560SEC stone chip touch up

Over the years my 560SEC has acquired quite a lot of stone chips on the front of the car.   I understand the previous owner was in semi-rural Queensland so there may have been some gravel or unsealed roads in there.   Today I applied a stop gap fix until I can address the problem properly.   Most of the stone chips were in the front panel under the headlights.   These panels are removeable, so eventually when I have the rust under the rear screen fixed, i’ll have this panel repainted too.    That repair will be a couple of years away, so today’s task was some stone chip touch up.

Stone chip touch up

Autobarn will sell a little pot of touch up paint with a small brush that is matched to the car’s original colour.   This was the perfect solution for my stone chip touch up job.   While the pot will not match perfectly due to fade, it will make the car look better close up.    I own two cars in 929 Nautical blue, so the little pot of paint is a good investment.

Recently I fixed one of the cladding panels with a colour matched aerosol from Autobarn.   You can have the colours in either format, depending on what you need.

stone chip touch up - Autobarn paint

I started by masking off the bumper bar near the affected area.   Later on, I found that it probably wasn’t necessary as I didn’t spill any of the paint.   I suspect if I had not masked off the area, I would have though.    There is a little brush inside the cap that I used to gently apply paint to each chip.   I don’t think I did the greatest job in the world.   My skills are not in fine work like this.   I still think it is better than all those chips.

Stone chip touch up

I found that pushing backwards against the normal direction of the brush was better to get the paint into each chip.   When I used the brush as normal, it left more of a brush mark and not all the paint went into the chip.   The worst ones did require a little brushing due to their size.

As well as this panel, there were quite a few areas that needed stone chip touch up around the grille.   I used the same method and fixed those.   Again, if you look closely you can still see where it was fixed.  From 1-2 meters away you can hardly tell.

Grille

I will check again in the next couple of days to see how it has dried and if I need to touch up any of my touch ups.   Overall, for an hour’s work and a $20 paint pot I am pretty happy with the result.

stone chip touch up

Flashback: 2012 Sydney German Auto-Fest

They Sydney German Auto-Fest is now a major event in the Sydney car show calendar.   There are hundreds of cars to choose from including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, Audi and some of the smaller brands.   It has even replaced the separate Mercedes-Benz concours event.    However, this show had quite humble beginnings.   I attended the 2012 Sydney German Auto-Fest, back when it was a couple of dozen cars in a parking lot.   I recall that this was the inaugural event, but I could be off a year.

I went there in the 250SE, but I wasn’t sure if you had to register before, so I didn’t display the car.   The original event clearly did better than the organizers had hoped for as the small parking lot where it was held was soon overflowing.    I only had a short time available, but I was able to snap some of the photos that you see there.

Some of the cars that were on display at this event are now favorites to be seen at subsequent events.   This includes the dark blue Pagoda, the red 190SL and the Adenauer.   Compare these photos to the last time I was able to attend – in 2018.   That year was so big it completely filled Gough Whitlam park.   I would imagine the event will need to move to a larger space at some point.

The event continues this year on the 25th of October. Due to being late in the calendar is unlikely to be impacted by COVID-19.   For more information on the 2020 event, please see this link.    I will likely be displaying the 250SE.    I am pretty confident that the 2020 event will easily surpass the 2012 Sydney German Auto-Fest.

W126 Antenna grommet

One of the things that had been bugging me about my 560SEC was the missing W126 antenna grommet.   Over time, they perish and instead of replacing it, the previous owner had used household sealant.   This is an odd bodge as the part is inexpensive and easy to fit.   The household sealant was making the SEC look like a real jalopy, and while that might be the name of this site, I don’t actually want the cars to look like jalopies.

W126 antenna grommet

It is quite easy to fit the new W126 antenna grommet.   The power antenna must be dropped down.   It can be accessed behind the boot lining and is held up with a single phillips head screw.

So as not to damage the paint, I used a plastic razor blade and my fingernail to remove the sealant residue.   This was actually the most time consuming part of the job.

Once the residue was cleaned up, the new grommet is fitted from above.  I used some rubber grease to make it easier to push it into place.   From there it is a simple matter to push the antenna back up into the grommet and screw it back into place.    For 20 minutes of work and a part that costs only a couple of dollars it is an amazing transformation on the car.

W126 antenna grommet

I had previously fitted a new grommet to my 300SE a couple of weeks ago.   Unlike the SEC it had the proper grommet, but the rubber had perished and it was cracked and likely to let water in.

While I was at it, I tried to apply the Bowdens paint cleanse and restore I purchased recently.    The paint on the SEC is quite faded compared to the SEL in the same colour.   As it looks like original paint, I wanted to try a non abrasive product first.   A power buffer is going to take off a thin layer of the clear, which can’t be undone.    I tried the product on the bonnet and boot lid, the two worst parts of the paint.   It made a slight difference, but realistically it looks like I am going to need to try the power buffer.

Guest Article: MrFrotop buys a coupe

The club guys were right about the bug. You know, the one you catch after buying your first classic Mercedes. It’s not that the W108 3.5 wasn’t enough, but after a couple of years you feel an irrational (yet somewhat justified) urge to have a Mercedes for every occasion. Rescuing all of these beautifully engineered machines from an untimely demise is a noble cause, some might argue. The passion was certainly there but in the end, you need a number of factors to align: funds, garage space and spousal approval. I had only one of those, the rest will have to align later.

I wanted a coupe I could drive regularly which had rear seats for our two toddlers, and a 450SLC seemed like the obvious choice. However, I struggled to find a C107 that I liked which didn’t have an unrealistic price tag. It’s not that the SLC prices were astronomical in 2019, but obviously the asking price should reflect the condition of the vehicle beyond a fancy respray. The C107 can have some issues which are skin deep. What might appear like an excellent exterior could have a project car lurking beneath. Perhaps I made the mistake of using Colin T’s beautiful white 450SLC as reference, and ultimately nothing I inspected came close to the condition of this car.

At this point, I wasn’t searching for a C123, but widening the Gumtree classifieds search slightly came up with a white ’78 280CE in Canberra. The W123 was one of the most successful Mercedes-Benz models ever, with over 2.7 million variants manufactured between 1975 and 1986. They were known for their unrivaled reliability and high mileage capability – which is a good thing, since this ’78 280CE for sale had over 430,000km on the clock! If you were buying anything made after 1990, perhaps this high mileage would be a deterrent. But this is a 123 we’re talking about here, and the 2.8(ish)L M110 twin overhead cam motor is known to be bulletproof. In any case the price was ridiculously low, and it even had 11 months registration left. A convincing argument emerged around driving this CE for a year, and if it dies after 11 months then at least we got to experience what a 123 was all about. My wife agreed, so that box was ticked and I arranged a bus ride to the ACT after an agreed conditional price with the owner.

78 280CE M110

Everyone has a set of non-negotiable conditions when buying a car, and some of these may differ from person to person. Perhaps an Australian delivered car is an important condition for some, or sub-200K mileage for another. For me, a good service history, an excellent interior and minimal rust are very important – the rest can be fixed and restored with time. During my brief inspection of the vehicle, I was blown away by the condition of the interior. It even had the original factory floor mats, which were in excellent condition. The dashboard was virtually crack free, and the burlwood highlights (featuring on the first series C123) were also excellent. It drove ok, but felt a bit soft in the rear (what I later discovered was Self Leveling Suspension or SLS). Overall mechanically it appeared to be good and frankly, the price didn’t justify a higher level of mechanical scrutiny. I was only going to drive it for year you see, until it dies or I find an SLC, whichever came first. With a straight body and excellent chrome work, it was obvious that this little Australian delivered coupe has been well looked after. Other than some minor rust in the bottom inside of the front doors, paintwork “patina” and some suspension squeaks, it appeared to be a good car. We did the deal and I drove her back on the 270km trek home. Perhaps that’s when the love story began. I just couldn’t believe that a high mileage car from 1978 could be so smooth, quiet and capable on the freeway. I love my W108 but the refinement of this little coupe is a generation ahead, which it actually is.

78 280CE Interior

Out of the 2.7 million 123s produced, less than 100,000 were coupes, and a much smaller number were manufactured in RHD. Not a unicorn, but not available in abundance either. The more I read about the C123, the more I realise how sought after these were back in the day. The price tag in 1978 was AU$40,700 which was equivalent to a Jaguar XJ-S V12. Despite the exorbitant premium over the sedans, new 280CEs were fetching even higher prices overseas on the black market because they were so hard to get.

Other than a missing sunroof, my ’78 280CE coupe seems to have everything else. Power windows front and rear, power steering, disc brakes, air conditioning, cruise control and SLS – as featured in other early W123 delivered in Australia, perhaps to justify the hefty price tag at the time.

78 280CE Burl

In the first few weeks, the tires brakes and suspension squeaks were sorted out and the AC was re-gassed. Later on, we replaced the fuel injectors and some minor electrical components. Changing all the engine and gearbox mounts made a huge difference to noise and vibration and totally transformed the car. The hood liner had turned to powder, and it was also replaced – we now have a clean engine bay which was free from hood liner dust. A fun “C19 lockdown” project was fixing the vacuum central locking system using some spare actuator diaphragms I had. Recently, I had the top of the rear seat (which was sun damaged) reupholstered in original MBtex. The colour being a relatively rare medium brown or “Tobacco” as per the MB colour chart. Paint wise, it turns out that a good cut and polish can do wonders. It’s now a comfy, reliable and pretty pillarless cruiser. It also seems to put the toddlers to sleep pretty quickly (thank you smooth riding SLS).

In the past year, I’ve added over 7,000km of reliable commuting on the clock. The original engine is still going strong and the transmission shifts smoothly and quietly. At the time this article was written, there was 438,755km on the odometer – truly impressive.

78 280CE

Recent enthusiast interest in the 280CE has shifted the prices upwards. It’s nice to know, but it really doesn’t matter. As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m not getting rid of this pretty coupe any time soon. While I’m a bit precious about the W108 5-digit odometer ticking over to zero, I’m compelled to hit the 500,000km milestone in the CE. At least I can get to mount that mileage badge I bought from eBay on the front grill.

Author: John Tawadros.   John is a member of the Mercedes-Benz Club of NSW and the proud owner of a 1972 280SE 3.5 and now a 1978 280CE.   You can follow his adventures with both of these cars at his Instagram feed Mrfrotop

560SEL Stainless steel exhaust system

I hadn’t planned on doing anything to the 560SEL’s exhaust system.   However, when I was checking on the possibility of reinstating the self leveling suspension I noticed that the current system was rubbing quite badly on the drive shaft.   In addition, it did not fit well and the hangers could not align.  It was being held up with wire in places.    I have now replaced it with a new 560SEL stainless steel exhaust.

The diagram below shows the factory system.   While the Australian version of the 560 is quite similar to the USA version in many ways, it uses the standard catalyst exhaust, not the USA style.

It is a rather odd design.   the centre mufflers are generally referred to as the ‘kidney’ mufflers.    My system had been welded and patched a few times.  The kidney mufflers looked quite new, but they were not put in well, and the bends of the pipes meant nothing lined up properly.   There was also rust in the pipes between the kidneys and the rear muffler.

Instead of continuing the patch the system, I decided to replace it with a new 560SEL stainless steel exhaust system.     I wanted a system that would be more free flowing, but would still look original unless the car was up on the hoist.

The whole system was replaced from the manifolds back.   In a perfect world, I would have obtained a set of the two piece manifolds as found on my 560SEC ECE.   Those manifolds are very expensive, so I went with what I had.   There are only two joins (as seen in the picture) so the whole system can be dropped easily.  This means less chance of leaks.

560SEL stainless steel exhaust

The Australian version of the 560SEL is equipped with an oxygen sensor.   This has been fitted to a small join section behind the transmission.   The rearmost section has been painted black to match the original look.

560SEL stainless steel exhaustThe new system is much neater and I can feel an improvement in performance of the car.    There is a slight increase in engine note, but still in keeping with how a luxury car like the 560SEL should sound.    As it has been raining this week, I have not been able to test the sound at high RPM/full throttle.

With an exhaust system that no longer rubbed against the drive shaft, I was able to take the car on a longer run.   I had arranged to meet a friend from the Mercedes club for a quick catch up.  A good run for the car.    He brought his 1978 280CE W123.   As it is an early CE, it has the nicer dashboard with the burl wood and self-leveling suspension.   280CE’s are an underrated car.

560SEL and 280CE

560SEL further maintenance

Before I begin regular usage of the 560SEL there is further maintenance required.   Per a receipt I have, a new timing chain and tensioner was fitted around 20,000km ago.   This is obviously a good thing, but it was a shame that while this was done, the M117 timing chain guides were not replaced.

The guides (and ideally the sprockets) should always be replaced at the same time as the chain.   It is actually the guides that are the cause of most of the problems in the M116 and M117 engines.  A stretched chain just exacerbates the problem.

M117 timing chain guidesIn the picture above are a set of genuine M117 timing chain guides.   (bottom centre).   There are two inner guides (117 052 09 16), a left guide (117 052 08 16) and the guide rail that the tensioner pushes against.

To replace the guides, the sprokets must also be removed.   It makes sense to replace then while they are out.   I went with Febi sprokets.   At the same time the guides are replaced, the plastic camshaft oilers should also be replaced.   They are very cheap and simple to replace while the cam covers are off.   Obviously, while the cam overs are off, new gaskets (left) should be fitted.

Not related to the M117 timing chain guides, the motor mounts are completely collapsed.   I have purchased Lemforder mounts.   I recomend only Lemforder or genuine mounts.   Avoid cheap alternatives like Uro or Meyle.   Lemforder mounts are not expensive.    I also bought a transmission mount.  It seems that only Meyle is available but this is less of a big deal as it is much simpler to replace.     As well as rubber mounts, the M117 engine has two shock absorbers (in the Stabilus boxes) that are looking quite elderly on my car.   There are also mounting kits to fit them properly.

When replacing the timing chain, the distributor is removed.   I have a new cap and rotor if replacement is necessary.   If not, they will go on the shelf as spares.    The belts are looking a bit tired, so I have a new set of belts.    Finally, The car is running cool (60c above 80km/h) so there is a new thermostat to fit to the car.

I am not going to do this work myself.   The chain guides in particular are a fairly involved job.   I have the car booked in for mid June to have this work done.

As well as assemble all these parts, I also changed the air filter.   It wasn’t that dirty, but at least now I know how old it is.    As I plan to reinstate the self-leveling rear suspension, I changed its filter and flushed the fluid.   I outlined this job in more detail in another post.

Self leveling rear suspensionThe fluid should be clear, but it was coffee coloured in my car.   Not as bad as the fluid in the 560SEC or 300SE, but dirty nevertheless.   This flush also allowed me to verify that the pump is still working properly.   There would be no point putting replacement struts and accumulators in to fill them up with dirty old fluid.

All this work should make this 560SEL a really good car.   My experience is that there is always work required when you purchase a new classic car – even one that has been well maintained like this one.

May 2020 Rover P5 Coupe restoration update

I had this week off work, so I went by to see the Rover P5 restorations I have been following.    For those who are not regular readers, I sold my old Rover P5 to a gentleman who is restoring three Rover P5 Coupes and I have been calling in to see the restorations every couple of months.

The last couple of months he has been moving workshops, so the progress is based on work done earlier in the year.    My old P5 has been completely dismantled.   The new workshop does not have room for parts cars.   The parts will all go to good use and the engine is available if necessary if any of the three cars need it.

Rover P5 Engine

The engine was probably the best thing about my old car.    The body was quite rusty and the interior was very worn.    The picture above shows the cover for the valve adjustment in the block – a feature of this IOE engine.

The 1964 P5 MKIIA has the fuel tank fitted, the rear seat and parcel shelf fitted and the electrics complete.    The picture below shows one of the seats off the 1964 MKIIA (in grey) and two of the seats from the MKIIC (in cream).

Rover P5 SeatsThese seats are of a very different design to the seats used in the 1966 Rover P5 MKIII.    Those seats were modified again for the P5B, but are quite similar.  The MKIII seats look more like an ‘overstuffed’ armchair.

MKIII seats

A fair amount of progress has been made on the MKIII interior.   It was a bit dark to photograph inside the car, but the car is looking very impressive from the outside.   The Webasto sunroof can be seen at the top of the photo.   This Rover P5 MKIII Coupe is going to be quite impressive when finished.

Rover P5 MKIII

Repainting the W126 cladding

The W126 was the first Mercedes to feature plastic cladding.   I’m not sure this is the best feature of the W126, but it started a trend that would continue for many years.    The W126 cladding is attached to the car with a series of clips and consists of eight peices (four on each side) along the line of the bumper bars.   The cladding is not the same colour on each car.   Before 10/88 it was a contrasting grey, and after 10/88 it was generally a darker shade of the body colour.

This page (in German) provides all the colour codes, but basically both my 560s call for 5944 Fregatblau, as this is they grey matched with 929 Nautical Blue for the second series.   My 300SE should be 7176 Muschelgrau, but it has been painted Signal Red on both the body and the cladding.   I prefer this as I don’t think Muschelgrau goes well with Signal Red.   After 9/88 it would be 3515 Tartanrot, which is much better.

Before I owned it, my 560SEC took some minor damage on the front passengers side behind wheel.   One of the cladding pieces was damaged and the body slightly dented behind it.   The cladding piece sort of held on but used to flap about as I drove.   Not a great look.

W126 Cladding

There is slight damage on the door piece as well, but it is not so bad.    I am not in a position to fix it properly right now, but was looking for a better temporary fix.   A couple of months ago, I purchased another SEC cladding piece on eBay for this side of the car.   I also collected some additional clips during a visit to a junkyard in the USA.

The piece of cladding I purchased was not Fregatblau, so I could not simply attach it.   Luckily, Autobarn, an Australian auto parts chain will make up an aerosol can or touch up pot of any paint code for a reasonable price.   I purchased an aerosol of Fregatblau to paint this piece of W126 cladding and a pot of 929 Nautical Blue to fix a few stone chips on this car and the SEL.

After roughing up the surface of the cladding and masking off the chrome,  I applied the first coat.   In the end I applied four coats.   From what I gather, the factory used a Matte clear coat.   I could not find a aerosol matte clear so I just used the colour.   The photo of the wet paint makes it look darker than it really is.

W126 cladding

Obviously I am never going to be able to match the colour of 30 years faded W126 cladding with a pressure pack.   The aim here is to get close enough so the car still looks good and I can fix it properly in a couple of years when I take care of the rust under the rear screen.

W126 cladding

Despite all this the match is actually pretty good.   I am pretty happy with the result.  The newly painted panel looks better than the previous ones, but is not so off that it is hugely noticeable.   The chrome strip is also easy to mask off.

w126 claddingOn removing the old cladding, the body is slightly more dented than I previously thought.   It was a bit of a struggle to get the newly painted cladding to line up properly.   In particularly the top right hand mounting point is the centre of the damaged area.

W126 damaged area

I found it was easiest to insert the hooks into the top square holes first and then try and align against the white circle pieces.  It is a bit tricky as the bottom mounts can’t be seen once the top ones are in.   Considering the outlay of the entire project was minimal, I am pretty happy with the result.   I am also quite hopeful of how the pot of touch up paint will help remove some stone chips, particularly on the panels below the headlights.

W126 claddingI am hoping that once I drive around, the new piece will remain in place and not continually coming loose like it was previously.   It certainly seems like it is holding on much better.

Planning to reinstate the W126 Self-leveling suspension

After driving the 560SEL more I have decided to reinstate the W126 self-leveling suspension.   I am probably one of a very small group of people who is putting this system back after it is removed.   A 560SEL should drive really nicely, but the current springs and shocks make the ride like an unladen ute over rough surfaces.   As a contrast my 560SEC has an excellent ride.

The current system was put in by Pedders, a local suspension chain.   On speaking to a few people, I have discovered that the spring/shocks they put in are not really suited to the car – they are too harsh.   So either I source proper Mercedes springs from a non-SLS car and Bilstein shocks, or re-instate the W126 self-leveling suspension.   As this car is so original, I plan to put the self-leveling back in.   I hope I don’t regret this, as the struts are now NLA, but there is still used stock.

The first step is to make sure that the system can still be re-activated.   On my first check, I verified that the fluid reservoir is still in place and contained fluid.   The accumulators are also still there.   Today I had a closer look which is very promising.    The hydraulic lines have been capped off at the accumulators.    The fluid is dirty so I will flush it over the next couple of weeks.

W126 self-leveling suspension

The leveling valve is also present and looks in good shape.   All that is missing is the control rod that joins it to the sway bar.   This is quite a cheap part.

W126 self-leveling suspension

From my research, it would appear I need:

  • 2x Self-leveling struts:   A116 320 45 13
  • 2x Accumulators.   Genuine or aftermarket.
  • 2x Hydraulic lines from strut to accumulator:  A201 997 08 82
  • Control Rod:    A123 320 14 89
  • 4x Rubber buffers:  A114 326 00 68
  • 2x Springs:  A123 324 06 04
  • 2x Spring pad: A115 325 22 44
  • Various nuts and washers etc.

Once completed, I hope to sell the current springs and shocks to somebody who wants to remove the system and likes a harder ride – for example a bash car.

While I was under the car, I had a closer look at everything.   The car is very clean underneath.   At some point the kidney mufflers have been replaced.  The bends are all wrong which is causing a part of the system to rub against the drive shaft.    I will need to sort this out quickly.

Drive shaft

This also causes the rear muffler to be out of alignment.    The differential mount looks brand new which is a bonus.    There is also an oil leak out of the sum level indicator.    Various suspension bits look like they have been changed at some point which points to the regular maintenance the car has received.

While I was under the car I also replaced the steering shock which had nearly reached the end of its life.   I had a spare one on hand.

steering shock

450SLC Battery tray

I had not driven my 450SLC since early march due to the COVID19 lockdown.   When I first started the car the battery seemed quite weak.   After a drive, I put the car on my Ctek charger.   The charger showed an error where the battery will would not hold a charge.   This was confirmed by my Solar battery tester.   The recondition mode helped a bit, but ultimately the battery is almost 8 years old.

I probably would have tried a bit harder with the reconditioning if it wasn’t for a 30% off sale on DIN batteries at Supercheap auto.    It seemed like a good opportunity to replace the battery with a new one.    The SLC calls for a DIN65L size.   The Century battery I purchased has a 660 CCA rating which is better than the 600 rating of the NRMA battery it replaced.

The SLC  battery is easy to remove.   The battery is held down with a bracket.   You’ll need a 10mm deep socket and a long extension to easily remove it.   With the battery removed, I was able to see the condition of the 450SLC battery tray.    Over the years leaks from various batteries had caused the battery tray to develop surface rust.   It seemed a good opportunity to repair this.

450SLC battery tray

The 450SLC battery tray is held down with four bolts that can be removed with the same 10mm socket.   Once it is removed it is a simple matter to clean it up with a wire brush attachment on a drill.   Unfortunately the SLC was blocking in the other cars so I needed to make a quick job of it.     The battery tray cannot be seen once the battery is installed, so the objective was to reduce rust rather than cosmetic.   Still the wire brush attachment cleaned it up rather well.

450SLC battery tray cleaned

The picture is not great as I was doing the job at night and I only had a mobile phone to illuminate.    It showed that the rust was just surface rust and the battery tray was in otherwise good condition.   In the ideal situation, I would have used some turps to clean the battery tray after this.   I didn’t have any so just blew the dust off it and used some rags.   After this most basic cleaning I primed the surface.   I went with a separate primer as I thought it would be more durable than a paint and prime.

450SLC battery tray

Once the primer had tried, it was time to apply the top coats.   My 450SLC battery tray was starting to look pretty good again!    There is some grit in the paint where my cleaning job wasn’t quite up to scratch but overall I am pretty happy.

450SSLC battery tray

Once I let the paint properly dry, I cleaned the threads.   it was easier than masking them off, especially as I didn’t have tape on hand.   I had a cheap tap and die kit I purchased at Harbor Freight in the US which came in handy.

The other advantage of removing the 450SLC battery tray is the ability to clean underneath it.   There was a fair amount of dirt and debris that would be impossible to clear without removing the tray.   There was also a low point where a bit of surface rust had formed.   I treated this while i was at it.

450SLC battery tray

Finally, a new battery was also an opportunity to fit an attachment for my Ctek battery charger.   I didn’t do a full disconnect switch like on the 250SE but the attachment makes it easier to connect the charger.   For some reason the Ctek attachments have really small eyelets so I cut those off and crimped in bigger ones that I could attach to the battery terminals.

450SLC battery charger

I always write the month and year I replace the battery on top to quickly see its age later.   The battery I was replacing was from 2012.