10.03.2022 Views

CLC_AUG_21

Create successful ePaper yourself

Turn your PDF publications into a flip-book with our unique Google optimized e-Paper software.

Le Mans-winning D-type driven

Lambo Urraco reader test

How to buy a cool Cortina

SPECIAL R107 ANNIVERSARY SECTION

MERCEDES SL

YEARS

OF THE R107

Epic abandoned V8

project restoration

280SL life story:

from El Salvador

to Michigan

Confessions of a

Mercedes PR man

Malcolm

Bricklin

on the battle to build

and sell his dream

gullwing sports car

PLUS 1975 Bricklin

SV-1 tested

£ 4 . 9 9

AUGUST

2021 ISSUE

16 JUN-20 JULY

I S S U E 5 7 7

Quentin Willson reveals the Aston, Sunbeam and Lagonda to buy now


MERCEDES SL

R107 YEARS

[Epic Restoration] Land Rover Series I

[Epic[ Restoration] ]

‘It arrived in boxes.

Lots of boxes’

When the home restoration of this Mercedes 420SL was thrown

into jeopardy, a model specialist stepped in to pick up the many

pieces. But what could be used – and what would need redoing?

Words NIGEL BOOTHMAN Photography LAURENS PARSONS

48


49


MERCEDES SL

R107 YEARS

It was just a bare shell on a spit,’ says Sam Bailey,

founder of Mercedes R107 SL specialist The SL

Shop. ‘Everything else was packed into boxes. Lots

of boxes. We bought it from seeing a few photos - it

seemed like it would be a good parts haul.’

The SL Shop’s parts department had been offered

the car in sad circumstances. A customer had become

ill and was unable to finish the restoration he’d

started. Once Sam had seen the car in the metal, he

realised it deserved a different fate. ‘The repairs I

could see were not quite to SL Shop standards but

for a home restoration, they’d been very carefully

executed. Although dismantled, the car seemed to

be complete and there were some well-restored components. The

engine had supposedly been rebuilt. What’s more, this was a 420SL

– it’s the least numerous R107 model.’

This left Sam in an unusual position.

The SL Shop is always busy with customer

restorations, but now they’d have to find

time for their own project. In the end, it

disappeared under a dust sheet for a few

years as the business grew and grew, but

in 2019 Sam made the space and time

available to begin the work. With so much

experience of this model, surely his staff

could throw it together in a few weeks?

Well, no – it’s not quite as simple as that.

‘To restore the car to our standards we couldn’t take for granted

that anything was correct. So even though we started with a

repaired bodyshell, we had to strip it all over again and begin from

the beginning. It was going to be a huge job.’

First, peel the orange

The car’s bodyshell arrived in a coat of orange-red primer, covering

up lots of seam sealer and making the repairs hard to judge. Rob

McCormack, Restoration Specialist at the SL Shop, knew what had

to happen next. ‘We took the whole lot off with a wire wheel,’ he

says. ‘It’s only by looking at the bare metal that you can be sure of

the work. The gentleman had done a good job but we have specific

measurements that aren’t available to the home restorer and I

found a few things I needed to re-do.’

The first of these was pretty intimidating. The bulkhead in an

R107 is a crucial structural feature but it’s about as close as these

durable cars come to having a weak point. Water gets trapped

near the top and it rusts through, as it must have done on this car.

The previous owner had taken the bold step of ordering a new

bulkhead – and it looked like an SL Shop part – to install himself.

To anyone but Rob McCormack, it looked fine.

Midway through the

home restoration,

coated in preliminary

etch primer

Low point

‘Alignment of the door

glass for a snug fit in both

hard- and soft-tops. This

job robs you of hours and

fills the swear jar!’

Sam Bailey

‘The angle at which it sat wasn’t quite right,’ he explains. ‘I had to

cut the welds, gently tap it into place and then re-weld the whole

thing. The fit of the bulkhead doesn’t just affect the panel fit for the

rest of the car but also the heater box. If it’s got too much or too little

room, it can rattle or vibrate whenever the blower motor is used.’

Elsewhere, Rob discovered that the spare wheel well needed

repairing, but in that case it was preferable to drill out the spot

welds and replace the pressing from the SL Shop’s stock. One

rear chassis leg showed a visible repair – structurally sound but

noticeable. ‘It has to be invisible,’ Rob explains. ‘I cut out the

repair, which was a bit of an overplate, and butt-welded new steel

in there, flush with the surface.’

Once each repair was complete, Rob protected the area with

acid-etch primer. Trial fitting of the external panels was a

continuous process, ensuring that there were no nasty surprises

once the structural repairs was completed

and the final refit began.

‘The front wings bolt on and so there

is a little bit of adjustment available,’

says Rob, ‘but with this car the wings

that came with it were not quite straight

enough – we used some of our own.’

With time, the car’s date with the

paint shop came closer, after which no

bodywork repairs would be possible. ‘We

had to know it was right,’ says Rob. ‘Every

panel went on and off again dozens of

times because we were continually trialling the panel fit, but in the

end, we got to a final quality control meeting. That meant more

than just checking the door gaps, so we fitted the light clusters,

bumpers and trim and made our decisions. In the end it’s about

aesthetic judgement as well as measurement.’

A change of colour

The car’s original colour was 568 Signal Red but Sam Bailey and

managing director Bruce Greetham opted for a more understated

hue – 172 Anthracite, another period option for the model, and one

that complements the interior particularly well.

Stuart Bryant explains the paint shop’s procedure for replicating

and even improving on the Mercedes factory finish. ‘Believe it

or not, the first thing we did is strip it to bare metal – again. That

protective etch primer came off and we got the levels and lines

perfect with a polyester spray-putty called Plastomax made by

Max Meyer, a German firm. We used its products at each step of

the process so we could guarantee the work.’

Stuart’s team block-sanded the result by hand with 180-grit

abrasives before using a 2K high-build primer and more handsanding

at 320 and finally 500-grit to prepare for the base coat.

‘Every stage was done in a low-bake oven,’

continues Stuart. ‘Each new coat rested at

60°C for 40 minutes before we worked on it.

We used three coats of lacquer to allow us to

dig in hard and flat it back with 1500-grit right

up to 4000 and then begin polishing, which

still leaves plenty of material for many more

years of polishing by the owner.’

With the SL’s bodyshell resplendent in

its new shade, work to the cabin could

commence. It had, in fact, already begun

with the restoration and re-covering of the

car’s seats. Sam Bailey reveals some of his

more arcane knowledge of Mercedes trim

specification as he recounts the process.

‘There was a change in the shape of the

perforations in the seat leather about the

time this car was made. It was important to

get it right, so we had to establish that the


Land Rover Series I [Epic Restoration]

Spare wheel

well wasn’t quite

rights, so a new

one went in

Red primer had

to come off

for structrural

inspection

Rob McCormack

checks panel

alignment – it wasn’t

always perfect

Paul Smith did PDIs

on new R107 SLs.

This one passes...

With the structure

sorted, the car

was re-primed

Gunmetal-like

tone is Mercedes

172 Anthracite


Mushroom leather

with correct

perforations, fresh

from Germany

Not only wiring

but vacuum lines

had to precede

engine fitment

Door build

takes time –

glass alignment

expecially so

OHC V8 had been

rebuilt, but The SL

Shop stripped and

did it from scratch

Shim thicknesses

Sharpie-penned

onto head for

ease of reference

Simon Wood had

to get the engine

bay to factory

standards


MERCEDES SL

R107 YEARS

pattern we’d be using was right – we couldn’t

necessarily trust that the seats that came with

the car were the originals.’

At some time in the 1985 or 1986 model

year, the perforations changed from circular

to diamond-shaped, a feature that probably

coincided with seats that had larger bolsters

and height adjustment. Sure enough, the

later type was correct for this car. ‘We

commissioned new covers of this pattern from

a supplier in Germany so we could get exactly what we needed in

Mushroom leather,’ says Sam.

The same went for the diminutive rear seats, one of many

options ticked by the first owner. Not all of the cabin is leather

though. The doorcards are MB-Tex vinyl, so Sam’s team also had

to source cards in the correct tone and perforation pattern. ‘We

used carpets commissioned from the same supplier in Germany,’

says Sam. ‘They’re just right for tone and texture as well.’

Sourcing all the items and materials was time-consuming, but the

build-up process would be just as painstaking. That phase would

have to wait for completion of the mechanical side of the job, where

once again the team would make a call on what they could take on

trust and what they must do all over again.

Rebuilding the engine, again

Simon Wood coordinates all the mechanical rebuilds at the SL

Shop and takes a special interest in engine work. He describes how

they approached the 420SL’s sizeable V8, ‘It was out of the car,

of course, and mostly built up. It had indeed been apart for some

work but there’s no way we could have just fitted it and hoped for

the best, so we stripped it for a closer look.’

The more they looked, the more they found. Simon didn’t like

the non-MB timing chain or the elderly chain guides and guide rails

that’d been used. ‘We couldn’t trust the machining work either so

once the cylinder heads came off we measured and examined

everything and found one of the heads to be corroded around the

coolant jacket. We had to TIG-weld that and then machine it flat.’

Simon found brand new camshafts in both cylinder heads so

they could stay. Further down in the alloy

engine block, the cylinder liners also measured

up to specification, as did the connecting rods

and pistons. ‘With the crankshaft out, we

could check the bearing journals for ovality

and scoring but they were in good shape. We

didn’t like the bearings themselves, though, so

we fitted new Mercedes items along with a full

gasket set. Before we reassembled it all, the

major castings were stripped and soda-blasted

to ensure everything was as clean as it could be.’

Next on the list was the four-speed

automatic transmission. This went off to a

gearbox specialist where nothing more than

new gaskets and seals were required. Once the

gearbox was in the car, though, Simon and his

colleagues would have some careful work to do

with the gearbox adjustment gauge – see My

Favourite Tool to the right.

‘The engine and gearbox were quicker

to finish than the ancillaries,’ says Simon.

‘Every single one of them was refurbished

and some of them are pretty complex and

unique to Mercedes. For instance, the cruise

control unit works from a feed off the back of

the speedometer and operates a mechanical

linkage to the throttle. It features a solenoid

that you can adjust with a coronet… there’s

a special test box that we eventually plugged

High point

‘Right at the end –

putting those final

pieces of chrome on

and stepping back’

Sam Bailey

MY FAVOURITE TOOL

Gearbox pressure gauge

‘There’s a fluid output behind a

bung in the transmission case

that can be removed to fit a banjo

bolt that connects to this gauge,’

explains Simon Wood.

‘There’s a small version you’re

meant to hang on a door mirror

while you go for a drive but we

prefer this larger one, testing the

cars wheels-free on the ramp.

You disconnect the transmission’s

modulating vacuum pipe from the

inlet manifold and start the engine,

then look for 2.8 bar on the central

gauge. If it’s away from that, you

loosen the locking nut on the

adjusting bolt in the transmission

and wind it in or out until you see

the correct reading. This can add

ten years to a transmission’s life.’

into the wiring loom on the inner wing - it lets

you accelerate, slow down, set the speed and

so on, while driving down the road.’

The main reason for the time taken over the

many humble under-bonnet items was the

standard that Simon and his colleagues were

working towards throughout the project.

‘The aim was to leave each component

exactly like the factory had finished it

originally,’ he says. ‘That’s quite a big deal

when you start with a box of old bits!’

Fiddly details

Harry Budd looked after much of the assembly and build-up

for this SL and its component groups. He had a very clear path

towards completion, ‘I had to refurbish the front and rear

subframe assemblies. That meant a lot of stripping and refinishing

of the subframes themselves, but also renewing bushes, ball

joints, bearings, dampers and so on. When the bodyshell came

back from paint these were ready to fit, but that wasn’t the first job

– fuel and brake lines have to go in first.’

From there, the subframes were reunited with the car and

suddenly it was back to rolling on its wheels. ‘After that, I installed a

new wiring harness, and once that was in position, we were able to

fit the engine and transmission,’ Harry continues. ‘Then I began to

build up the bulkhead and dash.’

While work continued, Harry was making a list of anything else

that would be needed. Some items were a late decision, such as

the steering wheel. ‘The original wheel was a nice example but

we had to consider it as part of a brand new car, because that’s

what the restoration was going to produce. And it just wasn’t crisp

enough, so we were able to source a new old-stock item.’

The B-pillar chromes are another example of the length

Harry and the others had to go. The car’s original pieces had

an excellent coat of chrome but were not a very good fit. Harry

went through second-hand sets until he found some that fitted

perfectly and then sent those for re-chroming.

‘Building up the bulkhead was pretty involved,’ he recalls. ‘First

we applied some cavity wax over the paint,

then installed the heater. This is made up of

the first section, then the matrix, then the

third section and the first and third sections

have the control flaps in them. There are eight

or ten levers behind the dash to move these

flaps about, only on this car they’d worn out

and stopped sliding. So I replaced them and

modified the flaps to ensure they can’t get

stuck again in the future.’

Harry also took this chance to check the

wiper motors and lubricate the linkage before

fitting it all, then returned to the build-up job

inside the car. Next came the air-con system

and the seals for all the apertures, then the

section of the loom that controlled it all. Finally

the new vacuum lines went in.

These small-bore tubes control rather a lot

of the SL’s functions and fault finding after

completion is a headache. The vacuum system

is involved not only in the central locking but

the speedometer, cruise control, fuel filler

flap, boot release and even headlamp aim.

‘There are three lines into each door and an

electric pump in the boot that runs the vacuum

for the central locking,’ says Harry. ‘However

it also uses inlet manifold vacuum. When the

system gets old, as this one was, leaks occur.

So ten minutes after you park, the car unlocks

53


MERCEDES SL

R107 YEARS

Ready for

adventure?

This SL’s fate is

to be a surprise

Bulkhead buildup

swallowed

50 man hours

itself.’ With such a complex system, Harry took the only safe

way forward and bench-tested as much of it as he could before

installation, then section by section within the car.

New rhd headlamps

among many items

commissioned by

The SL Shop

N E X T

M O N T H

MINI

COOPER

If you can’t buy it, have it made

The SL Shop usually expects the rebuild of the bulkhead and

dashboard to soak up 18 hours. Harry Budd invested at least 50

hours into this 420SL, such was the level the team wanted to hit.

The dashboard dials, for instance, were not only reconditioned

internally but had their needles re-coated by a specialist firm in

Eastern Poland that uses the same flourescent paint Mercedes did.

With the interior trim installed and the factory hard-top

refinished to join the rest of the car, Sam Bailey was able to look

back on the challenges they faced. ‘It should be easy for us,’ he

says. ‘We carry about 13,000 lines in our parts business, but

there’s always something you can’t get hold of. For example, the

headlamps on this right-hand-drive car needed replacing but

they’re not available new so we had to judge how to approach

that – hunt good second-hand ones, rely on Mercedes restarting

production, or commission our own? The first two options weren’t

going to guarantee any further supply in the future so we’ve had

them remanufactured. We’re now the sole supplier.’

Having invested so much time and money into this car – creating

what must be the best 420SL in the world – could it simply slot

into place in the showroom with other lovely examples costing

half as much? Yes, because there’s always a demand for something

exceptional. ‘The car has now sold to a customer who has huge

plans for it,’ says Bruce Greetham. ‘We can’t say much more

because it involves a surprise but suffce to say the location

and the care invested in this event demanded a very

specific and remarkable car, and we’re delighted to be able

to help.’ Sam adds, ‘I also like to think of it as a tribute to

the gentleman who sold it to us. ‘He thought it was worth

restoring to the very highest standard. So did we.’

Hooray! Your file is uploaded and ready to be published.

Saved successfully!

Ooh no, something went wrong!