2018 Rolls Royce Display Day

The Rolls Royce Owners Club run an annual display/picnic day at Historic Linnwood House.   I’ve been a couple of times before and it is always a nice informal day.   In some ways it is like a mini all British day.   The highlight is obviously the Rolls Royce and Bentley cars.   They also invite guest marques from other British brands like Rovers, Wolseley and so on.   They also sometimes feature American luxury cars.

This year the numbers of Rolls Royces and Bentleys was down considerably.   From what I understand this wasn’t the actual concours day, and i’m not sure if this is a change from previous years.   The other marques somewhat made up for it, but I was curious as to why.   The day was still well worth attending and the cars that did attend were exemplary.   My pick of the day was the silver Bentley Continental.

This years event was the first showing of a Rover 3 litre coupe that has been under restoration for a year or so.   The car is a similar spec to the one I used to own, but much better in nearly every way.   The owner has chosen a classy two tone paint job that complements the blue leather interior.   It is a sort of blue/grey colour for the roof and it looks very good.    As can be seen in the pictures the car still needs quite a bit of re-assembly but the car illustrates what lovely cars these Rover P5s are when in nice condition.

There was also an interesting pair of Armstrong Sidseleys.   The two cars were very similar in colour, but one was a ute and one was a convertible.   They each had a different colour highlight line to provide a bit of contrast.

There were also a few random Mercedes-Benzes from spectators.   I saw a few people from the MBCNSW who were in attendance.   I dove there in my 450SLC, but parked outside.  Next year if I go, I will probably drive in and park with the other ring-ins!


560SEC Improvements Part 2

Today I continued working on the 560SEC.   I gave the car a quick wash to get a better sense of the condition of the paint.   Overall it is pretty good for its age, with the usual minor chips and scrapes here and there.   The worst is a small amount of damage on the passengers side in front of the door (behind the plastic lower trim).   I still think this can be a good car with some improvements.

My plan was to remove the after market chrome wheel arch trims.  I have removed them from both the 450SLC and my 300SE.   On this car they have been attached with both screws and glue.  I don’t think I will easily be able to remove them and not have marks on the paint, so I will leave them in place for now.

Next was to inspect the fuses.  This is something I like to do with a new car to ensure the fuses are all correct and in good condition.   The ceramic fuses used in Mercedes of this era become brittle with age.  I’ve also found that sometimes previous owners substitute the wrong fuses.   On this car all the fuses were correct, but a number were quite old and brittle.   Three of them came apart as I removed them.   Therefore I replaced all the fuses with new ones.

560SEC Fuses

The Mercedes fuse box has places to hold spare fuses.  It is also worth making sure the spare fuses are in good condition as well.

Next was to flush the power steering system.   To do this job properly you need an assistant.  Without an assistant you will get power steering fluid everywhere and the pump will suck air for a few seconds.   I didn’t have an assistant today, so when I do this job on the 300SE, I will make sure I do!   I was pleased to see that the car had the proper Mercedes power steering fluid and not ATF.   This fluid is similar colour to engine oil.    I’m glad I ddi the flush as the fluid that came out was very dirty.     I also changed the filter as a matter of course.

560SEC power steering flush

From there I turned my attention to cleaning the inside.  The seats had responded well to a clean and feed, but there were still dirty areas in the interior.   The worst was the headlining.   The sunroof panel was extremely dirty and there was also an oily residue above the drivers head.   I can only assume a previous owner used a lot of product in their hair.     The first picture shows the headlining before cleaning.

560SEC headlining

The spot on the right is above the drivers head.   I used an Auto-Glym interior shampoo.   It made a big difference and the microfiber towels I was using for the cleaning were filthy from the amount of dirt it was able to remove.   I also used it on some other dirty areas as well as the small carpet in the centre console.   The second picture is after cleaning and while it is not perfect, it is certainly a lot better.  560SEC headlining

I also checked the condition of the air filter, it is not bad but does need changing.   This has been added to the shopping list.

Originally I was planning to check if there was any residual charge in the AC.   However, I discovered that the system has never been converted to R134A.   This is surprising as it has been in Australia since 2005.   Since A/C systems must be evacuated before import, it is possible it has not worked since then.   That does not bode well for fixing it cheaply.   I also noticed that the passengers side exhaust manifold has been changed to an Australian version with an EGR.  This is highly unfortunate as the two piece system is much better.

Also further investigation points to the occasional puffs of smoke as either Valve Stem Seals or Valve Guides.   The Valve Stem seals can be done with the heads in place, but guides require the heads to be removed.

Auto Brunch St Ives November 2018

There has been a cars and coffee event not far from me since 2015.   I’ve not had a chance to visit until last weekend.    It is called Auto Brunch and is run by the North Shore Sporting Car Club.    It’s held on the first Sunday of the month at the St Ives show ground.    I was quite impressed with the event and will probably attend again if I can.

There were at least 100 cars in attendance.  Unlike the trend of overzealous security and restrictions of when you can come and leave, it is very informal.   The biggest surprise was the vintage Ferrari that was probably worth as much as the rest of the cars combined.

There was a nice mix of cars from the 50s to today.   Also variety from old British classics to modern Japanese performance cars.   Oddly there there was a BMW X5 in the mix.    I took my 450SLC and there were a few other Mercedes in attendance – a R129 SL, and a nice W114.   Sadly I overheard that the W114 is to be bagged in the near future.   It is now so rare to see a nice unmolested car.     I also saw one of the nicest and most original E28 BMWs i’ve seen in a long time.   I’m in the minority that I much prefer to the E28 to the E30.

There is another cars and coffee event in Sydney I would like to attend called Machines and Macchiatos.   I will be interested to go to that one and compare it to the Auto Brunch event.

560SEC Improvements

I spent the afternoon going over the 560SEC, making small improvements and evaluating the car.   The first order of business was to look at the original factory wheels that came with it.    As was the norm back in 1987, there are five factory alloy wheels.   They were in a really sorry state when I removed them from the boot of the car.   They cleaned up much better than I thought.

560SEC Wheels

The tyres are quite cold, but in terms of the wheels, two of them are in reasonably good condition, two are in below average condition and one is in poor condition.   Unfortunately they did not come with the lug bolts, so I will need to purchase a set.  I have a spare set of center caps that are in average condition, but probably better than two of the caps.  Ideally I would go with 16″ wheels, as I think they work better on the W126.   However, most of the options that look good are expensive.   If I was going to spend money, I would rather buy a set of 15″ Fuchs alloys for the 450SLC and put those wheels on the SEC.

Next was to look at the Odometer.  I know it was working about two years ago from a roadworthy report, and I have done the job before on my 300SE.   A working odometer is important because it helps ensure that the car is serviced properly.   There were also some gaudy chrome plastic instrument surrounds that I was keen to remove.

Like my 300SE, the outside temperature display is not working.   Being a UK car, this has the 170MPH speedometer.   I was lucky that I had some spare odometer gears on hand.   This was because I had purchased the wrong ones for the 300SE.   I was even luckier that the two broken gears were the ones I had spares for.   Ideally I would have replaced the other soft one, but I didn’t have a spare and it wasn’t missing any teeth.   We’ll see how long it works.    As can be seen in the picture, the one that breaks most frequently is the small one on the right, and the black one it engages with.

560SEC Odometer gears

A quick test showed the odometer was working correctly and the instrument cluster is looking much better back to factory.   There is some evidence where those faux chrome rings scratched the faces, but it’s very small.   The rest of the instruments seem to be working correctly.   I also noticed upgraded speakers in the front when I was pushing the cluster out during the install.

560SEC instrument cluster fixed

Next was to clean the interior of the car and try and start conditioning the leather.   There are still some areas where the interior can be further cleaned, but overall it is looking much better.   It was clear that the leather has not been fed for years, if at all as it was very dry and is cracking in places.   It does feel softer after a clean and condition.  I also mounted the rear number plate properly instead of with cable ties.

On the way back from Bathurst, I had seen the car give off a puff of white smoke occasionally.   My working theory is vacuum modulator.   However, today it wasn’t doing it at all and the vacuum modulator is of the new type.   I need to do more research as I understand this car should have a black modulator, not a red one.

I do have a spare black one in my part stash, but until I can confirm that the car is still making this smoke, the modulator is to blame, and the black one is the right one, I will not be changing it over.

560SEC lap of Mount Panorama

I recently purchased a Mercedes-Benz 560SEC at auction.   The auction was in Queensland, so the cheapest way to get the car was to have it shipped to a depot in Bathurst.   My brother and I went up to Bathurst to pick up the car in his E63 BMW 650i.   The trip presented a great opportunity to drive two v8’s around the Mount Panorama racetrack.

V8's at Mount Panorama

This is now the 3rd 560SEC I have owned.   The first two (1989 & 1988) were both owned in the USA when I lived in Michigan from 2007-2011.   This car is a 1987 UK market model.   It is the ECE version which means it does not have a catalytic converter and is tuned for high octane petrol.   This is achieved via a higher compression ratio and different cams.   The result is 220KW instead of 178.

The car is better than I thought it would be.   It is in good driver condition both inside and out.   I’ve had it up on my hoist and for a UK market car I am surprised not to find rust underneath.   The main downside is that I got almost no history with the car.   The car is currently equipped with aftermarket wheels that are too big for the car.   The tyres are 245 wide and these rub going over bumps and on sweeping turns.   The original wheels were included although the tyres are bald.

When I picked it up, it was not shifting well and the transmission fluid was low.   I am getting puffs of white smoke after takeoff and after certain gear changes.   My current theory is that the transmission modulator is failing allowing ATF to burn in the engine.  Once the fluid was topped up the transmission performed well.

Most things on the car seem to work, but not surprisingly for an 80s Mercedes, the air conditioning is not one of them.   The tempomat works, as do the power seats, all four power windows and sunroof, seatbelt presenters and instruments.   The car is equipped with orthopaedic front seats, but I am not sure how how they are supposed to work to test them.

My brother and I drove up to Bathurst in his E63 650i.   The 6er is an interesting contrast to the SEC.    As you would epect as a modern car it is more refined than the SEC.    In some ways they fit into the same market niche, but the BMW is sportier.   The seats and ride are harder and the steering is more precise.    The Mercedes is more about comfort and feels airier with the pillarless design and bigger windows.    Its 4.8l v8 has another 50KW, which is a smaller difference than you would have thought.   The six speed automatic allows it to accelerate to 100km/h a full second faster.

Before we drove back to Sydney, we drove two laps around Mount Panorama.   This is normally a public road with a speed limit of 60km/h.   The track has a near constant Police presence to top people trying to recreate Peter Brock’s glory days.   The altitude changes and tight corners are even more pronounced than can be seen on TV.    The track is actually a two way road, so we drove it in both directions.

On the way back were were able to drive on some great twisty roads and avoid traffic by taking a route through Comleroy road, over the Sackville ferry and Wisemans ferry road.   The two V8 coupes were a good pair for this road trip.

So far I am optimistic about this purchase.   I’ve started to give the car a service to better understand what I have and if this is a car I will keep for a while, or fix some of the more obvious things and sell it.

2018 Sydney German Auto-Fest

In the space of about ten years, the Sydney German Auto-fest has grown from a couple of cars in a small Canada Bay carpark to one of the biggest car shows on the calendar.

I attended that first show, unfortunately I did not take any photos.   What a contrast to the 2018 show.   This was the biggest one yet.   The show has now outgrown Gough Whitlam park, so a new venue would not surprise me next year.

Probably the biggest contrast was that the other marques took the show very seriously this year.  In prior years, there were quite small displays from BMW, Audi, VW, Porsche and the Micro-cars.   This year all those clubs had big displays of their models.   On the BMW side, they had a nice selection of 2002s, 3.0 CS and other early cars.   They also had many of the current ‘M’ cars that are so popular.    The Porsche club had a number of race cars, and there were a number of performance Audis.   For the first time in years I even saw an Audi Fox.

For Mercedes, attendance was the biggest yet.   There was only one pre-war car, but most of the post war models were represented.  Building on last year, there was a nice selection of W111/W112 Coupe/Cabriolet.   My Cabriolet was joined by two 300s, a black RHD recently imported from the USA, and a blue one recently restored.   Interestingly on the black car, it had Safari seats in the front and a regular rear seat.  I can only assume that some time ago, when these cars were not worth very much, a previous owner threw away the safari seats because he/she needed to carry three passengers in the back.   If only they knew how valuable they would become.   For the Coupe’s, there were a few 280SE 3.5s, a prize winning 250SE, a 220SE and a 300SE.

As usual, there was a good display of Pagodas, 190SLs and so on.   I even saw my old 280CE, with a new steering wheel center.   I’m glad an enthusiast owns this car.   There was also a good display of 600s, including a Pullman.

Overall this was a great event and you can see how hard the organizers worked to put it on.   The only negative for me is that the new concours judging classes make little sense.   The old ones were much more logically laid out.   You now have things like W100s in with 190SLs and other strange combinations.   I also find the registration fee of $50 rather expensive.    It was $35 only a couple of years ago.

After I got home, I took the time to give the 250SE a good leather treatment.  Since the car had been sitting out in the sun all day, the leather was nice and warm to allow the conditioner to get into the leather and keep it soft.   I also did the 450SLC, which still has original leather.   The drivers seat on that car has a few cracks in it, so I am keen to try and preserve it as best that I can.

Unfortunately, I discovered that there was a smudge on the lens of the camera which impacted the quality of the photos.   Therefore they are not up to the standard I would like.

The Australian Motorlife Museum

The Australian Motorlife Museum is located in Dapto, about 90 minutes south of Sydney.    Visiting this museum has been on my to-do list for some time.   Last Sunday I participated in a drive day with the Topklasse forum, which had the Motorlife Museum as its destination.

The meeting point for the drive was an oval near the start of the Royal National Park.  While the fastest way to get to the Motorlife Musem is down the M1 freeway, the best way is via the Grand Pacific Drive.   This takes you through the Royal National park and across the sea cliff bridge.

The Royal National park drive is picturesque and features winding roads and no traffic lights.   On nice days it can get very crowded, but on an overcast day like Sunday it was pretty good.   Speed limits are very low (mostly 60kph) and heavily enforced.   This meant the best car for the drive was my Traction Avant.   The Traction thrives at 60-90km/h and is fun on twisty roads at these speeds.   Driving a more powerful car like the 450SLC or E-Type on this road is far less interesting.    I had not taken the Traction on a long drive for a while, it it always responds well, seeming to perform better once really warmed up.

The Motorlife Museum is well worth the drive down and very different from the Gosford Museum.   It contains mostly pre-war cars and also has a large collection of memorabilia.   It is also nice to see that many of the cars are registered and are used from time to time.   In addition to the cars, there is also a large collection of motorcycles.   Being focused on Australian Motorlife, the museum catalogs some of the cars that were on the road in Australia 80-100 years ago.

Probably the highlights for me were the two Minveras and the Vincent Black Shadow.   The museum also had used automotive books for sale at very good prices and a few people in our group grabbed some nice titles.

300SE Odometer Repair Update

Back in early 2017 I fixed my broken odometer.  The 300SE odometer repair was successful, but there were two things I needed to follow up on.

  1. The odometer was reading 10% low.
  2. I could hear the gears, especially in cold weather.

In addition, some time after I repaired the odometer, one of the bulbs that illuminates the instrument cluster at night failed.   The fix for all these things required the removal of the instrument cluster.  The procedure to remove the cluster and the speedometer is covered in my previous article.

The low reading was attributed to having the wrong gear.   There are a few different gears based on the different W126 odometer units.    The standard gears for a KM/H cluster are both 12/48.  (12 notches on the inner gear and 48 on the outer).   On closer inspection, one of my gears was 13/48.

300SE Odometer

The 13/48 gear is the green one.     It was a simple matter to replace the inner gear that I installed back in 2017 with the green one.    The replacement gears are made of a much harder material than the original VDO gears.  This means they should be much more durable.   The downside is increased noise.   My hypothesis is that I can lubricate the plastic gears to reduce this noise.

300SE Odometer

I used a little rubber grease on the gears.  I’ll have to see how well greasing the gears reduces the noise.    While I had the speedometer out, I was able to change the bulb, which are contained in housings beside the speedometer.

300SE Odometer

Over time, the markings on these speedometer units fade.   With the speedometer disassembled like this, the original colour can be seen in markings between 50 and 60.   The needle is also supposed to be this colour.    Some people choose to repaint the needle while the speedometer is exposed.   Since all the markings are faded, I chose to leave it as is to keep them consistent.

I have not yet checked the accuracy of the odometer, but it is working and I can’t hear it so far.  I also have proper illumination when the headlights are on.

Citroen DS under bonnet insulation

As my DS has a NOS bonnet, I did not want the hot engine to damage the paint.   The Citroen DS under bonnet insulation not only protects the paint, but also reduces noise.   I was also told that I was missing two brackets that help hold on the insulation.

I was able to purchase a good used pair of the brackets and have some help to get the bonnet off to install the insulation.   It comes in three pieces so is quite easy to install.   As can be seen in the picture, it does not cover the whole bonnet, as the engine is very far back in the DS.   The un-insulated section is above the spare tyre and radiator chute.

Citroen DS under bonnet insulation

The most common way of attaching the bonnet is to use contact adhesive.   I was advised that sikaflex would more likely hold it in place with all the engine heat.   This isn’t something i’ll ever want to remove either.   With the bonnet off the car, it was very easy to install the insulation.   With the right brackets and screws, the securing plates went on quite easily as well.    I understand why my car was missing them, as they are probably not necessary if the adhesive is good enough.   Nevertheless, I am glad I have purchased them, as I would prefer the car to be correct and as designed.

It was easier to remove the bonnet prop to fit the insulation as it is one bolt.   Not pictured here are the hoses for the windscreen washer.   These hoses push through two holes that need to be made in the insulation.   I was quite impressed with the quality of the Citroen DS under bonnet insulation.   The insulation on my old bonnet was in poor shape and coming apart.   While I was doing this job, the suspension boot on the front passengers side was being replaced.   As a result of this fix, it should stop the LHM puddle under the car each time I drive it.

E-Type radiator fan failure

Unlike most cars of its era, the E-Type uses an electric fan rather than one driven by the engine.   This was probably due to room in the engine bay, as other Jaguar models of the era used engine driven fans.   True to form, Jaguar used a very cheap fan (actually a windscreen wiper motor) with two blades like a propeller.  This fan was barely adequate in the UK in the 1960s and is completely unsuitable for the Australian climate.    When I purchased my car, it had been upgraded to an aftermarket fan, but not a great one.   I replaced it with the CoolCat fan, a popular upgrade on Series 1 E-types.

On the way back from the British Car Show, I noticed after I got off the freeway that the temperature was steadily climbing.   It was not a particularly hot day, nor was traffic a real problem for me.    Once the temperature reached 110c, I pulled over to see why.

On examination, I found my problem, E-type radiator fan failure.   This left me with a problem – I needed to drive through a high traffic area, so a working radiator fan would be essential.   Unfortunately while I had a tool kit, I didn’t really have much in the way of electrical supplies.   What I did have was a set of jump leads.   I was able to use a jump lead to test the fan directly from the battery and the fan still worked.  As soon as I applied 12v, it sprang into life and started to drop the temperature.    Running this for a few minutes got the temperature down to 70C.

E-Type Fan

One must be careful to not get the cable caught in the little fan for the alternator.  I did and I was left with two halves of the jumper cable.   This was actually ok.  I was able to use some masking tape to connect the fan wire to the severed end of the cable and limp the car home.   The masking tape also allowed me to properly insulate the 12v source.

The learning from this is that it is probably wise to carry some electrical tape and wire in the toolkit in each car.   It also shows that while older cars are less reliable than modern ones, if you run into trouble you have a much better chance of making a temporary repair to limp home.    I have not properly troubleshooted the issue, but I suspect either the temperature sensor or the fan relay.   Regardless of the problem I need a new relay.  I broke the current one trying to disconnect it from the fan.   This is unfortunate as I suspect it is the sensor.   In the meantime I can wire up an always on solution until I get new parts.