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.