W107 Subframe mounts

The Mercedes Benz 107 series uses a separate front subframe.   The engine and front suspension attach to the subframe, and then the subframe attaches to the body.   The subframe uses rubber mounts (very similar to motor mounts) to isolate noise, vibration and other harshness from the driver.    The subframe itself was basically lifted from the W114 series.    It wasn’t really up to the job with the larger and heavier engines of the 107 series and there was a recall to strengthen the lower control arm mounting points.

Over time, the W107 subframe mounts collapse in just the same way as motor mounts do.   This causes sloppy handling as well as vibration coming through the body of the car.   I have been chasing a grinding noise and feeling from the car on acceleration.   I recently changed the drive-shaft centre support, which didn’t help.    Later, when jacking up the car I noticed how collapsed the subframe mounts looked.

W107 Subframe mountsI wasn’t planning to do this work, but I did want to source the parts.    There are a few different suppliers for this part, but I had heard that the aftermarket mounts from the likes of Febi don’t hold up very long.   The genuine Mercedes mounts are still available, but with the rate parts are becoming No Longer Available (NLA) for the youngtimers, I figured it was worth getting the genuine parts while I could.   If the genuine parts went out of production or went to silly money, I would have taken Febi over Meyle.

You used to be able to buy a kit of all the parts needed.   For some reason Mercedes-Benz have discontinued that part number (115-330-18-75) even though all the parts are still available individually.   The aftermarket suppliers haven’t so if you buy aftermarket you can still just buy the kit.

Part #DescriptionQuantity
115-330-06-88Nut4
115-331-02-25Clamp4
115-333-02-65Rubber Buffer4
115-333-07-67Retainer4
115-990-27-01Screw4
912004-010102Lock Washer4
115-331-03-46Stop Buffer4
107-330-02-75Sub-Frame Rubber Mount4

Most of the cost is the actual W107 subframe mounts, two per side.   Those are the last item on the list with the 107 part number.   As can be seen in the photo, the new one looks a lot better.

W107 Subframe mountsAfter driving the car a few times, there is a noticeable improvement.   The last time I drove the car before the change, the handling was all over the place.   The new mounts have tightened that up and the grinding noise is gone.   I saw the old ones when they came out, and they were down to metal in a few places.  These photos are also the last before I cleaned out the wheel wells in my cars to show off the original paint underneath the years of grime.

The handling is still not perfect.   There is a decent amount of play in the steering at the centre position.   I had the steering box re-sealed but I don’t think the hard parts are available for right hand drive anymore.

107 107’s across the harbour bridge

2021 was fifty years since the introduction of the R107 and C107 models.   The R107 would go on to be particularly long lived model, finally getting the axe in 1989.   Despite being obviously old by then, it was still selling well right through the 80s.

107 107's

As part of the celebrations for the model, the Mercedes Benz Club decided to attempt driving 107 107’s across the Harbor Bridge.   According to club officials, the 107 is the most popular model in the club.   That meant we may be in with a shot!  It was still going to be a big ask.   There were less than 3,000 107 models ever sold in Australia, broken down as follows:

R107:
  • 280SL (74-75): ?
  • 350SL (72-75): 311
  • 450SL (73-80): 395
  • 380SL (81-85): 549
  • 560SL (86-89): 255
C107:
  • 280SLC (74-75): ?
  • 350SLC (72-75): 273
  • 450SLC (73-80): 793

I don’t have numbers for official 280 imports, but since they were offered for such a short time, It can’t be too many.   In those years there were three models offered simultaneously, which would have depressed numbers of individual models.

For the R107s, the 300SL, 420SL and 500SL were never sold in Australia.   The 500SL was a common import during the 81-85 years when the 380 was the largest variety on sale.   The 300SL and 420SL are rare, although there was a 300SL on the day.    For the C107s, the 380SLC and 450SLC 5.0/500SLC were never sold in Australia, with the 450 5.0/500 never manufactured in right hand drive at all.   The private import market was pretty good, so I would imagine another couple of hundred came in that way.

The 350 models have not survived in big numbers in Australia, but the rest of the cars were well represented on the day.

The drive started in a parking lot at a boat ramp near the airport.   That would give the convoy a straight shot with no traffic lights onto the eastern distributor and then the bridge itself.   Keeping a convoy of 107 107’s together was not going to be easy – especially on a busy road like the Harbour Bridge.  Even with tight spacing that is still a 1.6 kilometer convoy.    This proved to be the case as there was a constant stream of gormless SUVs pushing to the line.

The weather in Sydney has been terrible these last two weeks and I was wondering what the attendance was going to be like.   The 107 crowd is particularly sensitive to rain.  Not only are a good proportion of them convertibles, but they will rust away in front of your eyes.   The rain held off and we had a pretty good turn out.   I didn’t make a count at the start, but at the end we had 47 107s.

The ending point was a park in lane cove where we had a really good line up of the cars.   Coincidently, I ended up next to two other 906G Silver Grey 450SLCs.   There was a prize that went to the only 300SL in attendance.  A particularly nice car in UK spec with signal red paint and the cloth interior that was never offered in Australia.

This was the first event that I had my SLC after all the work I have done recently.   It drives much better with the new subframe mounts, the A/C no longer leaks all over the passengers floor and I’m really happy with the looks and driving feel of the 15″ Penta Wheels. I was still re-fitting the carpets and under dash panels at 10pm the night before.     I did find a new problem though, the spring in the handbrake is rattling in the drivers side rear.

We didn’t end up getting 107 107’s over the bridge, but it must have been quite a sight seeing such a big group of the cars driving along.  For starters, the 107 was available in colours, not just shades of grey like most modern cars.

Update:  One of our club members posted a video from an overpass as the cars passed.   I counted 47 cars over the bridge on that video too.    Not a bad effort.

Youngtimer Sacco Day 2021

Today was the MBCNSW Youngtimer Sacco Day 2021 – The second annual event.   The day is to commemorate the cars of Bruno Sacco, head of design at Mercedes-Benz from 1975-1999.   As with last year, the event was held at the HARS aviation museum.   This event has become one of the biggest on the MBCNSW calendar.

Unfortunately we had heavy rain most of the day.   Not ideal for a drive day, but that didn’t stop a fairly good turn out on the day.   It’s a real credit to some of the owners in the MBCNSW that they still brought their cars out on a day like today.   To many classics become garage queens never venturing out unless the weather is perfect.   This is a shame as cars a meant to be driven and generally sitting unused is worse than occasionally getting wet.

Youngtimer Sacco Day 2021Youngtimer Sacco Day 2021 started at Taren Point Bowling club.    The parking lot there had more room than the Mercedes-Benz dealership we started at last year.   After some time to look at the cars and for everyone to arrive, we left on the first leg of the drive, to Cataract Dam.

We took the Grand Pacific Drive through the Royal National Park, over Sea Cliff bridge and then up Bulli Pass to Cataract Dam.    Had the weather been good, the Dam would have been a lovely spot to have a bit of a walk and check out the scenery.   Due to the cold, rainy and windy weather, most people huddled under the gazebos.     There was a nice line up of cars in the parking lot though.

Youngtimer Sacco Day 2021From the dam we headed to HARS via Broughtons Pass, Picton Road and then down towards Kembla Heights.    The chosen roads were really good – it was such a shame that the weather was so bad.   I would say the route was as good as last year, and last year was a high bar to follow.

Like last year, I took my 560SEL.    I was quite keen to experience my just rebuilt front suspension on some good driving roads.   The suspension is probably great, but the alignment is clearly out as the car was a real handful in the wet.   Really twitchy handling at speed, strange behavior during cornering and not a very enjoyable experience.   After my mechanic did the work, he sent the car to be aligned.   I’m not sure what went wrong, but my suspicion is that they used the wrong specs.    After I got the car back, I noticed it was making the tyres squeal on minor cornering, so I took it back for a 2nd look.   The alignment place assured him it was fine.   Its clearly not.     The W126 normally one of the most surefooted cars in the wet I have driven.

When we arrived at HARS, the cars were first assembled in a marshaling area.   Once they all arrived, they were brought into HARS in model groups.    I really liked the idea of lining the models up together, but this didn’t work very well on the day.   I hope they try again next year as it would make an impressive display.

Youngtimer Sacco Day 2021Instead of a look at the HARS display and then a second drive to a different lunch spot, we had lunch at HARS and then were free to look around as long as we wanted.   Overall, I think that was a better choice.  While the food was nicer last year, it was better to have more time to browse the displays, and the food was fine at HARS.

Last year there was a section of the museum closed off due to an upcoming Qantas event.   This time that wasn’t the case, so we were able to tour the 747-400, the Connie and other large exhibits.   The 747-400 was VH-OJA, the first 747-400 operated by Qantas and the aircraft that set the record for the longest delivery flight at over 20 hours.

The club also had prizes for various things.   I managed to win the prize for the highest mileage W126 on the day – 335,000.     In addition, my two daughters were excited to be chosen to help give out the prizes.

The selection of cars at Youngtimer Sacco Day 2021 was more balanced this year.   Last year it was very skewed to the W126, the 420SEL in particular.   This year there was more balance of Sacco models, in paritcular a nice selection of W124s.   This changed so much I think I was the only 560SEL, but I think there were four LWB Nautical blue W126s on display.   There was also a nice selection of W126 SECs.

Overall the organizers did a really nice job with Youngtimer Sacco day 2021 and I look forward to next years event.

W126 handsfree solution with original Becker

My one owner 560SEL still has its original Becker CD player.   Australian delivered 560SELs and SECs came standard with the CD player, which also has a control box in the boot.   Mine is still working well.  My goal was to find a good W126 handsfree solution with the original Becker.   While a modern radio and speakers would probably sound better, the Becker is a part of the original character of the car and worth keeping.

This era of Becker do not have an aux input like the 60s models do.   Therefore, the only solution is to have the unit modified with the line in, or use an FM transmitter.   Becker cassette owners can also use one of those cassette adapters if their cassette player is still working.  At some point, I will have my Becker modified for a line in.    In the meantime, I am using an FM transmitter for my W126 handsfree solution.

My needs are pretty simple.   I want to play music off a USB drive, and I want to be able to make hands free phone calls from my phone via bluetooth.   Music streaming from the phone is only nice to have.

My first solution used a Kogan FM transmitter.   I was unimpressed with this unit.    I will write a separate review some other time, as it left a lot to be desired.   Not specific to the Kogan unit was the requirement that I keep the ashtray open at all times.    The W126 interior is really nice, but let down if the ashtray is always open.

As I needed to replace the Kogan FM transmitter, I started looking for one I could modify so it fit inside the ashtray.    I found the best selection on AliExpress.   In the end I chose a model where the main housing was a small rectangular unit.    It was easily small enough to fit into a W126 ashtray insert.    I bought two of them.    One to modify for the ashtray and the other as a backup, If I found my modifications were fatal to the unit.   I have been using the backup plugged into the ashtray and I have been happy with its functionality.    It also has a USB charging port for my phone, an added bonus.

I didn’t want to modify my original ashtray insert, so had planned on buying one from eBay.   None for a reasonable price had come up, but then I purchased my 420SEL parts car.   The ashtray was in good condition.

The first step was to see if my AliExpress FM transmitter could work without its appendage that goes into the cigarette lighter.   I carefully removed it.   Inside the appendage was a small transformer that took 12V and ground from the car and supplied 12V, 5V and ground to the FM transmitter.   The main FM transmitter ran on 5V, but it also had a battery monitor function that needed 12v.  I was able to ascertain all this by applying 12v and ground to the old cigarette lighter connections and using a multimeter to verify the voltages coming out the back.   Red was 5V and Yellow was 12V.

W126 handsfree solution
Instead of trying to build my own housing for the existing transformer, I purchased a separate one online that came in its own housing and would fit in the back of the cigarette lighter insert.   I wasn’t sure of the amperage requiremnets, so I built in some fat and got one that could do 5A.    Since it has to power the phone charger as well, I wanted some head room.

Next step was to modify the 420SEL ashtray insert.   It had two features to aid smokers.   Around the rim, there was a cigarette holder that would have prevented the FM transmitter from being fully visible.    There was also a bump on the bottom, presumably to stop a cigarette falling in if it is resting there.   That made the button on my FM transmitter too high.    I used a dremel tool to cut off the cigarette lighter holder and a hammer to bash out the bump.

W126 handsfree solutionFrom there, I did a quick test fit to see if the modified insert still went into the ashtray housing.   It did.   I also did a test fit of my transformer and FM transmitter.   They worked too.    My W126 handsfree solution was taking shape.   It was a pretty simple task to wire it all up.   I planned to use the cigarette ligher feed, as I would no longer need it and did not want to modify the car.    I would need two 12v wires. One for the transformer and one for the 12v of the FM transmitter, plus a ground.   Confusingly, the output of the transformer was a 5V yellow wire which then connected to the 5V red wire of the transmitter.   Similarly, the red 12V wire from the car connected to yellow on the transmitter.

I had originally planned to send the wires out via a hole in the clear plastic insert on the right hand side which allows light to get in.   I soon abandoned this approach as I could not re-fit the ashtray insert to the housing with the wires sticking out this way.   In the end,  I drilled a hole in the back which worked.   It probably would have been better to drill it about 2cm to the left as there is a gap in a plastic molding that would have made the exit easier.   To stop my components rattling around I used some velcro.   As a future improvement, I should put a rubber grommet around the hole for the wires so they do not chafe.   The two 12v then connected to a single spade connector, as did ground.

2021-11-20 12.00.42-1

Next step was to remove the ashtray housing from the 560SEL.   This was only necessary to unplug the cigarette lighter.   Its a two minute job, with two screws visible once the insert is removed and the ashtray is fully extended.    The factory plug worked fine with my spade connectors, so my W126 handsfree solution can be removed at any time.

AshtrayImportant to the design was to leave enough slack in the wires so the insert could be removed while installing the ashtray housing.   This is essential as the housing cannot be screwed in with the insert installed.

W126 handsfree solutionObviously, before I screwed it all together, I tested the solution.   Success!  Everything seemed to work fine.   I then properly installed the ashtray housing and the insert.     At some point, if I am still happy with this solution I will create a cover for the wires on the right, and provide an on/off switch.    I’ll also look at a retractable charging cable for the left side, so its not hanging around when not in use.

W126 handsfree solutionThe ashtray only needs to be open if I am speaking on the phone, or if I want to change track on my music.    I had hoped the remote control that came with the FM transmitter would even allow me to go to the next track without opening the ashtray, but unfortunately that was not to be.    It works quite well though.  When driving home I got a call, and all I had to do was open the ashtray and press the round button.   For most of the time, the ashtray remains shut.   The final photo shows the normal look. Unless you open the ashtray you would never known there is a separate transmitter in there.

This particular unit also has a line out.  I will be able to use its USB and telephone features even after I have a aux line-in installed on the Becker.   This will improve sound quality as the FM transmitter is ok, but not perfect.   And while the remote control does not work with the ashtray closed, the bluetooth does.   So far, I am pretty happy with my W126 handsfree solution.   With a few modifications, it can be even better.

W126 handsfree solution

Fitting the AMG Aero I wheels to my 560SEC

I’ve had the AMG Aero I wheels ready to go for a couple of months.   I couldn’t fit them until the Penta wheels were on the 450SLC.   The reason was that I wanted to use the lug bolts from the SLC on the 560SEC.   I do have another set of the long style lug bolts, but they are not nearly as nice as the ones that were on the SLC.

As with the 450SLC, I planned to clean the wheel wells at the same time as changing the wheels.      After I had set up my new pressure washer, I figured I could do the last two wheels of the SLC and then all four SEC wheels on the same night.

No sooner than I started the job than it started raining steadily.    This wasn’t forecast, but I had the cars out and up on stands so I decided to press on.

Wheel swapAs with the 450SLC, the SEC had very dirty wheel wells.   I found the best way to clean them was to let the diluted wheel cleaner soak for a while then wash it off with the pressure washer.    Its hard to get the pressure washer in without getting close to the paint.  There is no other way to get rid of the accumulated road grime, bitumen and other debris.   There was less accumulated black residue than on the SLC, but being a UK car originally there were a few places with minor surface rust.   At some point when its not wet, i’ll remove the wheels and clean that up.

AMG Aero II’m really happy with how the AMG Aero I wheels turned out, but one thing that wasn’t perfect was the centre caps.   They were not a great fit and didn’t come up as well as the rest of the wheels.   I had a closer look and they were not original Mercedes caps.   I should have looked at this before I sent them out to be refinished.

In any case I had bought a pack of near new Mercedes caps from a garage sale a few years ago.   On fitting then, I made a small mark on one of the wheels which nobody but me will notice.   I’ll have to be careful with the finish to keep them nice.

AMG Aero IIt was just as well I mounted the new wheels when I did.  The lug bolts on the front wheels were very loose.   One was even missing!   Last time the wheels were off was when I had the brake hoses done.   I didn’t do this job, so it pays to check things like this after you get a car back from having work done.   It means the old wheels are being sold with 19 lug bolts, not 20.

AMG Aero IThe AMG Aero I wheels look much better than the old 8 hole wheels.   While I was at it, I was going to adjust the rear SLS, but it was almost 2AM and I was very wet and very muddy by this time.   That can be a job for another time.    I had to cover the seat with various rags and so on for the drive home.  The car drove really nicely on that short drive.

AMG Aero I

Fitting my 450SLC with AMG ‘Penta’ rims

I had previously purchased a set of original AMG ‘Penta’ wheels and had tyres fitted.   My next step was to fit them to the car.   I waited until the car was back from having the subframe mounts done – It seemed silly to fix nice new wheels to a car right before they are being taken on/off in a workshop.   At the same time I also wanted to clean out the wheel arches.   I learned a couple of years ago these are supposed to be body coloured.   Due to the state of mine, I had assumed they were black!

A friend of mine runs a detailing business, and he suggested using a diluted wheel cleaner for this job.   I was able to source this through him, which was a big help.
450SLC with AMG 'Penta'As I started cleaning, I could see the black colour was a thick gooey mud like substance that took quite a lot of effort to remove.   The wheel cleaner certainly helped to get it off.   On the first wheel, I just used a regular spray bottle and sponge.   This took hours.   The wheel was not really compatible with the spray bottle and I could not get enough on.   The sponge did eventually get the stuff off, but it took a lot of scrubbing.

450SLC with AMG 'Penta'

The stuff dripping down reminded me of one of the anti-smoking ads they aired here in Australia during the 90s.   They had a sponge that was supposed to simulate a set of lungs and all the tar and residue from a long time heavy smoker.   It was quite an effective ad campaign at the time and this stuff certainly reminded me of it.

With 8 wheels to do, I wasn’t going to be done this year if I kept up this method, so I purchased a small pressure washer the next day, which I used for the other seven.  It took me a bit of time to get the hang of it and I think I may have slightly damaged the paint in one or two places I need to touch up.   There was already a bit of damage from when the 8 hole wheels rubbed before, so I anticipated this.

450SLC with AMG 'Penta'The second wheel was much faster than the first, and this included assembling and trying out the pressure washer.    On the first evening, I got one wheel done.   On the second, I also got one wheel done, but set myself up to do the next six in a marathon that lasted to 2am.

I didn’t get the wheel wells as clean as I hoped, but they were certainly much better than before.   As well as the dirt there was a thick tar like substance that wouldn’t come off without damaging the paint in some places.

The car did look rather interesting after just the rear wheels were done.  Its an interesting contrast and you really notice the fatter 225 width tyres with the deeper dish Pentas over the other wheels and their 205 width tyres.

450SLC with AMG 'Penta'I finally got all four mounted and I am really happy with the look.    This is now the 5th type of wheel this car has worn.   It was delivered with the colour matched hubcaps.   At some point a set of Australian made ‘Bundt’ wheels were fitted.   I never really liked those wheels, so fitted the 8 hole replicas for a couple of years.   Those wheels look better on the W126 than the C107, so I replaced them with the 15″ ‘Gullideckel’ wheels that were fitted on the 86-89 R107s.    Finally, I have the 15″ Pentas.       The Gullideckel wheels will go on my 560SEL, as the wheels on that car are in need of refinishing.

The only thing I would change is the bolts.  Even though I made them better, I am still not all that happy with how they look, especially contrasted with the wheels.   I’ll probably look to get a better set at some point.  Overall I am really like the look of a 450SLC with AMG ‘Penta’ wheels.   I think they really suit the car – far better than the modern wheels some fit.

450SLC with AMG 'Penta'

450SLC radio wiring

I’ve been doing quite a bit of work to my 450SLC lately.   One of my more recent jobs has been to fix the A/C condensate leak.   While I was there, I noticed that rats nest of wiring for old amplifiers, car alarms and car phones.   I removed most of this, but the result was that the radio in the car was no longer working.  The photo below shows just some of the old wiring I removed from the car.  My task today was to investigate the 450SLC radio wiring to work out why.

450SLC radio wiring

The radio in the car is an early 2000s unit I originally bought for my 1986 300E when I lived in Denver.   When I sold the 300E I put a cheap radio back in and kept this unit.   It’s a Pioneer Premier which is like Lexus is to Toyota.   It was a pretty good radio for 2001 – with MP3 CD function and more.    I had the radio fitted to the SLC after I purchased it in 2003 – the car had a fairly crappy 90s unit installed at the time of purchase.    Its doing pretty well to still be working after 20 years.   At some point I will probably install a retrosound unit similar to the 250SE, but that is a future project.

The first task was to remove the radio and check to see if it had power or not.   As I didn’t install the radio myself, I did not have the correct DIN removal tool.   I purchased a full set of DIN tools online.   I figured it would be a useful tool for the future.

450SLC radio wiringThe purchase was definitely worth it, as I had the radio out in a matter of minutes.    The pioneer tools were a perfect fit – I guess they haven’t changed them in 20 years!   Some of them have rather odd shapes, so but its good to have all the standard types.

450SLC radio wiringThe steering wheel is only loosely on at the moment as the odometer is out for repair.  I found it easier to remove the instrument cluster and give the radio a bit of a push from behind.   As with the other stuff I removed, the 450SLC radio wiring is pretty messy.   I didn’t try and clean that up as I’ll do it at the same time I replace the radio and probably install new speakers.

450SLC radio wiringOnce the radio was out it was pretty apparent what the problem was.   The yellow wire for permanent 12v was connected to and old bit of speaker wire I had removed.    The switched 12v was working correctly however.    This old bit of speaker wire had been connected to one of the old car phone bits which was in turn connected to the fuse box.

As modern radios use more power than the original Becker units, I figured the best approach was to run a new wire from the battery to the radio, with an inline fuse.   This is pretty easy to do with the under dash panels removed.   There is a big rubber grommet near the battery that lets a bunch of vacuum lines and wires go from the engine bay to the cabin of the car.   I was able to push a new wire through fairly easily.   It was actually easier to do it from the cabin to the engine bay as the vacuum lines turn almost 90 degrees once they enter the cabin.     I then use an inline blade fuse holder and a connector to the positive battery terminal.

fuse holderA quick test showed the radio working.   The new 450SLC radio wiring is much neater than before and I have a working radio again.

While I was there, I had another issue to investigate.   I had replaced the sunroof switch about 10 years ago, but without the instrument cluster removed, I couldn’t plug it in without removing the rear dome light switch.   This gave me access to plug in the sunroof switch.   At the time I figured a working sunroof was more important than a working dome light.    However, with the dome light switch plugged back in, I blew fuse #1.   In the end I just disconnected the switch again.   I have not really missed the dome light since I disconnected it.

450SLC radio wiring

The Adventures of my E-Type

Today we are used to E-Types being coveted sports cars which are treated with care by their owners.   Few of them ever even see a drop of rain on their paintwork.   However, for many years they were just old sportscars that were not treated with the same reverence.   This is the story of my E-Type before it settled into its post-restoration life.

E-Type

I had never really thought of owning an E-Type until I lived in the USA for four years.   Certainly, I had seen them at car shows and always admired the model.   However, in Australia they felt out of reach.   In the USA on the other hand, they are far more plentiful.    Over 80% of E-Types were left hand drive and the vast majority of those cars ended up in the United States.  In addition, very nice driver quality cars are much cheaper in the USA.

In the first couple of years of living over there, I owned a couple of Mercedes-Benz models that I had always wanted to own and were laughably cheap over there.   In 2010, after classic car prices took a bit of a dip due to the global financial crisis, I realized that now was the time to buy something much nicer that I would eventually bring back to Australia after I finished over there.     I researched a few different cars but ended up with a Series 1 E-Type as my target.

It took me about six months to find the right car.   I looked at some absolutely shocking examples.   The worst being a car that I drove four and a half hours to Buffalo NY to inspect.   It was advertised as being in good condition and the owner agreed to a test drive.  He neglected to inform me that it hadn’t been on the road since 1994, was full of rust and was only being held on the driveway by the handbrake.   I think he was a little offended when after his inquiry about if price was the reason why I was no longer interested I told him I wouldn’t have been interested at any price.

In the end I found a car that met my requirements in Portland OR.   It was a Series 1 4.2 OTS – an older restoration that was still in nice condition.   I had an inspection done on the car that looked really promising, so I flew out to see it.     The garage doing the inspection was a little reluctant.   They were worried I would sue them if there was something wrong with the car.   I agreed not to and to take the report verbally, so they relented.

I agreed a price and the car arrived in my driveway a month later.   I had briefly thought about driving it back, but decided that was probably too much of a risk on a car like this I didn’t know.   A few months earlier I had bought a Mercedes 560SEC on eBay sight unseen and driven it back to Michigan over a weekend.    At least with the much cheaper Mercedes, had something gone wrong I could have just parked it somewhere and retrieved it later.

E-Type

My first drive of my new E-Type wasn’t much of a success.  I found the brakes sticking on after even moderate use.   I managed to make it almost home until they stuck on hard and I was sitting by the side of the road for 30 minutes for the car to cool off.   This problem would come and go for the whole two years I lived in the USA, despite various repairs and would only get resolved after I arrived back here.

During this time, I started to trace the history of the car.   The history file came with the details of where the previous owner had purchased it, and I had the names of two early owners written in the owner’s manual.

My first step was to order a heritage certificate which confirmed the car was build 17/9/65 and left the factory 5/10/65.   It was sold to a Spencer Augustus Folsom Jr, of Fayetteville, North Carolina.   That corresponded to the first name in the owner’s manual listed with Abv 1965.   It was also able to confirm that the engine, gearbox, colour scheme etc was the same as it left the factory.     The other name listed is Muriel Folsom and a date of July 19, 1967.

I did much better tracking back to the prior owner.   The gentleman in Portland who sold me the car had purchased it from a broker, but the broker remembered the car and soon put me in contact with the original seller, Dick.   Dick had sold off his car collection and retired to Costa Rica, but had been the owner from 1988 to 2004.    It was Dick who had done the restoration of the car, and he had actually purchased it off a good friend of his, Warren who had purchased the car in late 1967 or early 1968.  As well as the E-Type, Dick’s car collection included a 1954 XK120 DHC, a 1969 Porsche 911 Targa and a 1937 Cord Phaeton.

Warren purchased the car just after he graduated Law School as a present to himself.   The car was about 18 months old and had already been resprayed to Indigo blue.   The original colour was Opalescent Silver-Blue.    Warren had been driving a Mercedes 190SL at the time.   While the 190SL is worth big money now, it was just a cheap sportscar back in 1967 and Warren found it extremely disappointing.   Unlike its more storied 300SL brother, the 190SL is more of a sheep in wolfs clothing.

He seemed to recall purchasing the car from the original owner.   He couldn’t remember much about him, other than he seemed to be some kind of sales person and was selling the car to buy a Porsche 911S.   At the time, Warren was living in Washington DC.   Warren stayed in Washington DC for another six weeks before he relocated to San Francisco where the car would remain until Dick purchased it in 1988.

On the drive from Washington DC, Warren was able to explore some of the E-Type’s performance, especially as compared with the 190SL.  Apparently, he was able to peg the speedometer driving through Utah.   It was a spring morning in the desert, and while the road was dry, there was still snow on the ground.   There may be a bit of poetic licence here, as 160mph seems a bit far fetched for a bone stock 4.2 E-Type.    Or perhaps it was the Smiths speedometer!

E-Type

From then until the mid-80s, the E-Type was Warren’s daily driver, and it often parked on the street in San Francisco.   He used to have it maintained by a small father/son shop who loved the XK engine so much they had one in their GMC pickup truck.

When he first got to San Francisco, he didn’t have anywhere to live, so he was temporarily staying with a college friend in the Low Hollow section of San Francisco.   One day he got back home late at night and the car was gone.   A couple of weeks later he was driving a rental car, and he sees his own car, being driven by some guy, still in San Francisco.   It even still had his plates on it.   He attempted to give chase, but the E-Type was no match for an entry level econobox and so it got away.   After that, he had resigned himself to never seeing the car again.

He went to a bar to drown his sorrows, and when he came out, the rental had been towed or stolen.  When he got back to the apartment, his roommate had left a note saying his car had been located.   Assuming this was the rental, car, he went to bed.

The next morning, he found out it was the E-Type.  His roommate had been driving through the Mission district and was telling one of her girlfriends about how Warren’s Jaguar had been stolen and that he didn’t think he would ever get it back.   Her friend wasn’t familiar with the model so his roommate pointed one out parked on the street.    She quickly did a double take as it was Warren’s car, parked on Dolores St.

They found a Policeman who needed a lot of convincing to have it towed to the Police lockup, but eventually relented as he was going off duty.

Warren went down to the lockup and found that his car was mostly ok.   Not only that, but it was full of the thief’s property including his shoes and underwear.     He couldn’t think of anything creative to do with them, so he tossed them away.

Soon after, when using his address book, he noticed that the world’s stupidest thief had started using Warren’s address book as his own.  The thief had written his own name in the address book, and his mother’s name and address.   Warren took this information to a detective, who wasn’t all that interested as the car was back and it was outside San Francisco.

Warren decided that since the Police were not interested, he would find the thief himself.   The address was in Pacifica, which is just south of San Francisco.   He wasn’t able to find the address, so he consulted with a local Cop.  The Cop immediately wanted to know why he was interested in that name and address.   The name was well known to Pacifica police.  They thought the thief was still in Prison for car theft!   Turns out he had been released two days before he stole Warren’s car.   He never was prosecuted for the theft.   Warren was pretty happy to get the car back though, as he was pretty certain he would never see it again.

After the theft, Warren had the father and son team who maintained the car to fit an unobtrusive fuel pump cut off switch.   The car would never been stolen again by a third party, although Warren would have to ‘steal’ it himself.

Warren had been in Chicago for business and the car was parked at the airport.   When he returned, he realized that he had left the keys in Chicago.   He managed to scrounge up some wire, unscrewed the dash panel and used the wire to jump the ignition switch and started the car right up.   The parking lot attendant saw him driving out with the panel down and exposed wires, but just took the $20 fee and waved him through.

E-Type

Later in the 70s, Warren was living on the Oakland side of the bay, and was visiting a coworker who lived in Danville.   That area was not nearly as built up as it is today.     One evening, Warren had a bit to much to drink at a dinner, so took the back road home (Crow Canyon Road).   It was a full moon, the top was down, and as he rounds a corner, he sees a horse moving around by the side of the road.  As he goes to pass the horse, it panics and bolts onto the road.

Warren tries to take evasive action, but at the last minute the horse goes the other way.  As a result, he slams into the horse with the right-hand side of the car, which was quite badly damaged.   The horses head came through the windscreen, severing an artery as the glass shatters.   Unfortunately, the horse bled out all over the car, inside and out.   Warren is able to extract the car from the now dead horse and get it home.

The next morning at the office, the coworker was at the office telling everyone how he had seen this dead horse on the way to the office and was saying based on the state of the horse he wished he could see the state of the car!   As it happened this was a wish Warren could grant.

Given the condition of his car, Warren started the process of filing his insurance claim.    The insurance agent wanted to know what type of animal Warren had struck.  Luckily before answering, Warren enquired why this mattered.   The agent helpfully told him that his policy covered wild animals, such as deer.  It did not cover domestic animals such as dogs and horses.

Later Warren’s coworkers would present him with a painting of him as the 19th century hunter, replete in a safari jacket, pith helmet and holding a glass of champagne in front of a fireplace.   Mounted above the fireplace is a stuffed animal head.   It’s a horse with antlers.

Obviously, in the mid-70s a well-used Jaguar E-Type is not worth a great deal.   Warren starts calling around trying to find a used bonnet.   He finds a shady sort of guy who can provide one for $500 cash.   The guy arrives with the bonnet on the back of his pickup truck.   He picks up the bonnet on his own and dumps it in front of Warren and demands his $500.   Later Warren would read in the paper that this guy was gunned down in a drug deal.   After that he always wondered if he had a ‘hot’ bonnet.

Later, during my ownership the car was at Tony Pallas’ workshop having some electrical work done.  Tony indicated that I had a 3.8 bonnet which fits into Warren’s story.

At the time of the horse incident, Warren had the colour of the car changed to Maroon.   By the mid-80s, Warren would purchase an XJ6 and the E-Type would get less and less use until it was languishing in the back of a warehouse, gathering dust.   By that time, it needed everything.

Dick had been friends with Warren for many years and had wanted an E-Type since the 4.2 model came out.   Dick lived in Reno, Nevada and that is where the E-Type would be restored.    He paid $15,000 for the car.

Dick also sent the car to Carson City for some mechanical work.  In particular, the engine was re-done including replacing the cracked liner in #5, hardened valve seats in the head, changing the rear end ratio to either 3.31 or 3.07 (from 3.54) and installing XJ6 rear brakes.

The goal of Dick’s restoration was to mostly be stock, but with a few specific changes.   Firstly, he wanted to go back to the original Opalescent Silver-Blue, but he didn’t particularly like the shade.   He did however see a similar Porsche colour from the 80s with a bit more of a vibrant blue.    You can really tell the difference when the parked next to the factory colour.

In addition, Dick was no fan of some of the interior materials used by Jaguar.   The car has blue leather instead of any of the other materials such as hadura, moquette or vinyl.   Even the accelerator pedal is covered with leather.   The interior was done by another friend of Dick’s who took all those requests into account.   Dick also installed a luggage rack on the boot for touring, plus new Dayton 6” wire wheels.

The restoration was done by 1995 and Dick and his wife scored well in some early concours events while the restoration was still fresh.    It won it’s class in the 2001 and 2003 Reno Concours events.   Dick would put about 8,000 miles on the E-Type after the restoration.

In 2004, the car would go to Rick in Portland.   Rick drove it back from Reno, but it didn’t get a whole lot of use in Rick’s ownership (around 2,000 miles).    Rick also had a Lotus track car, so he had the car fitted with adjustable shocks, changed the diff back to 3.54, fitted a 14” steering wheel – an exact replica of the original and removed the luggage rack and amco bars.

I bought the car from Rick and for the first 18 months I owned it, it was based in Royal Oak Michigan.   I probably put as much mileage on the car in that 18 months as it had in the six years prior.    The main issues I had with the car were lack of use.   It would take me 2-3 years to sort out the brake problems with the car.

In the 11 years I have owned the car, I’ve covered 11,000km in it.   With a young family, I am not able to make all that many club events, but the logbook system means I can still use the car, often late at night.   The car was seen at the 60th anniversary event in Bathurst and has been on display at the all-British day a few times.

E-Type

I’ve not really changed much on the E-Type.   I fitted a Coolcat fan to cope with Sydney traffic, replaced the 80s cassette deck with a Retrosound unit that looks similar to the original radios in USA cars, and had the diff ratio changed (again) to 3.07.   I’m really happy with that modification as it really makes 3rd gear come alive.   For example, on long twisty roads like Goulburn to Oberon, 3rd gear becomes a great passing gear and a good ratio for slower sections.   I also really like the 14” steering wheel, as at 194cm, I don’t easily fit without it.

When I purchased the car, I assumed I would have it converted to right hand drive here in Australia.   However, I have not really been at all bothered with driving a left-hand drive car here.   Its true there have been a couple of times I have reversed into large parking garages to operate the keypad or ticket machine, but that is a small price to pay to drive one of the greatest cars of the 20th century.

This article first appeared in the Jaguar Drivers Club of Australia Magazine, The Australian Jaguar Driver, November 2021 edition.

Centennial Park cars and coffee – October 2021

There is another informal cars and coffee event in Sydney that I have been meaning to go to for the last 18 months.   Its the one held on the last Sunday of the month at Centennial Park.   I finally managed to attend today and I am glad I did.   The event is held in the middle of the park near the statue of Charles Dickens.     It gets a different mix of cars than the one at St Ives I normally go to.

Today was supposed to be the day of the annual Sydney German Car show.   I’m not sure if that event being cancelled had anything to do with it, but there were a lot of German cars on display.     I was one, as I took my 250SE Cabriolet.   Its pretty dirty from a drive in the rain earlier this week, but at least the silver paint hides the dirt somewhat!

Centennial Park

Part of the reason I brought the 250SE is that it has been running so poorly since lockdown.  I think it just needs more time behind the wheel as it drove much better after a new tank of 98.    Today’s performance was a bit odd.   On the way over it was running as badly as before I refilled the petrol tank.   On the way back though, it ran almost perfectly.    I am hoping this is a sign of things to come.

Its hard to pick out a few favorites from the display, as there were so many lovely cars.   One that did stand out was the Alpina B7 Turbo.     Based on my favorite BMW, the E24, its a very rare car and I’ve never seen one in Australia.   There was also a black Jensen Interceptor, a very impressive pre-war Rolls Royce, a nice Volvo P1800 and many more.

Centennial Park

The strangest part of the whole thing was the behavior of the Centennial Park rangers.   As you would expect, they were there checking on proceedings.   The odd part was all the passive-aggressive muttering about the way the cars were parked.   On two different occasions I witnessed them coming past muttering loudly about various cars.   One of the cars was illegally parked, so I instead of all that muttering why not just issue a ticket and be done with it?

The park isn’t only for the cyclists, so I’m not sure what is to be gained by behavior like this – I didn’t see anyone paying any attention.

Overall it was a great way to spend a Sunday morning and I plan to come again when I can.

MBCNSW October 2021 night drive – Clovelly to Kurnell

After a three and a half month lockdown, official MBCNSW night drives were back last night.   The route was Clovelly to Kurnell.   The night drives were supposed to be back two weeks ago, but freak hail again prevented the Berowra ferry drive.    It was a lovely spring Sydney evening of about 20c, perfect for an open top Night Drive, so I took my 250SE Cabriolet.   As I have outlined previously, the car hasn’t been running too well since lockdown, so I am trying to put a few miles on it to see if the performance keeps improving with use and new fuel.

Clovelly to Kurnell

As usual, we had a good mix of cars, old and new. Highlights included lovely examples of a R107 450SL, W126 280SE and 380SEC, W116 450SE and modern AMG A, G and E class models. I even managed to sell a door pull from my 420SEL parts car to the owner of the 280SE. The door pulls were in surprisingly good condition on the 420SEL, and his door pull was sagging as is typical.

Clovelly to KurnellThe drive took us south to Botany road, where we proceeded past the airport, over to Kurnell and then back to our ending point at McDonalds on Taren Point Road.    As with our last eastern suburbs drive, the group got split up pretty quickly.    There are just so many traffic lights and stop signs that it makes it almost impossible to keep the group together.

This time, we sent the directions to a few people in the group to account for this, but it wasn’t enough.   Next time, we’ll need to send the directions to everyone signed up for the drive, before time.   At least once we got out of the eastern suburbs it was easier to keep together, and much easier as we got over to Kurnell.

Clovelly to Kurnell

Despite those challenges, most people made it to the end point, although a couple directly instead of the Kurnell detour. All in all it was a good drive and good to get back to the regular night drives. My 250SE is running better than before, but I am still getting those occasional periods when it stutters. I want to try and run this tank out to see if gets better with the next one, or if I have some other issues.  The Clovelly to Kurnell drive was good, but I think we have done some better ones.