New alloy wheels for the 560SEC

My 560SEC came with a set of Simmons wheels.  These wheels are not to my taste and were too wide for the car.   The wheels had been mounted with spacers which I do not like.    On Thursday, I secured a great set of 15×7 Mercedes wheels which I fitted to the 450SLC.   This meant that the ASA Type 8 wheels I had on the SLC were available for the 560SEC.   These wheels have come full circle as I originally purchased them for a 560SEC.

The ASA Type 8 wheels are a replica of the 8 hole alloy wheels found on cars such as the W140 and R129.   They are easy to keep clean and look good on the W126.    At least when I purchased them back in 2009, ASA Type 8 wheels could be bought with both low and high offsets.

ASA Type 8

These wheels are a huge improvement over the Simmons wheels.   The 560SEC is an elegant car, but this one had been fitted with some gaudy accessories that I am slowly removing.   After almost 10 years and 50,000km it was time to replace the Yokohama Avid V4S tyres on them.   Given the mileage I now do on these cars, tread wear is not a primary concern.   Tyres only last about 8-10 years even if they still have tread left on them.   Based on the mileage I do, i went with a more budget performance tyre.  It will be interesting to see how well they go.    I purchased a set of Laufenn S FIT EQ.   Apparently this is a subsidiary of Hankook and the tyres seem to get good reviews.   At more than $50 per tyre less than Michelin it seemed worth a try.


While I was having the tyres fitted I noticed a very familiar car.   Back when I used to commute every day to the eastern suburbs between 1998-2001 I used to see this same car.  Even though I don’t know the owner, I recognized the number plate (starts with MSA).    I remember it because I had a very similar W123 230E at the time.    The fate of my 230E is unknown, so I am very happy to see this one still on the road.

I am going on a Mercedes Club drive this evening.   I was planning to drive the 250SE, but since rain is forecast, I will take the 560 and see how the new tyres perform.

New alloy wheels for the 450SLC

My 450SLC was originally sold with 14″ alloy wheels.   This style of wheel was the standard Mercedes alloy wheel from the late 60s to 1985.   It has a few nicknames such as Bundt Cake, Baroque, Fuchs etc.   On the V8s it is 6.5″ wide but narrower versions (5.5″ & 6″) were available.   The challenge with these wheels is that good tyres for a heavy car like an SLC are now hard to find.   They are also hard to keep clean and I find the 195/70 tyres too litle for a car like the SLC.

When I moved back from the USA, I brought the 16″ wheels I had bough for my 1988 560SEC with me.   They are ASA Type 8 wheels, a replica of a later wheel but with low offset for the earlier cars.   They are 16×7.5″ and the fit nicely on that car replacing the hideous chrome wheels it came with.    At the time I bought them (2009) I also purchased a set of Yokohama Avid V4S tyres.   After almost 30,000km on the 560SEC and over 20,000 on the SLC they are starting to get close to the end of their life.  These tyres were quiet, inexpensive and lasted better than any other tyres I’ve owned.

I put the 16″s on the 450SLC when I returned in 2011.   They worked reasonably well on the car but rubbed a little.    The car handled better with wider tyres than 195.   I still have the 14″ alloy wheels if I ever want to go back to original.

Yesterday I purchased a set of 15×7″ alloy wheels for the W126.  These wheels were the alloy wheel available for the W126 for the second generation 1986-1991.  They were also used on the R107 SLC from 1986-1989.    These same wheels were also produced in high offset form for the W124 and W201 (including a 14″ variant).   There was also a very similar wheel for the R129.   This style of alloy wheel is often known as the ‘manhole cover’.

These wheels have 205/65R15 tyres and should not rub on the 450SLC.   I therefore removed the replica wheels and replaced them with the refinished manhole covers.   Looks great.

450SLC new wheels

In contrast the replica 8 hole alloy wheels don’t look as good on the 107 chassis in my opinion.   They seem to work better on the W126.



ASA type 8The final contrast is the car with the original 14″ wheels.   This photo is from 2003 when I first purchased the 450SLC.   I find this style of wheel works better with the ultra rare 15″ edition of these wheels.

The alloy wheel swap also allowed me to do something about the spare in the 450SLC.  Originally the car would have been sold with 5 alloy wheels.   In the 80s, it was common for dealers to harvest these 5th wheels for adding alloy wheels to other cars they had for sale not originally equipped with them.    It is possible this is how my 300SE got alloy wheels as they were not originally specified.

The spare on the car was a steel wheel complete with a tyre that looked like it is from the 80s.   Certainly it did not seem to have a date code on it.   The 5th 15″ wheel fits into the spare wheel compartment with the cover sticking up 5mm.   In my mind an acceptable compromise for having a good spare and not needing to carry around a spare set of lug bolts.

As I replaced the wheels I saw where they had been rubbing.   I had some old rust protective paid that I used to paint over these areas.  It was quite old and I didn’t have a proper brush but it should hopefully stop rust from developing here.

450SLC wheel rubbing

These new wheels look better and should no longer rub on the car.

Road trip to MB Spares and Service

My 560SEC came with a set of aftermarket wheels from Simmons.   The Simmons wheels are a locally made wheel, and this set are two piece 16″ variants.    They are shod with 245mm tyres so the fronts rub on sweeping corners and the backs on higher speed bumps.    I prefer a more stock look so the plan is to remove and sell the Simmons wheels.

My ideal would be to get a copy of the 15″ Fuchs wheels for the 450SLC and then use the 16″ wheels that are currently on the SLC on the new SEC.    These wheels were bought originally for the 1988 560SEC I used to own.    They rub slightly on the SLC when on full lock.    The fuchs wheels are prohibitively expensive so not a real option at this point.

As it happens, MB Spares had a 420SEL in for wrecking that had hit a Kangaroo.    The wheels had good tyres on them and had been refinished in the near recent past.   This included the spare that has an unused tyre.

These wheels look really good and I am very happy with them.   They also came with the original lug bolts that are NLA from Mercedes.   These have an extension that allow them to be flush with the wheel face.   These wheels are the same as would have been fitted new on the 560SEC, other than the 560 has slightly wider tyres.   They are also the same wheels that were optional on my 300SE, although that car was not originally ordered with alloys.

Even though the wheels are standard for the 560, my plan is to fit them to the 450SLC, as they will fit better and fit the 450SLC wheels to the 560.   The 16″ wheels have 225mm tyres and work better on the W126.

The W126 has a very big boot. It is actually possible to fit all five wheels in the boot if the spare tyre is removed.    This was a slight risk driving down to Canberra with no spare tyre, but at least on the way back I had 5 spares!

While I was at MB Spares I saw two lovely cars parked out front.   Firstly a 450SLC in a very similar colour to my SEC.   It is in very nice condition indeed.

That car is fitted with the ‘Centra’ after-market wheels that are now desirable and hard to find.    It also had a very nice interior.    The other was a W112 300SE Coupe.   The car was a cream colour with an immaculate interior complete with Safari Seats.     I’ve not seen this colour before in the flesh – it’s much darker than the normal Ivory colour that was popular at the time.

The 560SEC performed well on the road trip to Canberra.   It has plenty of power on the open road and is a comfortable cruising car.   The only negatives were the wheel wobble that will hopefully be cured when I remove the Simmons wheels, and the lack of A/C.   The fuel consumption with the 450SLC is also interesting.   The SLC can get to Canberra and 1/4 of the way back before it needs refueling.   The SEC can get down to Canberra and 3/4 of the way back before it needs refueling.   Both cars have 90L fuel tanks.   On the freeway portion, I got 12.5l/100km for the 560SEC, not bad for a 30 year old car with a 5.5l v8.

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.

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.