BMW E39 Garage Chair

I’ve had two BMW E39 front seats in the garage for a couple of years.   My brother wrote off his 1999 BMW 523i a couple of years back.   He was originally going to do something with the seats, but since moved interstate.     I’ve always thought that one of them would make a great garage chair.   The main downside is they are immensely heavy.   Even though these are manual seats and do not have motors, I was shocked at how heavy they really are – to the point that is is pretty awkward for one person to maneuver them.

The plan was to make something basic without having to resort to custom welding or fabrication.    I found a base from a dead office chair and some plywood from a shelving project at home.   My idea was to bolt the chair to the plywood and then the plywood to the office chair base.   Due to the sheer weight of the E39 seat, I used two pieces of plywood.

Garage Chair

The centre of gravity of the chair is quite far back.  Using the plywood allows the base to be attached in a way that doesn’t have the seated person falling out of the chair.   The base and casters were probably not designed for this sort of weight, so I am not sure if this will result in future wheel failure.   Even if it does, it wouldn’t be too hard to remove this base and bolt and alternative one to the plywood.

Garage Chair

Obviously I painted the plywood back to ensure that it didn’t look too bad.   A much nicer way would have been to weld up a proper frame.  Unfortunately, I don’t know how to weld and I was not going to pay for custom welding.

The resulting garage chair works pretty well – although it is slightly too high.    The E39 seats have really nice leather and this car had a very original interior.

Classic Auto Sound Becker tribute radio update

A couple of weeks ago I installed the Classic Auto Sound Becker Tribute Radio in my 250SE.   I’m really happy with it, it worked really well on my recent drive down to Canberra.   One of the only things I thought could have been improved on the radio was the buttons were unlabeled.   The real radios had LMKUU buttons.   Classic Auto Sound, who build these radios have recently improved them with stickers for the LMKUU buttons.  They were good enough to send me a set of the stickers for my radio.   What great customer service!

LMKUUThe LMKUU stickers really make a huge difference.   I wonder if they will also offer the FM/AM buttons like the later radios for people with 70’s cars?

The radio sounded really good on the trip down and back from Canberra, and the Bluetooth hands free worked reasonably well.  Above about 100km/h there is too much wind noise to hear properly – The soft top does not insulate the sound as well as a steel roof would.

This addition has improved an already great product.   Click the following links for part 1 and part 2 of the radio installation.

NSW Historic Plate Adapter

It was just announced that the NSW 60 day logbook ‘trial’ has been made permanent.   This is great news as its a really good system.  The two minor drawbacks – the amount of paperwork and the size of the plates.   The plates are tiny and really ugly.  They are so small that they don’t line up with the mounting holes of nearly any car.   The neatest way of mounting them is to use an adaptor.

On the 250SE and Traction Avant, I made adapter plates out of sheet aluminium.   I’ve never been 100% happy with them.  On the 450SLC, I bought a blank novelty plate in black.    I think the novelty plate company was a bit surprised to sell one blank.   It made a great NSW Historic Plate Adapter.

Recently, I noticed that a friend from the Mercedes Club had bought a blank German number plate to make his adapter.  It looked good on his C123.    The EU style plates are wide, so he also attached a grille badge.   I thought I would try something similar for the 560SEC.  I also didn’t think  black would look all that good with the Nautical Blue W126.   As it happens, I had accumulated a couple of grille badges over the years I could use.

NSW Historic Plate Adapter

The blank European plates available on eBay come with the little stickers for the city the car is registered.   I asked for something near the factory so they sent me Esslingen.  The factory is in Unterturkheim.   It is about half way between Esslingen and Stuttgart.    For the rear, I had a European Delivery Program badge.    This car isn’t really European delivery car, but it is a private import from the UK.

For the front, I used an older Mercedes-Benz Club NSW badge.   I have mounted the plate on the original adapter.   The original adapter has provision for the exterior sensor probe.   It makes the plate stick out a bit – I may find another way to mount the temperature probe to my plate and then I can remove the original adapter.

NSW historic plate adapter

These blank German plates make a great NSW historic plate adapter.  I’m happy with the end result.   The cost is only a little more than the other solution, although if I did it again I would have to buy the grille badges as I have no more lying around.    For comparison, a picture of the SLC solution is below.   I think the smaller plate in black looks better on the C107.

NSW Historic plate adapter

Last time I did this job, I used a hand drill.   I now own a drill press which makes it so much easier.   A drill press makes lining up the holes properly much easier.

Update: 7/10/19:  I ended up removing the factory backing plate and attaching the temperature probe to the new plate.   Looks much better.   

Retrosound Model 2 Repair

The Retrosound Model 2 radio in my Citroen DS has been playing up.   It would randomly adjust the volume on its own, mostly down.   The practical effect of this was not being able to listen to the radio.   A while back I removed the face of the radio to take a look and the wire from the volume knob to the radio looked chafed.   The face of the radio is separate from the main unit as there is not enough room in the DS to install it in one piece.

Retrosound Model 2

Retrosound sell replacement shafts so this seemed like a good start.    This was pretty easy to replace – it actually took longer to to get the face out of the car than to replace the shaft!

Retrosound Model 2

The only problem is that Retrosound have modified the shafts in the newer radios.   The rear knob is oriented 90 degrees offset from before.  I had to modify the rear knobs to fit – I may need to make new one to fix this problem as its quite apparent.  The rear knob the left side should be vertical, not horizontal.

Retrosound Model 2

After the re-install I took a test drive and it looks like the problem is fixed.    I have been really happy with the retrosound model 2 in the DS.   I’m a bit fan of these radios – so much so that I just installed one in my 250SE.

After fixing the radio I changed the oil, filter and gearbox oil.   Its been a while since the car was off the road for 18 months.    The gearbox oil is a bit of a pain on this car, the easiest way is to pump it in via the inspection hole rather than remove the radiator ducting.

Citroen DS oil change

2019 ACT German Car Show

This weekend I traveled to Canberra for 2019 ACT German Car Show.   I’ve been to this show a few times before (2013, 2015, 2017), but this is the first time I have formally entered a car.    In prior years I have driven down on the day and arrived around 11ish to see the show for an hour or so.   This year I decided to do it properly and stay over in Canberra Saturday night.

The NSW Mercedes club were doing a convoy on Saturday, but I had a lot to do before I left so elected to drive down myself later in the day.   The weather on the drive down was fairly miserable, but luckily it cleared up for the actual show.   I was also very happy with my hotel choice.   I stayed at the Woden Hotel, which was only $125 per night and has secure, undercover parking.

Despite the rain the drive down was good.  The new radio made it much more pleasant and the W111 handled the bad weather with aplomb.   The drive did confirm for me that I do need to change the engine mounts on my car.   Transmission mount too, probably.

As usual, it was a good day at the show.   There were about 160 Mercedes-Benz’s on display.   There were also a good number of VW’s, BMWs, Porsches and Audis.   I didn’t see some of the niche German marques this year.   The NSW club had 16 cars travel down for the day which I think was a good turn out.

I entered my car in the ‘Silver’ class for judging.   This is perfect for an older restoration like mine and a great idea they have two levels.    I was lucky enough to win an award in the Silver class, so I have a nice little memento of the day.

The highlight of the day for me would probably be seeing the great lineup of Roundies.   For such rare cars, seeing 5 of them lined up in a row was great, as well as an unrestored car on a truck.  I wouldn’t mind owning a six cylinder model at some point in the future.    It was also good to see the replica Patent Motorwagon.

There was a strong showing of W111 Coupe/Cabriolets, my favorite Mercedes.   And a good selection of models, 220SEs, 250SEs, 280SE and 280SE 3.5 models were all there.   There was also a six cylinder 300SEL W109, another rare and unusual car.

Further along the lineup there were some lovely SLs as you would expect, including W113s, R/C107s and a nice red 190SL.   I was driving with that 190SL for nearly the entire way home, it must be fairly local to me.   The ‘SL’ that stood out to me was the 15,000km 450SLC.   While my 450SLC is nice, it was great to see what a few thing should look like comparing to such an original car.

There was a strong showing of 70s and 80s models too.   This included a nice selection of W114/115 cars, highlighting the differences between the series 1 and series 2 cars.   There were also a good showing of W123’s including the 280CE I used to own, and a 300D that had done 780,000km.   In contrast, there was another 300D that had a M117 5.0 installed in it, but retained the original 300D instrument cluster and speedo!

In the S-Classes both W116 and W126 models were well represented.  There were some particularly nice W126’s on display.  Also a 560SEC in the same colour as mine.   From there the W124’s and W201s were featured and then some of the more modern Mercedes.

The venue chosen for the 2019 ACT German car show was great – the Canberra greyhound racing track.   It was spacious, easy to get to and good facilities.   All in all a great event and I hope to be back next year.

2019 British Car Show, Sydney

Yesterday I attended the 2019 British Car Show at the Kings School.   This is still, in my opinion, the premier car show in Sydney each year.    It was a lovely day, with summer like weather and a big turn out of cars.

I didn’t display a car this year.   Last year, I displayed my E-Type.   However,  the Jaguars now come in a different way over a series of rather large speed humps.   I don’t think my stainless steel exhaust system will last very long given how badly it scraped last year.    This change is because the show has been consolidated into two paddocks instead of one, with the top paddock now dedicated to seating and food carts.     This change is not for the better, but it does not look like it will be reversed.   A friend of mine at the show was following an Austin Healey on his way in, which also scraped on these same speed humps.

The highlight for me was an amazing Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.    The detail in this car was incredible, and it must have been even more incredible for people used to horse and carts to see it when new.   Great details abounded from the wheel trims, gauges, walking stick and umbrella holder.  From the mascot, I am thinking it might have been one of the ‘Alpine Eagle’ models.  I saw one of these started when I was in the UK last time.

2019 British Car Show, Alpine Eagle

Rolls Royce

As usual the Jaguar Display was quite good, although it seemed smaller than in previous years.   There were also some other great Rolls Royce’s, as well as the other popular British marques.   In Addition, there were a couple of interesting chassis only displays, a Daimler and a Triumph from memory.   There were some nice cars in the Bentley section too.  In particular a 6 1/2 liter WO and a lovely red S3.

All in all, the 2019 British Car Show was another great day.


M117 lower oil pan replacement

One of the things I noticed when I first changed the oil on my 560SEC was the dent in the lower oil pan.   Presumably it hit a curb or rock at some point.    It was also leaking.   the dent was likely too small to interfere with the oil pump, or oil pickup but I wanted to be sure.   The M117 lower oil pan can be changed without removing anything else.   It made sense to replace it with a new one to make sure there is no impact on the engine and to stop the leaks.

M117 lower oil pan

As it was about time to change the oil, it seemed like a good time to change it.   There are 20 little bolts holding on the M117 lower oil pan.    Not all of them are the same length so  I built a template to make it easier to replace them.  These bolts have a small allen head.   One of them near the A/C compressor also has a nut on the other side.

M117 lower oil pan boltsIt was not difficult to remove the oil pan.  Whoever had installed it last time had not used a gasket.   This is probably why it was leaking.   Once I removed the pan, I was interested to see what was waiting for me in the bottom of the engine.   The good news is that there was no sludgy oil or pieces of bearing.   The bad news is that there was a quite big lipped washer in there.   I have no idea where it came from.   I have posted on a few forums to see if anyone can identify it.   Not surprisingly, there was also a small piece of chain guide.   When I had the timing chain replaced, one of the guides had already broken.   Please comment below if you know where that washer might have come from.

M117 lower oil pan

With the M117 lower oil pan removed, I could see into the bottom of the engine.  This included the oil pan, bearing caps, crankshaft etc.   I could see some scoring on the walls of the upper pan.  I am not sure if this is previous damage or how these engines come.

M117 oil pumpInstalling the M117 lower oil pan is not difficult.   I used some gasket sealer as well as the gasket.   It would have been helpful to have an assistant though.   While I cleaned the surface of the upper oil pan thoroughly, just as I was putting the new pan on, a drop of oil came down out of the engine and contaminated my sealant and gasket.   I hope it doesn’t make a big difference.  Having an assistant would have allowed that person to quickly hold up the pan and me screw in the first couple of bolts by hand.

The torque setting is 11nm, but for some reason by torque wrench didn’t seem to be working, so I did it by feel.   Not ideal, but hopefully ok.   I will re-fill it with oil and change the filter tomorrow.   Hopefully no leaks!   While I was at it, I put in a new drain plug and washer.

M117 lower oil pan done

while I was in the area, I also replaced the steering shock.   It is literally a 5 minute job.   Two 17mm nut/bolts and its off.   Looks blue thread locker was used before, so when replacing the bolts I used some as well.   The old steering shock had no resistance at all, so I am glad I changed it.     Slowly I am getting through all the jobs needed to turn this 560SEC into a nice car.

old/new steering shocks

Classic Auto Sound Becker tribute radio part 2

Today I completed the install of the Classic Auto Sound Becker Tribute.   In the first part, I removed the old Clarion, and installed the the Retrosound wiring harness.   I also tested the radio and it was working fine.   The new radio looks great and is a huge improvement over the Clarion CD player.

Becker Tribute

Installation Step 4:  Convert the Becker Tribute radio to DIN

At some point in its life, somebody cut the dashboard of my 250SE for DIN.   To fit the new radio, I also needed to order a DIN kit.   The radio was supposed to be already set up with the DIN kit from Classic Auto Sound, but I guess they forgot.   Not a big deal, as all the parts were included for the conversion.

The way DIN radios work is that a sleeve is placed in a standard size opening.   There are tabs in the sleeve that are bent into place to hold the sleve in.   There are also tabs to engage with the radio.   In order to engage the tabs, the radio needs to have the right hardware.

Becker Tribute

The photo above shows the DIN fittings on the right, and the original fittings on the left.   The DIN radio also needs to fit through the standard opening, so the tabs that can be seen below sticking up from the frame of the radio also needed to be cut off with a dremel tool.  The DIN sleeve can be seen in the background behind.

Becker Tribute

Installation Step 5:  Mounting the Bluetooth Microphone and USB port

One nice feature of this radio is the Bluetooth feature.   Not only can you stream music via Bluetooth, but you can also use the radio as a phone hands free kit.   There is a microphone supplied for the hands free.

Originally, the W111 Coupe/Cabriolet models had a single speaker mounted in the top of the dash.   This speaker is covered by a rather attractive wooden grille.  My car has been set up to use four speakers, so there is no speaker under that grille.   This was a perfect place to mount the little microphone.   In order to do so, I made a simple bracket.

Becker Tribute

At some point it looks like somebody has tried to fit a bigger set of speakers and has hacked the metal around the factory speaker space.   Even at the bottom of the depreciation curve, W111 Cabriolets were always worth money but this didn’t stop people hacking the cars.   Still, my car is less hacked than many.

The wooden grille just slots into place, so the USB port can be easily accessed.  I have a mini 8Gb USB stick with my entire music collection in the car.

Installation Step 6:  Final installation

The final installation is rather simple.   I installed the DIN cage and pushed the radio into place.   I also took the time to fix the front interior light on the drivers side.  This is a standard Bosch part shared with some VWs.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to remove the radio again to fix a bad connection as I fired it up and straight away heard the unmistakable riff of Cream’s ‘White Room’.   Sounded really good – better than the old radio for sure.     I also called my brother in Perth and the USB microphone seems to work quite well as I have mounted it.

Final Thoughts

Overall I am really happy with the Becker Tribute radio.   It’s made a huge difference to the looks of my 250SE and it sounds great.   I’ve also got USB music and Bluetooth streaming for long trips.   If you look carefully through the original speaker grille, you can see my bracket, so I may install some mesh to hide it.

Retrosound make great units, but there are areas for improvement:

  • There is not much room in the dash of many classic cars, so instead of having the amp leads, additional inputs etc hanging out of the back of the radio, these should be on a detachable harness.
  • Since most classics have battery disconnect switches, the non volatile memory should not only be available in the top of the range radios with DAB+ etc.   I would estimate far more classic car owners use battery switches than install an amp, yet even the basic models have provision for an amp.
  • The radio should not default to multi-colour, it should default to white.
  • It would be great if the buttons were customizable so they could have LMKUU markings on them like the original radios.

Despite those improvement areas, I am really happy with this upgrade.  I would purchase another Retrosound product from Classic Auto Sound.

Update: 7/10/19, Classic Auto Sound have updated the radios with LMKUU stickers.   Really improves the look of the radio. 

Classic Auto Sound Becker tribute radio part 1

I have been wanting to change the radio in the 250SE since I have owned the car.    It was a basic Clarion unit that looked totally out of place.   The dashboard in my car has been cut to DIN size, meaning going back to the original Becker wasn’t really an option.    Unfortunately many W111’s had their dashboards cut up in the 70s and 80s as owners demanded cassette decks and CD players.

My plan was to customize a Retrosound radio with a real Becker face plate.   I even went to the point of purchasing the face plate about 18 months ago.   At the time,  I hadn’t worked out how I would adapt the radio to the face plate.   The buttons were too small for the model 2 and the screen did not quite line up.    Unlike some of their other face plates, which are excellent, the standard Retrosound Becker face plate looks very little like the original Becker.

Last week I discovered that a local Retrosound dealer, Classic Auto Sound, had done exactly what I had in mind, but much better!  Not only had they adapted the face plate, but they had put in a (non moving) pointer for the radio station.    Since I last looked at this, Retrosound has launched the Redondo model.   This model is meant for Mopars, but it is more adaptable to the Becker face plate.  This is because the buttons and screen can be separated the buttons are larger.   Classic Auto Sound have adapted the Redondo and the Becker face plate to form their Tribute radio.

The price to purchase the radio from Classic Auto sound with their modifications was reasonable factoring in the cost of the Retrosound radio, the face plate, the assembly etc.   I therefore decided to purchase this radio for the 250SE, and perhaps use the faceplate I have already purchased in the 450SLC at some other point.   It would have also had a Becker radio, although a Mexico cassette deck.

Classic Auto Sound Becker Tribute

Classic Auto Sound Becker Tribute options

In purchasing the radio, there are a few options.   The first is the name plate above the radio station selector.   The options are:

  • Becker Europa
  • Becker Europa II Stereo
  • Becker Europa TR
  • Becker Grand Prix
  • Becker Grand Prix Stereo
  • Becker Europa Kurier

The Heckflosse Homepage has an options list for 1966 Fintail models.   The options available (in Europe) for 1966 were Becker Europa, Becker Grand Prix and Becker Mexico.   I also have an extensive photo library I have built up of W111 Coupe/Cabriolets for sale in Australia.   Based on this, I went with the Grand Prix as I figured it was the higher end model that the Europa, and more likely to be specified on an expensive car like the 250SE.   Some of the other options available are more applicable to later cars (e.g. W108, W114 etc).

Different knobs are also available.   I chose the ones closest to the original radio.

The next option was to choose the Retrosound hardware option.   The choices are Motor 2, Motor 7 and Motor 6.    Motor 2 already gives you USB, Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming.  Upgrading to Motor 7 is $110, and Motor 6 is $220 more.    I went with Motor 2.     Motor 7 gives you DAB+ and more input connections.   DAB+ is not really that interesting to me as it hasn’t really taken off and streaming over the internet is probably going to be more relevant.    Confusingly, Motor 6 gives you all the benefits of Motor 7, plus non-volatile memory and iPod connectivity.    I was extremely tempted by Motor 6 as the non-volatile memory would be a great feature.  Since I disconnect the battery I loose settings on my other cars.  As the radio is already a bit over $800 with shipping and the DIN kit, I couldn’t justify the extra $220.

This will be my third Retrosound product.  I have the Model 1 in my E-Type and the Model 2 in my Citroen DS.    I am a big fan of their products.

Installation Step 1:  Removal of the Clarion unit

The Clarion unit was quite easy to remove.   The bezel just snaps off, as does the face plate.   As the Clarion is a DIN radio, the correct way is to remove it with the Clarion DIN tools.   I didn’t have those, but the longer blade on my Swiss army knife worked perfectly.   Perhaps there is an advantage it is so blunt now!

Once the Clarion was removed, the DIN frame is also removed.   This is also quite easy, as its just a matter of bending back the tabs with a small flat head screwdriver.   Then the wiring harness can be simply unplugged.

Classic Auto Sound

Installation Step 2: The Retrosound wiring harness

The wiring connections for the Retrosound radio are identical to what the Clarion was using.   My car is already set up for four speakers, accessory and power.   The Retrosound has a fuse built into the harness.   Therefore, I didn’t need the in line fuse from the Clarion installation.   In order to ensure I didn’t mix up any wires, as the actual speaker wires were the same colour on each side, I cut one wire at a time, and connected it to the correct wire on the retrosound harness.    Starting with the speakers, then the power/ground connections.   I prefer to use crimp connections than solder.


I also used some cable ties to tidy up the wires.   The retrosound also has a couple of amplifier wires that I will not be using.

Installation Step 3:  Test the wiring

I needed to make sure the radio is wired up properly before I started worrying about the DIN frame, the Bluetooth speaker, USB etc.  The Antenna cable didn’t reach that long, but the wiring harness is long enough to test the radio on the transmission tunnel.   The test was successful and the radio powers up and I can hear static from the speakers in radio mode.   Tomorrow I will bring a USB stick of music to test properly.

Classic Auto Sound BeckerI will complete the installation tomorrow.   This will include adapting the radio for DIN, installing the DIN frame, mounting up the speaker and USB port, and finally installing the radio.   I will be driving the 250SE to Canberra in a couple of weeks, giving a great opportunity to test this radio out on a long drive.

Click here for part 2.

Four post hoist oil drippage

I installed a double four post hoist late last year.   Overall, I have been happy with the hoist.  It is a very tight fit in my space, but it is worth being able to store cars more effectively.  It also allows me to rent out a couple of spots to help cover my costs.

The major problem I have is oil drippage from the cars above.   Cars that are over 40 years old are going to have some level of oil leaks even when well maintained.   The hoist came with drip trays, but there are not enough to cover engine, transmission, diff etc.   I have also seen oil dripping between the two.   Belying the popular reputation, the 450SLC is far worse than the E-type jag when it comes to minor oil leaks.    I had been placing towels on the roofs of the lower cars, but this isn’t a great solution.

Hero Hoists do offer an add on package of metal pieces to fill the gaps in the hoists, as well as more drip trays.   I wasn’t as keen on more drip trays for the reason above, and the metal pieces are quite expensive.   They would also not work in my case as my ramps are not in the usual position.

My solution was to buy some plywood and cut it to size.  I could then place the drip trays above the plywood, and even put some cardboard down on it if necessary.   The plywood would not be thick enough to handle any real weight, but it would be sufficient to hold some drip trays.   To ensure it didn’t look really ugly, I painted it flat black.

Oil drippage


I was able to get enough coverage with three large pieces of ply wood.   I probably should have cut it about 2mm smaller in the end.  It bends a little when installed.  I had cut it exactly to size as I wanted a tight fit.     It looks quite unobtrusive.   I already plan to add some LED strip lighting below the ramps, as these pieces will make it even darker under there.    The 450SLC is off having a new steering coupling installed, so when I pick it up later this week I will see how well this system solves my oil drippage problem.   I will also install the panels on the other side, once I have fitted a new battery to the Jag.