W124 500TE - Lets do this!

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jaymanek

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Here we go again… Some say it’s the V power running through my veins, some say stress causes irrational behaviour… My wife says I have an irreparable genetic condition.


Whatever it is, I get an idea and I cannot rest until its done with.


After the completion of the W123 manual 560 project, there was a gap in the “ongoing build” department of my left cortex.


I love my 500E and I love my 3.4 AMG Estate.


We spend most of our miles in the wagon as its practical, comfortable and a lovely motorway cruiser.


For me though, I always miss the 500E grunt when I drive the 3.4..


The straight six is a lovely “sewing machine smooth” engine, but it’s never going to have that V8 character…


So of course, I started looking around on the internet in search of fellow escapees of the cuckoo’s nest and found a few… mostly Japanese or American.


I even found one such member, whom we shall call “Nor” (real name heavily disguised for privacy) who considered selling his converted V8 wagon. I sent this mysterious “Nor” a message on Facebook. I got no reply.


I started looking into what it may take to create such a car. Well I need a M119 drivetrain and a suitable estate of course.


Well it just so happens that we have a lovely E220 in stock at Mercland. It’s a lovely car that our own team have breathed upon over the years.


To convert a right-hand drive car, my best chances are a M119 from an early R129 I would think? The early R129’s used KE Jetronic which is relatively simple to wire up and get going... RHD steering box may be an issue here, but we can solve that surely?


A few weeks go by, busy with work, until I googled once more. I see that fellow inmates talk of chopping backs off cars and welding them to a 500E saloon… hmm sure I saw something like that on crimewatch once… didn’t end well. Not a big fan of this method.


Then I see how “Nor’s” car was built. To do this conversion well, you really need as many 400E or 500E parts as possible. Essential are things like the engine support, modified firewall, 500E engine Transmission, Diff etc etc.. Then there are the body panels to think of. If we are doing a 500TE then lets do it properly.. We need flared arches, we need suspension, we need brakes….


The items become quite an excel spreadsheet.


So I slowly steer away from the E220 we have.. don’t think that would work.


I realised to do an authentic 500TE, it has to be a left hand drive with as many genuine 500E components as possible.


I post on the book and of course instantly I get people offering me parts… awesome!


Within a couple of days, I seem to have secured most of the body panels I need, but hardly any of the mechanical bits… Why aren’t people storing 500E engines complete with body shell in their sheds?


Whilst my new buddy from Germany, “Roland,” is figuring out how best to bend side skirts to fit into an envelope, I start looking into where to get the drive train parts.


Surely I wont have to try another search engine? Bing? Yahoo?? Are there any more?


Just then “Nor” from the USA replies to me… “Ill call you tomorrow, still have the car.”


Awesome, that’s that then…


The next day I speak to “Nor”… A lovely gent, but clearly one of “us” crazies from the asylum.


“Nor’s” price is a little high for the car, but by now I’ve started to total things up on that spreadsheet I began earlier… The numbers are starting to look like those I used to see during my days at an investment bank, and that’s without some of the essential parts required.


We tentatively agree on a figure for the car subject to “Nor” looking into shipping logistics and prices.


A few days go by and I didn’t hear from Nor.. I poked him on the book but no response.


I figure he has changed his mind.. I don’t like to chase… I know when I’ve been dumped…. Just got to man up, listen to a bit of Whitney and accept it.


Another enthusiast contacts me.. He knows of a nice 500E that been stood for a few years that runs great and has just had a load of $ spent to make it lovely.


Unfortunately car is in Guiness-land.. and not the right side either… all the way on the other end, probably nearer Nor than me.


I have to do this by phone… I speak to the Irishman… he describes the car as “sound” and that’s as much information as I have… Not entirely sure of his blood-guiness content at this point, but he seems pretty honest for an Irishman…


I buy the car based on one or two passport sized pictures and the word of a fellow nutter. This car is not cheap, but a little cheaper than what 500E’s are fetching now. Its a whole 500E that I can use all the bits from and transplant into a wagon…


Then casually surfing the bay and a high mileage USA import 500E pops up.. Ok this is interesting… the body is described as rust free… The engine/box are described as running perfectly.. The pictures show the seats and interior are worn but who cares? A quick note to code name “Eddie” reveals that his asking price is in the land of the fairies, even more that the price I have committed to for the Irishmans car…


So we sit patiently twiddling our thumbs waiting for a transport company to collect unseen, untested and quite expensive 24 year old E500… A few days go by before Shane calls to say he will be on the way. So I send my childrens lunch money off to unknown Irishman and pray to all gods of all religions that he is of fixed abode and good moral stature. Will this be an Emerald or a Leprechaun?


Thursday night comes and being a Rock and Roller, I am sat in my office advertising C220’s..


Up pops a little box on the bottom right of my monitor… “high mileage 500E ending soon”… Ok well lets take a look.. I put in a cheeky bid… its somewhere between what I think its worth on terra firma and Eddie thinks its worth sat up high on those clouds…


I close the internet page and advertise more C Classes.


“Congratulations, you have won..” stomach feels a bit funny now…I appear to have purchased two 500E’s, a full 500E bodykit and various smaller parts.


So as I convince myself that “all is well, you are a car dealer, you can just sell the Irish car, assuming it turns up…. ” Is there any lunch money left? I don’t think so… Going to have to sell the kids… Ah well, six years is a good run.


Eddie was on the phone within minutes highlighting his 48-hour collection stipulation on the listing which I had man-read a few days earlier…


I rang my mate TJ… “We are off to Preston very late tomorrow night after work.”


Having known me since childhood, his reply carried a cocktail of unsurprised/disappointed tonal characteristics..


TJ knew I must have spent money on something that ranks lower than the need of my children’s school uniform..


I gather some pennies together and off we go on our adventure up Norf. Praying all the way that my wife didn’t enquire as to my whereabouts.


I wasn’t expecting much from this car… It has done a few trips on those Highways.


I didn’t bother with a test drive at 10pm. We paid Eddie and off we went.


Woah, this thing is quick… It feels quicker than my 500E… maybe the miles really do help to loosen things up… or maybe someone has simply fiddled with the throttle to make it feel quick… I don’t care.. I glance at the oil pressure which reads “3” and the engine sounds sweet enough.


Of course the interior is tired and has been tarted up for sale, probably by Chuck from over the pond...


A thorough thirty second examination was carried out in a dark corner of the wild bean café in Kirkham.


My iPhone torch revealed that he body panels are indeed totally rust free… Cool, so its decided, this will be the donor.



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Just as I was updating my spreadsheet with the amended list of required parts, the apple vibrates..


Guess who?


“Nor” gets back to me… he has a price for shipping and has done all of his homework with regards the various shipping methods…. Over the preceding days, Nor had been busy evaluating the various quotes. He had been wrapping up the spare parts to come with the car, to measure them for more exact quotes…


Uh oh…
 
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How do I handle this? Well I certainly have gone too far to turn back… I could sell both 500E’s and beg Mercedes to take some of the parts back… But that will take time and I simply cannot invest any more money without me getting hurt… hurt real bad, by the boss.


This is annoying… Why aren’t I more patient… Why didn’t I trust in humanity… of course Nor was always going to get back to me.


Days go by and I realise there is no way I can buy Nors car… The desire is strong but I must confess my sins to Nor. I hope Nor is not too upset or offended. I have been messed around so many times over the years, I know how it feels… You really want to punch something really hard… I was thankful for the Atlantic ocean between us.


Thankfully Nor took it graciously and we even hope to meet up at some time next year. Ill be the one in the baseball helmet.


Whilst all of this was going on, In the back of my mind I still needed a suitable wagon… where do you find a left hand drive estate car with the spec required to make this easier for me. I needed Left Drive, 280, 300 or 320, ASR traction, cruise, black leather, ideally 7 seater, heated seats and NO structural rust. Tried ebay with not much luck.. It has to be Germany surely? Surprisingly, although hundreds pop up on mobile.de, very few of the cheaper cars have the essentials I need.


I loathed German at school.. So when talking to germans about W124’s, “je voudrais un pain au chocolat avec fromage frais” wasn’t getting me any answers about the condition of the subframe…


Hmm, who do I know that speaks German and knows about cars…. Oh yes Roland!


Roland made some phone calls and saved me from some very ropey cars. I would have bought one of them otherwise! He educates me on postal codes to buy from and those to avoid.


A few days go buy and not getting far, when something catches my eye on Germanic ebay. A very poor advert. I had dismissed it earlier due to the pictures not showing any real detail. Upon a google translate of the advert I had learned all about the sellers deep affection for the car but nothing about its spec or condition. I emailed the seller with a google translate of “do you speak English”. The answer was nein. Roland did the honours. Next day Roland “pops” over from some 60km to view the car for me.


He said “it could work”… Has all the things I need and only superficial rust. The seller is an older genuine guy and has had the car forever. Some W124 usual gremlins but nothing that affects my plans.


The car is not cheap.. Germany is not a cheap place to buy.. I guess due to their strict MOT’s. Its much more expensive than that lovely E220 I am selling at the moment.. but its what I need and cheapest I have found.


So a deal is done. I arrange transport with a local company to me.


They let me down after trying to double the price. I contact other transporters. Some are ridiculously expensive and some are just far too cheap to want to trust.


I decide there is nothing else for it.. I will have to make a day in my current 24/7 work diary to go and get this car.


Over the intervening days, the Irish 500E turned up… wow. What a car. Drives like new. Unfortunately, the paperwork consisted solely of an old blue V5 and a note from the Irishman thanking me for the business. Odometer shows 83K KM.. Looked around for tell-tale wear and its easy to see that this car has had an easy life.. could be genuine mileage.


I went for a drive… Lovely car… way too good to break up.. and in reality, way too valuable for this project. This will be for sale soon once we tidy some bits up and get it recommissioned.


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Friday came. My eldest and I got on a plane to Dusseldorf. After paying the taxi drivers mortgage off, we got a good nights sleep for four hours.


A quick croissant and then I look out for a W202 running on LPG as instructed.


Roland had volunteered to collect us and help with translation... I know there must be an “app for that” but there is nothing quite like trusting a German guy you have never met before.


So we arrive at a house in some village with only “E” data reception showing on my phone. This place is on par with an African tribal settlement in terms of data connectivity.


Now I really feel like Michael Brewer. I buy and sell thousands of cars a year but for some reason, buying a car privately like this, is always different, warmer somehow… You get to know a bit of the history of the car rather than just some specs on the monitor. I was feeling glad I had made the journey.


So exchange of documents and then I get to see the car for the first time… Yep it’s a LHD W124.. yep it looks like it has paint on it in most parts and yep it starts… Lets go!
 
Just then I see the son of the seller in tears… It was obvious that selling this car wasn’t an easy decision for this family. The father and son got emotional so we stopped for a little photo… We took some time for them to say goodbye.. Not quite sure how long they owned this car but the teenage boy indicated that it’s the only car he has ever known.

Its been a long time since I bought a car like this and it reminds me of the special relationship that we form with these metal cans..


Will panasonic cars have this effect? I don’t think so.


In true used car sales spirit, the fuel lamp is on and needle barely moves. Off we go to find a station… We made it thankfully… Tank full and we head for the Autobahn… woohoo, never driven on German roads, 260 KMH here we come… We wave goodbye to Roland with an exchange of hazard flashes. Roland is a new Mercedes friend for life now.


Well before I got the chance to test the range topping 320 torque, the temperature needle flew off the top of the gauge… uh oh. So first things first… post it on facebook..


Stay calm. we have breakdown cover, we have stolen croissants from breakfast and a ¼ bottle of Evian… We have seen three and half episodes of Bear Grylls… nothing can break us.


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With the thought of spending the day waiting for ze RAC on the autostrassebahn, I pulled over and opened the bonnet.. Straight six sounded normal with that old car engine smell… no steam, felt the hoses, seemed ok.. no excess pressure.


Hmm, breath out relief but a little scratchy on the head….


Then I remember an old method passed down through generations of Maneks.


I took my left fist and beat the dashboard.. Hey presto, the temperature was a steady 80 again.


Utilising the phrase of our very own northern member, John… It was the standard equipment “comedy W124 gauges” playing tricks on me. And it tried to scare me all the way back home, bouncing up and down...


The 250 mile or so journey to Calais felt a breeze through Netherlands, Belgium and France.


We were on the train by lunch time and back in the UK..


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This is where we are at now and hope you are interested to follow the progress.


Will the wife find out? Will I live to tell the tale?


It may work, it may not, but in the words of my spiritual prophet and guiding force…


“he who dares wins Rodney, he who dares wins…”


Apologies for any mistakes in my grammar.. I only went to a cheap school and never really listed to my teachers.


Apologies also, for what has ended up being a very long post. Future updates will be brief and picturesque.
 
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Funny I was thinking about this again tonight when I posted the W124 hammer Clip I found on YouTube.

You know you can buy an new crate M119 6.0 32v V8 from Garage Van Der Velde in Belgium Jay? I was quoted Euro 14K and they have a few of them.

How about making it an E60 Wagon? You know you want to.
 
Awesome project Jay.

I was looking for a 500E for a long time but couldn't find a suitable one so ended up with a 2.5-16 instead. Whilst I love this little car I still feel that I missed out on the 500 though just couldn't find a suitable one. And then you move the goalposts slightly and end up with loads of them :D

Best of luck with it, looking forward to the build thread. :)
 
I just read this again, then again. Then I went to bed, got up this morning and read it again.. You know what I like here? It's human, it's real, it emotional it talks about things that we have all done or thought of doing. The guys Son in tears, I have been there with that. Lets hope he watches this thread and starts to see what has become of things? I love the fact that as, you tell us that that you buy and sell a thousand cars a year but this is different. Straight away, that tells me that buying a car from you would be smart thing to do.

Cars for me have always been all about the emotion, the story that goes with that emotion and the frustration and fun that goes into turning them from a car I bought, to being "my" car. I was brought up surrounded by mechanical engineers who all had garages with tools that made you just want to to touch, then to try, then to learn. I still learn every day with cars, but I still can look back with genuine fondness at nearly every car I have been involved with.

This is a great post Jay. Thank you for sharing with us and giving us a glimpse into Jay. I shall follow this with joy.

Oh. Is that washer bottle a twin pump one? I need one for my 300TE 4-Matic Wagon.
 
Phew!

I had to make a cup of tea half way through this post.

No way could I put this much effort into purchasing cars but I do understand the ups and downs you must go through.

Fantastic read, I guess you are in the correct trade to take on these projects.

Robin


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 
My only comment would be that the rear end might also need some fettling to get right. Alledgedly the 500 rear floor pan was re-enforced to accept what was in effect the R129 rear end [ I would guess the subframe mounting points re-enforced ??] but would have also benefited from the crossbracing/stiffening afforded by the rear bulkhead/fuel tank assembly to aid torsional rigidity. I suspect this might be why MB never made a production estate version? This potential lack of torsional rigidity could be addressed by suitable[ possibly removeable?] cross bracing in the rear seat back area or possibly using the cabriolet underbody cross bracing? Good luck with this project Jay
 
Agreed, an excellent read and a great idea for a project. All the best with, I look forward to reading about it!

Cheers,

Gaz
 
Speechless Jay. Wonderful story, wonderful story telling. I'm looking forward to watching this thread develop and seeing the end result. With such high standards, this thing will be monumental I'm sure.

Occasionally I think of the brown/mink 500e you had in stock at the time you fitted the new springs to my C32, I should've blooming had that!
 
My only comment would be that the rear end might also need some fettling to get right. Alledgedly the 500 rear floor pan was re-enforced to accept what was in effect the R129 rear end [ I would guess the subframe mounting points re-enforced ??] but would have also benefited from the crossbracing/stiffening afforded by the rear bulkhead/fuel tank assembly to aid torsional rigidity. I suspect this might be why MB never made a production estate version? This potential lack of torsional rigidity could be addressed by suitable[ possibly removeable?] cross bracing in the rear seat back area or possibly using the cabriolet underbody cross bracing? Good luck with this project Jay

Thanks, I may be calling upon your knowledge when we get to this stage. I was told that the R129 diff simply required a change of back cover and associated mounts. Im hoping the 500E one wont require much work... One of the reasons I had to find a complete car..
 
I was put in mind of this by RBYCC in this thread.
W124-Lowering

e.g.something like this might help- perhaps more pertinent in a car without that rear bulkhead and tank . Not sayin that it would be absolutely necessary but you might get niggles with that big back rear door closure/sealing/ noise if the the car body was flexing a bit.
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# In terms of diff mounts this is a neat video illustrating them. Not sure how the SL mounts differ if at all? I would be more concerned with the front mount alignment perhaps?
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I haven't read the whole post Jay but there is a bloke in Thailand who makes a brace to fit between the rear mounts of the front lower control arms that replicates this particular feature of the 500 chassis. He also makes a cradle that fits to the trans mounts on the chassis rails at the rear and ties in to the front LCA mounting points IIRC. Apparently these two mods and top strut brace if you're inclined to go that way makes things a lot tighter. The rear subframe also may benefit from one of those braces that traverses the spring link mounting points.
I think Brabus did 450 HP version of the 124 maybe worth checking to see what they did in the rear to keep it all together.

http://www.brabus.com/cars4sale/car_E65.html?lang=en

Hedgehog Tuning and Motorsport Blog: Chassis Lower Braces and adjustable arms for W124 and W201

Monocoque torsion; don't bother with it, the body is stiff enough unlike the cabbies.
 
Wow what a thread! Good luck to you Jay, you certainly have the commitment and desire.

The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward...good luck buddy
 

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