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My 79 Canadian 450 SEL

Started by karmann_20v, 15 September 2013, 06:34 PM


Hello fellows, as a few of you may have read my introduction thread I bought a 450 SEL back in July, after a year long search. It was a long distance, sight unseen purchase, as the car was in Vancouver, British Columbia and I live in Toronto, Ontario (some 5000 Km journey)... I really wanted a West Coast car, all the cars within driving distance from me were either rust buckets, or seriously overpriced (IMO).
My car was listed on Craigslist and I contacted the owner (Jag guy and pretty good fellow to deal with). He immediately agreed to have the car inspected by a shop chosen by me. After a bit of research, I had Milo European Cars inspect the car and they gave me a long laundry list of things that are "not in order" with the car. But they gave it a clean bill of health (more on this later) body/rust wise. That was a good enough incentive for me and I agreed to purchase the car. Almost a month later I get the car and started to ask myself what have I gotten myself into? The reason for that was that my expectations were pretty high, while the price I paid for the car wasn't (go figure). So after a few (too many) sips of Scotch, I decided I will restore Klaus (yes, that's what I named "the machine").
Before I get into the specifics, here was my initial list of conditions to be met:
Manual CC - Nope, got an ACC car
No cat converters - Nope, it's a 79 federal compliant model
No sunroof - guess what? Nope! Got one as well
Short bumpers - of course not, see 2 lines above
No rust - ding ding ding!

That being said, the car runs and quite well. HOWEVER, there are "a few" issues:

Cracked windshield
rear lights did not work (fixed now)
there was a fuel leak at the fuel distributor (now fixed)
brakes... I replaced the rear pads and found one caliper is seized, also need to bleed them or replace the master cylinder as the pedal is really mushy.
ACC stuck on hot
ALL the seals leak! windshield, rear window, trunk and more
A/C does not work, the lines are pressurized
Oil leak (valve cover gasket and possibly something else)
Steering box leaks like a sieve, P/S pump is also wet
Transmission is also leaking
Turn signal relay is stuck, sometimes it blinks, other times the lights just stay on
Hot start issue - most likely the fuel pressure accumulator
Needs a tune up
Aux cooling fan does not work - or maybe I don't know how to test it - please let me know what the proper test procedure is
Paint is really bad - somebody re sprayed the car and did a cheap job, as it is really faded and dull
I have found rust on the frame, next to the exhaust manifolds
There is surface rust in the trunk and underneath the car, no holes though
Speedometer does not register properly
There are no dash lights
Power antenna does not work
Power locks work intermittently
Shifter bushings are dead
Sunroof only opens half way
Power windows do work, but they seem to have a mind of their own
Transmission dipstick does not have a pull ring or lever

There are also good or better news:
The interior is in pretty damn good shape, except for the driver's seat
Dash is in decent shape, save for a couple minor cracks
The car drives and feels pretty tight (both suspension and steering wise)
Engine starts on a dime (cold) and there are no signs of oil burning after almost 400 kilometers driven (fuel mileage is pretty crappy though)
Transmission shifts very smoothly
Becker Radio is still there and working fine
There are no signs of butchered wiring, or any other butchered components

So the plans are to store the car for the winter, it will be put away in a couple weeks. I already bought a spare parts 280SE Euro model (more on this on a separate thread), therefore a full Euro conversion is in the books - all lights and bumpers. When the car comes out of hibernation, I will remove the engine and transmission and send it to a body shop for rust cleaning, rust proofing and a fresh 2 stage paint job. By then I hope to have sourced an AMG front apron, H&R lowering springs and a set of BBS RS wheels. A Nardi wooden steering wheel is also on the list.

Here are a few pictures, the car as delivered on the first day:

Wish me luck and thanks for looking!!!

Florin (and Klaus).


Certainly can't find any fault with the logic of getting a "rust free" car, particularly in such a northerly clime.  Sounds like a long list, but nothing very difficult taken one at a time.

I had been in Ontario many years ago in September and it seemed there were nice old cars in nearly every driveway out in the countryside.  I thought that the owners must work on them all winter but now I find out maybe they are just hibernating!  :)


Yes, there are many issues, but I am armed with patience  8)
Ontario is beautiful, especially in the fall. Problem here for us car enthusiasts is that we get such a short time to enjoy our classics! They spend alot more time in storage. It's not uncommon to see people riding bikes or take their classic cars for a drive in the middle of the winter, on the rare occasion when we get a super nice weekend.

John Hubertz


I waited a bit before writing a reply to you, your story is so similar to my own.

I bought a 1977 450SEL (USA spec) about 7 years ago, mainly because I had already taken a bus 300 miles to buy it, even though the condition was a bit of a disappointment.  Like you, I had to face the reality of an indifferent repaint.

What I learned was that you must adopt the attitude of a Cuban taxi driver or an African doctor when operating these old cars.  As long as you keep them clean, pretty much all the same color and make them work reliably, it is a very satisfying win.  When reaching into the experience of owning this car I recommend you pursue the repair of anything relating to reliability and function.  For cosmetics rely on keeping the car as clean and shiny as you can.

Your goals of making it a Euro car are commendable, but your energy might better be spent making the car fun to be in and drive.

John Hubertz
"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
(Hunter S. Thompson) 

1977 450SEL (Max Headroom)
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Hi John,  thanks for your reply.
I am happy to hear a similar situation to mine turned into a success story.
The Euro conversion will be an exterior one in the beginning mainly because I have all the necessary parts on the spare parts car I just bought and because my 450 will go for a repaint next year and the body shop can install the bumers for me. I wish I had the high compression engine and a proper velour interior... but as I said my engine and interior are in pretty decent shape.
Small world,  I've been to Ft Wayne in 2008 in business and driving back to Toronto I stopped and visited the Auburn Cord Duesenberg museum and that was the highlight of the trip for me. I will share the pictures I took maybe some form memberswill find them interesting.

I will also try to take a few more pics of the car before I store it for the winter.



I can't believe it's been over 2 years since I updated this thread...

Many things have happened and changed since 2013, such as the direction of the project. It is still going forward, but not with the red car, which I still have and will be up for sale in the spring.

Here are a few updates on "Klaus":

-had oil leaking onto the driver's side carpet, it was from the odometer cable, now fixed
-replaced the seized rear caliper and installed new rear pads
-bled the brakes
-cleaned up some surface rust in the trunk
-had the transmission resealed cause it was leaking like a sieve - had to pay a shop for this one though...
-replaced spark plugs with the correct non resistor type NGK BP6ES, cap, rotor and wires
-washed the engine
-treated the paint with Meguiars Mirror Glaze #7 and a coat of wax. They say this product (#7) has been on the market for a century now. The single stage red paint was so dull and non reflective that I kinda lost hope that I could revive it, but BIG SURPRISE! I followed this writeup and it worked

Matthew (China Blue) here offered some valuable advice for the paint as well!

Here are a few pics of the before and after Meguiar #7 application:

Treated vs untreated:


I only cleaned up the wheels after I took these photos:

With a friend who used to own this mint 50K mile Southern 74 450SE

Klaus was driven every summer and will come out of storage hopefully in late March/early April to sort out a few issues and up for sale it goes.

This is the 280SE that I parted out in 2014:

Onto the complications and the "slight" directional changes:

In 2014, my best friend Marek moved to California... How is that relevant? Well, let's say that in October 2014 he got me a 77 Milanbraun 450SEL with Euro bumpers and lights and great paint condition for a very, very low price, this one shall be named Fritz! Car was bought in Monterey and I had it shipped to Buffalo where I picked it up and towed it home. I only drove the car on and off the trailer and into the underground garage, I dropped it off straight at the storage facility and put it to sleep for the winter next to the 79. Good thing I bought it in 2014 when our dollar was still close to par w/the USD.

The brown car requires attention too (issues requiring immediate attention are: sticky throttle, sunroof issues and a coolant leak that it developed while being in storage - it hasn't leaked a drop of fluid while I had it parked in Buffalo for a month), I hope to address all the issues and enjoy it from May until the fall.

Here it is:
The day I picked it up in Buffalo:

And a few pics sent to me by the seller before my friend went to buy it:

Last year, it only came out of storage once. Sometime ago, in its Californian life the car had a battery either explode, or slowly leak. These were the results:

Note the missing battery tray corner:


Primer coated:

Also used rubberized rocker guard on the inner wheel well and the inside of the fender:

Of course I didn't take any pics of the finished job, but it came out rather nice.

I got some rims (16x8 and 16x9) after searching long and hard aaaand of course they need refinishing:

I need to mention that the 77 has about 275K miles on it and I intend to get a 500K kms badge of honor for it from MB the day I hit 310K miles (will take me a looong time).

I plan to do alot this summer, but the tanking Canadian Dollar means that I may have underestimated the restoration budget by up to $8,000... When I say "restoration" I mean a refresh on the major areas/components to make the car mechanically sound and reliable weekend cruiser. These include brakes, suspension, steering, driveline, interior, fuel injection, timing, cooling system, sunroof and electrical system.
I received a battery tray, badge, new bumper rubber, sandblasted the air filter case and placed an order with Autohaus AZ for a few things (complete tune up including new coil and ballast resistors, air, fuel and oil filters, windshield washer pump,p/w switches, and a couple things that escape me).

This is it for now.


Nice work! We need to keep the Canadian W116 dream alive  8)
1977 450 SEL 6.9 - Astralsilber


Thanks Dan! All 3, or 4 of us LOL!


Looking good there...sure like the colour combo of both -



It's been a while (again)...

Brown car is out of storage, I finally got around to finishing the importing and registration processes. One hiccup was that the customs officer did not apply the CBP stamp to one of the 2 sections on the import form when I brought the car into Canada in 2014, so MTO (Ontario Ministry of Transportation) wouldn't take the paperwork as is, but luckily I did not need to return the the point of entry. One trip to the CBP office (open 24 hrs) close to the Pearson Airport and problem solved. Another issue was that the safety certification required when you first register a used car under your name, was changed on Jul 1st for the first time in decades - they are supposed to be more strict and therefore it will cost more to have this inspection passed.

I did get a few parts over winter and am ready to place more orders for parts that I'd like to replace (more on this later).

So far within the last week, I fixed:

-the driver side power windows, luckily a new switch and fresh fuses with cleaned terminals fixed the issue
-bought and installed a new battery
-replaced a few tail light bulbs and cleaned the sockets/terminals
-re installed the chrome windshield ornament on the right A pillar
-washed/clay bar/wax
and a couple more things that can be seen below:

"Mod #1"


"Mod #2"

Went to steal the "450SEL" badge from the red one, as it is a bit better than the one I bought this winter:

The car had 1.5 years old gasoline (full tank) and is kinda cranky with a bit of hesitation upon take off. I burnt most of the fuel and will fill up with fresh 91 octane once it gets under the 1/4 tank mark. Then, it is getting new plugs, wires, cap, rotor, ballast resistors, and ignition coil. Then I will adjust the timing and idle and see how it performs. Any other advice?
The other bummer is that the sunroof is stuck, but not in the fully closed position so there is a leak from it. The motor is turning, but it's as if the cable broke... Before I buy the cable and all the sliding jaws, I'd like to assess the situation and then buy the necessary parts. Again, any tips/advice on troubleshooting and tackling this is highly appreciated.

I planned to refresh the following systems this year, the parts will be ordered as soon as I finalize the laundry list:

-Steering (Drag link, Steering damper, Tie rods, coupler) and I will flush the system and convert it to P/S fluid
-Brakes (pads, rotors, calipers, lines, etc)
-Wheel bearings
-Suspension refresh (Front Upper Ctrl arms, UCABs, Lower ball joints, LCAB kit, Shock absorbers, Shock rubber mounts, Ctrl arm bushings, Sway bar links, Spring perches, etc)
-Fuel delivery system - basically everything between the gas tank and fuel distributor and of course new injectors. Once done, I will decide if I will get the WUR and Fuel distributor rebuilt.

That's it for now.

Forgot to mention, a couple months ago I almost bought this thing. Thank Goodness I didn't, as that would be biting alot more than I can chew :laugh:


Very nice! I am also lusting after a SEC ;D
1977 450 SEL 6.9 - Astralsilber


That's a lovely looking car! I like the shots in front of the MB building - could go into "Classic" or some other publication that way ;)

Quote from: daantjie on 04 July 2016, 10:05 PM
Very nice! I am also lusting after a SEC ;D

Don't be scared about the C126 - I have one in the fleet since '96 and has never let me down, the only thing that ever went really wrong was when the A/C controls went up in smoke (literally), but that was an easy replacement.
Mercedes: '99 CL500, '86 500SEC, '96 SL500, '06 R500, '02 ML320, '78 450SEL
Porsche: '80 928S 5-Speed, '86.5 928S RogerBox '86.5 928S 5-Speed, '83 944
Others: '84 Callaway Alfa Romeo GTV6, '83 Tiara, '87 FZ


I really would like a W126 with full hydro suspension but I have yet to see one here in Canada. They pop up fairly regularly in the US though. I am guessing a lot came in as grey market imports in the 80's.
1977 450 SEL 6.9 - Astralsilber


Quote from: Zaxxon on 05 July 2016, 07:17 AM
That's a lovely looking car! I like the shots in front of the MB building - could go into "Classic" or some other publication that way ;)

Quote from: daantjie on 04 July 2016, 10:05 PM
Very nice! I am also lusting after a SEC ;D

Don't be scared about the C126 - I have one in the fleet since '96 and has never let me down, the only thing that ever went really wrong was when the A/C controls went up in smoke (literally), but that was an easy replacement.

Thanks!!! The MB building is about 10 minutes from my house, it is where I took the pictures of the red car last year too.

I'm not afraid of owning a 126, problem is that I may lose focus/interest in the 116 and I don't want that to happen. It is still a long way away from being completed, but I am happy with the way things are going now.