total including:

  • A 600 (W100.012).   The 600 is an original Australian delivered car, in a lovely bronze colour.   It was previously owned by a Sydney radio identity.   At some point a previous owner fitted the USA style side marker lights and bumper overriders.   These are amazing machines, but not for the feint hearted.   I would love to drive one, but not sure I want to own one.
  • My 250SE cabriolet (W111.023).   It was a lovely day to get the car out, and my car being a 10/65 build was the oldest by a decent margin.
  • Two 280SE 3.5 coupes (W111.026).   These cars were in contrasting white and midnight blue, so were a good combination.   The midnight blue car is one of two known manual cars in Australia.
  • Two 280SE 3.5 saloons (W108.057).   Again contrasting maroon and horizon blue.   Both lovely examples of a very popular model.
  • Two 280S W108 Saloons (W108.016).   Both lovely original cars.   The cream car was recently purchased by a club member from the original owner, who is now 95.   The light green car has a great contrasting red interior with a manual transmission and was made in Malaysia.
  • Two 280SL Pagodas (W113.044).   The medium blue car has been with the same owner for 19 years and he has taken it all around the world including Hong Kong, USA, Singapore etc.   The midnight blue car is a multi-show winner.
  • A C114 280CE (W114.072).  The most immaculate W114 I have ever seen.  The engine bay is cleaner that most restaurant kitchens.

The photo shoot took place around the Wharoonga area, a leafy suburb of Sydney with large houses on generous block sizes.   The club had received permission from a few owners to use their driveways for the 60’s models photoshoot.    I expect the professional photos will come out looking like they are from an original brochure.

60's models photoshootThe weather was perfect for the day – sunny and warm, but a bit cloudy at first.   To sunny and its hard to capture the cars without so much reflection from the chrome.    Understandably, the line up got a lot of interested from locals, and there were a surprising number of people in the area with car collations that offered us the opportunity to have a look.

Auto Brunch St Ives November 2022

Yesterday I attended the Auto Brunch event at St Ives Showground again.   It’s still far and away the best cars and coffee event in Sydney.   This month was no exception.   After about 10 months of horrible weather, we’ve finally had some lovely spring days here in Sydney.

It was a perfect day for a car show, the only slight downside was the rural fire service were also taking advantage of the weather doing a controlled burn in the vicinity.   At first the event was quite smoky but it soon cleared up.

As with last time, it was an official event for the Citroen club, so I took my DS.   There were two other D models on display, plus some other Citroens.  The BMW club was also making quite a day of it with many nice BMWs to choose from.  I was particularly impressed with the pair of red E24s.   Red is a great colour for this model.

IMG_8054I was also very impressed by an immaculate 60’s Maserati, and the Ferrari Testarossa.   You really notice how wide the Testarossa is in the rear when you see it parked at an event like this.   It’s such an iconic design.

I’ve never really been much of a fan of 911s, despite their popularity in the classic car world.  I’ve just never been able to get excited by them.  However, I saw a very early model in light green and you can definitely see the purity of the original design.

This will be my last St Ives event this year, as December clashes with a family function.

MBCNSW November 2022 twilight drive to Ettalong

Last night I attended the MBCNSW twilight drive to Ettalong.  This is a concept that the club used to do in prior years but had dropped off the event calendar.   Back then, it used to be called the topless drive, with the assumption that twilight in summer is a great time to drive a cabriolet.    I attended that drive in 2014 and 2018.

EttalongWhile it is great weather for a cabriolet, and a few members drove them, I took my 450SLC.  I chose the 450SLC for a couple of reasons.   Firstly, with the bad weather in Sydney, I really haven’t drive it since August.   Secondly, it is more capable of keeping up with the high powered modern cars on the twisty bends of the Old Pacific Highway.

While somewhat similar in concept to the night drives, it was a very different crowd for the twilight drive to Ettalong.  Nearly all modern Mercedes, and all the high performance models – including an S65 AMG.  The night drives tend to be the other way, nearly all classics.    The 280S pictured above, my 450SLC and a 380SL 5.0 were the only classics on the run out of 15-20 cars.

The 280S is an original, one owner car being carefully improved by a club member.  I have to say it looked fantastic.   While it is probably worth a fraction of the modern, high powered Benzes, its the one I would have taken home.

EttalongThe W108 and associated models have such a classy design that has never really been matched by the moderns.   And the interior is such a nice place to be.   I guess you could describe it as minimalistically elegant, a contrast to British car interiors of the time, although both are excellent.

EttalongThe drive took us up the Old Pacific Highway for most of the trip.   The Old Pacific highway is a great driving road and twilight is a pretty good time to do it.  Few cyclists clogging up the road, yet visibility to see where you are going.   We also took a bit of a detour up those long sweeping corners up towards peats ridge.   I had to pull the SLC back into 2nd gear to keep up with the modern cars.  They were probably not breaking a sweat.

Old Pacific HighwayWe had dinner at a club in Ettalong and then made our own way back.   I was originally planning to take the old Highway back again too, but decided against it in the end.   I was fairly tired and I wanted to go and get the DS for the St Ives event the next day.    It was a good drive.   This time is not the easiest for me with young children, but I would attend again if I could.

MBCNSW October 2022 Cars and Coffee

Today was supposed to be the annual Sydney German car show.   It would have been the first one held since 2019 due to Covid.   I missed the 2019 event due  to work travel, so I have not attended the show since 2018.    Sydney has been very rainy of late, so last week was torrential rain, pretty much the norm for 2022.   Based on this, and anticipating wet fields, the council pulled the plug on the event earlier this week.

The club scrambled to get an alternative event put on for the day.    In retrospect, the council acted too soon, as the weather soon turned hot, and the fields are now apparently quite dry.    The alternate event was a MBCNSW cars and coffee event at the Waterview cafe in Bicentennial Park.   This is the same venue that the Jaguar club used a few weeks earlier for their replacement event.    It’s quite a central location, and the parking areas are tarmac which means it works rain, hail or shine.    That was important when the Mercedes club held a cars and coffee event earlier in the year and it bucketed down.

MBCNSW October 2022 Cars and Coffee

The weekend turned out to be the nicest weekend Sydney has seen all year.   It would have been amazing for the real event.   Since a lot of members had planned to be at the main car show, the Cars and Coffee event was quite popular.   The event didn’t have access to as many parking areas as the Jaguar event did a few weeks earlier.   This was probably as the event was organized in days rather than weeks.   Given the late notice it was great to have any kind of event.

I took my 250SE to the event.   Back in 2019, I had a sign made up with some particulars about the car.   I hadn’t had an opportunity to use it due to all the cancelled events.   It worked quite well so I may make a few more up for the other cars.  I didn’t’ get a great photo of the sign next to the car, the one I took was quite blurry so I didn’t include it in the picture gallery below, but it can be see in the back seat of the car above.

After the cars and coffee event, there was an optional drive for Fish and Chips.  I didn’t attend this, but it would have been a lovely day for it.    It was nice enough driving the 250SE there and back with the roof down.   Looking at the logbook, it was August last time I had the car out.

MBCNSW October 2022 Night Drive – Mulgoa Road

Last night was the monthly MBCNSW night drive.   This drive was in the western part of the city.   Starting from a McDonalds on the M4, we would drive west until we hit Mulgoa Road.   Mulgoa road meanders through a semi-rural area with few traffic lights and minimal other cars.   Nearly all of it is signposted at 80km/h, which is reasonable for this road at night.     We would then turn onto Bringelly road as we drove eastwards to the built up part of the city and along Cowpastures road to our final destination.   This was the Chubby Buns burger truck.

The history of how this area of South Western Sydney came to be known as The Cowpastures is rather interesting.    When the first fleet arrived in 1788, they brought a small herd of cows and a couple of bulls.    The cattle escaped five months later and would not be seen until 1795 when they were discovered on the fertile Nepean floodplain, having taken over pastures previously used by the Dharawal people.   The area would thereafter be known as the Cowpastures.

Mulgoa Road

It had been a lovely day in Sydney for a change, so we had nine cars at our start point at McDonalds M4 West.   Two 450SLCs and an R107 500SL, a C123 280CE, two C126 SECs (my 560SEC and a 380SEC), a 300E and a modern SLK32 and SL350.

We tried a different approach this time with a designated car at the rear that knew the route well.     That seemed to work well at the end when traffic lights close to the destination meant the last three cars got separated the chase car (me) was able to go ahead of them and lead the way.     We also lost one car to a wrong turn which was remedied by waiting for 10 mins or so on a wide shoulder on Mulgoa road.

Mulgoa Road

The final destination was the Chubby buns burger truck at Hoxton park.   For a city of over five million people, there is very little open after about 11pm that is not a bar or a club, or so inner city there is no parking for 10 elderly German cars.   The Chubby Buns burger trucks are open very late making it an ideal ending point for the drive.    The Hoxton park location (there are a few) is on the site of a carwash by day.    That provides plenty of parking at night.   There are apparently a few car club groups that use the venue.

Chubby Buns

The food from the Chubby Buns burger truck is quite good.   The serves are ample.   The prices are not cheap, but they are decent value for money for what you’re getting.    This is now my third time at the venue, as we had a couple of drives prior to fine tune the route.

These semi-rural routes seem to work the best for the night drives.  Much easier to keep the group together and enjoy a relaxing drive.

Chubby Buns

I took my 560SEC on this drive.  It was the first long drive since I had the uprated A/C condenser fitted, the steering box resealed and the Becker 1402 installation finalized.   The car performed really well and I am very happy with the Becker upgrade to the car.  The A/C is also very cold.   I’m waiting for a 35+ day to really test it properly.   On the open road its also noticeable how much more power this car has than an Australian 560SEC.   Especially above 3500RPM.

Next month is back to Bilpin.

W126 Becker Radio install – part 4

Previously, I had installed a Becker Mexico 1402 Cassette in my 1987 560SEC.    This is a very similar model to what it left the factory with.     My setup looked factory, but was running a hidden Bluetooth FM injector, amplifier and USB charging ports.

After driving around for a few weeks, I realised I needed to make a few changes.  Overall, I was really happy with the system, except for the following:

  • USB charging ports were no longer working
  • Distortion in music with strong midrange at medium to high volume
  • The radio worked at position 1 of the ignition switch, but the bluetooth module required position 2.

The USB ports were working fine until I put the trim back in, so I assumed I had accidently pulled out the socket during the re-install.    I also figured I could improve the distortion by playing with the amplifier gain settings.    It is never going to be distortion free due to the small speakers in the car, but I thought I could get it better.

The last one, I assumed I had plugged into the wrong pin on the X30 connector.    To get to all this, the under dash panel, side kick panel and carpet must be removed.   That provides access to the X30 connector and the cover for the various control boxes where I had installed the amp.

Bluetooth FM injector

Some testing with my power probe quickly confirmed the issue with the USB ports.   The connector between the X30 harness and the US transformer was no longer working.   Instead of just replacing it, I added another 20cm of wire on both the positive and negative so it wouldn’t be under pressure during the install.

The X30 wiring proved to be a big more complex.   I was using pin 5, which is supposed to be hot in start, run and accessory positions.   I had assumed this meant position 1, 2 and 3 on the ignition switch.   Turns out it means position 2, both when the car is running and when it isn’t, and the start position (3).

I swapped over to pin 1, which is hot at all times.   I didn’t want to create a drain on the battery, so I left the USB cables on pin 5, but harness for the radio accessories is controlled by a relay.   The relay is energised by the antenna signal from the radio.   That in turn switches on the amp, triggers the antenna and powers up the Tranzit Blu.   Given the presence of the relay, it should not be drawing current with the car off.   The only thing that is actually using power is the Tranzit BLU, which has minimal power needs.

Next was to look at the distortion.   I found that it sounded better with the amplifier gain turned up more.   Probably because the signal from the Becker was from a the line out module.    Since I am using a single left-right input, I wasn’t able to adjust front and rear gain separately.   This is a shame, as the rear speakers are larger.

Bluetooth FM injectorAfter driving the car some more, I was really happy with the improvements.   The Bluetooth function powers up when the radio does.   The distortion is much reduced.   And the USB ports now work!

There was one more thing left to do.   Investigate if it was possible to have the music play from my phone as soon as it connects to the Bluetooth in the car.    I wanted to be able to leave my phone in my pocket and it would just play.   The Tranzit Blu has a button to advance the track and answer calls, so the phone is not necessary to control things.

I found there are more possibilities on android.   For an iPhone, there is an Apple app called ‘Shortcuts’.   This allows simple if/then/else logic to automatic various functions.


The left hand screenshot shows how simple it is to create the function.     Unfortunately, it does not run without any user input, as the script generates a pop up that asks the user if it should run.    This is better than going through the menus on the phone to select music, but not ideal.   The popup is shown on the right.

The installation is now complete.   I’m really happy with the outcome.  I have the look and feel of the original Becker, with the Bluetooth FM injector for modern functionality.

W126 guide rod mount bushes

Back in September, my 560SEC was at the mechanics to fix a sticking brake caliper and fix the A/C.   At the same time, I asked for the source of two oil leaks to be investigated.   One was from the power steering and one was engine oil.

The power steering leak was confirmed to be from the steering box itself.   I had already changed the leaking low pressure hose.   The engine oil leak was actually quite simple – it was from the oil pressure sender unit.   However, it had been leaking for a while, and had leaked all over the guide rod mount bushes.    My mechanic advised me to change those bushings after fixing the leak.  The small amount of the bushings that are visible looked ok, but prolonged exposure to oil is certainly going to degrade them very quickly.

I sourced the correct parts and the car was back in this week to have them fitted.   I also bought new guide rod bushings themselves.  Even though these were not oily, I figured he would need to remove the mount anyway, so why not replace them while there.   I’m glad I did.    It was clear that these bushings date back to the cars time in the UK, and are probably original.    The guide rod bushings have a sort of housing that had started to rust, and the inner parts of the mount bushes had corroded too.

guide rod mount bushesThe bushing that was exposed to oil is obvious, but this one isn’t the worst.   Even though my 560SEC isn’t a rusty car, it did spend time on UK roads, and these parts are a good example of the carnage a small amount of exposure can cause.    I’m glad they are now changed.

The steering leak was fixed by removing and re-sealing the steering box.   This provided an opportunity to adjust the play and fit a new steering coupling.   While the W126 boxes (other than very early ones) automatically take up most of the play, the adjustment still makes a big difference.

Driving the car home, I could really notice the improved steering feel.   It wasn’t a hot day, but it was very humid and the new, uprated A/C was working a treat.    I’ll probably take the 560SEC on next weeks MBCNSW Night Drive.

Machines & Macchiatos October 2022

It didn’t seem very long ago that I was at the September Machines & Macchiatos event.   In a blink of an eye it was mid October and time for another one.   This time, I took my Citroen DS.

It was a beautiful spring day, rare for 2022.   Despite that, the turnout was lower than last time.   Perhaps other car shows on this weekend.    I was parked next to a very nice Rolls Royce Silver Shadow.   I think I overheard the owner telling somebody it was a 1975 model.

It’s an interesting contrast, as both are luxury cars, but the manufacturers approached the problem in very different ways.   The DS was obviously a much cheaper car when new, although not anymore.    The Rolls Royce even used a simplified version of the Citroen hydraulics under licence.     Even though the Silver Shadow is a newer car, it was still using the older version of the Hydraulic system until it went out of production in 1980.   It would take the introduction of the Silver Spirit to move to the LHM system.

There was a good variety of cars on display as usual.   There was even one of the late De Tomaso Panteras that managed to break down while driving in.   Luckily the owner was able to get it going again.   At least breaking down at a car show there are plenty of people around to help!

MBCNSW September 2022 Night Drive – Old Northern Road

Last night’s drive was a variation of one we did a few months ago.   Originally it was to start from the eastern side of Galston Gorge, and then follow the previous route.   That took us along Cattai ridge road, Halcrows road, Wisemans Ferry road and the Old Northern Road.   I always enjoy this drive, as it’s a nice cruisy route and there are almost no cars on the road.

A few weeks ago, we were notified that Galston Gorge was closed for repairs.   We moved the start point of the route to the western side of the gorge and changed the description on the club website.   Turns out there is also another place where this information is stored, and the website sent out reminders to members with the wrong address!     We ended up with three cars at the revised starting point and two at the old.

September 2022 Night Drive
Since the gorge was closed, it was at least a 30 minute drive the long way round from the old starting point to the new.   In the end, we decided for the first group to do the first part of the drive, and then meet up with the second group at the intersection of Wisemans Ferry Road and the Old Northern Road.   Not ideal, but at least we would get to do part of the drive together.

On the way to the meeting point, we also found out that Halcrows road was practically non existent.   Not sure how much tarmac there was between the potholes.   I guess that road has suffered due to the wild weather.   On the flip slide, Wisemans Ferry road had been recently resurfaced and it was excellent.

The meeting point worked reasonably well, in that the first group only had to wait 5 to 10 minutes for the second.

September 2022 Night Drive

From the second meeting point it was straight down the old Northern Road to McDonalds Dural.   Unfortunately that meant the second group had to re-trace their steps, but up and back the Old Northern Road is still a great drive.

I took my 1979 280SE and it’s running better and better with some use.   I still think I’ll need to do front shocks at some point as the ride from the front is not the greatest.   New tyres wouldn’t hurt either.

September 2022 Night DriveEven after the issues with the starting point, it was still a good drive.   However, I would not do this one again until Halcrows road is fixed.