Thursday, December 19, 2013

Back to the Mercedes... finally

Sorry for the long delay between updates. Shortly after my last blog post, I had some time off work, which gave me about a week and a half to work on (and finish) the Volvo. It's been on the road for a few weeks now, and my wife is happy with it. I still need to chase down a few small nagging items, but the car is in daily service and we both enjoy driving it. Here's the short list of what I did to the car:

  • replaced the timing belt and timing belt idlers
  • replaced the water pump
  • replaced serpentine belt and idlers
  • replaced all cooling system hoses
  • replaced spark plugs, wires, cap, and rotor
  • replaced oil and filter
  • replaced coolant
  • replaced transmission fluid
  • replaced engine air filter
  • replaced cabin air filter
  • replaced rear brake calipers, pads, rotors, and all parking brake hardware
  • replaced front brake hoses and flushed fluid
  • replaced front struts and hardware
  • replaced front control arms
  • replaced steering rack boots
  • replaced tie rods and tie rod ends
  • replaced rear shock absorbers
After all that, the car more or less lives up to my hopes and expectations. Once we'd had it on the road for a week or so, I put up an ad to sell my wife's old Subaru Legacy. I really was hoping for more than a year and a half out of that car. I sold it at a big loss, but the car had problems. I might not have sold it at all, but a few weeks back, we had an unexpected Sunday morning ice storm which caused a lot of accidents locally. One driver (unfortunately) wrecked her E21 BMW. She walked away unhurt, but had to go out and buy a running car on a budget that same day, which brought her to the Legacy, which was still quite driveable, though it probably wouldn't pass inspection. I told the buyer, her father, and her boyfriend the unvarnished truth about the car, they made an offer, and that afternoon I had my driveway parking back.

After that, I was finally able to turn my attention back to the Mercedes. Now that winter is creeping in, I decided it would be a good time to start work in the (relatively) warm basement, rebuilding the seats. I'll be working on these until they're done, which is when I'll brave the cold and get back to metalwork.

As of now, I'm disassembling the driver's seat. I intend to replace the old horsehair padding with memory foam, stitch up the rips in the vinyl, repair the broken seat springs, and re-lube the seat track assembly.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Away from the Mercedes again, to the Swedish meatball...

Last week, I had an all-too-brief chance to finally get some work done on the 1983 Mercedes. I actually hadn't laid hands on it in nearly six months. It's not that I haven't been busy. After I installed the used engine in 2012, I wasn't able to stop the unexpected leaking. So, this spring I made the decision to replace the Vanagon's head gaskets. As I've never done the job before, it took quite a while to get that done. But, I've been happy with the results.

After that, I had summer to contend with, which included a business trip and a vacation far from home. When I got back, I picked up the 1979 Mercedes parts car, which I spent six weeks or so working on and taking apart. When I was done with that, I had to deal with the unexpected steering rack failure on my wife's daily driver, which led me to decide, ultimately, to replace the car, which is what brings me to where I am now.

The obvious choice would have been another Subaru, but that's not really an option anymore, as far as I'm concerned. My relationship with the Subarus started with my 1994 Legacy L. I bought that car with 204,000 miles on it and drove it (with basic maintenance and a few repairs) for four years and nearly 90,000 miles until I sold it in favor of my (far less reliable) 1990 Volkswagen Jetta diesel (big mistake). Since then, my wife and I have had many Subarus, several of which have been amazingly reliable. However, and this is only anecdotal gut instinct, I think that Subaru may have made some sort of production change in the EJ22 engine. My 1994 Subaru was insanely reliable, and never burned or leaked a drop of oil. Similar story with my wife's 1993 Legacy L and her 1993 EJ18 Impreza.

However, as the first generation cars became scarce, we moved on to the second generation Legacies. My 1995 EJ22 Legacy L burned oil and eventually all but lost compression in cylinder 2. Although I compression tested my replacment 1995 Legacy L Outback (EJ22 again) at time of purchase, cylinder 2 started showing some symptoms this summer. Lately, it's been behaving itself. So, even though the engine and transmission in my wife's 1995 Legacy are healthy, I don't want to take a chance on another unknown Subaru that will be almost guaranteed to have serious rust issues.

So, I did some research and narrowed the list of potential replacement cars to older Toyota Camries (just seeing them on the road around here suggests to me that they don't have as serious rust issues as the Subarus), which are known to be reliable, and on the recommendation of a friend and former Volvo mechanic, old Volvo 850's or S70/V70's. As we like station wagons for their utility, combined with the fact that at this age, there's little if any price penalty for a station wagon, I opted to limit my search to 850 and V70 wagons.

I even considered the Volvos way back in January when I was shopping for a replacement car for my old 1995 Legacy. But, I couldn't find a good one back then. I've been looking for a few weeks, and finally bought THIS:

(it even came with snow tires)

It needs a boatload of maintenance and a few repairs, but looks like a solid base for a daily driver that I should have on the road in a few weeks. THEN, I'll be back to working on the 240D, unless there's another unexpected interruption.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Parts car gone and another project is coming

It's been over a month since my last update, and there have been some developments. As I was nearing the end of dismantling the 1979 240D parts car, Mrs. MDG's car developed a new and unexpected problem. The power steering lines rusted through and started dumping fluid onto the exhaust rapidly.

When I investigated, I found that the lines in question were on the rack itself and that the rack needed to be pulled to replace them. The lines weren't cheap, either, costing well over $100 for the pair. Unfortunately, the steering rack and front subframe was just too rusted in place to justify attempting to repair it. So, I ended up looping the lines on the rack, thus temporarily converting the car to manual steering so that it can be driven temporarily.

Once that was done, I began a final marathon-like push to finish disassembling the 1979 and get it out of the way. I needed to get a "new" car for Mrs. MDG, but was out of space. Thankfully, I was able to get 95% of what I wanted off the parts car before calling a junk hauler to take it away.

The parts car is gone, but it will live on in the 1983 and other cars.

Then, I hit the classifieds and started car shopping.

I was willing to spend a bit more money for a more complete car, but in the end, the best car I found did need some work. I'll be bringing it home tomorrow. Until I get it home, no hints or videos as to what it is. All I'll say is that it's not a Subaru. I ended up buying something that I think will be more rust resistant.

Yesterday, I took a day off, as the "new" car isn't here yet, and went to Transporterfest 2013, a mostly VW bus show at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, MA. If you've never been there, I highly recommend the museum. It's really classy. The last time I went to that show was in 2011. Incidentally, that was the day that the Vanagon's original engine almost seized up on me.

I'll leave you with some final photos of the '79 and from the show yesterday.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Parts car gradually changes from car... to parts

So, I don't really have the space or the budget to simply let the parts car sit around. As such, I can't simply pick at the 1979 240D parts car as needed. I'm low on parking, so I need to disassemble the car and junk the shell.

I spent last weekend (and the one before) pulling the engine and transmission. As the parts car has a new clutch (or so said the seller), the whole assembly will be going into the 1983 project.

Last weekend, I also got the driveshaft and differential out. I'm stripping as much as I can from the car, and will be getting rid of the excess on Craigslist and eBay. With any luck, I should be able to cover a good portion of the cost of the project this way.

This weekend, I started at the rear of the car and began gutting it. I got the fuel tank out, and flushed it with vinegar. I still need to power wash the inside, but it's basically ready for transplant into the 1983

After that, I cleaned up and painted the rusty airbox, then started de-trimming the car. That's almost done. I also removed the nearly spotless front fenders for use on the 1983 and removed all the exterior lights.

I have more to do, but there isn't too much car left. Once it's picked over, I'll junk the shell and start in on the 1983 project again.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Big things are here

Remember how I told you in my last blog post that big things were coming? Well, big things are here.

Sorry to go AWOL for almost a month. I put the last blog post up JUST before Mrs. MDG and I took to the road for our summer vacation. We drove south, covering most of the east coast, for a week at Disney World. I even made a road trip video for y'all:

But, that's not the big news. Just before I left, I made a deal. I bought... something. When I got back from vacation, I picked up... a one-owner 1979 Mercedes-Benz 240D parts car. It had been parked on the edge of the woods since 2000, and looked the part.

The tires were hopelessly rotted:

Moss and lichens were growing on the passenger side:

So, I had it towed home... and got it to start for the first time in 13 years:

Once that was done, I cleaned it up a bit (so I wouldn't get sick taking the car apart). I ASSURE you this IS the same car:

I'm going to start dismantling the car shortly. Some parts will go to the 1983 240D. A great many will be sold.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Vanagon is alive - and big things to come...

First off, I apologize to anyone reading along for the long lapse in blog posts. I'll just put this out there - the Vanagon is running and back in service.

Shortly after my last blog post, I got it up and running again. Once everything was back together, I tried to start it. It certainly fought me, but eventually it did start and run. What's more, it's running well. There were a few hiccups, but nothing really required any readjustment. I've been driving it on and off for a few weeks now, including a traffic-filled trip across the city at rush hour to pick up a heavy TV.

It's running and driving very nicely with no additional signs of leakage. I'm happy. It wasn't an easy job, and was absolutely time consuming, but the results speak for themselves. I have yet to do any long distance driving.

When the van was done, I parked the Mercedes in the garage again. Despite sitting outside for two months and its condition, it started on the first bump of the key.

I want to get back to work on the project, but the garage was a disaster. A few weeks back, I picked up some free industrial shelves which will help me get a lot of stuff off the floor. I've thrown out several large bags of trash, and the garage is closer to being a real work space again. As usual, the garage would be done already if not for the fact that I had to work last weekend. It's unlikely I'll be able to do anything the next two weekends, either.

But, I will finish the garage and get back to working on the Mercedes. And, as I said, big things are in the works. What, you ask? You'll just need to stay tuned to find out.