Preparing my 280SE for the MBCNSW S-Class display

2022 is 50 years since the introduction of the W116 S-Class in 1972.   The W116 S-Class was the first one that Mercedes-Benz actually referred to as the S-Class.   Previous models had filled the same slot in the line-up and even had S in the model designation, but it was the W116 where the S-Class name started.    To commemorate this, the Mercedes Benz Club planned a display day for all S-Class models.   Had they kept it to the W116 S-class it probably would have been a small show.    Most of them rusted away years ago.

I was quite keen to have my 1979 280SE at this event.   The fuel injection is finally working reasonably well.     I still needed to do a few things before I was comfortable taking it along.

Firstly, while I was in the USA for work, I had the steering coupling changed, and the car tuned.   I could see the coupling moving on the steering shaft – the plastic bushes inside had disintegrated.   The car could also use a new drag link and a tie rod end, but the coupling was the worst issue here.

With that done, I had a few more things to take care of myself.   The first was the ruined exhaust system.   I need to have this fixed properly, but there was not going to be time before the event.   Armed with $50 worth a exhaust repair kits, I got under the car to try and sort things out.   Between the various putty and exhaust bandages I bought, I managed to close up the worst holes.

I put some putty in the Y piece below the manifolds.   This has slipped in the bottom of the V section, a common problem on W116 and early W123 M110s in RHD.   There were two small holes in the pipes between the Y piece and the center muffler, and much larger holes where the pipes associated with the centre muffler join the rear stainless steel section.  The repairs I did have stopped the car sounding like a crop duster and should prevent fumes getting into the car.    Given my hands were covered in putty, I didn’t take any photos here.

Next, I wanted to change the automatic antenna.   Not only because I wanted to listen to the radio and see if the original Becker Mexico Cassette was working, but because it looked so bad.   The mast was well  and truly past it.   I couldn’t just replace the mast as the old motor was not working and it was not an original Hirshmann unit, so I wasn’t sure what mast to get.   I quickly got the old antenna out and mounted the new one in its place.     For some reason the old antenna had the antenna cable hard wired.   So i didn’t cut the new antenna cable with the replacement antenna, I cut off the last 10cm from the 420SEL parts car antenna cable and then spliced that onto the the original 280SE cable.

ruined antennaAfter wiring the new antenna in, It extended happily once I turned on the ignition, and I was able to tune into some local radio stations.   The new antenna, standing tall can be seen in the photo below.   While it might not be obvious why I prioritized replacing the antenna, the old one made the car look like a jalopy.

W116 S-ClassNext I checked the fuses.   A few electrical features in the car were not working.   There was a blown fuse, probably caused by the old radio antenna.   The rest of the fuses were fine, but I decided to replace all the fuses to ensure good connections.   These old ceramic fuses can get brittle with age and have bad connections even when they look fine.    It’s also an opportunity to make sure each fuse is correct.   It was worth doing as a few broke as I removed them, showing how brittle they were.  The old red ones were almost the same colour as the white ones.    Changing the fuses is something I like to do when I purchase one of these old cars.   The fuse box also leaves you a spot to store some spare fuses (top of photo).

W116 S-ClassFor reference, below is the fuse layout for the 1979 280SE W116.   Specifically, and Australian delivered car.   Since the insert is often missing, others may find this comes in handy.   It’s a much simpler fuse box than the W126 second generation cars.   In those cars, everything is electric.

1979 280SE fuse layoutI had removed the carpets from the car, as they were quite dirty and I wanted to vacuum the car properly.   Before I re-installed them in the car they needed a good cleaning.   Otherwise, they were in quite nice shape.    I used my little Bissell wet/dry cleaner to attack the carpets.    As well as the floor mats, I was able to pull out two tanks of filthy water.

dirty carpetsThe floor mats that came with the car were not a good fit.   They looked like they had been taken out of a rather small car.   They were a bit ratty looking too, not befitting a W116 S-Class.  Luckily, I had some mats in the right colour that were original in my 560SEC.   While they are W126 mats, the W126 is just a derivative of the W116 that they went in pretty well.   They are not perfect, but they came up quite well with a good clean.

With the main work done to the car, a test drive was in order.   I’ve only driven the car on the road once before.   I didn’t want to be running into problems on the way to the show.   I took the car on a good 30-40 minute drive, and filled the tank while I was doing it.   The car drove better and better and after about 20-30 minutes the horrible smell from the exhaust putty went away.   I guess it hardened.

Given the car sat around for a few months, I checked tyre pressures too.   A couple were slightly down, so worth checking.

My final step was to wash the car.    It was pretty dirty from the constant sitting around.   By this point it was already after 11PM, so I didn’t have time for anything particularly time consuming, but I could have the car looking nice and clean for the display day.   The car cleans up quite well.

W116 S-ClassFrom there, it was one final test drive, then get the car home and ready for the big event tomorrow.    There is still work to do on this car, but it goes from being a project to more of a rolling restoration.   Getting behind the wheel will help me prioritize.   So far my focus is the drag link and tie rod end, plus the drivers seat.

At the display tomorrow, I am hoping for a large turn out of W116 S-Class models.   There are some very nice ones in the club that almost never come out, and a few nice ones that are regulars at club events.   Hopefully I see them all.   With the work I have done, my car should not be out of place.

W116 S-Class

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