16th Cars that time forgot car show

I was in Madison, Wisconsin last weekend and had a few hours to spare.   I also had use of a rental car, which gave me the opportunity to travel further afield.    Back when I lived in America, there were interesting car shows all through summer I used to attend.   About an hour away was the Cars that time forgot car show, in Delavan WI.

This show was pretty typical of the ones I used to attend.  Owners from the area bring their interesting cars for a display day.   The scale of the population within driving distance meant that over 1,000 cars were in attendance.

Generally at these shows the most common type of car is American cars from the 50s to 80s, and in particular muscle cars like Pontiac GTOs, Camaros and so on.   Back when the Australian dollar was high in the mid 2000’s many American cars were imported to Australia.   In nearly all cases, these were the really well known cars like the Mustang, Corvette and Camaro.   Going to a show like this allowed me to see some of the more interesting models.

In particular, this show had a large continent of Corvairs and Pontiacs.   The Corvair is an extremely interesting car.    It was one of the most daring and interesting cars ever produced by General Motors.   Sadly, it is mostly remembered for being the first example in Ralph Nadar’s book ‘Unsafe at any speed’.   That book would go on to cover issues in the entire industry, but being first the Corvair was always the model associated.    I’m a big fan of the styling of the later coupe models and would be very happy to have one in my garage.

Pontiac is a now defunct brand of General Motors.   In its heydey it was GM’s performance brand and the GTO is the best known of these.   The GTO is known as ‘The Goat’ and was the brainchild of John Delorean.   One particularly memorable GTO model is ‘The Judge’.    The Judge is a good example of the sorts of performance packages that were offered at the time, and the irreverent advertising, featuring ads such as ‘The Judge can be bought”.

It was a nice day out to go and walk through the Cars that time forgot car show.   It was even better to drive there in my Dodge Challenger rental car.  I was even asked if I was an exhibitor as I drove into the show!   There are not too many rental cars that would get that question.


2018 Dodge Challenger R/T Review

Driving should be fun, despite what the proponents of the nanny state might say.   No car is perfect, but a car that has character, and a sense of fun will make the little annoyances seem insignificant.   This is what is missing in many current cars – no character, no fun, just like an appliance.    The 2018 Dodge Challenger R/T has loads of character and is a lot of fun.   This makes its many foibles seem pretty unimportant.

2018 Dodge Challenger R/T

The Dodge Challenger was my latest rental car.   This is the easily the best rental car I have ever had.    Normally, I rent an intermediate size car, and am issued with something rather bland from the car rental place.   On this most recent rental, a full size was actually $1 cheaper than the normal intermediate.   My expectation was just a larger serving of blandness – perhaps four boiled potatoes instead of three.

When I rocked up to the rental desk at Chicago O’Hare airport, I was told I could choose any car in a particular section.   On arriving at that section, I see a row of gormless SUVs to choose from.    Oh joy.   But wait, at the end of the row is a white Dodge Challenger.    At this point I am assuming its the base model with the 3.6l Pentastar v6.    Its still a Challenger and a easy choice over the row of jellybeans in front of it.

Starting the car up I get a very un-pentastar like snarl from the exhaust.   It’s at that point I realize I have a R/T model with the 5.7 Hemi v8.    I had just arrived in Chicago from a 24+ hour set of flights from Sydney, and was not looking forward to the two hour drive up to Wisconsin.    Perhaps this drive was going to be better than I thought?

My first impression was the sheer size of the Dodge Challenger.   This thing is enormous.    It is slightly longer and a lot wider than the 80’s S-Class I normally drive.    Not only does it have a very long bonnet, but the dashboard is so wide you could land the 777 I had just flown in on that dashboard.    It also has a slightly claustrophobic cabin as the waist line is quite high so the windows are not very tall.   You sort of feel like you’re sitting in a pill box.    There are also massive rear blind spots, you could easily fit that same 777 in them.    If you lower the seat as far as it will go it feels a lot better though.

The car’s size and generally poor visibility do take a few minutes to get used to, but it wasn’t long before I was quite comfortable in the car.    The 5.7 V8 is rated at 277KW, and honestly it’s all you need if you’re going to be driving on public roads.    It has all the power you need to rocket up freeway on ramps, get around recalcitrant Buicks and have a lot of fun without going speeds that will land you in prison for the rest of your natural life.

There are more powerful versions including the 6.4 litre ‘Scat Pack’ and the insane Hellcat.   The Hellcat in particular seems more suited for he drag-strip.

The 2018 Dodge Challenger comes equipped with an eight speed automatic transmission.   I always felt I was in the right gear for the occasion and the part throttle kick down was very good.   There was the occasional slight jerkiness but nothing that I found too annoying.    Event better, no stop/start!

The number of gears also mean you get that feeling of being pushed in the back when you put your foot down at any speed because there is always an optimal gear to be in.   It also makes the car more fuel efficient than it has any right to be.   In 8th gear, the car is loping along at 2,000RPM when cruising at 80MPH (129km/h).    With plenty of use of the loud pedal, I got 23mpg, which is impressive for a car of this size and power.   it also comes equipped with cylinder de-activation.   This enables it to run on 4 cylinders when conditions allow.

I was also impressed by the exhaust note.   On gentle cruising there was no annoying droning like having Alan Jones in your ear.   Above 3,000 RPM is a different story.   There is a great v8 snarl when you launch the car, tempting you to do so early and often.

The ride is not great.   It is rather choppy and even small cracks and bumps in the road are transferred to the cabin.    This is all the more apparent driving on the pockmarked roads of the midwest.

The Dodge Challenger is not a sports car.   It’s too wide, too heavy and really more set up for straight line performance.   But it is a lot of fun.   I had some drives the next day on country roads and enjoyed every minute.    I do like a good V8 coupe. I’ve owned four of them, and still have two, the 450SLC and the 560SEC.   It would seem that others do as well.  I had a couple of people comment on how much they liked the car. This surprised me since the Challenger has been on the market for ten years and is reasonably common.    A car doesn’t have to be rare or expensive to be desirable.

On the inside, there is a lot of room for the front seat passengers.    The controls are well laid out and the audio and climate controls are intuitive.   Instead of having to set anything up, once I plugged my iPhone into the car it found the music and allowed me to play what was there.   Too easy!

Dodge Challenger Interior

I found the speedometer quite hard to read.   This can be remedied by changing the centre screen display.   Having the speed there does mean that you miss out on other useful information that is available like fuel consumption, acceleration times etc.    There is even more info available including oil pressure, oil temperature, charge rate, water temperature etc.

The back seat allows for three people, rare in a coupe.   They would have to be small ones though.   It is hard to find where all the space in this car goes.   The back seat is tiny and the boot is average.   I think its all dashboard.

The interior materials are reasonable for a car of this price range. The seats have ok, but not amazing comfort.

This car would have cost in the mid to high USD$30,000 range.   I think that is pretty good value for what you’re getting.   There are other fit and finish issues with this car, but again given how much fun it is, and how reasonable the price is, they are easily ignored.    For example, there is a fair amount of wind noise from the mirrors when driving at interstate speeds.

In summary, the Dodge Challenger is a big fast brute of a car.   But its a lot of fun.    I really enjoyed driving it despite some of its little foibles.    Lets have more cars like this and fewer SUVs.    The world would be much more fun.

Sadly, cars like this are going away.   The car companies are trying to tell us we want smaller engines with a turbo charger.   I say no!

Rating: 4/5.

CTEK MXS 5.0 battery recondition mode

My E-Type has a habit of eating batteries.   I seem to get about 2-3 years out of them before they struggle to start the car when cold.   You might be thinking that these batteries are left discharged all the time – but not so!  The E-Type is connected to a trickle charger when not in use and is parked indoors in a moderate climate.

I think there are a few reasons for this.   Firstly, the battery is quite small, and like many things on the E-Type is under specified for the car.   The series 1 radiator fan is the classic example of this.   The small battery was probably primarily for cost, and secondarily for space.   Secondly, the Lucas starter is now over 60 years old and is not as efficient as it once was.     It is trying to turn over a long stroke 4.2 liter inline six, and the battery is too wimpy for the job,

I have three battery chargers.   The primary one is a CTEK MXS 5.0.   This is quite a nice charger, it has a 5A capacity, readouts to show what charge mode it is on, an AGM function and a recondition function.

I’ve tried the recondition function a couple of times with only moderate success.   Out of 3 attempts, only one of them has made a measurable difference on the battery.   In that case, I had left the door ajar on the 300SE.   After a jump start the NRMA cautioned me the battery needed replacement.   I confirmed this with my battery tester, but after running the recondition mode there was a big improvement.     The other two times the result was either same, or in one of them a bit worse.

There was really nothing to loose in trying the recondition mode on the E-Type battery as I planned to replace it.   I have a Solar BA5 battery tester which outputs the CCA rating of the battery when you plug it in.   The battery in the E-Type is rated at 620CCA.   Before the recondition, the output was 325CCA.   No wonder it was struggling to start the car!

Solar Battery Tester

After the test, I plugged in the CTEK MXS 5.0 battery recondition mode and left it for 24 hours.    The battery was indicating 13.7 volts, so it had charged.   The recondition mode had not done much, with the final output a dismal 344CCA.

CTEK MXS 5.0 recondition mode

My conclusion is that if the battery is otherwise good, but has suffered a major discharge, this recondition mode can make a big difference.   If the battery is otherwise on its way out, it really has no impact.     Before I replace this battery I want to research AGM batteries to see if that will work better in this car.   2-3 years does not seem enough in my book.    I also want to add a better disconnect switch and connection for the CTEK charger.   This would be similar to the 250SE.

End of financial year tyre sales

At least in Australia, by far the best month of the year to buy tyres is June.   Both the tyre retailers and manufacturers offer attractive end of financial year sales.    Most people don’t realize, but tread wear is not the only reason to replace tyres.   As the rubber ages, it hardens.   Once the tyres harden the handling, particularly in the wet is compromised.

When I first purchased by 250SE I nearly spun it in the rain on an innocuous corner.   The tread in the tyres looked fine, and I had thought no more of it.   But on closer inspection they were about 15 years old.   The car was much better after I replaced them.   It is now the same situation with the E-Type, those tyres were from 2006 and they were terrible in the wet and even squealed in the dry.     Even worse, the 300SE had an unmatched set of Pirellis with the wrong size on the front axle.   They were also old and getting unsafe.

The general rule of thumb is that Tyres should be replaced before they are 10 years old and preferably earlier.    On classic cars that do limited miles, that means the tyres are being replaced with plenty of tread.    They are still worn out though.

My experience has been that at least on the sort of cars I drive, very high end expensive tyres are not worth the extra money.   I’m sure they are worth it on modern high performance cars though.   I’ve also found ultra budget tyres to be a false economy, but the midrange tyres generally work reasonably well, especially when treadwear is not the primary concern.    On the family E350 that my wife primarily drives, I sprang for Michelins as it makes more sense on that car.

I also wanted to save the two best tyres currently on the 300SE as spares.   I needed a spare for both the W126’s.   The 300SE stil had its original made in West Germany Michelin MXV on an unused steel wheel.   The car was original sold with steelies and plastic hubcaps, with the alloys fitted later.    The spare on the 560 was flat and bald.   The MXV would be great for a concours car on display but is not suitable as a road going tyre.

Michelin MXV

I had some spare alloy wheels, of which I picked the best two.    These are the wheels that originally came on the 560SEC.    The wheels with the worst curb rash will become the spares and I will still have a set to have refinished at some point.

On the 300SE I went with Hankook Optimo K415 205/65R15.   These are the correct size for the car and after the special were only $317 for a set.   This brought them down into the budget tyre territory on price.


This also gave me the opportunity to put on the correct lug bolts for the W126.    These have little extensions to make sure the ends sit flush with the wheel.    They look much better.  However, I have noticed is that the bolts are flush with the rear wheels, but not quite on the fronts.   I have not yet fully investigated this, but what it looks like is that the alloy wheels on the 300SE are aftermarket.      After a quick look at the two I took off as spares, I noticed they do not have a Mercedes part number on them and were made by Borbet.    I will need to research the difference in those wheels.

The E-Type was still sporting Sumitomo 205/65R15 wheels from when I purchased it.   The E-Type has upgraded 6″ Dayton wire wheels, instead of the the standard 5″.   This means the standard 185R15 tyres are probably a bit too narrow.   I first looked at a 195 wide tyre.   In that size, the ratio should be 75 which is a very irregular size.    In 205, the ratio should be 70, which is not common, but much more available.    There are a number of light truck tyres in this size, which must be avoided.

On the E-Type I also went for the Hankooks.   The Michelin’s in the size were an SUV tyre and quite expensive.    The Hankook’s are 205/70R15 H308’s, a passenger car tyre.    I got a whole set for just over $400, with the end of financial year promotion.   I will see how they go, but already they were a big improvement driving the car back from the tyre place.

After these latest tyres, the oldest set in the fleet is from 2015, which should last me a few more years at least.

Auto Brunch St Ives June 2019

Auto Brunch is a monthly cars and coffee event only 10 minutes from where I live.   I stopped by the June event today.   This is an interesting event in that while there appear to be some regulars there is also a lot of variety in the cars you see each time.   As you would expect given the production volume, the MGB was the most popular car there.   Even with the MGB you get a bit of variety comparing roadsters, MGB GT, rubber nose etc.    This time, it appeared that the Austin Healey club owners must have arranged to go as they were well represented with about 10 cars.   There was also a good showing of Alfa Romeo and Porsche.

Probably the most striking car was the 1961 De Soto.   De Soto is not a well known brand in Australia.  It is a former Brand of Chrysler that slotted in between Plymouth and Dodge.   The family resemblance was there for the more famous Chrysler products of the year like the 300G.      As I was leaving there was also a nice D Special arriving that I went back to photograph.     At the event, there was a modern Ferrari parked near a MGB.   The size difference of sports cars was striking.   The Ferrari looked rather bloated compared to the MGB.

The representation of Classic Mercedes was a bit thin on the ground.   There was a nice 190SL, a 107 SL with a body kit, and a /8 that had been unfortunately slammed and bagged.    I went in my 450SLC so I could take two of my children who enjoyed walking around and choosing which of the cars they liked the most.  Last time I took the 300SE, but back in November of last year I was there in the SLC.   There were a couple of Classic Jaguars, but only the one Citroen.

W126 Bonnet insulation

All W126 models have an insulation pad under the bonnet to protect the paintwork and reduce engine noise.     Over time, the W126 bonnet insulation degrades and starts crumbling down onto the engine.    At this point most owners simply remove it.

I own two W126 models with the remnants of their insulation pads.   A few months ago, I purchased W126 bonnet insulation to fit to both of the cars.   It is worth noting here that the coupe insulation pad is different to the sedan.   I also purchased some Selleys Kwik Grip gel to glue the pad to the bonnet.   It apparently works in high heat environments and spreads easily.     I got the 800g tin.   In the end I found I needed 1.5 tins.

The first step is to scrape off the remains of the old W126 bonnet insulation.

W126 bonnet insulation

I used an old sheet to catch all the ‘crumbs’ and a plastic scraper to get as much off as I could.     Next is to line up the new pad to see how it would fit.  I kept the sheet in case I spilled any glue.

W126 bonnet insulation

The pad is slightly molded to conform to the underside of the bonnet.   It also tucks in at the bottom, and a little bit at the top and sides.   I applied a liberal amount of the gel to ensure it sticks properly.   The gel came with a spatula and I had a little brush, but I actually found using my hand (with a glove of course) as the easiest way to spread it.

W126 bonnet insulation

Using my hand allowed me to get into the corners a bit more than with the spatula.   As mentioned above, I found one and a half cans seemed to be enough.    Putting the W126 bonnet insulation on is possible with one person, but would be easier and neater with two.   I didn’t have an assistant and found it was easier to start at the bottom and tuck those sections in before attending to the top.   The picture below is poor quality, but is attempting to show the new pad on the car.    Note there are two little rubber blocks on each side that need to be removed before the pad can be attached.

W126 bonnet insulation

Also last week I had the flexible drive couplings (flex discs) and the motor/transmission mounts replaced on the car.   I didn’t have the time to do it myself.    The mounts require the engine to be jacked up and are quite fiddly.   All of those things should improve the way the car drives and make it much nicer.   Certainly it runs very smoothly now with the new timing chain and mounts.

If this glue works well, I will use the same method on the 300SE.

Shannons Sydney Autumn 2019 Auction preview

The second Shannons auction of 2019 for Sydney is just around the corner.    As usual, I stopped by on my lunch break to view the lots.

There were a few cars that caught my eye:

Gold Medal: Lot 59: 1953 Jaguar XK120 Drophead

This was the standout for me at the Auction.   The XK120 was one of Sir William Lyons best creations and the combination of black paint and red interior really shows it off.   The Drophead is the most desirable model and this car looked in excellent condition.   Guiding range is $120-$150k and I expect the car to do this or more.

Silver Medal: Lot 36: 1961 Mercedes-Benz 220SE Coupe

Regular readers will know how much I admire the W111 Coupe and Cabriolet models.   This 220se is one of the nicest early 220SE’s around.   The car was a common attendee at Mercedes car shows at one time and I got to talk to the long time owner a few times.   He had owned the car since the 70s and the condition was a credit to him.   The paint colour really sets off the lines of the car and it has a rare sunroof.    Guiding price is $60-$70k.   This seems a lot for a 220, but probably not for one in this condition.

Bronze Medal: Lot 33: BMW M635CSI

If I had a BMW in my garage, it would be one of these.   In exactly this spec.   The M6 might get the attention, but it is not 3x the car of the M635CSI.   This car is equipped with a manual transmission, black leather interior, low miles and only a few owners.  Guiding range is $32-$38k

Honorable mentions:

The Fiat 500 and the Mini cooper both looked like great fun cars and in great shape.   I would be happy to own both of them.   I am not normally a ute fan, but the Holden FX ute was in great condition and was a standout.    The Buick is a nice looking car, but it is disappointing the straight 8 was replaced by a V8.   I’m also normally a fan of Rolls Royce Silver clouds, but this one was the long wheelbase with division.   These are rare, but more set up for the owner and driver to be different people.   This particular car was bought for the Premier of Victoria, before it was electoral suicide to be driven around in such a car.

Troubleshooting the E-Type radiator fan

Last September, the electric fan on the E-Type stopped working.   This is a particular problem in the E-Type as there is no mechanical fan.   At the time I assumed the coolant temperature sensor had failed.   It would seem that many people have trouble with these sensors.   I knew the coolcat fan was fine, as it roared into life when I applied 12v directly to the fan.

When I had bypassed the switch, I broke one of the connectors off the Lucas relay that controls the fan.   Therefore, I ordered an upgraded temperature sensor from Coolcat.   I also ordered a new Lucas relay from XKs Unlimited, trying to get the same one I already had.   This was for two reasons.  Firstly, it looked good compared to the normal black square relays, and secondly the mounting tab was already there and in the right place.

While I waited for these parts, I bypassed the temperature sensor and let the fan run all the time.   It was summer in Sydney so it would have run much of the time anyway.   On a drive in November, the fan failed again.   This time it had blown the fuse.    I resolved to fix this properly before I drove the car again.

The way the relay had been wired in baffled me.   It was using the same source for both the main 12v feed and the switching source.   Even though the E-Type radiator fan does not draw very much current, it seemed odd to wire it up this way.   My car has the Coolcat fan, which draws similar current to the stock fan.

I therefore ran a 12v power source with in-line fuse to the relay and used the car’s normal power source just to switch the relay on.   This should prevent the fuse from blowing.    I started with a 10A fuse as the fan is rated at 7, but it blew this so I went to a 15.  It would appear that the starting current is a little higher.

Upgraded Relay

Unfortunately, while the picture on the XKs Unlimited website showed the same red cylindrical relay I had previously, the one that arrived was a regular black square one, except it was made by Lucas.    I was about to drain the coolant on the header tank to replace the switch, when it occured to me to test the one I had first.  I knew my original problem was either switch or relay.   Since I had broken the original relay disconnecting it, it made sense to test the switch with the new relay.   Lo and behold, it worked fine.    I now have a spare sensor, and a working car.

After that, I took the car on an extended drive up to Gosford via the old Pacific Highway and the fan performed as it should.   I made sure I included a spare fuse in he car, but luckily I didn’t need it.

Until I can source the correct relay, I have used a zip tie to attach it to the mounting point.   At that time, i will try and tuck in the new red wire a little better.    The sticker on the radiator header tank shows the temperature.   Great for checking the fan sensor is working!

Lucas Relay

It was good to get behind the wheel of the E-Type after a couple of months.  Even better that it didn’t overheat.    I continue to be very happy with the diff ratio change I did.   Third gear is now a useful gear for twisty roads, like it should be.    In addition, the halogen lights are excellent, better than even cars from the 80s.   The E-Type series one is known for poor lighting, bug once its upgraded to Halogen it’s great!

My Traction is migrating north

My Traction Avant is now sold and is migrating north.   Like many before it, it is crossing the tweed for a new life in Queensland.   My experience selling the car wasn’t too bad.   I advertised the car on carsales.com.au and in ‘The Chevrons’.   ‘The Chevrons’ is the magazine of the Citroen Club of NSW.    In the end I had four interested parties and four offers.   One of them was quite silly, but the rest of them were at least in the ballpark.    The winning offer was from carsales.   I didn’t bother advertising on Gumtree, it seems better for cars less than $5,000.

Queensland seems to be quite a hub for Citroen enthusiasts.  My DS came from Queensland, and they had over 60 DS models at the 60 year anniversary day.  In NSW, we only barely cracked double digits.   I’ve also seen pictures of many tractions lined up at various events up there.

The new owner sent a truck to pick up the car, from there it will go to a depot in Minto before it finally makes its way north.

DS Sold

Before I prepared the car for the journey, I made a video overview of the car.   Overall the production quality is terrible.  I have a lot to learn about how to make good videos.   However, since I will no longer have access to the car, I have posted it.   I will probably try and do something better for the other cars in time.   The worst is the angle of the camera is quite wrong and the bottom part of each shot is cut off.

Overall I enjoyed my experience as a Traction Owner.   It is an iconic car and you really have to own a car like this to experience it.  It also helped me see some of the interesting aspects of pre-war cars.   While my traction was not pre-war, it is a pre-war design.

I’m not sure I would ever buy another Traction, not because I don’t like them, but because there are so many other interesting cars to experience.

M272 Crankshaft Position Sensor

Recently the E350 wagon has been playing up.   It started out by occasionally losing power, then progressed to stalling.   At the times this would happen, the check engine light would be illuminated.   After a while the check engine light would be on around half the times the car would be driven.    In order to diagnose this, I plugged in my scanner to the OBD2 port.   There were a few saved codes.   The first one was P0335 Crankshaft Position Sensor A circuit.   There were also a couple of misfire codes, and a code about the tumble flaps in the intake manifold.     My assumption here is that the misfire codes are a symptom of the M272 Crankshaft position sensor.     The flaps code is unrelated and its been there a while.

Crankshaft Position Sensor failures are common in modern Mercedes Benz, and the symptoms pointed to a faulty sensor.    Doing some research, changing the M272 Crankshaft Position Sensor didn’t seem to be a massive job, so I ordered one.

This job isn’t particularly hard, but it is very fiddly.   Many of the write ups on the Internet refer to the M112.   This is similar, but there are some important differences.    On both engines, the first steps are to remove the engine covers and mass airflow sensor.

M272 Crankshaft Position Sensor preparation

This provides the room to somewhat get to the sensor, which is on the right hand rear of the engine.   I found I wasn’t able to see the sensor, but you can feel it.   The biggest challenge was determining what kind of bolt was holding it down.   Most say that it is an inverted Torx E8.   Some others say it is a TX27 Torx and others say a TX30 Torx.    At least in the case of the M272 Crankshaft Position sensor on the E350 wagon in 2007, it was a TX30.   As you can’t actually see the bolt I wasted a good 45 minutes trying different sockets until I was able to get one that worked.    It is easy to get a torx bit wedged between the housing of the sensor and the outside of the bolt and think you have it on properly!

M272 Crankshaft Position Sensor

There is almost no clearance on the right side of the engine, much less than the left side.   I can only imagine this job is much worse on smaller cars like the C class.

I found once the bolt is removed, it is easy to remove the sensor.   Replacement is much easier than removal, and overall I had the job done in about three hours.   It should probably take about 30-45 minutes!

Before I started the car for the first time, I cleared the codes.   After a brief test drive, the code has not re-appeared.   On first start, the car ran rough for a few seconds and then settled down to a smooth idle.   If I was doing this again, I would know to use a T30 (most sites say the other ones), so I could probably do it in about half the time or less.    It is probably a job that would not be that expensive to take to a mechanic, but my wife uses this car every day, so it was easier for me to do the repair in the evening.

I will see in the next couple of days if this has truly fixed the problem.