Introducing my 1990 Mercedes 300TE

Now I have sold my 1986 Mercedes 300SE, time to introduce its replacement, a 1990 300TE.   I had been keeping my eye out for a good driver quality S124 wagon for a while.    I wanted a car I could use for things like taking my kids bikes around and so on.   The S124 really fits the bill for this.    I think these Mercedes-Benz E-class wagons are exceptional cars, and hugely preferable to an SUV.    Others must agree, as prices have been rising considerably over the last couple of years.

1990 300TE

Surprisingly, the 300TE is a much smaller car than the 300SE was.   It’s shorter and narrower than the W126 was.   It has the folding 3rd row of seats for children, and a huge cargo area that is easy to load as its not so high off the ground.

In Australia, the S124 was offered as a 230TE (1986-1990), 300TE (1989-1993), 300TE 2.8/E280 (1993-1994), E220 (1994-1996).   I was specifically looking for a 300TE, and in particular, a post 1st facelift model (as most 300TEs were).   In my mind, its the sweet spot of the S124 range.   The M103 is a great engine, and some of its early issues were resolved by 1989.    Having driven a 230TE before, I found the performance a bit lacking.   I also wanted something that qualified for historic rego, so that ruled out most of the later models.   In any case,  the E280 was only imported for about 18 months, and finding one with evidence that the wiring harness is fixed properly is not easy.

I bought this 300TE, because I really liked how it had an almost complete service history, and a lot of recent work done including a transmission rebuild and new dash wood.    Considering these cars were often used a family haulers, the interior is really nice.

1990 300TEThe only real issue is the damaged arm rest.  I have a second hand W126 unit I hope to be able to use parts from to fix the one in my car.    I really like the colour combination of 888 Beryll with cream MB-Tex.   It can’t have been to popular when new as I’ve only seen a couple of other cars in this colour, and never a wagon.

The paint is a bit faded on the roof, but this car is going to be as close to a daily as any car I own, so that was preferable to paying a lot extra for one with perfect paint.    There are a few other minor things to address, but overall the car is in pretty nice shape.   For more details about the car and its option codes, click here.

1990 300TEThe car drives really well – you can definitely notice the newly rebuilt transmission.    It also gets much better fuel consumption than my 300SE did.   I think the injectors were replaced not too long ago which is probably a bit part of it.

It’s also a more practical car than the 300SE was, and given I have two other W126, offers something different I don’t have in my other cars.   The 375,000km on the clock would probably scare off a lot of people.  I would prefer a high miler with good service history than lower recorded milage without.   Hopefully I’ll be able to take it beyond 400,000km during my ownership.

1990 300TE

So far I have only found one thing annoying about the car.   Being a post 1989 model, you need to put the key in the ignition and press the brake to put the gear selector into neutral.   I often push my cars back into position when parking them due to tight spaces, and this means leaving the key in the ignition.   At some point I will see if I can defeat this system.

2023-01-26 14-38-20Time will tell, but so far I am quite happy with the purchase.

Farewell 300SE

Today I sold my 1986 300SE W126.   It was the right decision to sell, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to miss the car.   It wasn’t the nicest 300SE in the country, but in some ways it was like a favorite pair of shoes, comfortable and familiar.     I originally bought the car as a daily, and I was on full registration for the first four years I owned it.    My requirement was a car that could fit three child seats across the back, and I would have rather walked than have an SUV.  I was actually looking for a W116 originally, and almost bought a 1979 450SE.   In the end I could not find a W116 that wasn’t a basket case, so went with the W126.

Farewell 300SE

In my view at least, It had a great colour combination of Signal red with parchment interior.   Signal red is not a very common colour on the W126.     I also never found a spec of rust on the car.    It served me well for six years and 16,000km.

In the first year I had the car, I had fair few issues with it, culminating in the head coming off for service and rebuilding the entire HVAC system.   It was pretty reliable after that.   The strange issue had was the failure of the oil pump.   Luckily I caught it right away and everything was back to normal after a new oil pump was fitted.

I’ve found in the last year, I just haven’t been using the car like I was.   I only did 1,000km in the entire year.  It was time to find a new owner who will enjoy it as much as I did.    My kids are now older so they no longer need the attached child seats either.

The car has gone to an old friend who bought it for his son.   His son is about to start driving and liked the look of the red 300SE.  His dad liked how it had good crumple zones and a rigid passenger safety shell, along with ABS brakes.   Everyone wins.       It was a bit sad to see it drive out the driveway for the last time though.   Farewell 300SE!

Farewell 300SE

MBCNSW January 2023 seven bridges night drive

Last night was the first MBCNSW night drive of the year.  This month we tried something a little bit different.   Previously inner city drives have been a bit of a failure as the group got separated and lost.   This time, we tried again with a few changes.   Firstly, we kept the route quite simple.   Secondly, we had a muster point halfway along the drive.  Thirdly, we tried to make sure everyone had a copy of the route.

seven bridgesThe drive ended up being the seven bridges night drive.   Since were were doing an inner city drive, why not make the harbour the centrepiece?     We started at McDonalds Drummoyne.  This had some advantages in terms of location and being easy to find, but parking was very limited.   We may try a different one next time.

The first bridge was the Gladesville bridge crossing the Parramatta river.    The Gladesville bridge is an impressive concrete arch bridge, built in the mid 60s.  It was the longest bridge of its type when constructed.    From there, it was a short drive to the Tarban creek bridge, a much smaller concrete arch bridge constructed alongside the Gladesville bridge.    Also part of this same bridge system is the Fig tree bridge, which is less impressive than the other two and crosses the lane cove river.

From there we had our longest stretch on dry land before making our way to the Roseville bridge.   The Roseville bridge crosses middle harbour and was also constructed in the mid 60s and forms one of only three routes into Sydney’s northern beaches area.     We would use one of the other two on our next bridge, the Spit bridge, which also crosses middle harbour.   This bridge is a real bottleneck.   Not only is it four lanes when the rest of the roads are six, but it regularly opens for boat traffic.   During peak times it is configured as 3:1 depending on traffic flow.

Our stopping point was Aquatic drive, between the Roseville and spit bridges.   We were able to keep together quite well, and only needed a couple of minutes to regroup.   There is plenty of parking here near the commercial buildings that were obviously deserted that late at night.   There were a few BMW 1 series hooning around, probably not a smart place as about 1km up the road is a favorite hiding spot of the local highway patrol.

seven bridges

Obviously the centrepiece of the seven bridges night drive was the Iconic Sydney Harbour bridge, which was largely free of traffic given the late hour.  This was also the case of the western distributor and Anzac bridge, our penultimate bridge for the night.    This is a comparatively new bridge, constructed in the mid 90s.   Most of the cars on the drive were older.    The Anzac bridge is the next most impressive bridge after the Harbour Bridge.   It flies the New Zealand flag as well as the Australian flag given it commemorates the ANZAC soldiers.

Our final bridge was the Iron Cove bridge.   As we were going westbound, we travelled on the new span that was completed about 10 years ago.   Eastbound traffic goes on the much more interesting 50s bridge.   We finished up in the same place, McDonalds Drummoyne.   Parking wasn’t such an issue as half our group of eight peeled off to return home at various points.

Generally the drive went pretty well.   I think this drive could provide a template to do occasional inner city night drives.   They don’t work quite as well as the semi-rural drives we do, but they provide good variety and an earlier night.    Given it had rained most of the day, we also had good weather – with one minor shower just as we were leaving the muster point.

Seven bridges

For this drive, I took my 450SLC.   I had the oldest car on the night.   Also on the drive we had three W124s.  An original series 230E and two cars from the first update – a 300E and a 300E 2.6.     Rounding out the classics was a 380SEC, and for the moderns a GLS, a CLA45S and a Ferrari optimized Fiat 500.  I never actually knew that car existed.

CLA45S

My 450SLC had strange problem with the indicators.   When I first used them, they flashed so fast it was like they were permanently illuminated.  The more I used them, the more the started slowing down to the regular speed.    Having noticed that, I turned my hazard lights on while waiting at McDonalds and after about 10 minutes they were working as normal.    Based on that, I turned them off.   It looked like my car had fixed itself.   However, after 20 minutes of non-use, they were back to very fast when we started the drive.   I again used my hazard lights at the muster point.   Actually useful for showing where we had stopped since I was the lead car.   They again slowed down.   But after a decent stretch of driving and rarely using the indicators, they went back fast again.  I suspect the switch may be playing up.

The indicator problem didn’t really cause any issues as they did illuminate.   We were able to successfully navigate all seven bridges and this new way of doing inner city drives seemed much better.   As well as the seven bridges drive, it would be interesting to do all five car ferries in Sydney.   However on looking at possible routes that don’t involved doubling back, the duration would be too long for a night drive.

Citroen DS sphere regassing

The Citroen DS is known for the quality of its ride.   The books use epithets such as ‘Magic carpet ride’.    There is a bit of puffery in that statement, but the sentiment is right – the ride is normally very good.   Recently my DS has become the worst riding car that I own.  Something was clearly wrong.

The biggest impact on ride quality is the state of the suspension spheres.   There are four suspension spheres, one for each wheel.   In addition to the suspension spheres, a D will have at least one accumulator sphere.  These store pressure for various reasons, and my car has two, a main accumulator sphere for system pressure, and a brake accumulator sphere to provide additional pressure for the brakes should there be a leak in the system or the engine cuts out.

The spheres work by having a diaphragm with nitrogen gas under pressure in the top part of the sphere, and hydraulic oil (LHM) on the other side of the diaphragm.   The compressed gas acts as the spring.    This fails to work properly if the gas pressure is not correct.   Over a period of years, the spheres gradually loose pressure.   As long as the diaphragm is still intact, the sphere can be tested and re-gassed to the correct pressure.   Eventually the diaphragm will fail and then the sphere will no longer provide any damping.    The suspension spheres on a DS can be rebuilt with a new diaphragm if needed.

This is quite a contrast to the spheres used in the Mercedes-Benz self-leveling rear suspension, which is uses the same principal.   Those spheres are disposable, and cannot even be regassed let alone totally rebuilt.   Even worse, some people simply assume that a non-punctured diaphragm means the sphere can be re-used.   Just as in a Citroen, over time they lose pressure too.

The Citroen club have regular tech days where they offer Citroen DS sphere regassing and testing.   In the roughly ten years I’ve owned the car, I’ve removed the spheres and taken them for testing to a couple of these tech days.   Last time, they were just borderline on pressure, but the Citroen DS sphere regassing system wasn’t available, so I wasn’t able to do it.

Citroen DS sphere regassing

It’s not always easy for me to make the club tech days, so I enlisted the help of my mechanic for Citroen DS sphere regassing.   He first checked the rear spheres and the news was not good.  One was totally dead, with no pressure at all.  The other had a little pressure, but negligible.  These will be sent away to be rebuilt in Queensland.

The fronts were a lot better.   They had a pressure reading of around 28, when it should have been around 60.   He was able to regas these for me without issue.   He was also able to lend me two dead spheres so at least I can move the car around the garage.     I took the car on a short drive, as I wanted to do a quick oil change before putting the car away.   I did one a few months ago, but obviously didn’t seat the oil filter gasket properly, as I had a decent oil leak from the car.  Its not possible to change the filter without draining the oil.  The driving feel was quite odd.   The front being bang on spec and the rear without any give at all.

The rear spheres should be back in a few weeks.  I anticipate them transforming the ride back to what it was when I first drove the car.   It’s one of the things that makes the DS special.

MBCNSW Past Presidents drive through Berowra

Today was the first Mercedes-Benz club event of the year.   It was the first of a couple of drives, organized by past presidents of the club.   This drive was organized by our immediate past president and started in Berowra.   Next week the previous past president is organizing a drive down south.

The route was pretty similar to one we have used before as  Night Drive.  It started at Berowra station, took the Berowra ferry across to Glenorie, then up the old Northern Road to Wisemans Ferry road, then south to the final destination, Lynwood country club.   This is always a good drive, as those roads are nice to drive on, have minimal traffic and almost no lights.

Considering the club doesn’t normally do many drives in January, the event was very popular.   There must have been at least 20 cars on the run. Certainly our convoy was too big to fit on a single ferry crossing.

Lynwood country club

There was a very good range of cars on the drive.   I took my 560SEL.    The oldest car was a 1972 280SE 3.5 W108.   Other classics included a 1979 450SE W116, two R107s (a 380SL and a 500SL), a 450SLC, a 300CE in a great colour combination of smoke silver and sienna, an E280 and a 190E.    There were also a number of the modern cars including an AMG wagon that looked like a real monster.    Given how rare they are in the club, there were two W140s.

Lynwood country clubConsidering it had been drizzle all day yesterday, the weather was spectacular and it was great to cruise around in the 560SEL again.     I also had my refitted Hirschmann antenna working.   I don’t really listen to the radio (I stream from my phone), but it was great to have the proper antenna there and working nevertheless.     The food at Lynwood Country club was pretty good, and reasonably priced.

For sale: 1979 280SE W116

For sale:  1979 Mercedes-Benz 280SE. Australian Delivered. Update model with the nicer velour carpet and full wood trim. Original Becker Mexico radio. Well optioned including alloy wheels, sunroof etc. 906 Grey Blue with cream MB-Tex interior, both in great shape. Original books, data card, and service history for the first half of the cars life.

A lot of work in the last twelve months to get it driving really nicely, including a full stainless steel exhaust system from manifold to the back. Dual pipes the whole way like the W126, eliminating the Y piece that just cracks and robs the car of power. New fuel strainer, pump, filter, hoses and warm up regulator serviced. All tie rod ends, drag link, idler arm etc. On non-transferable historic registration.

Really nice original car in one of the best colours.

For more details on the work done to this car, please see the following link.

For the carsales advertisement, see this link.   If the ad is up the car is still available.

For Sale: 1986 300SE W126

For Sale: Australian delivered W126 300SE in striking signal red and cream MB-Tex interior. Both interior and exterior in nice shape. Car was repainted by the previous owner. I’ve owned the car six years and it was my daily driver until the covid lockdowns. Since then I have a different job and I’m not driving it as much as I used to – time to find a new owner for it that enjoyed it as much as I have. Now on non-transferrable club rego. AC is nice and cold.

300SE for sale

Over the six years and 16,000km I’ve owned it, I’ve sorted out a lot of the common issues with these cars including head gasket and head service, rebuilding the climate control system including new compressor, rebuilt climate control unit, blower motor and regulator, relays, temperature LCD and loads more. Tyres are still quite new. I’ve also taken care of the usual maintenance including things like engine and transmission mounts, fuel pump etc.  The car is fitted with an Alpine Bluetooth radio.

The car drives really well and I get a lot of comments from people about it.

For more details, see all the work I have done on the car over the years.

Update 20/1/23:  This car is now sold.

W126 Hirschmann Antenna

A couple of months ago an eagle eyed viewer of my Instagram feed asked my why my 560SEL doesn’t have a Hirschmann Antenna.    Given how original the car is, it was a good question.  I had never really noticed what antenna the car had, other than it worked.     Since I have the original Becker, I really should have the original Hirschmann Antenna to go with it.

I had a look at the car, and saw that while it did have a Hirschmann branded antenna, it was the wrong one.   It was one of those generic antennas sold in the 90s.   Quite a lot of original Hirchmann antennas got replaced with these as they were not much more than the cost of a new mast.   I have one on my 450SLC, as when I got the car the original Hirchmann was long gone.  Sadly, it had been replaced by something cheap and nasty.

Since I planned to sell the 300SE, and I wanted to sell it with a working power antenna, I swapped out the 90s Hirschmann antenna with the proper 80s unit that no longer worked.   Since the 300SE was no longer sporting its original Becker, it seemed like a reasonable swap.    I also had one in the 420SEL parts car.    As the harness had been cut on the 560SEL, I was able to grab that piece of harness from the parts car.

Hirschmann AntennaThat harness piece let me test both antennas.   The great news was that both of them moved a bit, they just had bent and stuck masts.    I had bought an aftermarket mast to try with these antennas, so I started with the antenna from the 300SE.   It was actually worse, even though the one that came out of the 420SEL was really dirty.    After a clean up they both looked pretty good.    I was pleasantly surprised, as I had low expectations of even having one working antenna from the two.

Hirschmann AntennaI set about opening up the Hirchmann antenna from the 300SE.   While you don’t strictly have to open up the case to change the mast, I wanted to inspect the inside and lubricate the gears.  Opening up the antenna case is very easy once you’ve done it once.  You have to release the plastic tabs.  I found the best way was to use a medium sized flat head screwdriver and lever each one carefully from the top.   I tried for a while to push them from the bottom but that never worked.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with the internal condition of the antenna.   It was a bit dirty, and there was a very small amount of moisture inside the case.   That was all cleaned up.    You need to be careful not to lose the little rubber rings that locate the motor.   There are three on the front and three on the back.

Hirschmann AntennaThe actual process of removing the mast is well covered in various youtube videos.   I found once I had loosened the top of the mast and removed the mast carrier, I had to run the antenna to get the toothed belt out of the housing.   Its possible with one person but would have been easier with an assistant to hold it.   I also had to run the antenna to feed in the new mast.  I went with a cheap aftermarket mast, primarily because I had fairly low expectations that my antennas would work.

The mistake I made first time, was to feed in the new mast fully before re-assembling the housing.   The best way is to feed it in about 80% and then cut the power.   If you feed it in all the way, the motor runs to the end and pulls itself up too far and off its mounting points.   This means the belt doesn’t line up with the bulge in the case to accommodate it.     If you only feed it in 80%, you can then locate the motor properly in the case, check the rubber rings are all located properly, and then put the case back on.   Once the case is on, I then tightened up everything else, and ran the mast up and down a few times to test it.

From there it was a fairly simple matter of installing the antenna in the 560SEL.   I forgot to order a new rubber grommet to locate the antenna in the rear wing.  The one from the 300SE was a bit hard, but generally ok, so I re-used it.    I first spiced in the harness from the 420SEL into the 560SEL, and was a bit perplexed why it didn’t work.   After a few minutes of checking fuses, I remembered that the trigger wire to the old antenna was separate.  It wasn’t using the blue wire from the factory harness.

I suspect this is because the Becker 868 is a two piece unit, and the antenna trigger wire comes from the secondary box, which is located in the boot on my car.    I’ve left this wire with a quick disconnect. I often park the 560SEL under the hoist, so it can be useful to disable the power antenna.

Hirschmann AntennaI’m going to purchase a new grommet and new genuine mast to have on hand.   The old grommet was quite hard, and I’m not sure how long this aftermarket mast will last.   Now i’ve done it before, it will be a simple job to replace them if I have to.   The car is all ready for a club run tomorrow.

Auto Vintage Bangkok

I recently spent two weeks in Surat Thani, Thailand.   On the way back, the flights from Surat Thani to Bangkok do not line up with the flight back to Sydney.   Therefore, I had an afternoon to spend in Bangkok before returning home.    It turns out there is an amazing classic Mercedes (and select other models) restoration shop very close to the airport.  It is called Auto Vintage.  This was a far more preferable place to go than the nearby shopping centre.

The owner of Auto Vintage Bangkok, Jay, was kind enough to give me a tour of his whole facility.   While most of the cars were classic Mercedes-Benz there were a couple of Volvo P1800s, some BMWs, Jaguar, Daimler and a few other miscellaneous cars such as a Range Rover and a Lancia.    Jay also showed me some photos of some of his personal cars, including a 250SE Cabriolet, a 280SE 3.5 Coupe, a couple of W108s, W123s and more.

Auto Vintage Bangkok

Of the cars there, it was surprising how many were previously USA models.  Some of these were converted to right hand drive.   I guess for many years these cars had very little value in the USA. States like California and Texas were sources of rust free examples.   The humid Thai climate is not.   You can see some of the USA specific features on a few of the cars.  It’s unusual to see those on right hand drive cars.

The cars under the cover in the main building are the complete or mostly complete projects.   A lot of them were in final stages.   The cars out the back are in the full restoration stage, being taken back to bare metal and having their engines done.   Under way was a W108 with a lot of welding and back to bare metal.  Soon to start was a Ponton 220S cabriolet, and W111 220SE coupe.   The coupe currently has an M110 engine, but will be put back to a M127 during the restoration.     They were also working on a W114 airport limo, quite a rare car.    Along the sides were other rare cars like the 60s BMW, Volvo P1800, 190SL and more.

Out the front are future projects.   There were a couple of finnies, a few W126 models and a 107 that looks like it will need a very comprehensive restoration.    At Auto Vintage Bangkok, not only do they have the cars, but a good set of spare parts for the restoration and the walls are covered in amazing memorabilia.

I was very lucky to get a full tour of the place.  After that took a taxi back to my hotel.  I didn’t want to stay too long as it was a busy business and I didn’t want to get in the way of that.    Next time I have to transit in Bangkok, I hope to stop by Auto Vintage Bangkok again to see what other projects they are working on.  It’s great to see the amount of effort going into these cars.

Classic Mercedes in Surat Thani, Thailand

Surat Thani is a mid sized city in southern Thailand.   It is home to about 120,000 people and is a regional centre for agriculture.    The main business is trade in crops such as Rubber, Coconuts, Palm oil etc.   It is not a tourist destination, but it does function as a connection point for those traveling to islands like Koh Samui via ferry.

I’ve been surprised how many classic Mercedes are still on the road and in daily service.    I see a lot more of them than I do in Sydney.   On most days I’ll see a couple of W123s and a bunch of W124s.    Most of them a clearly doing daily use, but there are also a few that have been nicely done up.   I’m sure it takes real effort to keep these cars on the road as the climate (which is very humid for much of the year) is not kind to the cars.

Surat Thani

The cars I’ve seen on the road have all been saloons.   I’ve seen a couple of coupes in various stages of repair, but not wagons.     Seeing an S-Class is also very rare.

The car culture is also very different here in Surat Thani than in Sydney.   Most of the cars are modified in some way – normally wheels, steering wheel, radio and even bumpers, complete interiors and sometimes body kits.    I was also told about one that had an Isuzu motor and gearbox.

The W124s are mostly the final facelift models, predominantly E220s, but with some E280s in the mix.    The pre-facelift models are mostly 230Es, but I’ve seen a couple of 260s and a 300.    The wiring harness issues that scare off buyers in Australia off the final models are probably less of an issue here as labour is cheaper than parts.

I read somewhere that there were a lot of UK delivery Mercedes exported to right hand drive countries in this part of the world during the 80s, 90s and 2000s.   This seems to make sense, as all the W123s I could see past the tint had their instrument clusters in MPH.  Back then, they were basically worthless in the UK, but fairly valuable out in Asia.

Surat Thani

On the first day I noticed a mechanic shop with a bunch of classic Mercedes out the front.   I was able to stop buy a couple of days later to take a few photos and have a chat with the owner.   There were a lot of nice cars in there, including some other models I don’t normally see on the roads here.

These included a W116, C123, C124, W201 and a /8.  There was also a C107 shell that had just been painted.    The W116 was badged as a 450SEL, but it had a manual transmission, and looked like a short wheelbase.   The /8 model was a 200 petrol.    The C123 was a very early UK model with the burl wood interior.   The seats had been redone in modern pattern like a W126 SEC.     Regardless it was great to see these cars still on the road.    They probably wouldn’t be if they had remained in the UK.

I also stopped by another mechanic shop that had a couple of W123s  in the lot.    The only other marque that is even close to as well represented on the roads is Volvo.  I’ve seen a couple of 7 and 9 series models driving around.

Both mechanics indicated they find their parts mostly from Bangkok or overseas, but that old Mercedes were popular in the Muslim areas in the south of the country and its sometimes possible to get parts from there too.

In addition, the city buses seem to be old Mercedes from the 60s.   Most of them have Mercedes badges on them.   However, a couple have Hino badges, and look very similar.   They seem to be front engined, which according to wikipedia doesn’t seem to make sense for Mercedes buses of the era.    They all have W123 turn signals!    Possible they were older chassis, or even truck chassis locally bodied.  Or perhaps they are all Hinos and the Mercedes Badge just has more cache.