It took some thinking and few discussions with motor-head friends before finally deciding that this quality car, taking into consideration of her interesting “blue-blooded” first ownership history, rightly deserves to be in an “as original as possible” condition. Hence the decision was taken at this time instead of postponing for later, to undertake a thorough, full bare metal re-spray, to strip off the under-seal, repair any rust areas and repaint, then re-underseal with a complete Waxoyl hard wax treatment, ensuring that the car has no rust at all and is fully protected against it going forward. Obviously choosing the factory color of Dark Blue code 332 G, according to what is stamped on the car’s nomenclature metal plate, goes without question.
Once again my “cars network” came through, as George Pitsikos of Auto-Stop/Connolly who will be doing the leather job and saloon interior reconditioning later on, has recommended a friendly body-shop, fit for executing the demanding job, nearer to my home north of Athens. Thus I opted for this alternative rather than the body-shop with outsourcing the paint-shop option of AUTOHOUSE STUTTGART in far away Piraeus. The firm chosen is called A & B FOR CARS, the initials originating from the last names of the two proprietors, Gregory Apostolou and Costas Bitaliotis.
After bringing in “Princess Michaela” for their inspection and appraisal, a lot of details were discussed as well as the tasks to be undertaken were laid down, while at the same time a budget outline was set. A & B FOR CARS only use quality paints and varnishes made by SIKKENS, necessary ingredients for a good result. What next became apparent was that the engine/drive-train had to be removed so that the engine bay could be repainted properly.
Hence the Coupé had to be taken back to Piraeus to be entrusted once again in the capable hands of AUTOHAUS STUTTGART, where my friend Michael Gouliaras and his team of mechanics would remove the engine, transmission and drive shaft. The latter would be taken to a specialist for precision balancing as some vibrating while cruising at speeds above 80 kph has been noticed. The engine removal task was done within a day or so hence the 250 SE/C was loaded on a car transport truck and duly delivered back to A & B FOR CARS in Gerakas.
Quickly enough Gregory and his team commenced stripping-down the car of all its chrome fittings, removing seats and carpeting, cataloging everything carefully, labeling and marking parts and bolts canisters, photographing were required and so on. Whatever rust spots or damaged chassis and body areas have now come to light; appropriate treatment and body-shop repairs would be the next task.
As anticipated, this Mercedes is a very clean example, despite its 43 years of age, having domiciled for all her life in the dry, salt-free roads of mostly sunny Greece. We are now in the process of listing all the required parts, most of which I will source from Germany through Andreas Reinacher and his DBDepot firm. A critical task involves the removal of the front windshield as some weather-sealing glue has erroneously been used in past days, making removal of the large curved glass a bit tricky. Here are some pictures at this stage of stripping and repairing:
Monday 21/06/10 update
Visiting A & B FOR CARS today, I took few more pictures of progress made. The old paint is being removed patiently. The rot spot on the rear RH wheel arch has been repaired. Ditto for the small rust hole in the accelerator area floor pan. The more extensive rust in the passenger side floor pan will be treated in the next days. The electrician will tend to removing all ancillary equipment and obstructing wiring in the engine bay. Tomorrow I will meet with him for looking after many details, among them to address the question: “replace or repair the wiring loom”?
At the same time we will scrutinize the parts list which will be required to source either from Germany or Greece or both.
It seems that daily progress is being made at a good clip as Gregory wishes to finish the 250 SE/C project sooner than anticipated 🙂
Thursday 24/06/10 update
The meeting with the electrician Panayiotis went well. He is undertaking to clear-up the engine bay from a plethora of wires, relays, connectors, hoses, horns etc, plus to remove the woodwork from the dashboard, along with the instruments, radio, clock, glove compartment and so on. He opined that the wiring loom is in good condition and that only some ending wires and/or connectors would require replacement. Such will be wounded with special fabric “old style” tape. Nevertheless, if I manage to source a new wiring loom, it would be wise to replace the 43 years old serpent. 😉
Now the wood work parts will be cataloged along with the leather seats and side panels before being delivered to George Pitsikos at Auto-Stop/Connolly for re-varnishing and Connollising respectively. Ditto for the carpeting pieces to be used as patterns for cutting new blue colored pieces.
In the mean time, the body work is progressing. Now all sides of the car body have been scraped and sanded down, filler and surfacer coats being applied. All rust spots have been treated except the passenger side floor board. The front and rear windshields have not as yet been removed.
Tuesday 29/06/10 update
Since last Thursday further progress has been made in the areas of body work repairs and preparations. Now the engine bay is completely empty of any part and the metal areas have been scraped of old paints, glues or greases. The front suspension assembly has been removed. Whatever minor flaws in the metal have been treated.
In the main body, both front and rear windshields have been removed. The entire body shell has been sanded, filled and a primary surface coat applied. The edge railings are in good condition and do not require any treatment. Inside the cabin area the floor boards have been scraped clean of all the insulation tar mats and whatever rust areas have been treated. The seams require to be grinded smooth before primer paint is applied.
In the rear end and trunk area, the fuel tank has been removed where a small rust spot around the filler hose curb has been noticed.
I think that we have reached the nadir in stripping-down parts from the body. There are no more parts to remove! This is a thorough respray job. 😉
The task is now to source all the parts required. Every rubber seal in the engine bay needs replacement, along with a smorgasbord of other parts (alas! many more than anticipated). While preparing for this critical task, I did search more on the net and found the Manheim, Germany based M-B oldtimer parts specialist Heinrich E. Niemöller, who offers a thorough parts supply along with pdf schematics which really help the restorer to understand which parts may be needed. 🙂
In the next day’s we did allocate computer time with Gregory and Manos aiming to identify parts and place purchase order$…
This task is now complete and after few clarification exchanges with Mr. Waldemar Eder of Niemoeller Company, we now have a confirmed purchase order for about 300 part items! Unfortunately the wiring harness requires a more than 4 weeks custom built process, so it seems that will stick to the old serpent after repairing it where required. Nevertheless, all connectors and battery cables are coming in new.
George Pitsikos of Auto-Stop/Connolly was also located and we did scrutinize the wood-work and leather job tasks which will be done in the next few days.
Synchronizing the various tasks (body work, respray, fitting new parts, electrician’s job, reassembling, leathers and wood-work, engine re-fitting etc) so that the car will be ready and sorted for participating in the PHILPA 39th International Rally in September 2010 (a FIVA event) is a worrisome task.
Wednesday 07/07/10 update
This morning I first visited George Pitsikos at Auto-Stop/Connolly who in the mean time had given the wooden pieces to his varnisher, had obtained a price quotation and was expecting to receive the first trial piece in order to check the coloration effect. In addition he had checked availability and obtained a quotation from his Connolly leather supplier in the UK in case we wished to replace all leathers outright with new but 60’s period stock.
That scenario was rejected not only because the price was quite high but also considering my wish to maintain originality of the car as much as possible. Hence his quotation for refurbishing the existing leathers was accepted. He will clean all the pieces and repaint and/or repair any scratches or blemishes. He will also repair seat springs, foamings and side door panels. He reassures me that the final result of his craft will be highly appreciated and admired. On this jolly promise I left the premises in joyous spirits only to ride my BMW 650 Funduro bike few blocks away to A & B FOR CARS.
The progress made on the body work preparations before commencing the respray was satisfactory. A lot of detailing has been done, as for example the front fender bolts have been undone and applied paint remover, then buffed to a shiny clean condition, ready to accept the new dark blue paint. The entire engine bay was treated to a similar detail and as Greg mentioned “Whoever opens the engine hood will admire the work done!’. Oh! music to my ears 🙂
Likewise the detailing inside the cabin and the floor board intervention areas is done in a nice way. Paint will be applied in the next day. The entire body shell has been treated to a black mat undercoat, assisting the observation of minor flaws on the metal surfaces which can then be treated by a successive filler and sanding down process.
Left: Hub caps treatment before applying carefully the new dark blue color.
Right: The vinyl material on the rear wind-shield shelf has been discolored and faded by the strong sun rays of the Mediterranean. The original blue section (covered all these years by the rear seat back) will be used for matching the leather treating color!
It seems that the time to start thinking about the color has arrived! The original car color code DB 332 has been entered into the “Mixit-Pro” computer software and out came the exact recipe for the “DunkelBlau” non-metallic mixture using Sikkens quality paints. The Mixit Pro on-line formula retrieval software enables perfect color matching while providing faster formula updates than any conventional system. Furthermore it supports painters with a variety of reporting functions, including consumption analysis, material cost per job and access to recalculated mixes. According to Greg and Costa (the paint guru of A + B), three coats of paint will be applied with successive fine grade sand-downs; these will be topped-off with two additional coats of varnish (again with a sand-down in between) which will protect the color for many years to come, add depth when viewing and endure many waxings or minor scratches to boot!
I must confess: I am anxious to see the final result of the team’s labors 🙂
Monday 12/07/10 update
What a nice Monday morning surprise! My Princess has regained her original factory dark blue color! A “Dunkel Blau” jingle whizzes stubbornly through my head. The A + B FOR CARS team has worked well in the last days, having applied the base colors plus the varnish coatings.
Now the process of cleaning and rubbing down with various grades of cutting pastes (such as 3M’s Fast Cut Plus #50417) and polishing agents in multiple applications will bring out the luster and depth of the color. In these pictures because of the green awning reflections, the true tone of the dark blue color is not rendered quite well.
Never mind though, as many other photographs will be coming forth documenting the re-assembly task which will commence as soon as we get hold of the spare parts on order from Niemoeller Co., Germany. Last update on that front is that all items are expected to be gathered and packed by the end of the current week, i.e. Friday 16/7/10.
The leather revamping and the re-varnishing of the wood-work tasks are going forward and I do hope that eventually the synchronization of the various jobs will work out without major hiccups. The process is not much different from the metal surface respray. That is the leather surface is cleaned with special detergents, then sanded down, cuts, wrinkles or other blemishes are filled in with putty, then color is applied. Repeated sanding and polishing together with pigment coats are applied before the leather is brought back to a revived condition. The Master of Ceremonies at Auto-Stop/Connolly is Mr. Thanassi who carries many decades of leather industry trade secrets and hard to find (these days) craftsmanship.
Monday 26/07/10 update
By checking on the UPS site I had tracked the parcel with all the parts from Germany which was delivered to A & B on Friday 23/7 late afternoon. Since we are vacationing in Kea island I decided to return to Athens on Monday morning in order to take delivery of the many parts and sort them into three distinct boxes marked “Body Shop”, “Electrician” and “Mechanic”. I arrived in Gerakas by noon with much anticipation and excitement. This would be the zenith of a very time consuming and expensive process invested in selecting, ordering, deciphering item codes, negotiating and so forth before all these car parts became a reality.
The car was in the courtyard, with the front suspension re-fitted. In the days past, the floor boards and trunk space received the special width tar impregnated shielding mats, cut and fitted carefully by Manos. I noticed that the first part out of the parts box was already installed: the firewall insulation material code D 68 493. Soon after my arrival the car was push wheeled into the shop and I set up “office” next to her using a castered tool chest as table top. Niemoeller’s invoice pack was 25 pages long, mostly with German descriptions while the days temperature was in the 35’s Celsius, making me sweat a lot. It took me six straight hours to go through the pile of parts and to sort them into the different boxes. All along I was trying to scribble when known, the schematic reference number of the parts, so that Manos and Panayiotis the electrician would be assisted during the reassembly tasks, cross-referencing them with the Niemoeller picture “Catalog D”, a hefty parts dossier, a hard copy of which I had ordered previously.
Since I had to return to the island and the family left behind, pressed to catch the 8 o’clock ferry from the Port of Lavrion, I took with me the 25 pages of invoicing for further checking and cross-referencing of parts versus schematic drawings. At this stage of the renovation project, my agony is rising as I wonder how this car will be re-assembled, looking after the complex jig-saw puzzle properly and just in time (during August in Greece almost everyone is escaping the city for summer vacations!), for participating with the 250 SE Coupé in the PHILPA 39th International Classic Car Rally, an event already applied and paid for…
On the other front, George and his team at Auto-Stop/ Connolly have progressed well; the leather seats and all the other interior furnishings have been by now refurbished; at the same time new floor carpeting pieces have been cut out using period style material, utilizing the old pieces as patterns. Likewise the woodwork has already been re-varnished and repaired where needed. George reports as being quite happy with the result as far as the coloring and the varnish coats are concerned.
Wednesday 04/08/10 update
The progress made since the last report is somewhat disappointing. 😦 The main reason being the delays from the part of the electrician to start his job. He did come in on Monday 2nd August with his assistant. They started by sorting and cutting out all the additional wirings other than the original wiring loom. For the lines removed new ones will be installed. The next task was to re-route the lines into the engine bay, inspect them and re-tape with black fabric masking. The fuse box and the relays bracket were repositioned on the fire-wall. New bolts and nuts are used were required for attaching parts like the coil and some relays. In the process we established that some wiring related rubber seals were missing and a new supplementary parts list is being prepared for Niemoeller. Nevertheless, these can be retro-fitted so that the finishing of the project will not be unnecessarily delayed.
In the mean time now both the rear and front windshields have been re-installed using new weather seals together with their chrome surrounds. Ditto for the radiator grille with fresh rubber seal.
The left hand side chrome strips have been positioned as well as the door handle. The roof line weather strip has been replaced. In the rear both tail lights have been bolted as well as the boot (trunk) lid weather seal, lock and handle with fresh rubber seals.
Several main engine parts as the servo drum, the air filter and plate have been cleaned and repainted mat black. The same for the wheel rims, tires removed and rims repainted black.
Costas has done an excellent job in repainting the side panels mounted under the doors. A beautiful factory crackle dark blue finish is produced giving that special touch.
Auto Stop-Connolly has delivered all the reconditioned leather seats and side panels, the new carpeting and the re-varnished wood items. On the latter the end result is not up to expectations as the shade seems darker than the original and some of the varnish is not perfect. George is looking into ways to rectify them…
Gregory is pushing to have the car finished by Friday the 13th August as his body shop will close for summer vacations until the 22nd. Michael at AUTOHAUS STUTTGART has been advised today that the car may be transferred to his workshop on the 13th for refitting the engine and trans by end August or early September at the latest.
I keep my fingers crossed that all will go well without major hiccups and anxiety sessions.
Thursday 12/08/10 update
Today is a big day! A+B FOR CARS are delivering the finished car! 🙂 My excitement was high in anticipation to check the results. I took the late night ferry from Kea island on Wednesday so that I would spend half a day near “Princess Michaela” to scrutinize the finishing details before the car is loaded on a car transport truck tomorrow to be delivered to Piraeus so that the folks at AUTOHAUS STUTTGART will undertake the task of refitting the engine and auto gearbox, the propeller shaft, connect all the linkages, fit the new engine related spare parts, align the front end, bleed the brakes and so on.
What can I say! I arrived while the car was being washed. What is noticeable immediately is how striking all the chrome parts are viz. the dark blue color. The side strips, the wheel arch ornamentation, the bumpers, the imposing front radiator grille, the windshield surrounds, the insignia on the trunk lid, all look great and underlined, I guess just as the designer of this lovely car, Paul Bracq must have intended. Now much more accented viz-a-viz the silver metallic color before I undertook the restoration.
Needless to say, a number of details need to be taken care before the car can be declared “ready and finished”, at least according to my high standards, but also as befits the effort and the expense already invested in this Mercedes-Benz. A one page list was written down as well as another page for the supplementary parts which will be required to be ordered from Germany. The electrician has finished all the re-wiring jobs and refitting the numerous ancillary equipment such as relays, coil, horns, lights, instruments etc. and has tested that all circuits and switches operate correctly. Amen, another difficult and anxiety ridden task completed.
The interior looks good although Auto-Stop/Connolly have not finished entirely their work. Once the gar gets back her engine, she will be driven at their premises for a final coat of pigment and several saddle-soap layers. One mishap being that the ash-tray was forgotten to be re-varnished. This will be taken care of as well as few other interior and cosmetic details. One remaining task is to detail clean the roof line and the glass-ware from weather strip glues etc. These task will be taken care of by Pavlos, proprietor of the ‘Detail Clean Center’, conveniently located right next to the Auto-Stop/Connolly premises. The new carpeting looks good as far as the quality of the material selected is concerned but also the color tone and the fit are nicely done.
All in all and even after writing two big checks for the body shop and the electrician bills, I feel happy and satisfied with the result! I am now relaxed that the car will indeed be ready for the 39th International Rally starting on 20th September. To boot, I will be soon in a position to send some pictures to HRH Michel de Grèce, showing His car pretty much in a similar condition, close to that when He had first bought this car back in 1967…
Tuesday 17/08/10 update
Today’s report finds the car in Piraeus at the AUTOHAUS-STUTTGART workshop, a Mercedes-Benz passenger cars specialist, headed by one of the most experienced, factory trained mechanics in Greece, Michael Gouliaras. The main task is to refit the engine-gearbox assembly and while at it to look after all mechanical details. Among them to replace the end muffler which was found partially rusted. I asked Michael to remove the aluminum valve cover and give it to an appropriate workshop in order to buffer and polish it. It would be a nice touch upon opening the engine hood to face a polished valve cover. Yiannis, his right hand assistant was also instructed to fit the new heat shield plate in between the exhaust and intake manifolds, ensuring a correct temperatured fuel mixture injected into the cylinders for improved combustion.
Upon inspecting the car underneath, I immediately noticed that the new auto trans oil pan was fitted along with its new gasket and sealing compound. Anticipate that this new part will seal properly the gear box as the old pan was slightly warped and could not contain a minor ATF leak. At the same time I asked Yiannis to make a list of the parts which may be required during the engine re-fitting job, so as to ensure that the car restoration is indeed finished in a professional way. Detailing, detailing, detailing, makes all the difference.
With the car raised I was able to inspect for the first time the wax-tar under-sealing job which was expertly done by A + B FOR CARS the previous week. In the engine bay matters looked good. The engine was in position and most hoses already connected. The water temperature sensor was reported damaged (probably during the removal/refitting of the wiring harness), so most likely I will need to source a new replacement from Germany.
Upon leaving the premises I was left with the impression that the car will be within few more days able to be started and put back on the road. The machinist shop who will undertake to precision balance the main drive shaft (hoping to cure a vibration noticed at speeds over 80 kph) is closed for summer holidays this period, hence this important task will be done early next week when he reopens.
The next and final two steps of the restoration cum back to the original “Dunkel Blau” color respray would be some detailing for the leather interior, cleaning of the skyline and fitting the additional car parts (mostly rubber seals which were omitted from the first parts order). An important part still missing is the replacement Becker Mexico radio. More on that saga in a forthcoming report.