Thursday, October 31, 2019

HILTON HEAD PREP

I got the car back from Eric #Reflections on Tuesday and Johnny looks great. Sadly, the roads will be wet come Friday morning for our departure, so the clean-up when we get to HH will be a bit more troublesome and time-consuming. I’ve been spending today and yesterday get everything together for the weekend; tool kit, detail kit, chairs and show items, etc., and except for the 8-hour road trip, which I usually enjoy, I’ll probably be sweating out a new rock chip or splash for every puddle on the road. Que Sera Sera. Where is Doris when I need her?


The one issue I am having is finding a USB adapter that will work in the cigarette outlet. I suppose I’ll just have to charge the phones up well before we depart and hope for the best.

And then I discover this nightmare leftover from when the rear windowsill was repaired. Who leaves such a mess behind and just hides it under the carpet? My bad for not checking two years ago when it came out of the body shop. I managed to clean up a lot of it, but I don’t have the time for a thorough job. Well, add it to the list such and cracked dash, wood trim refinishing, etc., etc.





Tuesday, October 22, 2019

DUTY CALLS - HILTON HEAD

Much has transpired since my last post. As you may recall, Johnny went into the shop to have the driveshaft balanced. Along the way, Simon, my trusted mechanic, discovered one of the half-shafts was worn beyond limits and that, my friends, is what is causing the clunking sound going into drive or reverse. Along the way, however, Simon also discovered the newly rebuilt transmission was leaking. Aruggh!
The plot thickens as during the discussion I found out the shop manager decided to send the transmission, not to the shop in Texas where I thought my original transmission would be rebuilt by a competent and reliable technician, but to a shop closer to home in New Jersey or some such place, to be rebuilt by a shop with a less Stirling reputation. Well, the result bit them in the ass, as was the transmission that came back wasn't only poorly done, but it wasn't the original. Okay, it had all the right numbers and date codes, so I could live with that, but not the leak.
Auto Haus contacted the shop in question and they recommended using something like JB Weld to stem the leak. My reaction was somewhat stronger than HELL NO!
The parts manager at Auto Haus then started looking for another transmission with the correct date codes, etc. but was initially unable to find one. He found transmissions that would fit, but not correct for the car. I told him that was not acceptable. They then contacted the shop that sent the rebuilt POS transmission and lo and behold they still had Johnny's original transmission sitting on the shelf.
Long story short, they sent the POS transmission back and had the questionable shop rebuild Johnny's original transmission, and in doing so they impressed upon the proprietor the essence of the car and the necessity of doing it right. Fingers crossed.
Unfortunately, during much of this time, Simon was back home in Austria enjoying his summer "holiday" as they call it across the pond, so most work stopped for about a month.
While in the shop I asked the parts manager to get their upholstery guy to come and take a look at a tear on the top of the back seat. This seemed to take forever and finally, after mentioning it to them for about the fifth time, and impressing upon then that the car is going down to Hilton Head for the Concours d'Elegance on the 1st of November, they got a hold of the upholster and got the job done.
I finally learned the car is now ready (as of yesterday), but the invoice from the upholstery shop has not arrived.
I have not seen Johnny yet, but I'm sure he looks and runs just fine. Yes, Johnny is going down to the Hilton Head Concours d'Elegance, but not as a contender. Johnny will be part of a group of 40 Mercedes-Benz automobiles on display courtesy of the Mercedes-Benz Club of America (MBCA). In preparation, Johnny is going over to my friend Eric's detail shop, Reflections Detailing, here in Williamsburg.
I'm looking forward to re-connect with Johnny and the upcoming road trip as we haven't done a lot of driving together lately.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

NEW SUSPENDERS

After having the new (rebuilt) transmission installed in Johnny a few weeks ago, I was still unhappy with the clunking which was happening when selecting Drive. It was even more noticeable when going from Reverse into Drive, and yes I always come to a complete stop before doing so.
Back to Autohaus, the car went and about a week later I get a call from Preston, our "service advisor" telling me Simon had another look at the car and found the U-joints and Gubios (rubber bushings/flex bushings) were shot, as well as the left half-shaft. With a new half-shaft on order, the drive shaft is off to a shop in Texas for balancing, and we are waiting for the new Gubios and u-joints to arrive.
This is all part and parcel of buying a car with a history of deferred maintenance, and that which was done was done on the cheap.
One other thing we recently discovered is a tear in the top of the left rear seatback. I think it's due to the brittleness of the leather in that area from years of sun exposure. I'll take it to a local upholstery shop to see if they can replace that section, or we may resort to replacing the entire interior at a not insubstantial cost.
The search for an unmolested dash continues...
At the end of the day, Johnny will be a lot closer to his proper self and will provide years of reliable service for us and any subsequent owner long after we are gone, and we've been able to save just a wee bit of automotive television royalty and enjoy the heck out of doing so. Who knows? If we win the lottery we can take Johnny to White Post Restorations for a proper full-blown restoration, cost no object. We're so far underwater at this point, why not spend an extra $100,000 to $200,000 to get things just so?



Monday, June 17, 2019

ROAMING VIRGINIA

Sunday found not just glorious weather here in The Old Dominion, but some glorious driving along southeast Virginia's back roads. Johnny and I headed out for West Point to catch Virginia Route 14 just east of town. Turning northwest on 14 took us across the beautiful farmland King & Queen County, and through picturesque towns such as Stevensville and Walkerton. Route 14 eventually brought us to VA Route 30 and a turn southeast back to West Point. A slight detour for gas before heading home made the trip exactly 80 miles.

There are so many more of these roads to explore across this great state, that I'm afraid I'll be racking up the miles on Johnny faster than I want to. But then again, what is the point of having a great piece of machinery if you don't use it. Parts can be replaced when they wear out. Missed experiences cannot be.

Cumnor Store - VA 14, King & Queen County 

Grigg's Store - Route 14 outside of Walkerton, VA

Unknown building (Former tobacco barn?) - Walkerton, VA

Friday, June 14, 2019

TRANS-FORMED

Johnny came driving home today and all I can say is the car is transformed. The new transmission and torque converter make all the difference in the world. I thought the absence of clunking would be wonderful, but the whole driving experience is enhanced. Smooth, effortless, quiet shifting, and it even seems more quiet and smooth while driving in every gear. Overall, the car just seems more together. Maybe the rebuilt power steering pump and the fresh brake fluid have something to do with it as well, but it is so good I didn't want to just drive Johnny home and park him. I wanted to go for a long drive and enjoy my new car. Sadly, that was not to be because of a number of reasons, which have nothing to do with the car or the tone of this blog.

Now that we have just about every mechanical system attended to, I can move forward with more of the appearance items, such as a tear in the back seat, the car-phone antenna, dash, clock, etc. The big issue, of course, is the dash, and that may be a long time coming or I can bite the bullet and try a good used one in the hopes it does not crack while being installed.

The weather promises to be fine this week, so hopefully, I can get Johnny out for a bit of a road trip. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

TRASH CAN TRANS

"Johnny" will be ready tomorrow, barring anything untoward. I may have neglected to mention in my previous entry that the power steering pump was leaking, and is being rebuilt. I also asked Simon to flush and refill the brake fluid. Yes, this is all simple stuff I could do at home, but there are a lot of things going on right now, and I wish to have these items ticked off the list. In any event, Simon does an outstanding job each and every time.

I did stop by Auto Haus earlier today and talk to Simon, and he told me the brake fluid was pitch black. That was a bit surprising since we replaced it just two years ago. According to Simon, it is not unusual if the car was neglected for many years, as Johnny was. All the sediment and other crap gets picked up by the new brake fluid, and thus the current condition of the "new" fluid from just two years ago. That possibility never dawned on me, which it should have, and I should have changed the fluid at least one more time, if not twice in the intervening period. You learn something new every day in this hobby. Simon did mention he completely cleaned out the brake fluid reservoir, so maybe next time it will not be so bad. I think I'll go to a least an annual brake system flush and fill until things get back to normal.

Simon also clued me into the quick turn around on the transmission. I guess he called the gentleman in Texas and explained what we needed. The correct transmission being something like 117-323, if memory serves. "Jaggi" apparently had one already rebuilt on the shelf, so he packed it up the same day, along with a new torque converter, and shipped it off. It got from Missouri City, Texas to Auto Haus in Williamsburg in less than a day. The guy ships them in a 20 gallon Rubbermaid trash can via a private shipper. Go figure. Too bad the USPS isn't so efficient. (Just watch, now I won't get any mail for a week and a half). Simon, bless his big Austrian heart, stayed at it until 11:00 pm last night installing the replacement.

I'll let you know how it drives when I get Johnny back tomorrow.

BTW, if anybody has a lead on a black NOS dash for a 1988 Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC, please let me know. Johnny's is cracked in two places and I would like to replace it.

Power steering pump to go.


Old transmission and torque converter ready to be sent to "Jaggi" in Missouri City, TX.

SHOW & TELL and SHIFTING GEARS

Alas, Johnny did not reap any trophies yet again at the Williamsburg British Car Club's Annual British & European Car Show in April. It was probably not a Stirling presentation on my part, nor did I stick around the car to talk to the judges, as I was gadding about talking to all the other owners and shop reps. Oh, well maybe next year. I'll be retired by then and have plenty of time to prepare the proper "sales pitch."

I skipped the Fredericksburg car show this year, as I did last year and all years previous. With the short amount of time I have off between trips it just seems to be too much of a haul up and back. That said, several of my fellow MBCA Section members brought home some spoils.

Johnny's transmission has been what can only call a bit clunky since purchasing him over two years ago. I was able to live with it and I'm sure it would have carried on for quite some time before letting go, but with an unknown service history, and the desire to have the car drive and act like a proper Mercedes-Benz, I decided last week to have it rebuilt. Simon at Auto Haus pulled the transmission and they shipped it off to a Swiss gentleman in Missouri City, Texas who specializes in just this type of rebuild.

Unbelievably, as I was typing this, I talked to Preston, my service rep at Auto Haus, and he said the transmission is already back and Simon installed it last night. Damn, that was quick. Remove the transmission, ship to Texas, rebuild, ship back and reinstall all in less than two weeks. Pretty impressive. I'll have Simon change the brake fluid while the car is there as well since its been just over two years since it was replaced.

The weather has been absolute crap here this Spring with a lot of rain, more than I can remember in the 27 years we've lived here, so it is a great opportunity to tic off some of the items on the to-do list. Still to go is finding a NOS dash, have the wood trim refinished, maybe reupholster the seats with new bolsters, and possibly new carpet. All are relatively simple, except the dash, which is NLA from Mercedes-Benz, and a PITA to remove and install. While I'm in there I'll replace all the vacuum diaphragms as well.

Also, I need to find a replacement digital clock, also NLA from MBZ, and an aerial for the cell phone. The phone no longer works, of course, but seeing as Johnny Carson probably had some very interesting conversations on that very phone, it is very much a part of the history of the car. It needs a new cord as well, but I'll have to figure out how to break open the case on the handset without damaging it in order to do so. I did have someone tell me recently there are now kits out there to retrofit these old cell phones with modern electronics so they look original, but will actually work. Not a high priority, but maybe something to look at in the future.

That's about it for now. I'll let you know how the transmission turns out.

Hals- und Beinbruch!
Brad




Saturday, March 9, 2019

RADIO GAGA, DRAINED & PADDING UNDER THE HOOD

Johnny has been getting a little exercise lately and some TLC to boot. There was a brief interlude recently where the refurbished Becker radio was killing the battery. Once that was discovered and the radio sent back to Becker (out of warranty of course), all is well. Later, the horn gave up the ghost at the exact wrong moment, and just after I collected Johnny from his mandatory annual "safety inspection." Some shithead in a Cadillac Coupé decided to change lanes right into me, forcing me off the road and onto the shoulder. I laid on the horn button, but nothing sounded. It was obvious the clueless bastard never even saw me out of the POS Caddy with no visibility.
On a brighter note. I had a deteriorating wire harness repaired and a new hood pad installed. Now the heater is operating somewhat erratic, so that will be something to address in the near future.
Other than that Johnny is running just fine, although he now resides part-time in a large climate controlled storage facility, brought out for high day and holidays, or whenever I get the urge if the weather is nice. Spring is starting to poke its head out in places, so I hope that damned Pennsylvania rodent was correct and it arrives early.
That's about all for now. I'll try and be a bit more regular with my posts as I know I have been neglecting my duties of late.



Sunday, August 12, 2018

THE HUMANITY

Oh, the humanity of it all! Johnny Carson relegated to a grocery getter.


After taking Johnny to the local self-serve car wash for what is probably his first full-on bath since renovation, my darling Avril asked if we could stop by FF on the way back to pick up something for dinner. Seeing as how Avril helped with drying Johnny off after his sponge bath, I had no grounds for refusal. More so, after never being fully satisfied with Johnny's trunk alignment, Avril pointed out while she was toweling off the lip around the trunk that the seal on the left side was turned inside out. Neither I nor the shop ever noticed this before. Or at least if they did they didn't mention it.
It's a new seal put in after the repairs to the rear window as the original had perished and it was obviously not installed properly. So back to the shop he goes.
I just got him back a week ago because I wanted the power steering pump hoses replaced as they were both leaking. At the same time, I had the door seals replaced as they were perished. Is it just me or does anyone else think the body shop should have noticed the seal was skew-whiff, especially after taking the car back specifically for the trunk alignment?

Sunday, April 29, 2018

DEFUSED

Today I finally took the time to replace all the aluminum fuses in Johnny's fuse box with proper brass ones. I could say BIG BRASS ONES, but that would just be bragging. I was pleasantly surprised to find the contacts were relatively free of corrosion even though the fuses themselves showed obvious corrosion on the surface.

Afterwards we went for a short drive, but first I put some Liqui Moly Valve Clean in the nearly full gas tank. I know there is a lot of debate as to whether this kind of fuel system treatment does any good or not, but I could swear Johnny was running just a bit smoother than before after adding the Liqui Moly.

Once back in the garage a little spit and polish was required to remove the dead bugs and a quick dusting with my California Car Duster and Johnny is ready to go back under the cover once the engine has cooled. I must say I was a bit skeptical of all the reviews I read about the California Car Duster, especially considering how much it costs, but I will say it is by far the best dusting tool I have ever used. They've been around a long time and I now wish I would have purchased one a long time ago.

There is a small leak from the engine bay and I'm not sure at this point if it is from the power-steering pump or where. I need to get Johnny up on a lift to investigate further. I know it's an old car, but leaks drive me to drink, so I will have to do something about it.

In other Mercedes-Benz news, we got my E350 Cabrio back from the body shop on Friday. It was in to repair a large dent in the driver's side door that some neanderthal put in it when she opened her door into ours at the vets office a couple of weeks ago. There is no way she did not know what she did, but the bitch and her dog drove off anyway. Of course the vet's office would not give us her name. I thought about calling the police because it was obvious the cost of repair would be significant, but I didn't. It turned out to be $600, $100 of which came out of my pocket and the rest out of the insurance company's coffers.

I also had the rear bumper resprayed at my own expense. It had been resprayed three years before by another shop because of a poor repair when it was with its previous owner and some of the paint had gone a bit off color, which was really annoying to me. Plus I put a big gouge on the top of the paint when I carelessly haul by suitcase out one day, so it was time. That job I paid for out of my own pocket.

Anyway, I decided to take care of a number of rock chips on the hood/bonnet and having purchased the correct white touch-up paint from the dealer last week I went to town. My technique is to use a toothpick to dip in the paint and fill the chip and then lay a small piece of Saran Wrap (cling wrap) over the spot until it is fully dry dome hours later. I may leave it on overnight this time, just for grins. I find as the paint dries the wrap helps smooth the paint out and helps it dry level with the surface of the undamaged paint. These are just small chips and I have not tried this method with larger gouges or scratches.

That's about it for here in the Old Dominion.

Cheers!

At times like this you wish you had a gun.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

DEBUTANT

Out of the shop on Friday and onto the display grounds on Saturday (14 April).

The final items addressed were the timing chain, guides and tensioner (all replaced), the recalcitrant right seat belt retractor (still not cooperating), the cruise control, (new amplifier required/replaced), new water pump, thermostat and associated hardware (I decided to have this replaced prophylactically while the radiator was out for the timing chain replacement), new suspension pump (the old one was leaking) and the EHA Valve was replaced (leaking as well).

The car was then detailed and put aside until showtime.

Johnny's first show was the WBCC British & European Car Show held last Saturday on High Street in Williamsburg, Virginia. There were about 150 cars total in attendance and and about six or seven MB's, including Johnny. Unfortunately, Johnny did not drive away with any hardware, but considering the competition that is no surprise.

The day was warm and very windy, which exacerbated the amount of yellow pollen in the air. We found ourselves dusting off our cars every 20 minutes or so. In hindsight, I probably made a mistake leaving the front windows and trunk open for display purposes as the pollen got into every corner and crevice. I spent this morning cleaning that up.

A few shots below:

Departing for the show. 

 Showtime at the Apollo

In good company 

The green 300 SL to Johnny's right is a hand built reproduction.
It is truly amazing.

Good neighbors

First responders. Thanks for all you do.

Popular attraction. We received a lot of positive comments and WOWs!

Look close and you can see the layer of yellow pollen on the black seats.

We had a few naysayers and doubting Thomas' question Johnny's provenance.
Fuck 'em.

HILTON HEAD PREP

I got the car back from Eric #Reflections on Tuesday and Johnny looks great. Sadly, the roads will be wet come Friday morning for our depar...