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    MERCEDES-BENZ 280TE
    RUN BY Graeme Hurst
    OWNED SINCE November 2011
    PREVIOUS REPORT Jan 2017

    / #Mercedes-Benz-280TE-S123 / #Mercedes-Benz-W123 / #Mercedes-Benz-S123 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-280TE-Automatic-S123 / #Mercedes-Benz-280TE-Automatic / #1982-Mercedes-Benz-280TE-Automatic-S123

    The TE has put some miles under its belt recently, mainly with trips to the Cape coast or the inland Karoo – it being the only ‘dog’ and ‘tow’ car in the fleet, so perfect for weekend adventures. The trouble is, a faulty odometer means that I have no idea how many miles, so have to judge the service intervals by the colour of the oil.

    My mates in the Mercedes-Benz Club are rather horrified by that arrangement, along with the sort of use we give the car. Which highlights a dilemma: the wagon variant of the #W123 is super-rare on South African shores and they’re increasingly coveted by collectors, but ours is very much a working classic in daily use because I simply don’t have the space to keep it for high days and holidays.

    Mind you, as classic daily drivers go, a 123 wagon is perfect for the job, although the maintenance does start to rack up on a car that’s likely covered 300,000km-plus. It’s all been minor stuff, such as a faulty start-inhibitor switch on the gearbox (meaning that the car would only start in neutral) and a weeping power-steering hose. Both were easily sorted by local specialist Allan Ketterer of JFT Motors, who also suggested having the radiator flushed and ‘rodded’ to ensure that the cooling system is in optimum condition. This was after the temperature needle started creeping towards the red on a trip up the west coast last Christmas.

    To be fair, the journey involved towing a trailer with the car four-up in 35ºC heat, but I was conscious that, as a full import, the TE has a standard European-market radiator and not the larger item our locally assembled sedans enjoy. I thought of installing a local version, but wagons were fitted with an oil cooler, so there isn’t space. Ketterer suggested fitting a relay to hardwire the electric fan on whenever the air-conditioning is running; with that and a clear core, the needle is now stable on hot days. Another problem with daily use is the risk of knocks from other cars. Or in our case rather more than just a knock, after the back of the Merc was clipped by a Range Rover at an intersection. Fortunately the impact was directly on the offside tail-light lens, so the metalwork emerged unscathed, but replacing the lens was a reminder of why these cars are increasingly finding their way into cotton-wool-wrapped collections: second-hand estate items are non-existent, and a new lens (in a dusty Stuttgart box that looked to be new-old-stock) cost a whopping R5480 (£322!) from the main agent. Thankfully the guilty party was properly insured, and even still made her yoga class on time. Namaste!

    A true ‘lifestyle’ estate doing what it does best, as the Merc hauls dogs and kayaks to the Palmiet River in Betty’s Bay. Getting hot under the collar on west coast. Altercation with Range Rover proved costly New power-steering hoses cured weeping. ‏ — at South Africa
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    CAR #Ford-Mustang / #Ford-Mustang-MkI / #Ford
    Run by Graeme Hurst
    Owned since September ’1999
    Total mileage 66,678
    Miles since August 2014
    report 252
    Latest costs £580

    ROUGH RUNNING FINALLY SOLVED

    On paper, my Mustang is the most reliable car in my fleet. Pushrod V8, points ignition, mechanical fuel pump and a live rear axle with non-servo brakes. What’s not to like? It’s Car Design 101 when it comes to classic reliability and DIY ownership. Yet, over the past few months, the ’Stang has frustrated me with a series of mechanical and electrical maladies that had me convinced it was possessed enough for a role in a Stephen King film. It all followed a fresh set of sparkplugs, but that simple task – to cure a cold-start issue – seemed to disturb a hornets’ nest of issues.

    And the plug swap had me baffled on two fronts. First, I noticed that the box of AC Delco items I bought on a parts haul in the US contained only seven plugs. Perplexing, until I recalled that my luggage had contained an inspection note from the TSA (the US’s Transportation Security Administration). I’ve since learnt that sparkplugs are a red flag to their screening software and need to be sampled.

    The omission was sorted with an NGK equivalent but, even with all eight refreshed, I suddenly had an engine running on seven, as if the 289 was under the TSA’s spell. Oddly, there was a spark from each lead, albeit not a very bright one.

    A set of leads and a new coil (the existing one looked to be the original) was my next move to beef up the voltage. Still no joy. Must be a compression issue, then? Nope – when tested, all eight cylinders measured between 130 and 150psi. That was followed by a blast around the neighbourhood in the hope that it would ‘come right’, but my efforts resulted only in a few spectacular backfires.

    Then I discovered that the vacuum advance on the distributor wasn’t working. I couldn’t see how that could result in a misfire but I scrounged one off the old dizzy from the Cobra my brother Kevin built up. The Windsor still ran like a pig, and by then the frequent bouts of cranking were putting a strain on the car’s high-tension circuit because the starter solenoid cooked. That was easy to replace and, with cranking restored, the electrical gremlins moved on to the low-tension circuit – specifically the ignition barrel, which cried foul and came apart under the dash.

    Taking out the instrument panel revealed a shattered housing. Here on the southern tip of Africa, sourcing bits involves a 10-day delivery process plus punitive courier and customs charges. All of which turned a $14.95 barrel into a 1500- Rand (£73) purchase, on a car that cost only 20,000 Rand in ’1999.

    With the new barrel in place, the engine was back on seven cylinders but I was at my wits’ end. Fortunately, there was another diversion because the accelerator pump called time with a fan-shaped spray of unleaded over the engine when I blipped the throttle. Local specialists don’t stock FoMoCo carb bits

    In fact, even the Mustang parts suppliers in the US are light on them, so I opted for a new 600CFM Holley. Luckily, those are a dime a dozen here thanks to the hot rod scene. Swapping it couldn’t have been easier – it’s the most bolt-on bit I’ve ever fitted – and I only had to reposition the fuel feed.

    Of course, it still didn’t solve the misfire but stripping the distributor showed up some play in the shaft – perhaps that was causing an intermittent contact across more than one pickup on the dizzy cap?

    That was just before Christmas and my brother Kevin, who was coming over from Australia, suggested a fix by simply adding a new dizzy to my list for Santa, who was due to shop at a vast #V8 parts specialist in his part of the world. Done, along with a request for a high-power MSD coil. Thanks to a packaging error, though, the dizzy-shaped item that I opened under the tree was not for a Ford small-block!

    By then, I was so desperate to get the right bit that I simply waved the credit card and ordered a stocklooking, Pertronix electronic distributor from Mustangs Unlimited. I then waited for salvation in the form of a courier van.

    And when it came it was salvation indeed. Installing it was an absolute doddle, and bingo – a spark that was probably fat enough to register on the TSA’s surveillance systems across the Atlantic, and a Ford small-block running on all eight. Result!

    Now that its mysterious misfire has been sorted, the Mustang is finally fit enough for Hurst to enjoy on South Africa’s stunning coastline.

    Shiny new coil and starter solenoid fitted. The ignition switch had seen better days. Holley carb proved a welcome distraction. Pertronix distributor was an easy solution.
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    Graeme Hurst
    Graeme Hurst joined the group Mustang first generation club
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    CAR: #Austin-Healey / #Austin-Healey-100/6 / #Austin-Healey-100
    Run by Graeme Hurst
    Owned since 1979
    Total mileage (1) 66,561
    Miles since May 2015
    report 286
    Latest costs £410

    BELTING AROUND SOUTH AFRICA

    Residing out in the colonies has its benefits when it comes to enjoying classics (weather and great roads!), but the distance, cost of freight and our punitive import duty can make buying parts a trial. That is why, on my annual trip to the Goodwood Revival, I inevitably arrive in the UK armed with a shopping list.

    Last year it was the Healey’s turn, and first priority was a set of periodstyle seatbelts. Middlesex-based Quickfit SBS installed bespoke inertia-reel units in my XK150 10 years ago and so was the obvious choice, but this time the car was 6000 miles away. Not a problem: the firm has done belts for most classics and has the measurements on file, so sets can be made up and dispatched by post. Only I couldn’t decide on the colour, so stopped by to peruse samples before ordering. It was just as well because there are lots of options, including aircraft-style buckles as well as clip-and- eye anchoring points. The latter allow flexibility in locating the belts – handy for cars that have been modified or those assembled abroad (like ours) and which possibly harbour construction anomalies.

    I didn’t get a chance to fit them until Christmas, by when I had forgotten the verbal instructions from Quickfit’s foreman Pawel Podchorodecki. Luckily, the belts (which came neatly packaged with all the fasteners, spacers and anchor plates) included fitting advice, so it was just down to the choice of drill bit and deciding where to aim it Seatbelts weren’t mandatory when Healeys were rolling out of Abing don, but if specified they wer usually Britax items in light grey, so that’s what I went for. Their shiny appearance does jar somewhat with the patinated interior, though.

    Also looking overly new were the second big ticket items on the list: set of sidescreens from AH Spares. When my late father bought the car, the originals were intact but the Perspex was too opaque for them to be used. Fast-forward 37 years, and they were even worse, hence the purchase. Unfortunately, installation wasn’t as easy as the seatbelts.

    I don’t know if the measurements on CKD cars are different, but the locating hole on the tie-bar was ¼in out when offered up to the door. Some serious heat and a press would have been the only way to adjust the shape, but I had the bright idea to unearth the bars from the old sidescreens. Besides fitting perfectly, they had the bonus of making the new units less shiny!

    THANKS TO AH Spares: 01926 817181; www.ahspares.co.uk / Quickfit Seat Belt Services: 020 8206 0101; www.quickfitsbs.com

    New sidescreens replace cloudy originals. New seatbelts replicate those often fitted by the factory in period, and were straightfoward to install.
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    Graeme Hurst
    Graeme Hurst joined the group Austin Heley
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    Graeme Hurst
    Graeme Hurst unlocked the badge Great Reader
    Great Reader
    Loves reading through articles.
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    CAR: #Mercedes-Benz-500SL-R107 / #Mercedes-Benz-500SL / #Mercedes-Benz-SL / #Mercedes-Benz-R107 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-SL-R107 / #Mercedes /

    Run by Graeme Hurst
    Owned since August 2015
    Total mileage 125,722
    Miles since acquisition 2622
    Latest costs £826

    Expertly fettled R107 Merc is now a regular for jaunts out in the country, here in the West Coast National Park. Inset: wornout parts, including tie-rod.

    PANZERWAGEN TOURS THE CAPE

    South Africa has long had an affinity for the three-pointed star, mainly because the cars have been made here over the past 60 years in what was, for a long time, the only Mercedes plant outside Stuttgart. The East London facility churned out most models from the 1950s onwards, but hit its heyday with the W123 and W126 series. We also built R107s and SLCs. About 1900 were assembled here and a further 530 were imported from ’1971 to ’1987, so they were rare and pricey, which made them hugely aspirational.

    Even more so when the TV series Dallas featured a red 450SL as the everyday wheels for Bobby Ewing (played by Patrick Duffy). By the early ’80s, no golf club car park or five-star hotel forecourt was complete without one.

    Fast-forward 30-plus years and, after a dip in values following the success of the R129, the R107 SL is becoming more sought-after. That was the impetus for a late-night trip across Johannesburg by partner Rob to clinch the deal on this Lapis Blue 500SL which, fortuitously, appeared on Gumtree the day that he was up there for work.

    Purchasing a car at night is best avoided, but Rob had been sent plenty of high-res photos and was able to view it in a well-lit garage. Just as well because the seller – an older gent who had cherished the Merc for 10 years – was inundated with calls while Rob test-drove the SL and later leafed through the extensive history. A deal was done and the vendor was trusting enough to release the car while the cash was still winging its way via electronic transfer into his bank account. A few weeks later I was in Jo’burg for work and could take stock of the new purchase before transporting it by train down to Cape Town.

    Any concerns we may have had about the night-time deal quickly evaporated because the R107 is in lovely condition, having had a full respray and retrim 10 years ago. An original car might have been preferable, but our harsh climate takes its toll on paint and leather, plus this SL was priced keenly – partly because the hardtop wasn’t finished (it’s in primer). There were some niggles, such as doors that didn’t lock because they’d been tampered with, but a local locksmith sorted those before cutting some new keys. I also had to source a second-hand ‘Mexican hat’ 6.5J Mercedes alloy to replace the missing spare.

    Where it doesn’t niggle at all is on the road. The 4973cc #V8 boasts plenty of effortless oomph with a turbine-like power delivery that’s rewarding to explore on clear roads. As a 500, our SL is an import – only the earlier ones were made here. Confusingly, the paperwork says it was a CKD model but the speedo is in miles, so it’s likely to have been a UK-bound order that was diverted.

    Back home after a 26-hour train ride – which, at R3000 (c£170), cost less than the fuel bill for the 1000- mile journey – the first task was a set of 205/70R14 tyres because the rubber was from 1991! Then it was off for a roadworthiness test, which threw up a few advisories – the most serious of which was a worn out tie-rod end.

    Wanting that sorted and the car given a ‘once over’ service, I booked it into JFT Motors. This is my new favourite garage mainly because owner Allan Ketterer is a classic fan but also because he has an oldschool, hands-on approach that includes hand-written invoices.

    Allan was complimentary about the car, but did add a few items to the list, including new front brake pads and hoses. He also changed the pinion seal on the diff to cure a small leak and replaced the thermostat, which was opening sluggishly.

    More alarming was the need to weld a crack in the front subframe where it connects with the nearside lower control arm. The suspension had to be partially stripped to get access, but it was a chance to confirm that the fault wasn’t down to accident damage, which it wasn’t.

    Subframe cracks are apparently common, which Allan says is due to the 500 engine being too heavy for the chassis. The rest of the R11,000 (c£600) bill was for a tune-up and headlight adjustment. That was last May and the SL has been on the button ever since, with regular trips through the winelands to enjoy the performance while pretending that we’ve travelled back in time to an oil-financed Texan lifestyle!

    THANKS TO JFT Motors: 0027 21 696 2600; www.jftmotors.co.za

    ‘The R107 is becoming more sought-after, which was the main impetus for Rob’s latenight trip to clinch the deal’

    Offloading 500SL from the rail container. Car was retrimmed for its previous owner. The Merc’s 5-litre V8 is in rudest of health. Lapis Blue paint is a top-quality respray.
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    Graeme Hurst
    Graeme Hurst joined the group Mercedes-Benz R107 / C107 SL Club
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    CAR / #Mercedes-Benz-280TE-S123 / #Mercedes-Benz-W123 / #Mercedes-Benz-S123 / #Mercedes-Benz

    Run by Graeme Hurst
    Owned since Nov 2011
    Total mileage 271,854km
    Miles since August report c4000km (odometer broken)
    Latest costs R22k (£1200)

    Mercedes-Benz-280TE

    WAGON’S ROLE TAKES ITS TOLL

    When would-be classic owners ask for advice on buying a car, which they invariably fancy as something that won’t shed value like a modern, I always point out that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. As the years and miles roll by, the value may hold but stuff wears out and you may need to dig deep when the spanners come out. And that’s been the case with the TE after five years of use (plus its intergalactic mileage) caught up with the Mercedes. It began with the steering box, which was getting increasingly vague, making the wagon tricky to control in the Cape Doctor – the region’s strong south-easterly wind.

    Journeys were made more tiring by a drivetrain vibration, but balancing the prop (the usual culprit) didn’t improve things.

    And the offside front wheel tended to lock under heavy braking. Time, then, to digest the second piece of advice I dispense after the euphoria of purchase has passed: find a specialist who understands old cars and who you can trust to keep it running smoothly. In this case that was Allan Ketterer of JFT Motors, who’s spent nearly three decades under the bonnets of 123s. The news wasn’t good when he called back: the steering box was well past the point where it could be adjusted, while the vibration was due to tired engine and gearbox mounts – the rubber had separated from the metal surround on the latter. A blocked hose had allowed the nearside caliper to seize – so the offside one was doing all the work – and four new discs were needed. Secondhand boxes are likely to be just as worn, so I called the local Mercedes agent to price a new one: 46,000 Rand (c£2500) after duties! I only paid R34k for the car.

    The cost of new mounts was also a shock: R1900 per engine support and R3600 for the gearbox unit. So Allan offered to ring mates in the trade to locate good used ones, but he recommended using pukka M-B items. I listened politely and then insisted on pattern versions for a tenth of the price but they obviously weren’t as good. One trip to the coast convinced me that they weren’t up to the job and I soon had the TE back at JFT, with my credit card out to opt for the Stuttgart route after all.

    Hurst decided that cutprice mounts were a false economy after a long drive.

    Fresh steering box is a vast improvement. Inset: tired ’box mount; OEM engine ones.
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    CAR / #Mercedes-Benz-280TE-S123 / #Mercedes-Benz-W123 / #Mercedes-Benz-S123 / #Mercedes-Benz

    Run by Graeme Hurst
    Owned since Nov 2011
    Total mileage 267,854km
    Miles since February report c3000km (odometer broken)
    Latest costs R980 (c£45)

    CURE-ALLCOMES TO THE RESCUE

    Pratley’s Epoxy Putty: it’s a South African product that can fix just about anything and comes in glue or putty forms. And no home should be without it. Or car for that matter, as I recently discovered when a tube of it got the TE out of a sticky situation after the sump was holed on a journey to the Karoo.

    The trip was a re-run of one that we made last year to stay on a remote farm near Matjiesfontein, some 220km out of CapeTown. It’s 20kmfrom the nearest phone signal and tarred road. Only this time a little too much exuberance behind the wheel in the excitement to get there led to the car bottoming out in a dip in the gravel track while at speed. I didn’t think too much of it until we stopped about a kilometre on to open the farm gate and a mate (who had got out) commented that there was a thin trail of black oil behind the car. Yikes!

    Not wanting to be stranded with no lubricant and a car that I couldn’t move, I elected to cover the last kilometre as fast as possible. Luckily, the oil-pressure gauge was still at the top of its travel (typical Merc style) so the sump wasn’t empty.

    Once we were there, we all spent a maniacal few minutes searching for a suitable container. In the end, a dustbin lid had to suffice and I was able to collect some oil for re-use – and save the pristine gravel car park in front of the guest cottage.

    Once the stream of 20w50 had subsided, I could see the damage: the sump plug had taken a serious clout from a rock and the surrounding sheet metal had folded in. It probably would have been okay, except that three sharp corners of the plug’s octagonal head had pierced the metal, causing the leak. Fortunately, the farm had a barn full of tools that I could plunder and I found a suitable socket to allow me to straighten the plug with a hammer so that it could be undone.

    After cleaning it and the surrounding area with petrol, I was able to glue it in situ. I let it set overnight, poured the oil back in and checked the dipstick – just enough to register and get to Matjiesfontein and replenish… that was a relief!

    Sump holed after suspension bottomed.

    Hurst sets to, with canine support crew… …resulting in an effective temporary fix.

    Abi and Diesel always love trips out in the Merc, here at the period pumps on Matjiesfontein High St.
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