The CarAdvice team reveals what's hidden away in their sheds and backyards awaiting some TLC.
Making the decision to buy a classic car, even a relatively modern one, is not without risk. Has the seller been honest? Has a pre-purchase inspection missed a major component? It’s easy to look and knock and touch and feel what is clear and presented, but you can’t peer into the gearbox or take the head off to really understand what lies beneath.
Well, not on my budget you can’t.
Before I took the plunge on the 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E, the previous owner shared a lot of photos of some major mechanical work that had been undertaken. The rear subframe had been removed and all bushings and mounts replaced. While this was off, the differential was cleaned up and all boots swapped out for new items.
Lower control arms, the sump and even valve springs were all tended to, cleaned up, painted and replaced. It was a lot of time consuming and costly work that I would not need to worry about, and that was a good thing.
What I would need to work on was the body. Three decades of Australian sun had taken their toll on the Blauschwarz Metallic, and despite a quick attempt to make it look ‘okay’, there are enough blemishes to warrant a respray down the track.
What’s a project car without a project!
So deal done, I took delivery and went to arrange a roadworthy certificate to facilitate the car being transferred to a Victorian Club Permit.
To the uninitiated, the Victorian Club Permit Scheme allows cars that are 25-years or older to be registered with a limited use permit, affording driving either 45 or 90 days per year. This is offered at a substantial saving on regular registration, but the owner needs to be a member of a registered car club and every use of the vehicle, which has to be for personal enjoyment (i.e.: not work), needs to be recorded in a logbook.
It’s an exceptionally fair trade and is used well by most participants.
To qualify though, a car must be presented with a roadworthy certificate, which while cruising gently up the Monash Freeway, I felt would be a non-issue for my newly obtained and mechanically restored 'Benz.
Up on the hoist at my local workshop, it became very clear that not all the work had been done, and some that had, needed to be done again.
In the air, the front left wheel bearing exhibited some play and the inner tie-rod was shown to be quite loose. That would mean a wheel alignment too – lucky the tyres were good.
Screws, bolts and blanking plugs were missing in various places, the tail shaft bolts were finger-tight and the fuel lines were not properly secured. Some of the wiring for the fog-lamps on the AMG front bar was hanging loose, as were the front-wheel speed sensor looms. Plus, the catalytic converter had collapsed internally and needed to be replaced.
Throw in the usual road worthiness chestnut of a new wiper blade (there is only one) and despite being a little more spendy than I was expecting, I have to say I was very glad for the more thorough inspection and assessment.
Yes, a more detailed pre-purchase inspection may have captured some of these things before I took delivery, but the car wasn’t expensive and in hindsight I think the more safety-oriented review conducted by the RWC workshop was the right level of impartiality the car needed.
With a freshly stamped road-worthy certificate secured, and my membership of the Classic Racer Club in Moorabbin up to date, the team at Carcierge arranged the transfer at Vicroads and picked up my snazzy 3294-H8 plates.
The wide-set mounts on the back of the Mercedes required new holes to be drilled in the plate, but without too much effort both were secured, protectors fitted and I was ready to hit the streets!
The car is a delight to drive, particularly on the highway, where it just cruises effortlessly and smoothly, and feels much younger than its 30 years suggest.
What is missing on those drives though, is some quality music. The original Becker tape deck and speaker cones need a bit of TLC, so for the next update, I’ll pull them out for a refurbish and replacement to retain the period look.
Current Status – staying out of the rain
Odometer – 212,675
Next up – Getting my music on!