Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Mercedes-Benz 300SL R107 Restoration

A few years ago I was working for a team of Criminal Defence Lawyers and would end up travelling up and down the M4 to Swansea Crown Court, acting as the go-between for the Barrister and Client, the latter of which I would usually meet in a cell under the Court Building.

What a fantastic job! I loved it, although it was the love that kept me going and not the pay :-(

One day when on my way into the office to pick up some files for Court, my poor old Rover 400 began to boil over, being mechanically minded I knew that was the end of the head gasket. I managed to barely force it into the office car park with smoke pouring out from under the bonnet.

Upon informing the senior Lawyer that my car had just died, he said "it's ok take mine".

For the next few minutes I was completely deaf whilst he told me about the importnat facts to remember for the cases of that day as my mind was already behind the wheel of his car.

His car.......... A 1989 Mercedes 300SL

<-------Seen here in it's final resting place :-(

My heart was pumping and my hands were shaking as I put the key in the ignition, whilst being strangely aware that if a bird were to fly over head and crap it would ruin my suit as the hood was down.

I done everything properly, adjusted the seat, mirrors and pulled the immaculate seat belt and clicked it in place ready for my 60mile journey to Court.

I flipped the key around and was greeted with the loud fuel pump whirring around just behind me, then another click and the engine purred into life.

I then forgot all about the birds flying above and my thoughts were concentrated more on manouvering out from the car park without hitting anything else and making a complete fool out of myself. I could see the senior partner soothing his concerns through the window of the office as I gingerly reversed out of sight.

After filling it to the brim with petrol, I was free to continue my journey through some of the most stunning Welsh Country Side one can drive through and make the first 30 miles towards the Motorway.

The 300SL was stunning, really smooth on the road, gently gurgling from the exhaust, me with shades on and pin-stripe suit, I began to get the feel of the straight six sat in front of me under the wide front end.
A few miles into my journey were blessed with some fairly straight bits of road and being the inquisitive type, I slammed my foot to the floor. After what seemed like the car taking a deep breath it kicked down a gear and roared into life, poking its nose into the air like an enraged aristocrat. As the revs climbed so did my smile, I may have even let a little swear word go, it was awesome and the sound that came out the back was rare.

I remember thinking to myself that one day I will get one of these...........................................

Well today, some three years on and its with me, the very car that made that excited feeling in the middle of my chest, yes, the R107 Mercedes 300 SL.

After a pretty tough Christmas, due to kicking the smoking habbit, I bumpped into the Senior partner of the Law firm. He informed me that he was retiring to his Greek pad to see out his days paddling in the Agean Sea and eating some of the finest food on earth.

He asked if I would be able to list his Mercedes on Ebay, as he was not taking it with him! I think my heart stopped momentarily whilst I tried to hide my interest. He then told me that it had some rust under the bonnet and that it had failed it's annual M.O.T. I told him that I would have a look at it first and see how much work it needed.

A couple of weeks later we arranged to meet, so I could have a look at the rust and the general condition of it and my heart sank as I saw it sat in the sorry state it was in.

<--January 2008

With water 3 inches deep inside on the floor and the windows steamed, I cringed as I opened the door and found everything soaking wet.

He told me that he had got in it one day after a rainy night and found the floor soaking wet, so rather than leave the carpets to ruin he had taken them out and placed them in his garage. Just prior to that, he had fitted a brand new convertible hood.

He continued to drive it for the three years and had been told by the garage that it needed some welding under the bonnet for the M.O.T but when they quoted him £600.00 he layed the car to rest.

I put the key in the ignition and turned it, it cranked over slowly and then burst into life running on fast idle auto choke. From that moment on and hearing the six cylinder purring again, I just had to have it. After a couple of days, the offer was made and I duly accepted it - without any hesitation or the need to haggle - IT WAS MINE!

I arranged a trailer and took it back to my workshop where I drilled two 10mm holes in the floor and drained the water out from inside, to my amazement there was no sign of any rust at all.

I opened the bonnet and inspected the rust, wich was located on the front panel of the bulkhead. The hole was big enough to get both of my hands inside and it didn't look pretty, I could even see the drivers footwell through the hole. I joined the MB-Owners Club and started to ask some questions and apparrently this is a common fault.

I contacted Meercedes Benz in Milton Keynes and enquired about a replacement panel and they said it would cost £562.00 - of which I bid them a good day and hung up the phone.

Then I started the Ebay searching and stumbled upon a guy called Greg Smith who repairs and breaks SL's for a living. He had an old body tub he was scrapping and for a very reasonable price of £100.00 he cut off the centre bulkhead and posted it to me.

Altough I have not started work on the car yet, I have washed all the interior carpets by hand in the bath, which took me 6 hours of scrubbing! However, early indications are that it has saved me a few hundered quid by not buying new ones.

I have yet to start on the car itself, but will update this page with a step by step guide to what lies ahead. The idea is to have the car on the road by 1st June 2008 in time for the summer.

I went to see the garage owner who serviced this car for the last 17 years and he said that the only thing he ever changed was a track rod end. The car has had regular 6 month services and never suffered any major problems. Although he did inform me that the alternator needs changing and the front cross member has a small hole in it.

The front cross member is available from Eurocarparts who can supply a new replacement for £105.00.

I took the carpets and rugs into work as they have a drying room and 8 hours later they are all dry and looking good, just have to replenish the pile with a small hand brush and they'll be looking brand new.

9th February 2008

Well between working shifts, I have managed to strip out the inside which has created its own problems and this has also dictated some future restoration decisions.

On stripping the carpets out, I discovered that the carpet which covers the inner sills has rotted away, crumbelling in my fingers as I stripped it out. I have found on 'good old ebay' in Germany, someone selling complete carpet sets in Mercedes colours and manufactured to the original specification. A complete set costs about £160.00 including delivery, which going by the prices for any other spares on this vehicle is by no means expensive.

<---- The begining: stripping out the carpets.

Another problem encountered was the chrome strips on top of the sills, the screws on both sides had rusted solid. I managed to drill out the screws on the pasenger side and save it, but the drivers side bent as I was removing it. Greg Smith says he has many in stock, so I have reserved one for me after a quick phone call.

I asked Greg about replacing the sun visors, as the pasenger side had torn when it was being removed. The replacement cost for second-hand..........£300.00

I'm sending mine to be recovered for £165.00!!!

Anyway, the week has been a busy one stripping out the inside and soon enough, I was at the stage for removing the dashboard.

I stripped it down as far as I could and then called Greg Smith (who must be completely pissed off with my constant calling) and he kindly guided me through the process on the phone and told me how to remove it without loosing my temper and breaking it! He is a star :-) It came out without a hitch.

It took about 3 hours to strip the dashboard out, as I have no service manual and I am trying to remember where everything goes as I remove it. Sort of a bit like the Generation game that used to be on when I was a kid..................

£200.00 later and another sale on ebay......... I have all the service manuals on the way, I just hope cover what the seller claims!

From the above picture stage, I stripped out the heater matrix and heater box, along with all the wires, pipes, cables and cable ties. This took about another three hours, not to mention the wiring loom which I had to dismantle gently, draw a diagram of then push it through the bulkhead and into the engine bay - only to reassemble it again, so I was sure not to mess it up. I then taped it all together and protected it with plastic sheeting and tucked it out of the way.

In order to undo the clips on the heater matrix, I had to drill out the rivets on the scuttle panel and remove the covers either side - the picture says it better than my text!

After I had removed the heater box, which went kinda well, although it did make a loud cracking noise ( I'll find out later what broke ) Greg Smith says I became frustrated when removing it..............he is probably right! What a complete bitch it was! Anyway, with it out, it created the space I needed to properly inspect the bulkhead.

This is what the bulkhead looked like when the dashboard was out.

It looked like someone had emptied a large box of cornflakes on the floor.

It was totally rotten!

The heater fan was supposed to be fixed onto the two square holes in the above picture. It just lifted off without any effort.

One thing I will say.......... Greg Smith really knows his stuff when it comes to these cars and the section of bulkhead he cut off for me, is exactly the correct size for what I want...... I can't praise him enough.

From this point, I disconnected the throttle pedal & linkage and removed it from the car. I then removed everything off of the engine side of the bulkhead which only amounted to a half dozen cable ties, couple of brake pipes and a couple of oild pipes.

<---- This picture shows how rotten it really is, the silver bar is the wiper mechanism arms: they are on the inside of the car behind the dashboard and this picture was taken from inside the engine bay!


SilverSaloon said...


great information! do you have any updates to this? how did the rest of the restoration go?

i'm doing the same stuff on my 280SL (1985 model) - i've also made a blog detailing my work here:


Bristol chick said...


Was just wondering if you had a good contact number for Greg Smith, I was interested in some information regarding Mercedes.
Many thanks

SilverSaloon said...


or ebay page: http://stores.ebay.co.uk/Mercedes-Classic-Car-Parts

contact Greg Smith. 07885 575563

Alex John said...

That is really nice to hear. thank you for the update and good luck.
garage door installation

Mason Haddad said...

hey mate love your work, the 15 pin connector plug behind cluster. i am struggling to match the correct coloured wire the correct pin number slot..... any chance you have a guide or could see??? I'm struggling hard.