Fitting S124 factory cross bars

Ever since I purchased my 300TE, I had wanted to replace the aftermarket roof racks with the S124 factory cross bars.   The car came with a set of Rhino Sportz roof racks, which looked like a decent, name brand roof rack.   However, my wife was quite keen for a set of roof racks for her car, and these would fit perfectly.   In addition, I was aware of how much better the S124 factory cross bars look on the car.   They are probably not as practical, but I can always temporarily fit the other roofracks if needed.

When I first purchased the car, I did some gumtree and eBay searches, and asked around in the club to find the S124 factory cross bars.   I was told they were like hens teeth.   Annoyingly, my father had a set of these in his garage for about 10 years after he sold his 1987 230TE.   I presume they were thrown away when my parents moved as I never saw them after that.   I suspect that is what happened to most of them.   The first owner forgot to put them with the car when selling and eventually they got thrown away.

When I was in the UK recently, I found a seller who had a set of four for a reasonable price.   I quickly snapped them up and had them overnighted to my hotel. This was in the same parts set as my amber turn signals and instrument cluster housing.   I no longer buy anything from the UK due to the exorbitant shipping.  However, bringing an extra box back as luggage was no problem.

The next problem was removing the old racks from the car.   It didn’t come with the key or any tool.   Luckily, the key number is printed on the lock cylinder, and there are plenty of eBay sellers who offer the keys at a reasonable price.   With the locks out of the way, it was just a long allen key to remove the old racks.   2.5mm from memory.   The car already looked much cleaner without the racks.

S124 factory cross bars

The Rhino Sportz racks went onto the S211 with ease.   Even though it was made 17 years later, the roof rails have the same profile.   They are just further apart, as the S211 is a wider car.   Now I know how they work, it will be a simple matter if I need to adjust them in future.

Rhino SportzNext was to install the S124 factory cross bars on the 300TE.   The owners manual was particularly useless here.   It just indicated that the arrows should align with the direction of travel.   Normally the Mercedes-Benz owners manuals of this era are better than that.   I could have made a case for both directions, but they seem to look like they should go with the arrow facing to the rear of the car.   I figure that means its travelling forward.

At first I couldn’t work out why they seemed to long to fit between the rails.   After trying a couple of them, I eventually realized one side moves.   The cross bar I was trying was a bit stiff.    Once I worked that out, it was pretty easy to put the bars on.   They are a very clever design, and quite slimline.    When chosing the bars to install on the car, I went with a combination of the best cosmetic shape, and easiest to move.   I placed them in the same spots the Rhino Sportz racks had been.

S124 factory cross barsThe other thing I noticed, was that three of my bars had a large knurled nut to tighten them against the rails and the other had a smaller one.   There must have been a change during production.   I’m not sure what type my car is supposed to have, but since I had three of the larger ones, that is what I used.     Other than the knurled nut, the rest of the bar looked the same.

S124 factory cross barsI haven’t decided if I will keep the other two racks, or sell them off to try and recoup some of the money I have spent.   I’ve also not decided if I will leave the cross bars on the car, or only install them when needed.   I’ll have to see if they whistle when driving.    I didn’t take the car on a test drive, as there is no point burning a logbook day for a short drive like that.    I think they look pretty good on the car though.    They are very subtle and you can hardly tell they are on.

I also recently swapped the clear front corners with the amber ones.  It was a five minute job and I think makes the car look a lot better.

S124 factory cross bars

MBCNSW February 2023 Night drive to Hawkesbury Lookout

After last month’s inner city night drive, for February we were back to our normal formula of less trafficked roads on the urban fringe.     The drive route came from a suggestion from a MBCNSW member to visit Hawkesbury Lookout and Krispy Kreme.     Penrith Krispy Kreme would be our starting point, as it closes at 11PM on a Thursday Night.    It turned out to be a popular choice, as most members picked up a box of doughnuts before the drive.   In a few cases, they were ostensibly for partners, but obviously a number of samples had to be taken.   It wouldn’t do to bring home bad doughnuts.

Hawkesbury Lookout

Our route would take us up the windy Old Bathurst Road towards Blaxland.   Once we got out of Penrith, we didn’t see much traffic until we hit the Great Western Highway.    From there, we joined Hawkesbury Road until we reached our mid-way muster point at Hawkesbury Lookout.   The lookout provides great views back over the greater Sydney region.   At night however, it also sometimes provides a location for couples that don’t want to go for a hotel room.    At the time we got there, there was a van that from the squeaking could use some attention to the rear suspension.    There were also some community minded folks using the local bush as a dumping ground.

Hawkesbury Lookout

After Hawkesbury Lookout, we proceeded to our destination of McDonalds Windsor.   This section of the drive started out with a set of hairpin bends just past the lookout, and then much faster sections before we approached Richmond.    We passed the RAAF base and the finally arrived at McDonalds, which helpfully is open 24×7.    Helpfully the actual restaurant is open, not just the drive through.   What sort of savage eats in their classic Mercedes?

I took my 560SEC on this drive.   Due to travel over Xmas, then work travel in February, I hadn’t driven it much since the December night drive.    I noticed that both the power steering reservoir and self-leveling rear suspension reservoir was low.   Since I had a lot of work done to these systems late last year, I wondered if I had just purged some air bubbles, or if I had a leak.   Turns out, I have a leak, as both were low when I returned from the drive.    Other than that, the car performed really well.

As well as my car, we had mostly classic Mercedes with a R107 500SL, W126 420SEL, W124 300E and 300E 2.6 and a modern CLA45S.    At the start we also had a W202 come to say hello, but not join us on the actual drive.     The weather preceding the drive had not been the greatest, which probably had an impact on turn out.

Hawkesbury Lookout

I had trialled the route with some friends in early January, so was pretty confident it would work well.   It was a nice relaxing drive and the whole group was able to stay together.

Next month, our night drive route takes us south.

Reinstalling a Becker Mexico cassette in a 1979 450SE

One of my friends in the Mercedes Club recently bought a nice original Mercedes-Benz 450SE. Is a 1979 model in Silver-Green metallic with date leather. It is equipped with a sunroof, which is surprisingly rare on an Australian delivered 450SE. The cars came well equipped with standard leather seats, self-leveling rear suspension, AC, power windows etc. The two features that they surprisingly didn’t have for such an expensive car is the sunroof and rear headrests. Both could be optioned. This car has the colour matched hubcaps that I prefer to the wheels. I was able to drive this car at a recent MBCNSW Night drive.

1979 450SE Becker

The car was quite original except for the broken 90s cassette player. Being a 1979 model, it would have come with a Becker Mexico cassette with a black front panel and the large knobs. The S-Class and the 280CE all got the Mexico, whereas the lower specification models had to settle for the Europa cassette. The big difference is the Mexico cassette has an external amplifier and the ‘wunderbar’ auto tune feature.

A wrecker in Bendigo had one of these radios, which was promptly purchased. Even though the Beckers with the black front panel are not as desirable as the pinstripe models, they are actually harder to find. They were only fitted to cars for a couple of years in Australia.

Our task for the evening was to test and install the radio. I already had a test rig set up from my Becker radio testing. These radios are very simple to set up. There is a switched power feed, ground and left/right speakers. There is also a cable between the remote amplifier and the radio.

We were quickly able to establish that the radio worked! It was able to tune FM correctly, volume, treble/bass all working correctly. The stereo light would come on when a station is strong, as it is supposed to. Surprisingly, all the bulbs worked. On the downside, the ‘wunderbar’ auto tune feature was no longer working, we could not test the cassette function as I don’t own one, the actual stereo decal in front of the bulb was missing, and we couldn’t test AM as it never seems to work inside the warehouse.

That was enough to install the radio in the car for now. The ‘wunderbar’ is a nice to have feature, so it could be repaired at another time.

Next step was to have a look at the car, to see how badly the previous installer had hacked up the wiring. I was also wondering if the original amplifier was still there. A lot of times, installers would just cut the wire and leave the old amplifier in place.

1979 450SE Becker

Turns out the bracket for the amplifier on the passengers side of the car was still there, but all traces of it and its wiring were gone. The installer had been rather lazy and just wired the 90s radio into the original speaker wiring. They had even left the fader in place. Both left channels were spliced into the left channel for the car, and same with the right. It was all held to together with electrical tape, so it was pretty simple to entirely remove the old radio wiring. I then used an AA battery to check if I could get sound out of each channel. I got static from both front speakers, and the left rear. Its possible a connection has come undone at the back for the right rear. Fader still worked.

I had some proper Becker connectors from my parts car, so I was able to re-attach Becker connectors to these original speaker wires. A quick test before putting it in the car was that the sound was pretty good. Even with the power antenna down, FM reception was decent.

1979 450SE Becker

On install, the speaker wires were not quite long enough to allow the amplifier to go back in its bracket. That could be a future improvement to add some more speaker wire. By this time it was almost 11pm. For now the amplifier was able to slot in under the glovebox and out of site. I also couldn’t see a trigger wire for the antenna in the back. Another improvement would be to trace where that is and see if the power antenna is still working.

With only a couple of hours work, the car now has a working Becker Mexico Cassette, similar to the one that it left the factory with.

Guest Article: What’s a Ford BF Falcon Futura MK2 like?

I’ve lost count of how many marques I’ve owned, but I’ve never owned a Ford. My father did though, and it was the proud replacement for his 14-year-old Volkswagen 1600 Notchback, a rare car now, but also assembled in Australia. In 1985 my father purchased a brand new XF Fairmont from Cam Dawson Ford in Geelong. He optioned power steering, air conditioning and alloy wheels. It wasn’t overall sophisticated with the old 4.1 inline six and 3-speed auto, but it got the job done and reliability wise, it never had a problem.

Apologies about quality of photo, it was the only one I could find

Which brings me to our latest acquisition, one that I thought I would never own, a 2007 Ford Falcon BF Futura MK2 wagon in Octane Metallic (an orange red) on dedicated LPG. Ford called it the E-gas. A number of options were ticked at sale, heavy duty suspension, tow pack, 16” alloy wheels and roof racks. It came to us in unexpected and very sad circumstances when a dear friend passed away and left it to us. The timing is somewhat perfect, as we sold our last large car in October 2022, a 2007 Lexus LS460 called Larry and there was a gap in our fleet.

BF Falcon Futura Wagon

Ford focused on refining the successful BA Falcon (winner of Wheels Car of the Year in 2002), with the release of the BF in August 2005. It’s no wonder Ford announced the MK2 update in August 2006, given the success of the VE Commodore. The big changes announced were a revised front end, availability of the ZF 6 speed auto and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) on selected models. Engineers also reworked the Barra 4.0L Barra inline six, increasing power to 190KW, while improving its refinement.

Despite the popularity of the revised BF Falcon sedan, wagon sales had been on the decline since the release of the Territory in 2004. In 2008 Ford sold 1,842 BF MK2 wagons, as opposed to 12,791 of the SY Territory, so it’s no surprise Ford chose not to further develop the wagon any further. Ford went on to release the MK3 wagon and included DSC (petrol wagon only) but the excellent ZF 6 speed auto was unavailable as an option. The BF wagon remained largely unchanged sheet metal wise since the release of the AU wagon (with the exception of the front end) which is a good thing, as the design looks rather balanced and pleasing to the eye.

The BF wagons were mainly sold to fleets given the huge cargo area, which offered 1254 litres with the rear seats in place and folded down, it expanded to 2584 litres. It’s no surprise then that many of the BF wagons are white. Just looking at Carsales today, 12 out of the 19 BF MK2 and MK3 wagons are white.

For the E-gas wagon a 116-litre gas tank replaced the petrol tank, relocating the spare upright inside the cargo area. Power was reduced from 190KW to 156KW, while torque was slightly reduced from 383Nm to 370Nm. The LPG system is quite conventional, turning liquefied gas into vapor before feeding it into the engine via a venturi into the throttle body.

The Futura’s specifications include an electric driver’s seat, power windows, central locking with remote, cruise control, a single CD and cup holders! What the Futura misses in specs it makes up for when you drive it. As a package it nails the brief with the smooth and tractable 4.0L Barra inline six, and its variable valve timing on intake and exhaust. Even with the reduced power output of the E-gas version, there always seems to be sufficient torque, with maximum provided at 2750 rpm. Ride quality is a highlight, dealing with Victoria’s worst roads without a bother. Noise vibration harshness (NVH) is kept to a minimum, I assume in part due to the triple rubber sealed doors.

BF falcon Futura interior

The seats suit my larger frame and are one of the most comfortable seats I’ve experienced. Naomi will testify to this, as she struggles to get comfortable in many cars, given her back problems. All the dashboard controls are quite basic with heating, ventilation, and audio all close at hand and very easy to use. In some ways I think they’re far simpler and more intuitive to use than a modern infotainment display.

BF Falcon futura seats

What’s it like living with a dedicated LPG vehicle? Well in Victoria it’s quite easy as there’s lots of availability with most BP, Ampol, United and 7-Eleven service stations stocking it. However, outside of Victoria it does get challenging and requires careful planning. Fortunately, this is where an app like Petrol Spy comes in handy, as it details LPG available via postcode or suburb. Unique to the E-Gas version, even when new, the engine reveals a slight hesitation when turning over, but once started you wouldn’t know the difference. It’s also interesting to note that at the time, the E-gas version met Euro-III standards.

I haven’t really kept my eye on fuel economy, but Ford’s published figures suggest 12L/100 on the highway and 18L/100 around town, with a combined average of 15.1L/100. This is in line with my trip computer’s average fuel consumption of 15L/100. LPG pricing varies, but since I’ve had the car, prices I’ve paid range from $0.83 in Melbourne to $1.07 when I filled up in Holbrook NSW. Using Melbourne based pricing, it costs under $100 to fill up the tank, with a range in town of between 600-700km.

BF Falcon instrument cluster

Some people have asked “what mods are you going to do?”. Given there’s approximately 370K on the odometer, I’m keeping my spend to a minimum. I ordered a new set of car mats from Fit My Car, which cost $107. I also ordered and installed a $100 Bluetooth kit that connects into the factory loom and runs on the AUX input. Not bad for a ten minute install.

BF Falcon futura console

Do I have any complaints about the car? Very little in fact! The cruise control and audio buttons on the steering wheel don’t light up at night and there’s no indication on the cluster if cruise control is on or not. The all-grey interior looks all a bit spartan, but the interior trim has worn very well. I can’t see a single crack or mark in any of the plastics despite the high mileage. Surprisingly there are no rattles either, I guess that’s testament to the Ford build quality.

Why do I like it so much? It’s a combination of the package, comfort, ride quality and what it costs to run on LPG. I feel less conspicuous driving it as opposed to driving one of our classics or our i30N. I do feel sad that Australian car manufacturing is no more, as both Holden and Ford built cars for our unique Australian conditions, something that’s definitely lacking in global market cars. The final VE/VF Commodore and BF/FG Falcon highlighted our local talent and capability. It’s a shame it took me until now to work how good the BF Falcon was.

Once our son Jack gets his licence, we will pass the car over to him. I was supposed to be looking for a wagon for him last year but found a beautiful SLK instead! All of our cars are family members and endowed with a name, so Jack has named him Lister (of Smeg) for those who know their Red Dwarf. Just like the real Lister, this one took ages to be released from Stasis, after endless Estate paperwork. Jack’s main care for his wheels is whether he can have Apple CarPlay. What a delight it was to discover a home-grown market for Australian cars to retro fit Apple CarPlay, a bigger screen, and an optional reverse camera! With a choice of several suppliers to replace the current centre fascia (and upgrade the head unit), Lister, the BF Falcon will soon be future proofed.

BF Falcon futura upgraded with carplay

Author:  Nick Gruzevskis is a contributor to, and is the custodian of a great collection of classic and modern cars.   Click here to read about his fabulous 450SE and recent purchase of a SLK230K.   

420SEL parts car update

I’ve owned my 420SEL parts car for a while now, and not really provided any updates as to how it’s going.   Overall, I’m glad I purchased the car, although it’s hard to find enough time dismantling it.

I’ve been able to recoup some of my money selling a few parts, but I really need to put more effort into this in 2023.    I’ve sold a couple of interior trim bits, the air cleaner, boot floor, blower motor and regulator, bonnet latch etc.     My main goal in buying the car was parts I wanted myself, but my secondary goal was at least breaking even on the purchase which I have not yet done.420SEL parts car update
Early on, I was able to get the car to sort of run with starting fluid.   The fuel injection system was partially dismantled, which was the straw that broke the camel’s back for this car.
The car was also useful in planning my Becker installation for the 560SEC, I was able to find the X30 power block on RHD cars and experiment getting some of the trim off.   I did break a few pieces which meant I didn’t on the SEC!    I’m also going to experiment with removing the armrest before I do so on the 300TE.
I’ve also used a few parts on my own cars already.    A tail light and rear headrest is on my recently sold 300SE.   The rear view mirror is on the 300TE, an X30 wiring harness on the SEC.    I also plan to use some of the rear door pulls on the front door of the 560SEC.    I’ve also used various screws for projects where they were missing or in poor shape.    The original speakers have been invaluable to test Becker radios.
And then there are the parts I’ve saved for my own future use.    The headlights, front corners, the taillight I have not already used are really good to have.   I’ve got plenty of switches and other interior bits and pieces that are really useful to have.    I still have not yet removed the SLS struts, but they were a big reason why I bought the car.

420SEL parts car update

I’m now getting to the point of diminishing returns for myself, so if I got a decent offer for the rest of the car, minus the struts and wheels, I would let it go.     If not, I’ll dismantle it further before sending the rest to the crusher.   The interior is mostly out, and my next project is probably the bumpers.   While they are not perfect, they are in ok shape and I can probably go a good way to breaking even by selling those alone.   The door cards are in good shape and the wrong colour for my SEL.  A good candidate for sale.

I took the seats out and removed the poor quality sheepskins.   The leather on the front seats is in poor shape and the back seat only average.   The motors all work, so that part i’ll probably keep for my own use.  The leather is not much use to me as my saloon is grey.

In an ideal world, if space was no issue, I would just keep it around and pull parts off when required.   But the car does take up space I would either use or rent out, so it will need to go at some point.

Planning 300TE repairs and improvements

Now I’ve had the 300TE registered for a month or so, and have put about 600km on the car, I have a better idea of some of the improvements I want to make to it.    I was able to take care of some of the most obvious ones right away.    I’ve been ordering some parts over the last couple of weeks that are now starting to arrive.

2023-02-10 17-53-00

These repairs and improvements are as follows:

  1. Sticky ignition key.    The ignition key is every so slightly sticky.    I am not keen to repeat the experience of my 280SE.      I noticed that the only key I have is a copy, not an original key.   The obvious solution therefore was a new barrel and factory ignition key from the Mercedes-Benz Classic centre.   These W124’s use the same one as the 1990-1991 W126.  I recalled a few years ago that this was still available, even if the rest of the W126 range was now NLA.    I have ordered one of these and two keys.    If you own a W124 of this era, I highly recommend you buy one of these while they are still available.
  2. Rear Tailgate struts.   The rear tailgate stays up via gas struts that are hidden in the roof area.   Mine are worn to a point where the tailgate cannot be left open unattended, or it can randomly slam shut.   The struts are not expensive, but apparently it’s not an easy job to replace them.    It is important to do so, as having the tailgate slam like that can damage the trim.
  3. Brake hoses and pads.   Looking at the service history, I can’t tell the last time the hoses were done.    Looking under the car, they didn’t look horrible, but not new either.     Best to replace them, and also check the pads.    I suspect the low dust pads have been used, as the brake feel is not what a Mercedes from that era should be.    Its too firm.    This is a pain of a job, so I’ll likely have a proper mechanic do it for me.
  4. Viscous fan coupling.   The previous owner put on a used unit, which has now failed.    Sometimes you can get unlucky with used parts.   In any case, a brand new Mercedes-Benz part was not much more than an aftermarket one.    I haven’t decided if I will do this myself, or have a mechanic do it at the same time as the brake hoses.
  5. Self leveling rear suspension fluid flush.   This is an easy job, and the fluid looks a bit dirty.   I have a new filter to install while I am at it.
  6. Coolant level sender unit.   The Coolant level warning indicator randomly comes on.   In addition, the reservoir is over filled.   A good opportunity to fix both issues at the same time.
  7. Instrument cluster repairs.    There are a couple of issues here.   The first is a bouncing speedometer needle, which can often be improved by lubricating the cable with some ATF.   The second is the customer suffers from the dreaded ‘white spot’.   This happens to cars from very hot and humid areas, and my car spent 15 years in Queensland.    I have a good used housing.   The final is the outside temperature LCD is bleeding, something I have fixed before on my W126s.
  8. Front turn signals.   A cosmetic change, my car has the clear lenses and I prefer the original orange look.
  9. Roof rack change.  Replacing the aftermarket roofracks with the factory cross bars.    My wife wants the aftermarket racks for her S211.

None of these 300TE repairs are major, they are all just small things that should improve the car.

Mercedes W116 280SE vs W126 300SE

For years the W116 has lived in the shadow of the W126.    The W126 is often lauded as one of the best cars Mercedes-Benz ever made.     Under its skin it can trace its lineage back to the W114 models of 1968, but the styling was fresh and modern and it was light years ahead of everything else on the market.    Today, the W116 is starting to gain more appreciation as an extremely usable classic.   It is however stuck between the classic styling of the W108 series and the modernity of the W126.    450SEL 6.9s aside, they have not reached the same values as their predecessor or successor.

Values aside, how does the experience actually differ?   We have a short wheelbase six cylinder example of each.   A 1979 280SE and a 1986 300SE.   Both cars occupied the same place in the Mercedes-Benz line up, with the first generation W126 280SE coming in between.

Our W116 is a 1979 model, the last full year of production.   It is a highly optioned car, as run out models typically were.    Being a late car, it has the more desirable velour carpets and dash wood.   As an Australian delivered example, it suffers from the ADR27A pollution controls, which hampers performance a fair bit as compared to the standard model.    On the plus side, it has self-leveling rear suspension, which offers a great ride.

The W126 is a 1986 model – the first full year of production of the second generation W126.   In Australia, at least in 1986 and 1987, many features that would be standard were still optional.   The car has MB-Tex seats, no sunroof and was originally sold with plastic hubcaps.   Being an Australian deliverd car, it has self-leveling suspension, burl walnut trim, rear reading lights etc that were not commonly found on the standard 300SE.


While the W126 is a facelift of the W116, their styling looks quite different at first glance.    The W126 is a bit of a mix between modern and classic, with the plastic bumpers, side cladding and a more streamlined shape.   The W116 is pure classic with lashings of chrome.   Even though there is not much in it, the W116 looks long, low and mean.    It has nice touches like the fully chromed door handles.     The double bumper bars are polarizing to some, and date the design, but add to the classic look.      They are both extremely handsome cars, and look good in both the colours here. The W126 is timeless, but I do enjoy the classic look of the W116.

W116 280SE vs W126 300SE

Both cars have attractive alloys, but when hubcaps are specified, the W116 wins hands down.   Those plastic hubcaps on the W126 are not nearly as classy as the painted W116 hubcaps.


This is one where the W126 wins hands down.   It is a much more feasible proposition to run a W126 as a daily driver than it is for a W116.    The W126, especially the second generation is much better for rust than the W116.   Even W116s that have been garaged all their life still develop rust in various areas, and cars kept outside disintegrate before your eyes.      The W126 also has ABS as standard, and better A/C.     The W116 was available with ABS from mid 1978, but it was never offered by Mercedes-Benz Australia.

The interiors of both cars are equally hard wearing, given they are both MB-Tex.     Later 300SEs were standard leather and they can be hard to find with decent interiors as few owners conditioned the leather.    The W116 suffers from a lack of rear legroom, wheras the W126 short wheelbase is about the perfect size.      The W116 has a noticeably better turning circle than the W116.   The seats are also more comfortable on the W116.

The W126 is lighter, and has better aerodynamics so has far better fuel efficiency.   The second generation cars in particular, as KE-Jetronic is more efficient than K-Jetronic.

Parts availability is also better for the W126, although its a more complex car with more to go wrong.

Driving feel

The W116 is slightly better here.   It feels a bit more connected to the road and gives you more feedback.    The advantage of the W126 is that its far quieter on the motorway.   The extra aerodynamics really pay off here.     The wind and engine noise in particular are much less noticeable.    In some ways the W126 is too quiet, you can’t really hear the engine at all.    The W126 is also softer – you can feel the influence of the American market on how the car is set up.

The W126 is much lighter, the 300SE in particular.   An early car like this weighs in at around 1500kg, meaning you can toss it around roundabouts with abandon.   The W116 is about 200kg heavier.

Generally I prefer the W116 unless you’re doing mostly motorway driving.    The W116 is just more fun, but less refined.     They are both great cars to drive.


The W126 has the edge.   The M110 never coped well with emissions, whereas the M103 just shrugs them off.    150hp vs 180 is a pretty huge difference, especially with the W116 being the heavier car by a fair margin.   Having said that, the gearing is better in the W116, so the real world difference is not quite as great.

The same is the case with the v8 engines too, so not limited to the six.


Slight edge to the W116 here.     The W126 took the W116 concept and further refined it.    In some ways its nicer, but in other ways it lost some of the nice little touches, such as the chromed window switches.    The pinstripe Becker radios were some of the classiest of the era.       The W116 instrument cluster is also easier to read, and the seats are more comfortable.    I also prefer the fox eared headrests to the W126 units.     The velour carpet W116s are also nicer than the W116 in that the rears still have proper separate carpets.   On the W126 there is a modern style moulded carpet that doesn’t have the same luxury feel with the soft underlay.

W116 280SE vs W126 300SE

The standard air conditioning controls are simpler than the climate control that was standard on the W126.       The W126 just feels a bit more refined, and has some newer touches in the cabin, such as electric passengers mirror.    It also has a rear passengers vent, outside temperature display and other modern conveniences.

W116 280SE vs W126 300SE

Conclusion – W116 280SE vs W126 300SE

They are both excellent cars and there is not much to separate them.   The W116 has the classic look and a more engaging driving experience.    The W126 is more modern and refined, and bit less connected.     The W126 is far better suited to daily, or semi daily use.    The W116 is probably a better classic. If you can’t decide, have one of each. That is what I did.

300TE first improvements

I bought my 300TE in generally good condition, but there were a couple of things I wanted to do right away to improve the car.    I find this is pretty typical with a ‘new’ car even in great condition as every owner has a different idea of how they want the car and what they care about.

The first was the A/C.   I knew the second to last owner had done a lot of work on the AC a couple of years ago and it had recently been cold.  However, when I got the car it was almost tepid.    When I had the pink slip done, I also had the A/C regassed.   The leak must have been very small as it held vacuum well and the air is now very cold.    Great for the Aussie summer.    My mechanic noted that the viscous fan was not really working all that well and the car was relying too much on the electric fan.   The previous owner put a used one on, but it obviously hadn’t lasted.   A brand new MB coupling is $180USD, so I’ll just put a new one on.

Next was an oil change for 375,000km.   Last one I am aware of was at just before 370,000 in October 2020, so a good time to do it.   The oil wasn’t particularly dirty, and the oil analysis report done a couple of years back showed an engine in good health.    The car even cam with a filter, so I didn’t have to order one.

Those were the main short term mechanical improvements.   The rest were largely cosmetic.

The first was the inside rear view mirror.   The housing had cracked around the dimmer button.   I had a good uncracked mirror from my 420SEL parts car.    The W126 and W124 mirrors are ever so slightly different, but not enough to notice unless side by side.   Another easy fix.    In the picture below the mirror is already replaced.

2023-01-10 19-05-30As can be seen in the picture, there is some fading and other paint issues on the roof of the car.   I tried to see if a clay bar would help at all, but it didn’t make a great deal of difference.   The roof is probably as good as its going to get until it is repainted.   I don’t have any plans to do that.

Next easy one was the floor mats.   The car came with regular floor mats that didn’t fit well.   I put in the dealer fitted rubber mats I had in my 560SEL.   I plan to get some of the ribbed mats for that car like most of the W126s came from the dealer with.   The rubber mats fit the more utilitarian nature of the wagon, and how I plan to use it.

2023-01-26 14-38-20Another easy one was the owners manual.   While I had the service book, data card and all the other books in the owners manual pack, I was missing the actual owers manual.   I found one on ebay that was the right year and it is now on its way.    The owners manual pack confirmed the car was sold new with a Becker 1402, as the booklet was still there.   Something to keep and eye out for.

The next improvement I made is more polarizing.   The car was originally sold with a leather steering wheel.   This was fitted to W124s from 1988 onwards as I understand it.   At some point, the leather wheel had been replaced with a plastic one from an earlier W124 or W126.    Over time the stitching comes undone.    While the plastic wheel was in good shape, I just felt out of place.   And given the wheel is right in front of your face, I wanted to change it.   A MB Club member found me one that was not perfect, but not expensive either, so I did the change.   You can judge if this was worth it or not from the before/after picture below.

300TE steerng wheel

I had also noticed I was missing the first aid kit and warning triangle.   The warning triangle is specific to the wagon, and I think the first aid kit is too.    I don’t expect to use a 30 year old first aid kit, but there was a specific spot for it and I would like the car to be complete.   The same MB club member who found me the wheel was also able to find me these items so I could fit both to their proper home.   Something that most people are not going to care about, but I like to have all this stuff.

2023-01-26 14-39-22Finally there was the wear on the front arm rest.   Not that surprising after 375,000, that even MB-Tex has its limits.   As part of the same deal with the triangle, first aid kit and wheel, I was able to grab a series 1 W126 MB-Tex armrest.   They are not identical, but I think I should be able to use this plus the one I have to get something working.    If not, I can probably sell it on for what I paid.


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