Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cleaning the Mercedes... continued

I'm not going to post a very lengthy update, but know that the project continues and I am still cleaning the Mercedes.

In addition to all the oil sprayed in the car to ward off rust, the car is also simply coated in 29 years worth of accumulated dirt and filth. I've finally finished cleaning under the hood:

I'm also almost done cleaning out the wheel wells. There was a lot of thick, dried, caked-on dirt. Here's a before shot, and some after shots:

This week I also painted the battery tray and hold-down clamps:

and picked up a new (used) stereo for the car:

As usual, I'll get back to work next weekend.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

On to the Mercedes! The dirty... dirty Mercedes

Now that the Legacy is on the road and the Impreza is out of the way, I've finally been able to get started on the next project - the Mercedes 240D. This is my third W123 body 240D, and my sixth Mercedes diesel overall. The lineup is as follows:

1982 240D:
 This was my first car. I owned it from 1996 through 2005. If circumstances had been a bit different, I might still have it today.

1985 300SD:
This was my fourth car overall, and replaced the 1982 240D as my daily driver. I owned it from 2005 through 2007, but sold it because I couldn't bear to see such a nice car get destroyed on my long commute. It's still in the family, though.

1985 300D:
I bought this car as a project in 2007, around the time I sold the 300SD. I found it in a Boston shipyard, beat-up and barely running. I spent a few weeks working on it and drove it all summer. I had a chance to double my total investment, so I sold it and picked up a VW Golf for a project car.

1981 240D:
Around six months had passed since I sold the 300D, and I was missing owning a diesel Mercedes. I found this car on Craigslist, only a mile from my house, sitting at a body shop. Much like the 300D, it barely drove. On the test drive, I couldn't top 20 MPH. But, the body looked OK, and the interior was in very nice shape. This car had over 300,000 miles on it, but had a low-mileage factory-rebuilt automatic transmission, a low-mileage dealership-installed used engine, a brand new exhaust, brand new tires, brand new radiator and brand new alternator. I bought the car in January, 2008 and got right to work.

I discovered severe rust damage in the floors and rocker panels. But, I experimented with some homespun bodywork and made it solid again. Once I had the car solid and running, I drove it for a while and then converted it to run on waste vegetable oil. Unfortunately, I had trouble finding enough vegetable oil to make it worth my while, so I sold the car for what I had in it in April, 2009.

1972 220D:
By early 2010, I was ready for another project. This came along. It was a runner, but had been off the road for around a decade. It came with a stack of paperwork, going back to the original invoice. But, the car had unknown high mileage and was in very poor shape. It did run, though. When I got it home, I found, once again, severe rust damage. As time allowed, I worked on the car. In late 2011, the Vanagon's engine blew on me, and I sold the incomplere 220D to make space for that project.

and finally... the 1983 240D:
As you know, I picked this car up in late March/early April. I've been busy with the Vanagon and the Legacy project, so the 240D has mostly just been sitting in the driveway and garage. Now that those two projects are out of the way, I'm finally able to start on the 240D.

As I may have mentioned, this is the filthiest car I've ever paid money for. I've spent a little time cleaning it already, but I still have a way to go before I'm ready to start working on the car. The previous owner had sprayed the engine compartment (and, I suspect, the interior floors) with some sort of oil mix to ward off rust. It's heavy, nasty stuff, so I spent yesterday and today cleaning it. Here's a little before and after:

The engine compartment isn't done yet, but I can see paint again. I also cleaned clumps upon clumps of Reagan-era dirt out of one of the wheel wells (three to go):

There's a long way to go, but once the car is clean, I start repair work. The first thing I'm going to do is patch up a blown brake line. From there, I'm going to jump right into bodywork, and then on to the rest of the mechanical repairs.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Junking the Impreza - a lesson in wreck-o-nomics

So, a couple of weeks ago, I finally finished work on my wife's "new" car - the 1995 Subaru Legacy. This finally freed me up to start working on the 1983 Mercedes 240D. Well... almost. My wife's old car, the 1993 Subaru Impreza, was still taking up valuable real estate in the driveway.

In addition to taking up space, it was still on my insurance policy, costing me money every month. My original plan was to sell the Impreza as soon as the new Legacy was on the road. Fate had other plans. In recent months, the car had started to deteriorate sharply.

Back in April, I had to replace the driver's side front CV axle. In June, my wife drove the car on a 2,000 mile road trip. To make sure she got there OK, I replaced the timing belt and idlers, did an ignition tune-up, replaced the transmission fluid, and replaced the fuel filter. In early August, I had to replace the alternator. (Interestingly enough, when I bought the car in 2009, the seller told me it had a bad alternator - well, that bad alternator performed flawlessly for just over three years... until now) Bottom line, the Impreza was starting to nickel-and-dime me to death.

The last straw came the same day that I got the "new" Legacy on the road. One of the Impreza's brake calipers all but seized up. The car would run and drive, but the pad was worn out and was metal-on-metal with the rotor. My wife had told me she'd been hearing an intermittent scraping sound for the past few weeks. I hadn't bothered to check it out, as I was concentrating on fixing the Legacy. Well, the caliper finally froze. Also, the transmission was starting to bang into second gear intermittently.

So, I put the car up for sale on Craigslist. I wrote a long, almost encyclopedic ad, detailing everything wrong with the car. I could have fixed the brakes, but I wasn't interested in putting more time and money into the car, knowing that would likely not

I set an asking price of $800, knowing I'd come down with the price, but not wanting to give the car away. Aside from the usual scammers, the only interest I had was from a college student who wanted to pay less than scrap value for the car.

Knowing I wasn't going to be able to sell it on the open market, I started calling local junkyards. I got a variety of price quotes, but one, located about a mile away from the house, offered me $400 if I could drive the car in. I grabbed the title, pulled our stuff out of the car, and drove it up there. I hate to junk a running, driving car, but it had 326,000 miles on it and needed more work than it was likely worth, including, possibly, a transmission replacement.

We had the car for three years. We bought it with 240,000 miles on it, and drove it 86,000 miles. I originally paid $175 for the car (I did have to replace some parts over the years, but surprisingly, not too much). I sold it for $400. In my case, it just made the most sense to retire it and let its parts keep other cars alive.

I hope someone can make good use of that month-old alternator. Anyhow, here's some photos and video I took the last day I had the car.