1 2 3
HunterBenz Reader
11/21/15 3:15 p.m.

Ladies and Gents, I have been a long time lurker around the project car forum. I figured I'd add my little project to the mix. My project has been very slow going these past couple years: I work a lot, have one kid that is just about 2, recently bought a house, and another kid is being born on Monday. My car is a 1972 Mercedes 280SE 4.5.

My plan for the car is a fun autocross/track day car that I take to work once every few weeks and cruise around in on my days off. I have no hopes of running any serious racing as I don't have the time or green to race often. Luckily I like working on the thing, because I think I'll be working on it a long time.

I have had a soft spot for Mercedes cars from a time I spent a couple of years working on Mercedes cars at an independent shop. I immediately fell in love with the W108 (280SE and 280SEL) styling, but wanted one that was a little different. Let me catch you all up to the current status of this project.

I finally got my chance to buy one I was not afraid to modify the crap out of for $1,500 a couple years ago. The car was a little rough, but what do you expect for 1,500. Rough was also what I wanted. I wanted to do a serious-ish build on this car and did not want mess up a nice example.

The car was left in a driveway for a few years with two windows down. Surprisingly the only rust is a really annoying hole in the passenger floorboard, some minor stuff in the engine bay, and the trunk floor. I had been in a minor fender bender at one point, but nothing I can't work around.

First drive home.

The rack on the roof was from the previous owner's husband who helped design the Sidewinder missile. The hour and a half drive back was mostly Kenny Loggins singing Danger Zone in my head. She told me he put models of the missile on the rack, had equipment in the trunk and on the seat next to him, and used the car to gather data of some sort.

The engine ran great for having just around 400,000 miles on it. I took it home, fixed a hole in the fuel tank, and gave it a nice cleaning.

After a serious detail.

After a short while, the transmission insides went all cannibalistic and ate each other. I happened to have a spare and I ended up changing the transmission in a dirt patch next to a barn.

After that, I was on a cruise, one of the driver's side seat mounts broke off of the floor. I had some seats waiting to be installed anyway, so I put one in with a harness. The seat is an OMP WRC XL. I also installed their 6-point harness and their 2-spoke steering wheel. They were left over from another project that ended up getting crashed during testing.

Kid seat?

I figured since I went full retard on the interior, I might as well have some fun with the outside. I put on some driving lights similar to the old school AMG racer. For the sticklers, I know the original car was a 300SEL and had a completely different engine. I like the way the front looked so I copied it. Some of you might recognise the spot this photo was taken. It is used all the time in movies and commercials.

Mugu Rock before teardown.

The front main seal went bad, real bad, so I did what anyone of us would do and decided to put a different engine in the car. I took the car for one last run to get some beer for the tear down. The car was leaking two quarts of oil a week.

Last beer run.

A LONG time ago I purchased a 1982 euro model 500SEL with registration issues. It was a gray market car that the previous owner let the registration lapse on. The California DMV said, “What car?” and did not let them register the car again. I began to pull the engine out of the 280SE to prep for the new/old one. If I knew what was going to happen, I would have just fixed the issues with the previous engine.

Euro 500SEL.

The 500SEL came with a 5.0 liter all aluminum version of the same V8 that was in the 280SE. It just has a wonky Bosh fuel distributor system instead of a “normal” EFI and hydraulic lifters. Life got in the way and all I did was pull the engine out of the 280SE. I now have a logistics problem. The 500SEL and the 280SE are in different places and I don't have a truck that can tow or a trailer. I am sorting out how to get the non-running, not registered car the 30 miles to my house.

Aluminum M117.

If anyone on here is in Ventura County and would be able to help, I can pay, cash or we can work out a deal with parts, I have a Volvo B20 motor, and a manual steering rack that will go into an AE86. I'd rather a fellow car guy got my money than U-Haul or some tow company.

In the mean time, I have been doing interior prep. The damn 40 year old glue is still gooey and sticky. The Germans obviously designed it to be impervious to the goo gone products of our era, just to spite me. So far I have just been removing the paint, luckily the glue comes with it. I started at the back of the interior because up front is where the real work is. This is the rust hole in the passenger front floorboard.

<More ruuuuuuust.


It ate through a few layers so it is going to be a pain to fix. In the engine bay, there is another small rust issue that is going to require a small amount of welding. The inner fender is also starting to crack. In another location, the inner fender is starting to separate from the front frame rail. I think the separation is part of the collision damage from ages ago. Should be an easy fix as long as keeping it straight is not too complicated.

More ruuuuuuust.

Body separation... aaaaand ruuuuuust.

That is where I am at now. Just moving along inside the car, priming as I go. The plan is to finish off the interior, work on the engine bay, then get the engine in the car with the auto trans so the car is running again. Hopefully they will be in the same general area by the time that comes. I have eventual plants of running MS, though I don't know if I will install the engine stock first or mess with MS right off the bat.

After she is on her own four wheels, I'll work on sorting out the suspension and fitting up a manual trans.

noddaz Dork
11/21/15 6:13 p.m.

Outstanding! Keep at it...

11/21/15 7:06 p.m.

This is refreshing.

I remember the days when people bought Mercedes for the long run. Nowadays, they are disposable liabilities after the warranty runs out.

mazdeuce PowerDork
11/21/15 9:17 p.m.
HunterBenz wrote:

This picture makes my pants feel all itchy.

XLR99 HalfDork
11/22/15 7:07 a.m.

This should be good!

bruceman Reader
11/22/15 7:29 a.m.

Love the fact the Last Beer Run video has only pure exhaust sounds. Great car, you're my hero

Fitzauto HalfDork
11/22/15 10:33 a.m.

This should be fun!

Dusterbd13 UberDork
11/22/15 10:55 a.m.

This should be a fun project to watch.

oldtin UberDork
11/22/15 11:26 a.m.

Cool project! I got caught up in the last beer run vid watching the optical illusion of the spinning star

yupididit HalfDork
11/22/15 11:13 p.m.

Where is the 500SEL?

HunterBenz New Reader
11/23/15 11:52 a.m.

NOHOME: I love cars from the days people made cars to last.

My grandfather, who recently passed, bought his Mercedes in the 60's (flew to Stutgart, picked it up at the factory, drove it to port, and shipped it back). He kept it until just before his death early this year. I wish I had that car.

yupidit: The 500 is in Ojai. The 280 is at my place in Ventura.

AngryCorvair UltimaDork
11/23/15 12:54 p.m.

Sweet project! I was on the fence between a '72 w109 or a '79 BMW E12. I landed on the E12 side because clutch.

2002maniac Dork
11/23/15 2:22 p.m.

Nice project! I instantly recognized the 2nd PCH pic. I grew up in Thousand Oaks and drove my '74 2002 all around the area.

yupididit HalfDork
11/24/15 1:24 p.m.

Ojai, ah if it was a car that was south of you like coming from LA then I think I could've had it towed to you. Sorry.

HunterBenz Reader
11/29/15 8:24 p.m.

Thanks for checking on that yupididit.

Well, I wasn't going to update the thread until I finished the a certain area of the interior. Something awesome happened today, I had a super awesone craigslist find. I was mulling over how to find a manual trans cheap enough that would handle the TQ even of the stock M117 motor and just perusing craigslist auto parts.

Bam, Manual trans for 50 bucks. I didn't recognise the trans, but it was an American trans. I don't know American cars. I went out and took a look with my buddy that knows his American cars.

Ended up buying two transmissions for 50 each. One is a Toploader Ford four speed I think I will be using. I popped off the cover, SUPER fresh rebuild. Barely, if any, wear on the syncros. The other is a Saginaw four speed with a Hurst shifter. Also looks great insides. Both are plenty strong for my starting power needs.

From what I understand about the Toploader I'll never get near where they max out. Looking forward to mating this up to the MB V8.

Pics or it didn't happen...

Ford Toploader

50 dollar Ford Toploader. My new trans.


One of my 50 dollar transmissions, Saginaw 4-spd.

HunterBenz Reader
12/2/15 5:22 p.m.

I went to a local junkyard to see about getting non-hydraulic lifters for my M117 engine. This ended up following me home.

First test fit, a little tight!

It is an M119 5.0 liter engine. Quad cam goodness. In stock trim they are supposed to make about 320 HP. I seem to be in an accumulation mood right now.

It doesn't sit there, this was just me screwing around with excitement from new parts high.

Quad cam V8 is a hell of a drug...

Mezzanine HalfDork
12/2/15 5:57 p.m.

Loves me some M119. What are your engine management plans?

thestig99 HalfDork
12/2/15 6:08 p.m.


Dusterbd13 UberDork
12/2/15 6:47 p.m.


HunterBenz New Reader
12/2/15 7:08 p.m.

Right now I am planning on running Megasquirt, I had a ton of bits ready to run the M117 with EDIS... Now I have to rethink that stuff and see what I need fix up the M119 with MS.

classicJackets Reader
12/2/15 7:53 p.m.

Sweet! That'll fly!

HunterBenz Reader
12/18/15 7:53 p.m.

So, I have been working on this a bit, but work has been crazy lately. I wanted to do a simple life-decompressing thing today. I went and decided to take apart and clean the Hurst shifter... What a pain in the ass that was too get back together.

It went from this dirty mess

Hurst 4-spd shifter dirty.

to this...

Cleaned Hurst

Before, I could not get it to shift into reverse. It isn't showroom shiny, but now it works properly and is very smooth.

I have been modifying the hell out of the front sub frame to get the M119 to sit right. FINALLY got it to sit right, now I have to button up the sub frame and build the mounts.

Some test fitting.

After I get the sub frame sorted, I'll post up what the sub frame looks like and the work it took to get there. I'm hoping to do that this weekend.

I have been researching flywheel options and I have my plan. I have to go into money recovery mode because just about anything is going to be purchase xyz and take the parts to a machine shop to do some work for me.

I really wish I could weld aluminium and wish I had, or at least had access, to a mill.

chiodos HalfDork
12/20/15 12:39 a.m.

Take your junk to the local community college, many have welding and machine shops with students dying to make a part that will actually be used. I know, I'm one of those students haha

The_Jed PowerDork
12/20/15 9:27 a.m.

I LOVE what you're doing to this car!

I read through the thread before bed last night and it spawned an odd dream. In the dream I had bought two gearboxes, a Saginaw and a Muncie. For some reason I was working on installing one of them in the wife's '05 Outback and in the dream I picked the Saginaw. I started assembling everything and discovered that I needed a spacer to put the gearbox in the proper location for the input shaft length and I was going to put it between the bellhousing and the gearbox.

Then when I was bolting everything together the wife asked me if I had put in the clutch...uhhhh, whoops. I knew I'd forgotten something!

I've been looking up M119 exhaust clips and dyno runs on youtube.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn UltimaDork
12/20/15 9:35 a.m.

Very cool project. I'd check the numbers on that toploader transmission to make sure of what you have - there were different versions for small block and big block Fords, plus there was a later weird version that was essentially a 3 speed plus overdrive that was kind of weak.

1 2 3
Our Preferred Partners