Mercedes Club drive to Peats Ridge

The Mercedes Club organized a joint drive with the Rolls Royce Owners club to the Corrugated Cafe in Peats Ridge.   Peats Ridge is about 90km north of Sydney.   This was one of the first drives after the COVOID19 restrictions were eased.   A couple of the members of the club were trying to organize a line up of W126s at the event.   The event seemed like a good opportunity to see some Rolls Royces and give the 560SEL a good long drive after I got the car back from some preventative maintenance.

Taking the 560SEL also gave an opportunity to take two of my kids along and see if they enjoyed the day.   They are not yet old enough to travel in the W111 due to lack of lap/sash seatbelts and child seat anchor points.

The lineup of W126’s was quite impressive.   It was also a good illustration of the sort of cars that get preserved, and the sort that (sadly) don’t.   On display were 8 W126 cars.  Of those cars, all by one were V8s, all but one were long wheelbase, and all but one were second series.  There were 5 420SELs showing the popularity of that model in club circles, my 560SEL, a 300SEL and a first generation 500SE.   This is pretty typical in classic cars that were produced in reasonable volumes.  Most of the cars saved are the later and high specification models.  Of these, there was about a 400,00km difference in the odometer readings from the lowest to highest model.   You would never know by looking at the cars.

W126 Line Up

If you assembled 8 W126 models based on the most commonly sold variants, and only included those original offered for sale in Australia, your line up would be rather different.   Two 280SEs, Two 300SEs, and one each of the 300SEL, 380SE, 420SEL and 560SEL.

As well as the W126 line up there were some other lovely cars.   From the Mercedes Club that included a 190SL, 280SL Pagoda, 280SE 3.5 W108, Adenauer, W116,  450SLC and more.   The SLC was a recent purchase up from country Victoria and it looked great.   There were also a pair of A124s, quite unusual to see two at the same time.

Of the Rolls Royces, there were some nice Silver Shadows, Silver Spirits (and derivatives).  There was also one older model, perhaps a Silver Dawn?

The drive up the old Pacific Highway to Peats Ridge is always enjoyable.   Being a Sunday it was pretty busy and there were cyclists and highway patrol aplenty.   The food at the corrugated cafe was good, and the route back was through Central Mangrove over Wisemans Ferry.   I take regular late night drives up the old highway and I have never thought to come back that way.

I was happy with how the 560SEL performed after its service.  The new thermostat kept the temperature right where it needed to be, the new motor mounts smoothed the ride and the good used steering wheel is much nicer to hold.   I also start the car with impunity now the guides have been replaced.   The previous owner spent good money having the chain and tensioner done about 25,000km but inexplicably the guides and sprockets were not replaced as a matter of course.   It’s the guides that are the main problem in these engines.   I also had the camshaft oiler fittings replaced at the same time.

There are still a few more things I plan to do to this car, but chief among them is to re-instate the self-leveling rear suspension.   The ride from the rear is unpleasant on all but the smoothest roads.   My other option would be to remove the pedders springs and shocks and put in Mercedes springs and shocks.  If I am going to this trouble I might as well do it properly and put the self-leveling back.

Overall it was a good drive and the kids were not too bored!

Leaking SU fuel pump

I took my E-Type out for a couple of drives this week.   The state of NSW has been in lockdown due to COVID19 since March.   Until last week, it was illegal to be out and about without a valid excuse.    This precluded the use of the E-Type as unlike some of the more modern cars it isn’t so suitable to use to do a shopping run.   For starters the boot is minute and the car doesn’t like stop/go traffic very much.

On the first drive, I noticed a bit of a fuel smell.  It seemed like it was coming from the front of the car, so I spent quite a bit of timing examining the fuel connections to each of the three carbies to see if there was any dripping.   There wasn’t.    The other night I took the car on an extended 150km drive up to Gosford via the old Pacific Highway.  On the way back, I could start to smell the fuel again.    Just in the time it took me to open up the roller door. I saw dripping from the back of the car.

Looking in the boot, it was obvious that I had a leaking SU fuel pump.   It was almost raining fuel down inside the boot.   I wonder if this started this week or if it has leaking a little bit for a while.   As I drive the car with the roof down most of the time, it is possible that I may not have noticed some minor fuel smell.

Leaking SU fuel pump

Today I went back to have more of a look and remove the fuel pump.  It is only a 15-20 minute job to remove it.    Firstly the two fuel lines are removed.   I marked them top and bottom to make re-assembly easier.   I was surprised to see two washers per fuel line.    Then, the power and ground can be disconnected.   There is a fair amount of room to get a hand into the rear wing where the fuel pump is located.

Leaking SU fuel pump

Finally, the three nuts that hold in the pump and its bracket can be removed.   While it does not seem like it, it is actually fairly easy to get a hand around behind the pump and remove the rear nut.   I made a mistake in removing the front two nuts first.   It would have been easier to remove the rear one.   The pump is mounted to the car body through rubber mounts.   One of mine was completely perished (probably accelerated by the fuel) and the other two do not look far behind.

Looking carefully, I can see some plastic or rubber debris in the outlet pipe.  Probably the remains of a perished gasket or diaphragm.     In addition, the leaking fuel has dissolved some kind of black sealing material that has been used in the body of the car.   There is black residue in the spare tyre well that I will need to clean up.

The pump leaking SU fuel pump in my car is the original points type.   Specifically it is an AUF303.   It must have been rebuilt when the car was restored.  This pump is now known as the AZX1307.    There is now a fully electric replacement available, or the rebuild kit EPK300 can be used to rebuild it.

I have not yet decided if I will rebuild the pump I have or move to the fully electronic version.    It looks like an all new pump is about 3x the cost of a rebuild kit.

W126 reclining rear seat

Long wheelbase models of the W126 could be equipped with an electric reclining rear seat.   From the factory the W126 reclining rear seat was standard on the 560SEL and optional on other models.   local subsidiaries may have ordered other models with this feature as standard in their markets too.    At least here in Australia it is always seen on the 560 models, commonly seen on the first generation 380SEL and occasionally seen on the 420SEL.   Privately imported cars vary, but it is more commonly seen on the higher specification models like the 500SEL.

The W126 reclining rear seat was not working on my 560SEL when I purchased it.   I bought the car from the original owner and he could not remember when it ever worked.   The seat was stuck in the reclined position, which was not ideal to fit a child seat.

Back in May, I did some initial troubleshooting.   There was not a blown fuse, there was nothing jammed in the mechanism, and the motor did not run when the button was pressed.   It is fairly common for the control cables to become dislodged, which means the motor runs but the seat does not move.

W126 reclining rear seat

Today I looked at the system in a bit more detail, as I wanted to fit a child seat.     The diagram above shows how the seat works.   Its quite simple really.   The two switches send voltage in the direction the motor must run to move the seat.   Using my power probe, I had voltage on one pin and nothing on the other.   This seemed odd, as I would only expect to see voltage when the button was pressed.    When I pressed the button, the voltage was no longer present.

The next step was to test the motor directly.   The power probe allows for voltage/ground to be applied easily.   As soon as I applied power, the mechanism moved in the correct direction.   I was able to easily move the mechanism into the non-reclined position with the power probe.    Confirming that the motor, cables and mechanism worked highlighted that I likely have a switch, wiring or ground problem.    With the mechanism in the right place, I bolted the seat back into place.

W126 reclining rear seat

As I will have a child seat installed, it is actually better that the seat does not work.  I don’t want one of the kids pressing the button and damaging the motor or mechanism as it tries to fight against the child seat.    I would like to fix the seat in a couple of years once I remove the child seat.   This will be early 2024 when my youngest child no longer needs one.   The W126 only has a lap belt in the middle rear, which is incompatible with a booster seat.   The booster seat requires a lap/sash seat belt.

It is not clear right now where the problem lies.   If it is a switch or some wiring or ground problem.   A switch seems more likely.

With the seat in the non-recline position, you can see the huge leg room available in the back of a long W126.   If only the airlines could provide something comparable.     I have now fitted the child seat, in preparation of a club drive I am planning to join in a couple of weeks.

560SEC stone chip touch up

Over the years my 560SEC has acquired quite a lot of stone chips on the front of the car.   I understand the previous owner was in semi-rural Queensland so there may have been some gravel or unsealed roads in there.   Today I applied a stop gap fix until I can address the problem properly.   Most of the stone chips were in the front panel under the headlights.   These panels are removeable, so eventually when I have the rust under the rear screen fixed, i’ll have this panel repainted too.    That repair will be a couple of years away, so today’s task was some stone chip touch up.

Stone chip touch up

Autobarn will sell a little pot of touch up paint with a small brush that is matched to the car’s original colour.   This was the perfect solution for my stone chip touch up job.   While the pot will not match perfectly due to fade, it will make the car look better close up.    I own two cars in 929 Nautical blue, so the little pot of paint is a good investment.

Recently I fixed one of the cladding panels with a colour matched aerosol from Autobarn.   You can have the colours in either format, depending on what you need.

stone chip touch up - Autobarn paint

I started by masking off the bumper bar near the affected area.   Later on, I found that it probably wasn’t necessary as I didn’t spill any of the paint.   I suspect if I had not masked off the area, I would have though.    There is a little brush inside the cap that I used to gently apply paint to each chip.   I don’t think I did the greatest job in the world.   My skills are not in fine work like this.   I still think it is better than all those chips.

Stone chip touch up

I found that pushing backwards against the normal direction of the brush was better to get the paint into each chip.   When I used the brush as normal, it left more of a brush mark and not all the paint went into the chip.   The worst ones did require a little brushing due to their size.

As well as this panel, there were quite a few areas that needed stone chip touch up around the grille.   I used the same method and fixed those.   Again, if you look closely you can still see where it was fixed.  From 1-2 meters away you can hardly tell.

Grille

I will check again in the next couple of days to see how it has dried and if I need to touch up any of my touch ups.   Overall, for an hour’s work and a $20 paint pot I am pretty happy with the result.

stone chip touch up

Flashback: 2012 Sydney German Auto-Fest

They Sydney German Auto-Fest is now a major event in the Sydney car show calendar.   There are hundreds of cars to choose from including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, Audi and some of the smaller brands.   It has even replaced the separate Mercedes-Benz concours event.    However, this show had quite humble beginnings.   I attended the 2012 Sydney German Auto-Fest, back when it was a couple of dozen cars in a parking lot.   I recall that this was the inaugural event, but I could be off a year.

I went there in the 250SE, but I wasn’t sure if you had to register before, so I didn’t display the car.   The original event clearly did better than the organizers had hoped for as the small parking lot where it was held was soon overflowing.    I only had a short time available, but I was able to snap some of the photos that you see there.

Some of the cars that were on display at this event are now favorites to be seen at subsequent events.   This includes the dark blue Pagoda, the red 190SL and the Adenauer.   Compare these photos to the last time I was able to attend – in 2018.   That year was so big it completely filled Gough Whitlam park.   I would imagine the event will need to move to a larger space at some point.

The event continues this year on the 25th of October. Due to being late in the calendar is unlikely to be impacted by COVID-19.   For more information on the 2020 event, please see this link.    I will likely be displaying the 250SE.    I am pretty confident that the 2020 event will easily surpass the 2012 Sydney German Auto-Fest.

W126 Antenna grommet

One of the things that had been bugging me about my 560SEC was the missing W126 antenna grommet.   Over time, they perish and instead of replacing it, the previous owner had used household sealant.   This is an odd bodge as the part is inexpensive and easy to fit.   The household sealant was making the SEC look like a real jalopy, and while that might be the name of this site, I don’t actually want the cars to look like jalopies.

W126 antenna grommet

It is quite easy to fit the new W126 antenna grommet.   The power antenna must be dropped down.   It can be accessed behind the boot lining and is held up with a single phillips head screw.

So as not to damage the paint, I used a plastic razor blade and my fingernail to remove the sealant residue.   This was actually the most time consuming part of the job.

Once the residue was cleaned up, the new grommet is fitted from above.  I used some rubber grease to make it easier to push it into place.   From there it is a simple matter to push the antenna back up into the grommet and screw it back into place.    For 20 minutes of work and a part that costs only a couple of dollars it is an amazing transformation on the car.

W126 antenna grommet

I had previously fitted a new grommet to my 300SE a couple of weeks ago.   Unlike the SEC it had the proper grommet, but the rubber had perished and it was cracked and likely to let water in.

While I was at it, I tried to apply the Bowdens paint cleanse and restore I purchased recently.    The paint on the SEC is quite faded compared to the SEL in the same colour.   As it looks like original paint, I wanted to try a non abrasive product first.   A power buffer is going to take off a thin layer of the clear, which can’t be undone.    I tried the product on the bonnet and boot lid, the two worst parts of the paint.   It made a slight difference, but realistically it looks like I am going to need to try the power buffer.

Guest Article: MrFrotop buys a coupe

The club guys were right about the bug. You know, the one you catch after buying your first classic Mercedes. It’s not that the W108 3.5 wasn’t enough, but after a couple of years you feel an irrational (yet somewhat justified) urge to have a Mercedes for every occasion. Rescuing all of these beautifully engineered machines from an untimely demise is a noble cause, some might argue. The passion was certainly there but in the end, you need a number of factors to align: funds, garage space and spousal approval. I had only one of those, the rest will have to align later.

I wanted a coupe I could drive regularly which had rear seats for our two toddlers, and a 450SLC seemed like the obvious choice. However, I struggled to find a C107 that I liked which didn’t have an unrealistic price tag. It’s not that the SLC prices were astronomical in 2019, but obviously the asking price should reflect the condition of the vehicle beyond a fancy respray. The C107 can have some issues which are skin deep. What might appear like an excellent exterior could have a project car lurking beneath. Perhaps I made the mistake of using Colin T’s beautiful white 450SLC as reference, and ultimately nothing I inspected came close to the condition of this car.

At this point, I wasn’t searching for a C123, but widening the Gumtree classifieds search slightly came up with a white ’78 280CE in Canberra. The W123 was one of the most successful Mercedes-Benz models ever, with over 2.7 million variants manufactured between 1975 and 1986. They were known for their unrivaled reliability and high mileage capability – which is a good thing, since this ’78 280CE for sale had over 430,000km on the clock! If you were buying anything made after 1990, perhaps this high mileage would be a deterrent. But this is a 123 we’re talking about here, and the 2.8(ish)L M110 twin overhead cam motor is known to be bulletproof. In any case the price was ridiculously low, and it even had 11 months registration left. A convincing argument emerged around driving this CE for a year, and if it dies after 11 months then at least we got to experience what a 123 was all about. My wife agreed, so that box was ticked and I arranged a bus ride to the ACT after an agreed conditional price with the owner.

78 280CE M110

Everyone has a set of non-negotiable conditions when buying a car, and some of these may differ from person to person. Perhaps an Australian delivered car is an important condition for some, or sub-200K mileage for another. For me, a good service history, an excellent interior and minimal rust are very important – the rest can be fixed and restored with time. During my brief inspection of the vehicle, I was blown away by the condition of the interior. It even had the original factory floor mats, which were in excellent condition. The dashboard was virtually crack free, and the burlwood highlights (featuring on the first series C123) were also excellent. It drove ok, but felt a bit soft in the rear (what I later discovered was Self Leveling Suspension or SLS). Overall mechanically it appeared to be good and frankly, the price didn’t justify a higher level of mechanical scrutiny. I was only going to drive it for year you see, until it dies or I find an SLC, whichever came first. With a straight body and excellent chrome work, it was obvious that this little Australian delivered coupe has been well looked after. Other than some minor rust in the bottom inside of the front doors, paintwork “patina” and some suspension squeaks, it appeared to be a good car. We did the deal and I drove her back on the 270km trek home. Perhaps that’s when the love story began. I just couldn’t believe that a high mileage car from 1978 could be so smooth, quiet and capable on the freeway. I love my W108 but the refinement of this little coupe is a generation ahead, which it actually is.

78 280CE Interior

Out of the 2.7 million 123s produced, less than 100,000 were coupes, and a much smaller number were manufactured in RHD. Not a unicorn, but not available in abundance either. The more I read about the C123, the more I realise how sought after these were back in the day. The price tag in 1978 was AU$40,700 which was equivalent to a Jaguar XJ-S V12. Despite the exorbitant premium over the sedans, new 280CEs were fetching even higher prices overseas on the black market because they were so hard to get.

Other than a missing sunroof, my ’78 280CE coupe seems to have everything else. Power windows front and rear, power steering, disc brakes, air conditioning, cruise control and SLS – as featured in other early W123 delivered in Australia, perhaps to justify the hefty price tag at the time.

78 280CE Burl

In the first few weeks, the tires brakes and suspension squeaks were sorted out and the AC was re-gassed. Later on, we replaced the fuel injectors and some minor electrical components. Changing all the engine and gearbox mounts made a huge difference to noise and vibration and totally transformed the car. The hood liner had turned to powder, and it was also replaced – we now have a clean engine bay which was free from hood liner dust. A fun “C19 lockdown” project was fixing the vacuum central locking system using some spare actuator diaphragms I had. Recently, I had the top of the rear seat (which was sun damaged) reupholstered in original MBtex. The colour being a relatively rare medium brown or “Tobacco” as per the MB colour chart. Paint wise, it turns out that a good cut and polish can do wonders. It’s now a comfy, reliable and pretty pillarless cruiser. It also seems to put the toddlers to sleep pretty quickly (thank you smooth riding SLS).

In the past year, I’ve added over 7,000km of reliable commuting on the clock. The original engine is still going strong and the transmission shifts smoothly and quietly. At the time this article was written, there was 438,755km on the odometer – truly impressive.

78 280CE

Recent enthusiast interest in the 280CE has shifted the prices upwards. It’s nice to know, but it really doesn’t matter. As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m not getting rid of this pretty coupe any time soon. While I’m a bit precious about the W108 5-digit odometer ticking over to zero, I’m compelled to hit the 500,000km milestone in the CE. At least I can get to mount that mileage badge I bought from eBay on the front grill.

Author: John Tawadros.   John is a member of the Mercedes-Benz Club of NSW and the proud owner of a 1972 280SE 3.5 and now a 1978 280CE.   You can follow his adventures with both of these cars at his Instagram feed Mrfrotop

560SEL Stainless steel exhaust system

I hadn’t planned on doing anything to the 560SEL’s exhaust system.   However, when I was checking on the possibility of reinstating the self leveling suspension I noticed that the current system was rubbing quite badly on the drive shaft.   In addition, it did not fit well and the hangers could not align.  It was being held up with wire in places.    I have now replaced it with a new 560SEL stainless steel exhaust.

The diagram below shows the factory system.   While the Australian version of the 560 is quite similar to the USA version in many ways, it uses the standard catalyst exhaust, not the USA style.

It is a rather odd design.   the centre mufflers are generally referred to as the ‘kidney’ mufflers.    My system had been welded and patched a few times.  The kidney mufflers looked quite new, but they were not put in well, and the bends of the pipes meant nothing lined up properly.   There was also rust in the pipes between the kidneys and the rear muffler.

Instead of continuing the patch the system, I decided to replace it with a new 560SEL stainless steel exhaust system.     I wanted a system that would be more free flowing, but would still look original unless the car was up on the hoist.

The whole system was replaced from the manifolds back.   In a perfect world, I would have obtained a set of the two piece manifolds as found on my 560SEC ECE.   Those manifolds are very expensive, so I went with what I had.   There are only two joins (as seen in the picture) so the whole system can be dropped easily.  This means less chance of leaks.

560SEL stainless steel exhaust

The Australian version of the 560SEL is equipped with an oxygen sensor.   This has been fitted to a small join section behind the transmission.   The rearmost section has been painted black to match the original look.

560SEL stainless steel exhaustThe new system is much neater and I can feel an improvement in performance of the car.    There is a slight increase in engine note, but still in keeping with how a luxury car like the 560SEL should sound.    As it has been raining this week, I have not been able to test the sound at high RPM/full throttle.

With an exhaust system that no longer rubbed against the drive shaft, I was able to take the car on a longer run.   I had arranged to meet a friend from the Mercedes club for a quick catch up.  A good run for the car.    He brought his 1978 280CE W123.   As it is an early CE, it has the nicer dashboard with the burl wood and self-leveling suspension.   280CE’s are an underrated car.

560SEL and 280CE

560SEL further maintenance

Before I begin regular usage of the 560SEL there is further maintenance required.   Per a receipt I have, a new timing chain and tensioner was fitted around 20,000km ago.   This is obviously a good thing, but it was a shame that while this was done, the M117 timing chain guides were not replaced.

The guides (and ideally the sprockets) should always be replaced at the same time as the chain.   It is actually the guides that are the cause of most of the problems in the M116 and M117 engines.  A stretched chain just exacerbates the problem.

M117 timing chain guidesIn the picture above are a set of genuine M117 timing chain guides.   (bottom centre).   There are two inner guides (117 052 09 16), a left guide (117 052 08 16) and the guide rail that the tensioner pushes against.

To replace the guides, the sprokets must also be removed.   It makes sense to replace then while they are out.   I went with Febi sprokets.   At the same time the guides are replaced, the plastic camshaft oilers should also be replaced.   They are very cheap and simple to replace while the cam covers are off.   Obviously, while the cam overs are off, new gaskets (left) should be fitted.

Not related to the M117 timing chain guides, the motor mounts are completely collapsed.   I have purchased Lemforder mounts.   I recomend only Lemforder or genuine mounts.   Avoid cheap alternatives like Uro or Meyle.   Lemforder mounts are not expensive.    I also bought a transmission mount.  It seems that only Meyle is available but this is less of a big deal as it is much simpler to replace.     As well as rubber mounts, the M117 engine has two shock absorbers (in the Stabilus boxes) that are looking quite elderly on my car.   There are also mounting kits to fit them properly.

When replacing the timing chain, the distributor is removed.   I have a new cap and rotor if replacement is necessary.   If not, they will go on the shelf as spares.    The belts are looking a bit tired, so I have a new set of belts.    Finally, The car is running cool (60c above 80km/h) so there is a new thermostat to fit to the car.

I am not going to do this work myself.   The chain guides in particular are a fairly involved job.   I have the car booked in for mid June to have this work done.

As well as assemble all these parts, I also changed the air filter.   It wasn’t that dirty, but at least now I know how old it is.    As I plan to reinstate the self-leveling rear suspension, I changed its filter and flushed the fluid.   I outlined this job in more detail in another post.

Self leveling rear suspensionThe fluid should be clear, but it was coffee coloured in my car.   Not as bad as the fluid in the 560SEC or 300SE, but dirty nevertheless.   This flush also allowed me to verify that the pump is still working properly.   There would be no point putting replacement struts and accumulators in to fill them up with dirty old fluid.

All this work should make this 560SEL a really good car.   My experience is that there is always work required when you purchase a new classic car – even one that has been well maintained like this one.

May 2020 Rover P5 Coupe restoration update

I had this week off work, so I went by to see the Rover P5 restorations I have been following.    For those who are not regular readers, I sold my old Rover P5 to a gentleman who is restoring three Rover P5 Coupes and I have been calling in to see the restorations every couple of months.

The last couple of months he has been moving workshops, so the progress is based on work done earlier in the year.    My old P5 has been completely dismantled.   The new workshop does not have room for parts cars.   The parts will all go to good use and the engine is available if necessary if any of the three cars need it.

Rover P5 Engine

The engine was probably the best thing about my old car.    The body was quite rusty and the interior was very worn.    The picture above shows the cover for the valve adjustment in the block – a feature of this IOE engine.

The 1964 P5 MKIIA has the fuel tank fitted, the rear seat and parcel shelf fitted and the electrics complete.    The picture below shows one of the seats off the 1964 MKIIA (in grey) and two of the seats from the MKIIC (in cream).

Rover P5 SeatsThese seats are of a very different design to the seats used in the 1966 Rover P5 MKIII.    Those seats were modified again for the P5B, but are quite similar.  The MKIII seats look more like an ‘overstuffed’ armchair.

MKIII seats

A fair amount of progress has been made on the MKIII interior.   It was a bit dark to photograph inside the car, but the car is looking very impressive from the outside.   The Webasto sunroof can be seen at the top of the photo.   This Rover P5 MKIII Coupe is going to be quite impressive when finished.

Rover P5 MKIII