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.

Hankook

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.

Rover P5 Coupe restoration

Yesterday I visited a friend’s workshop where he is restoring three Rover P5 Coupes.   He is a real P5 enthusiast having owned a number of the models over the years.   There are three cars under restoration, supported by two parts cars.

The first car under restoration is a 1964 MKIIA model.    It was originally delivered 26/6/1964.  Unusually for a car delivered in Australia, it is equipped with a manual transmission and overdrive.   Most cars sold here came with the Borg Warner DG automatic gearbox.   The current owner purchased the car in 1971.

The ‘export’ P5 MKII Coupe is relatively rare, with only 67 RHD models being produced at the factory, this car being #23.   Overall, including home market (1956) and LHD export (312) there were 2335 manual cars in total.

I don’t know the full details of the difference between home market and export cars, but one obvious difference is the engine compression.   The original engine for this car was an 8:1 compression model vs the 8:75 compression for the home market cars.

Rover P5 MKIIA Coupe

The car was originally white, but is now painted Admiralty Blue on the lower half and Slate Grey for the roof.   It is equipped with a webasto sunroof and will have a grey leather interior with dark blue carpets.

I really like the colour combination of this car.   In the image above, the fuel tank for the car can also be seen.    Eagle eyed viewers will see that while the car is a MKII, it has P5B side trim.   This is because the owner prefers it.   The intention of this car was to build his vision of the ideal Rover P5.  Another change is the colour matched hubcaps.   Originally the Rover P5 was to have painted hubcaps like a Mercedes-Benz, but that was cancelled at the last minute.

P5 HubcapsAs part of the restoration, the engine has been swapped for one from the same year.   This presumably came from the P5 MKIIA Saloon that provided parts for the restoration (77600154A).

While there were running changes throughout P5 MKII production, the biggest changes came with the introduction of the MKIIC cars.

MKIIC cars included engine improvements (larger crankshaft mains, oil drain at the rear of the head and more), speedometer/tachometer with a larger font, two speed wipers, a better fuse box, improvements to suspension, exhaust, fuel tank and many more.    This car has the improved gauge faces as part of the restoration:

P5 Coupe Instruments

In addition, the tachometer has been rebuilt by a qualified electrical engineer to be far more accurate than original.    The main work to be done on the car now is the assembly.

1964 Rover P5 Coupe interior

Accompanying the MKIIA is a 1965 MKIIC.  The C suffix model have all the improvements listed above.    This car started out life with a Borg Warner DG gearbox but has been converted to manual/overdrive.

The MKIIC car is Admiralty blue on the body and the roof and is not equipped with a webasto sunroof.   It has a cream leather interior and has air conditioning.   To fit the massive York compressor, part of the inner wing needed to be cut out!

MKIIC Restoration

As with the MKIIA, this car also has v8 side trim.

MKIIC Coupe Restoration

Of the three cars, this car is the furthest along with the final assembly.

The final car is the MKIII model.   As with the car above, it started its life as an automatic.   In this case, being a MKIII a Borg Warner 35.  It now has a manual/overdrive transmission.

Where the MKIIA is the owners idea of the ideal Rover P5 in a more traditional way, the MKIII has been built in a more brash style.   It is sporting the Rostyle wheels from a V8 and a custom Cream/Almond colour combination.   It is a very striking car.    This car also has a Webasto sunroof.    It has been in the current owner’s care since the 80s.

MKIII

The MKIII will have a tan leather interior.   The interior is the biggest difference between the MKII cars, with something more like the P5B.   The front seats are more like armchairs and there is a rear heater control.

I really enjoyed going to look at the Rover P5 Coupe restoration.  It is amazing to see the marked differences between three cars of consecutive years.

My favorite is the earlier car, then the MKIII, then the all blue car.   But all of them are lovely and I am looking forward to dropping by in a couple more months to see the progress of the restorations.

Rover parts car – my old P5

My old Rover P5 Coupe is being stripped for parts.   This is not a bad thing as it is ensuring that three more Rover P5 Coupe restorations can be completed and three cars put back on the road.    I purchased the car from the Flynn collection auction for only $230.  Nevertheless, the car managed to drive from Canberra back to Sydney.   The drive train was ok, but the sills were like swiss cheese and the floors were not great either.   The interior was both badly sun and water damaged too

The new owner is a friend of mine who is restoring the three Rover P5 cars.   A Rover parts car will really help along these restorations.   Prior to this car he also parted out a P5 Saloon.

He is of the firm view that the P5 3 liter is the far superior car to the v8 powered P5B.   The main reasons he quotes for this are:

  • The cars were far better built by the Rover Company as compared to British Leyland.
  • The Borg Warner 35 gearbox was not adequate for the weight of the vehicle.
  • The front suspension was not updated for the much lighter Aluminium v8 giving a choppy ride.

He is a fan of the Rover v8 in the 3500S P6 model, but less so in the P5.

I’ve stopped by the workshop a couple of times since selling the car to see the progress of the P5 restoration.   As the restorations progress, my old car is further stripped for valuable parts.   I stopped by today and helped remove two of the window regulators.

The first photo below shows the car in late 2017, just after I sold it.

Last Drive in the Rover P5I went back in September 2018 and the stripping process had started with some of the front of the car removed, as well as work done on the interior to remove pieces such as the instrument cluster, door cards etc.

Rover Parts Car

Rover Parts Car

Today a lot more progress had been made, with the entire interior gutted, one of the window regulator removed, back wheels and many more.

Rover Parts Car

Next step will be to remove the DG gearbox.     It will not be required for the restorations as they are all Manual/Overdrive, so will be put up for sale.   The DG is an interesting unit.  It’s a big strong gearbox, of American design.  It is a two speed box, with a locking torque converter to give three effective ratios.   A locking torque converter was quite advanced for the time, with many other manufacturers not introducing this until the 90s or 2000s.

I expect in a couple of months all usable bits will be harvested and the shell will be sold for scrap metal.  The should coincide with the return to the road for at least one of the P5 coupes.

The 450SLC hits 300,000km

This evening I took my 450SLC for a drive up the old Pacific Highway.   I wanted to check the impact of re-connecting the vacuum advance on the distributor.   I had discovered the line was broken when doing some maintenance.  With the advance enabled, mid throttle response seems a lot better.  I do get a little pinging when cruising on the motorway, so I am going to try 98 instead of 95.

During the drive, the SLC reached a big milestone:

300,000

That’s right, the SLC has finally reached 300,000km.   I purchased the car in 2003 with 262,000km showing.    As there was a 6 month period when I was driving the car more that the odometer didn’t work, I can probably assume I have driven this car 40,000km over 16 years.   This equates to a rather low 2,500km per year.   Overall, the car has been driven on average 7,150km per year.

If I assume that the car has used roughly the same amount of fuel all its life, then it has consumed 63,600 liters.   Enough to fill 2-3 petrol tankers.   To buy all that fuel at today’s prices would cost over $100,000.

To get to 300,000km its had more than 40 oil changes and has driven the equivalent of 7.5 times around the earth or 80% of the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

The car has likely been driven for around 7,500 hours in its life, equating to 312 days of driving.   This is only 2% of its life.    The other 98% it has been parked.     I already have the 250,000km badge for the car, the next one is not due until 500,000km.   if the car is still driven 2500km per year, it will only take 80 years!