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280" Concourse; Diary of a layman

Started by floyd111, 09 March 2015, 04:44 AM


I guess it's about time I started a thread about the projects I have taken on here.
1977 280SE, 1976 280S, Euro models.
Plan is to beat the system, do 2 Concours restorations, sell one of them at top dollar to a collector, as to pay for the other one, that is to be mine.
Investment in 2 cars plus parts and work,50-75000usd.
Duration of project, estimated 2 years.

It didn't start off like this..

Over 2 years ago I planned to find an impossible to find good-condition w116, here in Taiwan.
A year later, and 5 cars down the line, I knew it was going to be nearly impossible.
So, I settled for one that simply looked good, and paid 8000usd for it, which is as cheap as they get here.
I knew it was a lemon, but it was the best looking lemon around. There may not be more than 20 of these cars in Taiwan.. One can't license new imports..

Since I am not a mechanic, but an MC distributor, I was far from home, in many ways.
Luckily, I found recently opened restoration-workshop, and they ensured me it could be done, with time, and money.
Question much?

When I first test-drove the car, I found all was well, but I had 20 inches of play in the steering wheel.
The man promised to fix it, and I returned 2 weeks later, happy and anxious.

I picked the car up at the (dodgy) dealer, and drove off into the horizon, finally owning my own, first w116
I drove to see a friend of mine, 10km further down the road, and show off my new find. he was impressed, but not for long. After opening the bonnet, it seemed the steering pump had exploded, and the whole engine was dripping in oil. Further study showed more oil lines had burst or were leaking heavily. Driving 200km to my restorer was not an option.
So, I carefully drove back to the dodgy seller, and told him to fix the issue, or I would take issue. I was promised a safe 200km when I bought it!

2 weeks later i picked it up again, with the assurance of years of problem-less driving.
I made it 7 KM to the very center of Taipei, to find the engine stalling in the middle of rush hour, in the middle of a jam-packed bottleneck, blocking thousands of cars behind me, with no place to go.
For 45 minutes I stood there, with half of Taiwan cursing the mad foreigner who was silly and irresponsible enough to drive such a vehicle through rush hour.
I called the dodgy dealer, again and again, but he never called back. I was abandoned. Luckily, a friend nearby helped arrange a tow.
When the tow-truck arrived, the public embarrassment was complete.

The tow-truck brought us to a befriended car dealer, who quickly assessed my alternator did not work.
A costly replacement was available, but the next day.
So, I lost a day at work again, and had to get a motel.

The next day the car was ready -again-, and the long drive home could commence.
It was fun to see strangers wave on the highway, but I was too bloody nervous to enjoy the attention.
I was waiting for  more exploding parts..

Once home, I finally had a sense of relief and actual classic car ownership.
I decided to drive it for a week, before saying goodbye to at at the restorers' for a year.
By miracle, it lasted the week. It was a good week.

At the restorer, the long debate about restoration, parts, costs, etc etc now started.
To my horror I found that the manager in charge knew as little about these things as I did.
I was their first 5-star restoration case!
It meant I was completely responsible for each and every choice, every part, every move, from the beginning till the end.
Good thing I don't scare easily!
They DID seem to know their sheet metal work very well..


Well, for what its worth, I admire your dedication to the task but I think you're unlikely to ever see any return on a 280S/SE at that level of expense. Then again, maybe the Taiwanese restriction on imports will get you across that finish line. I sure hope so :)
1993 "Pearl Blue" W124 280TE
1988 "Arctic White" W124 200T
1979 "Icon Gold" W116 450SE


I Hope so too. In Taiwan, if you were to drive a W116 off the top of a skyscraper, you could still sell the license plate for 7000usd, if you can retrieve it from the wreckage..
And then, Taiwan being the richest country in the world (yes, indeed), there is a lot of disposable income here. People who do not know their nett worth, and are bored beyond belief, not knowing what to buy next.
If you want a second-hand Ferrari, or lambo, no country sells them cheaper.. All the rich boys dump them, the moment the latest model is out.


I decided to go logistic on this car, and section what I would need to replace.
Different suppliers for different types of goods, and make sure each time to get the best source.
However, at this point, I started to realize the handicap of not having exact part manuals, and being very unaware of what I really needed to replace.
I just knew that I was going to have to end up with a car that could not possibly break down for years to come.

Logically, I deducted that whatever I could buy in Febi/Meyle would be a massive money saver.
Whatever I could not source from them, would be tomorrow's problem.
I DID, however, inform myself as to what NOT to buy aftermarket.. all the window and door seals. Must be OEM MB.
So, I went to order what I could in Febi/Meyle, and decided to replace other parts with classy second-hands.
I proceeded ordering the Febi/Meyle, in one go, in bulk, to save on shipping and achieve a max discount.

029 450 1800   1
029 475 1900   1
014 850 0000   1
014 830 0013   1
014 054 0027   1
014 020 0103   1
014 009 0003   1
014 001 0004   1
014 050 0000   1
014 020 0050   1
014 091 0000   1
014 018 0005   3
014 001 0015   1
014 050 0021   1
014 046 0026/S   1
014 033 0026   2
014 035 0016   2
014 035 0000   1

1263   1
2591   2
3097   2
3219   1
3645   1
3668   2
4995   1
5165   2
5362   1
5595   2
5723   1
5809   1
5952   1
5953   1
6799   1
7162   1
7258   1
7259   1
7540   1
7915   12
8106   1
8247   1
8506   1
8545   1
8609   1
8643   1
8681   2
8694   1
8716   1
8720   1
8730   1
8838   1
8840   1
8907   1
10030   2
11253   1
12151   1
12275   1
14673   1
17080   1
18142   1
21751   1
30308   1
34917   4

That felt good! Great deal, big advance. It took a few months (read 6 months) for all of it to arrive, due to logistical failure abroad, but it arrived.
Lesson.. If you are going for bulk, and bottom dollar, be prepared for delays.

Next, GAHH. As far as I manage to deduct, the best there is.
Luckily, as an Automotive company, I could make the case that this is not just a one-time fix-er-up, but these cars are meant to be our introduction into the Classic world in Taiwan because, once finished, they will guarantee the best possible exposure for our Classic parts branch.
So, I learnt the ins and outs of how GAHH parts are ordered, and the first lot quickly arrived in Taiwan at a very fair price.
Again, all-in-one shipping is essential, or the freight costs will kill all incentives.
Regrettably, the carpets were not the same shade of Parchment that was expected, and were greener than I had hoped for.
My bad, I should have asked them to send me a sample. They WILL, if you ask them. I know that now.
So, I am now sitting on a full carpet kit for a W116 SE series, in light green. I can't install it, because I do not have a green car.
If anyone out there wants a rock-bottom price for a full carpet kit for, let's say, a moss-green W116, feel free to contact me.
BTW, the upholstery for seats, roof, etc arrived as promised, and it looks mint. Great color, looks just like the originals.
I got all that was available, pads, and all!

In the meantime, the OEM rubbers re an issue still very much alive. Sooo costly!
It lead me to go on a global hunt, armed with part numbers, many of them given to me by friendly folks on this forum.
I ended up in Germany, buying from Niemoeller. They seemed most competitive.
However, when the rubbers arrived, I was shocked that there was no MB packing. What does that mean? Are they overpriced URU's, sold by a pretending company, or NOS where packing was lost? Are the maybe sourced from the mystical Polish OEM suppliers for MB, through the back door? I still don't know, and I am afraid to ask. They sure LOOK like they're MB..
I will find out when we get to installing them.
If they are genuine, it was an OK deal. Way better than USA sources.

Now I got excited. I had visions of what the car(s) were going to look like.
No BBS, or crowns, but proper sized steel alloys with re-chromed old-skool caps.
Lots of Zebrano inside, as much as possible.
So I found Eris in Germany, and ordered 2 steering wheels in Zebrano for the original rubber steering wheel pad, 2 Zebrano shift knobs, and 2 full sets sill covers in polished stainless.
Again, combi shipping, combi ordering, be it that Eris ships really cheap! 50 Euros for my massive box of goodies. Guess combi-shipping is not an issue here.
Now I have matching Zebrano for wheels and shifters.
This means that all the dash zebrano needs to be matched up as well. Ai ai ai.. Now what?
It is hard enough to get good zebrano parts, and pricing is top dollar.
Single button consoles, double button consoles, manuals and shifters.. I all cases a good part is hard to find, costly, and the Zebrano will most likely never match.
I tried for almost a year..
Time for plan B, an idea I had been toying with..
Why not start a new company branch, specialized in restoration of Classic Car wooden interior parts?
This is now in the making. Tools, vacuum engines, selected veneers, it's all ready to go.
I can now match my dash veneer to the Eris-supplied Zebrano, if I put my mind to it.
Still, having the goods, does not mean I have the skills. The next few months will tell.

To those thinking of trying..
Do not even think of refurbishing a defrost unit in Vinyl, into veneer. There is no such shape in the plastic. If you take off the vinyl, it's all foam underneath. The pyramid shape is all air.
Same goes for the ashtray. You need a wooden one to re-do a wooden one
More about the dash restoration later..


Good luck you are a brave man!

As for rubber parts, I have invested in a mix or brands.  I also try and stay away from URO, but for the door seals I went with them.  My thinking is that it is not safety critical, and that I really cannot justify buying genuine MB door seals.  If you can even still find them the price will make your eyes water!

But then again I did spring top dollar for genuine MB tail light seals.  They are much harder to replace than the door seals, so i figured I really did not want to do THAT again...Door seals are really easy, so I figured even if the URO's are crap, I'll just redo them in a few years.

For suspension bushings and such, I go for Lemforder if I can find them, they are pretty strong in that area and you can find them at good prices normally.

1977 450 SEL 6.9 - Astralsilber


So, at that point, I had saved all there was to save on obvious parts, I got the Eris Zebrano, I got the MB rubbers, and GAHH was in, be it I would still need a replacement carpet set in the right color.
I wrote to them, and I was allowed to ship it back if I wanted. Regrettably, that would mean even more losses.
So, I asked for a bunch of samples, and they sent them. This time, I decided, no more multiloop, but much warmer, and better for sound.
Instead of (green) multiloop parchment I will order Champignon velours and creme vinyl headliner.
Haven't ordered yet.

Naturally, as time went by, the countless hours I spent online, in forums, and on the phone with parts suppliers in 5 countries paid off little by little. I was starting to learn.
It also meant my eyes were getting sharper, as well as my sense of the reality of my W116's
Sooo many parts on those cars, so much that wasn't trustworthy or good looking.
I realized that my first W116 could have been made drivable, but never sellable at a profit.
Drivable, without selling, would invite years of tow-trucks, delays, and head aches.
All the faults in the car would never stop irritating me. I am still a Dutchman, and we have automotive OCB written in our DNA.
Imperfections, scratches and noises are an endless torture to our unshielded brain.
I would need to re-think everything.. It was going to get costly, and risky.. and the 6 months restoration time would surely become 1 year.
I was still not ready to accept 2 years.
I had more to learn. Much more!

Finding an W116 in Taiwan is very hard. Since I like internet hunting, I kept at it, and far away, in the very last pages of the browser, under the wrong keywords, I bumped into a model I had not seen before.
I immediately called them, and it was still there. Had been there for 3 years, parked roadside, abandoned, in pieces, with a broken window.
The advertiser clearly had no idea how to list cars online. The other 4 or 5 parties on this island hunting for such cars had missed this car for years, and me, the foreigner who can not read or write Chinese, had found one!
It had license plates, a 280S 1976, and the price was 5000usd, 2000 thou cheaper than the value of the plates.
It had a Yorke airco unit, broken, no doubt, but that added 1000usd value to the car. I bought it.
Now I had 2 cars, one for parts, one for restoration. I also had 2 sets license plates..
Would it not be a shame to simply sell those plates, knowing they would never be available again?

This is where I made the decision to do 2 full restorations instead.
Use both plates, and by doing 2 cars, combi shipping and combi buying parts would be even more affordable.
However, the Parts car was a lost case, I concluded. It looked as if a horde of wild dogs had lived in it for years, and every single part on that car was broken.
(Later I understood that I may have made the wrong conclusion.)

So I started hunting for a restorable W116 abroad, knowing that in the Netherlands, the classic car road tax system had gone from free to intolerably costly, and hundreds, maybe thousands of people were dumping their daily drivable classics.
Prices went tumbling, and the Dutch MOT is very strict. This makes for technically perfect classic cars at bottom prices in 2014, in the Netherlands.
After 6 months of hunting, I found one, and sent my mom to go see it, live on the phone, with camera, and a checklist the size of a roll of toilet paper.
Sold! 1900 euro for a 280SE with a white interior, and scores of mint parts.
Now I had to import it to Taiwan. How does that work?

Cut a long story short, I got it shipped, had a big fall-out with the private Customs/Clearance maffia in Kaoshiung Harbor, licked my wounds, and had it shipped to my restorer.
Now I had 3 cars! The 280SE cost me 6000usd, all in, door to door, still 1000 less than a wreck in Taiwan.
And, it had the white interior, without holes, without cracks. -and a Dutch MOT
This allows me to hang the Parts car plates on the Dutch car. Well, kinda..


We are now one year after my first W116 purchase.
3 W116's are catching dust in the parking lot of my restorer, with only one of them under a tarp.
The second one is nearly collapsing under the weight of the hundreds of brand new aftermarket  replacement parts, neatly stacked inside, in every crevice front and back.

It was getting time to start compiling a list of MB parts required. How I dread this job!
I really don't want to know the cost of all that. I don't want to spend that cash. I don't want to have to go through parts manuals with a fine comb, adding and adding, and adding parts.
Where to stop? What to buy? WHERE to buy all of this?
And, most dreadful, no local help anywhere.

I knew what to do! Stick my head in the sand, and go buy more goodies instead!
Went hunting for Beckers. Found one in the Netherlands, 150 Euros, in mint condition. had it shipped, just to find out it wasn't made for a Benz. It was the wrong size, at least 15 years older, from a 1960's Porsche and MG.
Still, I like the idea of making my w116 older than it is. I will make it fit!
The second Becker I found 2 months later, again, online, in the Netherlands.
200 euros, and it looked good in the pics. But, it's not eBay, and there is no safety net against scammers.
When it arrived, I was very, very pleased. It was new out of a box!. Mint, not a scratch on it! Allows for an immediate re-sale on eBay for 500 euros, but I won't. It's mine!

Then I bumped into a NOS seller in Argentina.
I been investigating how to achieve a full Cruise Control retro-fit, a must on a car like this, and I don't have any, on any of the 3 cars. Argentina had the actuator, 500usd, new in the box.
They also had the sunroof wind deflector, NOS ashtray lighters, chrome NOS exhaust ends,  NOS steering wheel pad, and new instrument panel plastic strip in 5 colors that hides the little lamps, indicating contact, headlights, etc. That one would really make the instrument panel look new!
I bought 2 of each, except for the actuator. I decided to buy the second CC system after the first W116 was done, -and sold. The combi buy/ship worked out well here. Argentina threw in a NOS driver door rubber seal in for free!
I can recommend this eBay shop. Fatone_Inc.

The CC mounting bracket is NLA. Found it in Spain
The Tempomat steering wheel control I found second-hand in Germany. It's not NLA but really costly if bought new.
The other NLA parts are all hidden from sight in the car, and will be built/modified from local parts.

Still, it was this list of CC parts that was the start of my MB parts list.
I knew it needed to be done, and I slowly started adding, comparing parts and prices, learning about what's IN the car in parts, and immediately went on an internet shopping hunt for any part that was marked as NLA.
I now needed a second batch of MB door seals, so they went on there as well.

I use the Shopping Cart from
With your personal login, your cart does not get deleted. It gives you great pricing (indication) as well.
I started using as a Parts Manual.
Regrettably, no engine manuals there.


Some of my shopping:


and more..


and more


and more


2 full sets of these, from Germany. NOS, even cheaper than new. -And they ARE cheap, from MB, Don't buy these used unless you get them with very good rubbers. MB supplies the rubbers all-in.


Couldn't help myself. Worried they may become NLA..


This was a tough one.. To buy or not to buy. They are NLA, and this is new. I bought it. 225 GBP, including shipping.


More of these "to need or not to need" things. Such a beauty, and so rare to find new. i bought it. 280usd including shipping. It it original MB, and fits exactly into the spare wheel!