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W116 Restoration

Started by Gerhard, 21 July 2010, 01:00 AM



This is my first post although I have been looking at this forum for a while picking up very useful tip.

I'm from South Africa and has started retoring a 1975 280S that has been in the family for 35 years with just ubder 500,000km on the clock. At first glance the car looks in a good condition but on closer inspection it is clear that it needs attention or should be scraped.

Through the years the car has had had a few small accidents that had been repaired. Some of these are starting to show detoration. Currently there is also a few dents that has not been fixed. Looking at the car the body work looked like minor problems.

The seats are completely shot.

The dash is cracked but the panels and carpets are in a very good condition.


These cars in a good condition sells for about ZAR18,000 but we doubt if ours would reach ZAR5,000. The original idea was just to respray the exterior and to replace the seatcovers. As I started to strip the interior and external trim it was decided that we where going to do a total restore making this car a showpice. The bad condition of the engine compartment was the major factor that brought this dedition on. We estimate a total expence of about ZAR20,000


After removing the aftermarket chrome cover over the portion underneath the doors we got a big shock (rust).

Yesterday I cut out the rust on the one side of the car . Need to purchase a 1mm sheet of metal to weld in the portion that I cut out.

Today I will satrt with panelbeating. Will keep you posted on this mad project.

Any tips will be appresiated


Hi Gerhard,

Looks like you're on the right path, good luck with the welding, more pics of your success would be good to see, I can't see how you figure the seats are completely shot, they look better than plenty of seats in cars for sale here, I suppose the springs have gone but there are ways to fix that. At least you know the full history of the car, that's gotta help.

Good luck with it,



Hi Ken

The seats look good in the photos but in real life the covers looks bad. After all these years and mileage the seats structure is basically still 100%. Had a problem getting matching leather. Luckily we got a company that will make it up for us.

Our idea is to make this car a real show car. It must last for the next 100 years. It will not be driven a lot. I must say stripping the car and looking at the overall condition I am very impress with the quality. Just finished overhauling our 2005 E270 CDI. Must admit that the W116 is a 30 year older car and over 30 years it will still be on the road where the E will be lying in a scrapyard

I will keep this thread updated with my progress. Other peoples intrest inspires one a lot.

s class

Don't discard the old seat covers.  I may be interested in them. 

Rust in the sills is normal for cars that have had the chrome covers fitted.  Your car looks good and straight.  Much better than most of the stuff that comes to me for work. 

[color=blue]'76 6.9 Euro[/color], [color=red]'78 6.9 AMG[/color], '80 280SE, [color=brown]'74 350SE[/color], [color=black]'82 500SEL euro full hydro, '83 500SEL euro full hydro [/color], '81 500SL


Quote from: s class on 21 July 2010, 05:07 AM
Don't discard the old seat covers.  I may be interested in them. 

Rust in the sills is normal for cars that have had the chrome covers fitted.  Your car looks good and straight.  Much better than most of the stuff that comes to me for work. 
Your are wecome. Will ask the company that is going to do the upholstry to save the old ones.


Best of luck.

This is obviously a labour of love rather than a wise financial plunge into the future - we are all in the same boat.

Rust, rubber and worn bushes are our major enemies followed by mechanical maladies.

Everything will be searchable in this site  and most of us are happy to detail our own experiences.



After the rust shock it was clear that I needed a mig welder. Studied the net and it became clear that for thin metal you need a welder that can handle very low amps. Found a secondhand Monofil 182 welder with gas bottle that has a amp rate of 25 to 182. There was was a big dent on the back panel of the car below where the bumper is fixed. This portion has a double skin and therefore I had to use a dent puller to pull out this dent. This was difficult but I got the dent out. Then I started with welding the dentpuller holes closed. What an abortion.

Went back and spend about 6 hours surfing the net about mig welding. Did a couple of test on 1 and 0.8mm plate and then tackled two dents on the righthand side doors. Very proud of the work done on the doors.


Then the portion below the doors that I had to cut out. Firstly welded a strip off plate to the bottom of the hole And then ribs to the top to get the right curve.

Now I an busy shaping plates to fill in the portion welding them to the ribs. Currently I have tacked one plate to the bottom and the rib. Will do the same with with the other. After that I will tack them in place at the top and then weld everything together.


Hi Gerhard, love your work.  I did welding on panel a couple years back with a stick welder.  What a nightmare.  Lots of grinding and burn holes to be filled.  A mig's still on the wishlist.

Hey I noticed you don't have headrests on the front seats.  I think it might have been mentioned a long time ago for some RSA w116s. Very 60s I reckon (in a good way), I like the look.
1973 350SE, my first & fave

TJ 450

Nice work, Gerhard. I think your efforts will be very rewarding.

1976 450SEL 6.9 1432
1969 300SEL 6.3 1394
2003 ML500


Hi Gerhard!

I really enjoy following your project. Please give us more pictures :)


Welding these plates in even with a mig welder is a pain. Ant-splater spray does wonders with MiG welding.

Hope to close the hole completely today and post photos


Got the hole closed. Now that I have sanded all the welding down there is still a couple of places that I will have to go over with the welder again.

After removing the stone gaurd paint more rust that has to be cut out appeared.