National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

The National Motor Museum arose out of the collection of the previous Lord Montagu (3rd Baron Beaulieu).  It is housed at the Montagu family estate at Beaulieu in the New Forest.   Lord Montagu’s father was a keen early motoring enthusiast and his personal vehicles started out the collection.

Starting with the five original cars in the 1950’s the museum has expanded out to hundreds of cars, representing all parts of British Motoring history.   Today the museum is run by a separate trust.    The museum is probably best known for its racing cars and expensive collection of Edwardian vehicles.

As well as visiting the museum, it is possible to tour the grounds and manor house on the Beaulieu estate.   Various guides are on hand to explain features of the house.   The house started out as a monastery until it was dissolved by Henry VIII.   These origins can still be clearly seen in the older parts of the house.

Some highlights of the museum for me were:

  • The excellent collection of Edwardian cars
  • The 1914 Rolls Royce 40/50 Continental ‘Alpine Eagle’ that I had a demo of
  • Two interesting Bugatti cars, including the oldest one in Britain
  • The wide collection of racing cars and motorbikes, including Formula 1
  • A blower Bentley

They have also done a nice job trying to make the cars look like they are in their natural element.

I was able to visit the museum as I had a free Saturday afternoon on a work trip.  It was an easy drive from Heathrow and the museum can be seen in a couple of hours.

1914 Rolls Royce 40/50 Continental ‘Alpine Eagle’

The Alpine Eagle is a variant of the infamous 40/50 ‘Silver Ghost’.   It was actually referred to by Rolls Royce as the Continental model.  However, the Continental was a replica of the cars entered in the 1913 Austrian Alpine Trial.

During the 1912 Trial, the three speed gearbox had proven insufficient.   Therefore, four cars were prepared for the 1913 season with four speed gearboxes.   Power was increased to 75hp (from 60) through increased compression and and improved carburettor.   The four cars were known as Alpine Eagles.

The success of the Alpine Eagle allowed Rolls Royce to market the model to the public as the Continental.  However, both the original four cars and the production model were known informally as the Alpine Eagle.

The car in the video was owned by Lord Montagu and used in many historic rally events.   Perhaps the best known of these was the 1988 Bicentennial Rally where it was driven from Canberra to Perth by Lord Montagu and Prince Micheal of Kent.  Despite being over 100 years old the car is still used on a semi regular basis for historic rally events.

The car is now in the collection of the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu.    It can be seen in the museum, and I was lucky enough to see it being started up by the curators.   It is a really impressive machine, and forms an interesting comparison with the Phantom II parked next to it.   The car has been fitted with an electric starter and was re-bodied in 1950.    As can be seen in the video it is started on a trembler coil and then switched to a Magneto.  It therefore has two spark plugs per cylinder.

British Motor Museum – Jaguar Heritage Collection

The Jaguar Heritage Collection was displayed near the historic Jaguar Factory at Browns Lane until that site was redeveloped in 2012.   The collection is now split across a few museums, but the bulk of it can be found at the British Motor Museum.

During a recent visit to the UK, I was able to tour the British Motor Museum.   The Jaguar Heritage Collection is housed in the same building as the overflow collection.

The collection has a good representation of Jaguar vehicles from swallow sidecars to the current models.   Key models include the SS1, SS100, the first and last E-Types etc.   They also have a number of concept cars from the 90s to the present day which are quite interesting.

The best exhibits for me were:

  • 77RW, the first production E-Type OTS
  • The very last S3 E-Type
  • Early SS cars, including SS1, SS100 etc.
  • A range of cars previously owned by the Queen Mother, including a DS420, XJ12
  • Good examples of their famous models like the XK120, XK140, XK150, MK1, MK2, S-Type, 420
  • XJ13, C-Type and D-type racing cars
  • The four cylinder XK engine

Some of the collection is housed in the main museum, which will be covered in a separate posting.    I really enjoyed seeing the cars, although I think it would be nice to see a purpose built display for them.   For example, they have all four ‘Utah’ cars (the MK1, MK2, S-Type and 420), a display showing the evolution would a nice touch.   They have something like that at the BMW museum for the 3-Series.

Jaguar were probably at their peak in the period between the late 50s and late 60s when they introduced some of their most famous models.   After a period in the doldrums in the 90s and 2000’s where they focused too much on retro models, they seem to have their mojo back again.   In my view, they are taking their history seriously, but not trying to rest upon it.   You would have to think that William Lyons would be impressed with the newfound success of his company.

2017 Seat Ibiza 1.0 Review

If car companies are looking for reasons why young people yearn for self driving cars, they need not look any further than the Seat Ibiza.   I rented the Seat Ibiza for the weekend, and my conclusion was that I needed to write this review immediately.   This is an important fact as once another 24 hours have elapsed, I doubt I will remember much about it.    If I were to sum it up in one word, it would be ‘Dreary’.    The Seat Ibiza has all the personality of a dishcloth.

I’m sure the Seat is well made and well equipped for the price.   Seat’s claim to fame seems to be they offer a way to buy a Volkswagen for 5% less.   Not exactly inspiring.  The car reviewers seem to like it.

Seat Ibiza

Starting with styling, the Seat Ibiza looks pretty much like every other hatchback on the road.  It even has the same swept up rear quarter window as all hatch backs now do.  It also comes in monochrome, the same as every other hatchback on the road.  The car is grey and the interior is acres of grey plastic.   They have tried to give the car an ‘upmarket’ feel with stitching on the pleather gear shift boot and steering wheel but it just looks tacky.

I’ve rented many economy vehicles in the United States and normally they come with hateful CVT transmissions.   This time, I walked to my vehicle with a spring in my step;  I was in Europe, and I was going to have a car with a proper manual transmission!   Sure enough, a 5 speed gear lever awaited me.

There is nothing especially wrong with the transmission.  But no transmission can make up for being mated to a 1.0 liter 3 cylinder engine.   It might be a small hatchback, but it’s a modern hatchback so it weighs around 1,200kg.    The car has 75hp and 95nm of torque and its not enough.  You might argue I am used to big powerful cars with lots of torque, but you’d be wrong.  I routinely drive a 54hp Citroen Traction Avant.   I’m used to driving a car at full throttle all the time, and that is what is required in the Seat Ibiza 1.0.     The difference is the Citroen has character so you forgive it.   It also has at least a little bit of torque.

Fitting an engine this small allows the car companies to advertise outlandish fuel economy figures and impress environmentalists with low emissions.   Those figures don’t stand up to real world use.  Seat advertise 57.6mpg for this car.   Despite mostly using the car on the motorway with minimal traffic, I struggled to do much better than 40-42mpg.   The engine is underpowered and is constantly straining to do its job.

In a hilarious nod to the advertised figures, the car is keen to get you to top gear as soon as possible, so you get these plaintive reminders in the dashboard advising you to change up below 2,000RPM.   Of course, the engine has no torque at any speed, but even less down at this range and the acceleration is glacial if you follow the car’s recommendations.   It’s like the car is driven by a small field mouse.   I tried following the recommendations a few times and the poor little engine was lugging trying to get that heavy body up to speed.

At highway speed, in 5th gear you find yourself spinning the engine at 4,000RPM.   In most cars you would want another gear, but not this car!  I found myself noticing imperceptible hills by the way I would have the pedal flat to the floor to keep the car moving.   Dropping down to 4th doesn’t do much, no torque to be found here either.

The ride isn’t anything to write home about – I found it rather choppy.  I didn’t like the clutch much either, it ‘bit’ quite close to the top and there seemed to be no action for much of the travel until it all happened.  It is also very light – so much so that I found it harder to do sooth shifts than most manual cars.

The car has a USB port, but it doesn’t allow you to play music through your iPhone.   Instead you get a rather convoluted touch screen to do simple things like changing a radio station.  This requires you to take your eyes off the road instead of a simple button.    The car also suffers from the usual modern hatchback malady of massive A pillars that affect your view when turning out of intersections.    This was coupled with a too high seating position I could not find a way of adjusting.

Despite all those criticisms, its not a bad car.   With a 1.5 liter engine it would probably be quite tolerable.   The problem is that the Seat Ibiza is thoroughly forgettable.   I suspect they will quickly be used up and taken off the road to be forgotten completely.   It is an impressive engineering feat that you can drive a 1200kg hatchback down the motorway at 85mph on a 3 cylinder engine.   Just because you can doesn’t make it a good idea.

My purpose for renting the car was to go and see the British Motor Museum.  What a contrast.  Innovative cars that changed the world vs a white-good.

Rating:  2/5

Unfortunately, Facebook is killing car forums

The online communities for collector cars are now on their third iteration.   They started mostly as email lists, moved to forums and are increasingly moving to social media.   This is not a good thing.

The car forums and lists built a real sense of community and there was a lot of effort that went into many postings.  Indeed, some individuals spent a lot of time writing up great howto guides on various topics.

Some of these car forum/email threads are now 10-15 years old, yet are still invaluable resources to the collector car community.   At the end of the day, advice on how to adjust some aspect of a 30 year old car hasn’t actually changed in 15 years.    I try to do a lot of work on my cars myself.   For anything I have not done before, I spend at least 30 minutes searching the various forums to understand gotchas and lessons learned.

I’ve seen in the last 2-3 years the amount of new content and sense of community really drop off.   Facebook groups have exploded at the same time.   Facebook groups have the advantage they are very ‘here and now’ and the posting of photos is very easy.    However the interactions are very superficial and it does not leave much in the way of a lasting record.   There seems to be more time devoted to talking up prices of poorly presented cars and making asinine comments on photos than any sort of meaningful discourse.   Of course, this is a problem in our society at large, and not something specific to the old car community.

What is specific to the old car community is that many of those who were around when these cars are new are getting older and that specialised knowledge will only be around for so long.   If only we could preserve it instead of commenting that a poorly modified car is ‘fully sic bro’.

W111 battery mounting frame

When I last replaced the battery in my W111, I was unable to fit the correct sized battery.   In the end I fitted one smaller than I would have liked, but it was the only one that fit into the mounting frame I had.    I knew the mounting frame was not original to the car as the previous owner purchased it on eBay.    When he purchased the car, the battery was held down with ocky straps.    At the recent German car day, one of the other members suggested my mounting frame might be from a W113 SL, rather than the correct W111 battery mounting frame.

On closer inspection I think he is right.   the lower tray was clearly longer than the frame.    In addition, the frame is not in good shape.   There are sections where some of the metal has been cut away.   This was probably to fit an incorrect battery.   I therefore started looking for a replacement frame.

I was lucky enough to find one labelled to fit the W108, W109, W111 etc for bigger batteries.  A new reproduction out of Germany and in the picture it looked great!   Included with the rods to attach the W111 battery mounting frame to the tray (minus the wing nuts).

I tried the fit the frame last night, and it is huge.   I can only assume that there was a special order option for a very large sized battery, or maybe from a W100 where everything is super sized.   The photo below shows just how much longer the new frame is compared to the previous one.

W111 battery mounting frame

This thing is gargantuan – hugely bigger than the tray it is supposed to fit onto.       The comparison is even funnier when you lay the two frames on top of each other.   The new one is about 50% larger than my current frame, which is only slightly too small.

W111 battery mounting frame comparison

I don’t have the specs for them, but I also need to try and research if the W111 battery mounting frame is a different size to the W108 or W109 unit, and if the one I have is for a W113.   Nevertheless, it is clear that what I thought would be a simple part comes in a variety of different sizes.

My next step is to look at its construction more carefully, as perhaps about 10cm can be cut from it and it re-welded up.   Since it’s a reproduction, i’m not ruining an original part.   Otherwise back to the drawing board to find the correct frame.   Perhaps my battery will have reached its 5 year life span by then.

The R107 560SL is not the best model in the series

In recent years nice 560SL’s are going for 3-4x the price of other R107s.   They have always been the most valuable of the series, but are they worth the extra money?    I would argue they are not event he the best model of the series.   They might be the newest, and have the largest engine, but that doesn’t make them the best.

The 560SL’s were sold between 1986 and 1989 in the third ‘series’ of the model.   It was a model only sold in the USA, Australia and Japan, primarily because the emissions regulations of these countries had taken too much of a toll on the smaller engined cars.    However, by the third series, the R107 was showing its age.   Like other cars such as the De Tomaso Pantera and the Lamborghini Countach, Mercedes-Benz felt they needed to ‘tart up’ the car for the late 80s.  This included things like a new front spoiler, in later years a boot mounted rear brake light.   Adding to the rear spoiler that appeared in the early 80s, it was all too much.   By the late 80s, the R107 had started looking like an actor/actress with too many facelifts.

In my view, the pick of the range was the 500SL from 1980-1985, especially with the rear spoiler delete option.    it is still close to the purity of the original design and actually has the most powerful engine.     This doesn’t make the 560SL a bad car by any means.   It’s just not the best of the series and not worth today’s price premium.

500SL

The table below shows when the models were offered and which ones were officially imported to Australia.   All models were made in right hand drive, and there are plenty of private imports about.    It should be noted that much of what is available on the Internet concerns USA models which were very different to their ‘rest of world’ counterparts.

Private imports are not worse, but it can be harder to trace history from before they are imported.   In addition, it’s not always consistent what was done to comply them with Australian regulations.

The R107 was sold from between 1971 and 1989 and it had multiple revisions over the years.  I think of it as 3.5 different series, even though Mercedes-Benz don’t refer to them as such.   All the models have their pros and cons, so lets take a look at them:

Series 1: 1971-1975 (280SL, 350SL, 450SL)

These cars are likely to be the closest to a simple roadster.   Its common to see cars with few options such as power windows, A/C and so on.   Early cars probably won’t even have headrests.    At least in Australia, they do not have any emissions gear, so retain their full power potential.   They run Bosch D-Jet fuel injection which was a very advanced system at the time, but needs to be worked on my an expert and some parts can be quite expensive now.

The very early 350SLs from 1971/72 have the old 4 speed transmission from the W108, which isn’t as strong as the later 3 speed unit but better suited to the 350 engine.

These cars are probably best as a weekend cruiser with their pure looks and full power, but the D-Jet injection can require special attention.

The the same time, Mercedes-Benz offered a coupe derivative, the SLC model with the same mechanical specifications as the roadster.

Series 1.5: 1976-1980 (280SL, 350SL, 450SL)

The main difference from the 1971-75 models is the D-Jet fuel injection was replaced by Bosch K-Jet (CIS) mechanical fuel injection.   The CIS system is simpler than D-Jet, parts are cheaper and most mechanics can service it.    In European markets, the CIS engines were only slightly less powerful.

In Australia the changeover almost coincided with the introduction of the misguided ADR27A pollution requirements.   These laws were based on California standards and had not been well thought through.   They focused on percentages of pollutants at idle that could be defeated by an extra air pump, and forced low compression ratios and retarded ignition timing.   Most owners simply removed the belt from the air pump. The retarded ignition meant fuel consumption was up by 10% burning more carbon dioxide than before.    The 450SL went from 165KW to 147KW for example.

450SL

The later series 1 cars tend to have more options fitted such as A/C and power windows than the early cars and can make very good buys.   They are not as fast as the later cars, but generally much cheaper.   The iron block v8’s and 3 speed transmissions are particularly bullet proof if the timing chain is taken care of.   As with all cars of this era, rust is the main problem, although not unique to this series.

The SLC models continued to be offered throughout this series.

Series 2: 1980-1985 (280SL, 380SL, 500SL)

In 1980 the 107’s had a major overhaul bringing them more into line with the W126 S class models.   The 280SL M110 engine continued as-is but the V8’s were increased in capacity and now featured a light alloy block and new four speed transmissions for significant performance improvements.   New options such as ABS brakes were also available.  The drivetrains are still extremely robust.   The alloy engines are much more expensive to rebuild and require specialist skills not needed for the iron block engines.

The 380SL has developed a poor reputation online due to the USA and Japan models having a single row timing chain that was prone to break.   While this chain was only for USA and Japan models, that hasn’t stopped internet myths running wild.

As mentioned above, in my mind the 500SL is the pick of the whole model range.    The run up in prices has started impacting the 1980-1985 models, but they are still much better value than the final models.

The SLC was offered until 1981 and then discontinued, to be replaced by C126.

Series 3: 1986-1989 (300SL, 420SL, 500SL, 560SL)

The changes for the final series were quite comprehensive and aimed to keep the R107 competitive while the R129 was finalized.  There were suspension and braking changes, and improvements to the interior appointments.   The wheel size went up to 15″ and the ‘manhole cover’ style wheels were popular.   They are much easier to keep clean, so are a popular retrofit to earlier models.   The V8 engines are basically the same, with slightly increased capacity and revised fuel injection (KE Jet instead of K Jet).   The 300SL has the new M103 engine from the W124.   This engine is much more forgiving with emissions requirements than the old M110.

On the downside, this series had more done in terms of front spoilers, boot mounted rear brake lights and so on.    In some ways they are the pick of the bunch if price is not a factor.  In my opinion they are only slightly better than the cars that precede them.

The 560SL was made for low emissions markets, so it actually has less power than the 500SL.   The 420SL was not very popular and is the rarest of the model line up.

Series 3

Last drive of my $230 Rover P5 Coupe

I am no longer the owner of a Rover P5 Coupe.   The car was really too far gone to practically save it.  It needed pretty much everything.  Instead, I found a new owner that is going to use it for spares to get three Rover P5 Coupe’s in much better condition back on the road.   I wouldn’t normally like to see such a rare car get scrapped, but breaking one car in poor condition to save three is worth it.

Rover P5 CoupeI took the car on what is more than likely its very last drive on public roads.  A 50km run across Sydney in peak traffic.   The car ran OK, although the transmission was a bit temperamental and the ignition key chose a great time to stop working.  Luckily the Rover P5 Coupe has provision for a starting handle!  I’m sure it has been a long time that other motorists at a service station saw somebody crank starting a car after refuelling.

The new owner has 5 other Rovers on the premises:

  • 1963 Rover P5 MKIIa Coupe with manual transmission in Admiralty Blue.
  • 1965 Rover P5 MKIIc Coupe originally automatic, now converted to manual in Admiralty Blue.
  • 1966 Rover P5 MKIII Coupe, originally automatic,now converted to manual in Almond/Cream two tone.
  • 197x Rover 3500 Parts car.
  • 197x Rover 3500S under restoration

1963 Rover P5 Coupe

Mounting the badges on the DS

Before the boot lid can be attached to the car, the Citroen DS badges need to be mounted.   This is something I have unsuccessfully been trying to do for a few weeks.   I found a solution last night that works for me, no idea if this is the ‘correct’ way as I couldn’t find any reference on the internet.  My car, being a 1970 model has the individual letters rather than the rectangular plate.   Personally I prefer the earlier ones.

The badges attach by having a ‘post’ that goes through a hole in the boot lid.   There are then these fasteners that need to be pushed onto the ‘post’  they grip the post via tabs that bend back just enough as they are slid on.    The challenge is that these tabs are very strong and I was unable to push them on with my fingers.   I didn’t want to use anything sharp either, as that could have damaged my new paint.

I found that a 5mm socket was able to push on the edges of the fastener, while not touching the post.   This at least allowed me to push on the fastener, but they were still not bending.  I tried using petroleum jelly to lubricate the post to no avail.

To get more leverage, I used a small ratcheting handle normally used for getting to hard bolts.  It fit nicely in the ball of my hand allowing much more leverage.    The other ball of my hand was on the back of the badge.   This allowed me to push on the fastener.  The ratcheting handle can be seen in the bottom of the photo below.

Citroen DS badges

Before I found this method, I managed to destroy one of the fasteners by trying to expand the tabs with a nail and hammer, so I am one short.   Given each fastener is about 30c, the smart move would have been to order a couple of extras.    I will need a few more rubber covers for the window adjustment screws, another cheap part I should have purchased a few more of.

I bought new badges as the old ones had a lot of overspray and had lost some of their gold.   The new ones look pretty good on the new paint.

Boot Lid

300SE Double relay change

The saga of my non functional A/C is now over.   The 300SE is blowing cold air.   It would want to after all the parts I had to change to get this far.   The final piece of the puzzle was the Klima relay.   This relay controls the engagement of the compressor and had burned out when the clutch shorted.   I ended up buying a rebuilt relay from the same vendor as my rebuilt Climate Control Unit.    The A/C is fixed just in time for the hot Sydney summers.

Relays

Coincidently, at the same time I needed to change the Klima relay, I had another relay problem.   Symptoms were very hard starting and poor running when cold, as well as the ABS light on.   This normally points to the Overload Protection Relay.   The Overload Protection Relay protects the sensitive electrics on the car, in this case the engine ECU and the ABS controller.

They are known to go bad after a while and my old one  is date stamped 1996.   This relay is fairly cheap (about $50-60) and protects very expensive components, so if it has not been changed in a while its always worth having a spare on hand.  There are a few different part numbers that vary on year so it is important to get the right relay for the car.    It has a 10W fuse in the top which is worth checking.  Sometimes just this fuse is bad, although most often the whole relay needs replacement.

I now have no more ‘urgent’ repairs on this car.   There are a few smaller items that need attending to that I can do slowly.   For example, the left hand bulb in the instrument cluster is not working.   I need to pull the cluster anyway to fit a gear with one less tooth to make the odometer more accurate.