Walter's jalopies, '07 Jag XJ8 L and '99 Miata

  • Thread starter wfooshee


Rather ride my FJR
I've been on this forum since 2004, and just discovered this Member's Rides board. What an idiot! :crazy: I have posted aboout these cars in the "Latest purchase" thread, but I'm putting them here so I have a place to report progress, which may eventually actually happen.

Currently I have a 2003 Mercedes AMG S55, not quite a "project car," but nowhere near 100%, either. My second unit is a 1999 Miata. I've just realized that for the first time in my life (I'm in my early 60s) I have no domestic-branded vehicle, I am 100% import! I've always had an American car (although the Crown Vic I inherited from Dad back in 2010 was technically a made-in-Canada import, it's still "American," :D) From a '75 Plymouth Fury (ugh!) through a Fiero, a couple Chevys, a boatload of Oldsmobiles for some reason, and a quartet of Fords. Nothing American now, though.

I got the Mercedes from a local lot, who'd gotten it at auction. No history with it, but a clean Carfax. Nonetheless, it has been whacked on the nose as it has bumper damage, one new headlight assembly, and is missing a couple of the Parktronic sensors. It's a Canadian car, I'm the fourth owner, but the previous owner was south Florida. He was an idiot.

The car had oversize and overwide wheels on it, and the tires were narrower than the wheels so they had that splayed sidewall... There were fender run marks and grooves on the sidewalls. It also sagged the ABC hydraulic suspension after being driven for 15 minutes or so; longer than my test drive, so of course it never happened until after I signed... :ouch: Found a set of OEM wheels from a CA ebayer for cheap. They aren't the correct wheels for the car, they are from a 2002, but they are the correct size and are genuine AMG-logo wheels with a Merc part#. And they're chrome! Tires for them came from Taiwan, OEM size, speed, and weight rating, and while they don't offer the traction from something like a Pirelli, I get about 3 for 1 on the price of the Pirellis.

This S55 has EVERYTHING that Mercedes ever put in an S-class of the day except the car phone, which I don't care about. What I do care about is no Bluetooth, which wasn't really around in the day, and can't be economically added to this car. Aftermarket head units are available for the W220 cars, but for the ones with the later MOST fiber-optic audio links; mine has the zero-aftermarket-support DB2 fiber links, so an audio upgrade would be an entire system. So I plug my phone's headset jack into the AUX socket in the glove box. Other nice stuff: zillion-way power seats, including the headrests and memory. Even the back seats have power adjustments! The memory setting includes outside and inside mirrors. The tilt wheel is power-operated, and moves up out of the way when you remove the key. The passenger headrest retracts if the seat is unoccupied, so it doesn't block the driver's view that direction. The trunk is remote locked, and power closes. The doors have soft-close, so they pull themselves shut if they are closed but not fully latched. If you open a door at night, the dome lights for that row only light up; open the back door, the rear dome lights illuminate, open a front door, the front lights come one. If you have the panel dimmed at night, then turn on a reading lamp or dome light, the panel goes to full bright, then dims back down when you turn the light off. Silly little touches like that just make you go, "WOW!" There's even a powered rear window shade, pops up or retracts with a button on the dash.

Then of course, there's the engine... :sly: 5.5-liter mit Kompressor! Rated when new at 490 HP, this one felt a bit less than that, but the car was still plenty quick. Price was 5 grand, and I had way more than that from the insurance for the previous car that Hurricane Michael destroyed, so I bought it. Either the stupidest or the most brilliant car purchase I ever made.

After acquisition, with the stupid wheels on it. It really wasn't even safe to drive at that time; you can see the cord on the rear sidewall!

Compared to... The car has a better stance here, thanks to a small bit of sorting out with the ABC suspension, more on that later.

Some other shots, interior and engine bay




Rather ride my FJR
Second currently owned car is a 1999 miata, in Twilight Blue Mica. I bought it from an airman at Eglin AFB, just down the road, as he was through with his year of school there and was not taking it home. No telling how many hands it's been through, and it has some things it needs, but runs great, and is a blast to drive. Over the years, it's been worked over as what was apparently supposed to be an autocross car. The intake has been replaced, and the suspension has aftermarket coilovers, adjustable for height. The coilovers are awful! They are hard as rocks, and the ride suffers from it badly, and they're going to be replaced. Brakes have drilled and slotted rotors, and spacers behind the wheels for a little bit of a wider stance. The upper front arms were replaced with some that have a large camber adjustment, and when I bought it they were close to full negative end of their range. Tires showed wear from improper toe, too. Still, it's a Miata, and I wanted one, and the price was good.

Second issue with the car was horrible "racing" seats. They were too wide at the shoulders so they hit the seat belt tower before they move back far enough for someone of my height to be comfortable. They were also higher at the base than stock seats, so not only were my legs cramped, so was my head. Replacement seats were pricier than I expected, but make the car much more livable.

After the drive home from the purchase

Under the hood. The big intake/air-cleaner box has been removed, replaced with the cone filter and a short tube. It has a pretty nice sound.

The um... racing seats

Space wasted by the wide-shouldered seats:

Upper A-arms with the L-O-O-O-O-O-O-N-G camber slots

Camber when I bought it

and after eyeballing it

And to the alignment shop. Old-fashioned physical measurement. Toe was over a half inch, and that's after being reduced by my camber adjustment! And my eyeball was pretty good; toe was all he had to adjust!

I've been using this shop for decades, and unfortunately it was destroyed by Hurricane Michael; literally flattened. I think the guy took it as a sign it was time to retire, as he's not set up anywhere afterwards.

Changing out the seats. obviously used seats, but not in bad shape, just some normal wear, no holes or tears.

And they go all the way back!


Rather ride my FJR
First "fix" on the Miata, even before the seats, was the yellowed headlights. I bought one of those kits with the drill attachment, you wet-sand the headlight with 800, 1500, and then 3000-grit sandpaper, then apply a polish with a sponge ball. The kit didn't come with a clearcoat, but I knew I'd need it and got that separately.



A tremendous improvement, both in looks and function. Still, the '99 and '00 cars had a single-bulb, dual-filament lamp, where the later 2nd-gen Miatas had a better headlamp, with separate high and low beams. It's possible to swap, but involved; the lights are a different shape so you have to swap the bumper cover as well, making it quite expensive to do. I'm fine like this...


Rather ride my FJR
The Miata had a rough time of it when Hurricane Michael hit. Being a soft top, I knew I didn't want to leave the car outside, so I parked it in the garage for safekeeping. Storm was pretty strong, though, and this is what I found when I returned to the house...

The garage door had blown off, I lost part of the roof at that end of the house, and the garage ceiling collapsed. Not to mention stuff being thrown all over the place in there by 160+mph wind. So much for "safekeeping."

Here it is after being dug out a few days later. No glass broken, nor was the top torn (!) and the gypsum pretty much just washed off. There were a lot of little dents and scrapes and scratches, though, and I did find a bent bar in the roof frame. I kinda shoved it back into shape, but the top doesn't operate as smoothly now; I can't actually one-hand it from the driver's seat any more, I have to get ut and persuade it, but it doesn't leak, still.

I filed a claim with the insurance, and they called it a total loss. The roof damage put it over the top as far as valuation, so without that bent bar, I would have gotten a couple of new panels and a new paint job, but a new top frame is almost $4,000! So they gave me some ridiculous amount of money, and subtracted $1,600 so I could keep the car. It has a "Rebuilt" title now, what most states call Salvage, but there's nothing wrong with the car that isn't cosmetic, and I certainly wouldn't have been able to replace it for $1600!!!

So a wash, and here we are. not what you think of when you look at a "salvage" car.


Rather ride my FJR
I should describe the Mercedes as a free upgrade. The insurance money I got for the prior car and the Miata was ridiculously profitable. I kept the Miata and had over 7900 in my pocket. The Mercedes used up 5K of that, and the wheels and tires another thousand, so I'm still looking at just under 2000 dollars I haven't spent yet.

The first repair on the S55 was replacing the main accumulators, front and rear, in the ABC suspension system. I mention in post 1 that the rear of the car sagged to the point of bottoming out after driving for 15 minutes or so. Time to learn about ABC...


The suspension struts are pretty much regular coilover shocks at each corner, but the have a hydraulic piston at the top. The hydraulics operate at a pressure of about 3000 psi, pressurized by an engine-driven pump. In this case, it's a two pumps in one housing, one for the ABC, one for the power steering. Two completely separate system, but driven by one pulley for space efficiency.

The pressure is taken up by accumulator tanks throughout the car. Two large ones exist at each end of the car, and then a smaller one sits on the pump outlet, another smaller one on the line that returns to the pump. The accumulators are pressure tanks with 1500-psi nitrogen behind a diaphragm. As the pump adds pressure to the system, the diaphragm compresses the nitrogen in the accumulators. As the system operates, the accumulators absorb spikes that result from suspension compression, and supply pressure when the suspension strut needs to be extended. The pump simply builds system pressure, and the operational pressure variances are handled by the accumulators. Fluid is routed where it needs to be by a valve body at each end of the car, which either locks the fluid path to a strut, allows fluid from the strut back into the system, or sends fluid from the system to the strut. There are sensors at each strut to give ride height, and accelerometers around the car to tell the brain what the car is doing, and being asked to do.

Pumps are over $2,000, while accumulators are under $150. So i ordered a pair of main accumulators, numbers 4 and 14 in the diagram above. It's a DIY job to replace them, although it does involve some digging to get to them. The front one is behind the plastic that lines the left front wheel well, and the rear one is up above the right rear lateral link, accessed from underneath the car. Replacement is simply bleed the pressure, remove the hydraulic line, swap out the accumulator, hook the line back up, ensure there's fluid in the pump reservoir, and start the car. An air gets pumped to the reservoir, so you need to make sure it gets topped up, although there won't be very much air.

After doing that, the ride height returned to normal. You can see that the front, especially, rides lower on the shots with the chrome wheels (post-accumulator-swap) than in the shots with the original wheels. The system is still not working, though. If the cars sits for a week or so, one corner might sag a bit. If it's parked on an uneven surface which makes one wheel high, that wheel will show as sagged. Everything pumps back up to level when I start the car, but nothing else ever happens. There is a dashboard button to raise ride height, useful for pavement obstacles or if you need tire chains in the winter, but the button does nothing; the car is locked at what it considers a good startup height.

Next step is probably a valve body rebuild, basically replacing a bunch of O-rings in he hydraulic valves, which are operated by solenoids. A kit is 50 to 70 bucks or so. A system flush should be done first, which will mean a trip to a shop which has the computer and software to do a "rodeo." Also, the flush will take about 10 quarts of the fluid, at about 20 bucks a quart.

The rodeo is a computer-drive exercise of the hydraulics, randomly extending and compressing all four struts to work the fluid through the valve bodies and back to the pump. You have the return line opened into a bucket and someone keeps pouring fluid into the pump to keep it from going dry. the rodeo is also run a a re-learn for the system after component replacement. here's a 2002 S55 going through it.

There will be a decision someday soon about how far to carry the ABC repair, as opposed to replacing the system with a widely-available conventional coil-over system. I still have insurance money left over from the car I lost in the hurricane, so it's not like I'm out any pocket money, even if I need another 3 grand or so to get it right. I've not driven a working ABC system so all I can go on as to whether it's worth it is the advice I'm getting on the forums, which is all "FIX IT!!!!!" The replacement system is a huge compromise, as there are no anti-roll bars in the car; that's all handled by the hydraulics. If I need to get the struts rebuilt, that will be anywhere from 350 to 500 per strut, so even that won't put me into "my own" money, yet. Right now, I'm leaning to getting it fixed.
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Rather ride my FJR
The Mercedes threw its accessory belt the other day, resulting in no water pump, no power steering, no nothing. I was less than two miles from home, so I continued, while watching the temperature gauge. I will tell you that this is a BEAST to steer with no power steering!!!!! Close to 4500 pounds curb weight!

Anyway, the accessory belt is about seven miles long, and doubles back on itself about 43 times by the time all of the doodads are driven.

This is what it looked like after I got it out...

To replace it, the supercharger belt comes off first. Found an interesting thing when that was removed... the pulley was sheared!!! The belt is driving the pulley pretty as you please, but the pulley is no longer connected to the supercharger, it's just riding its bearing! I've been driving an un-supercharged AMG all this time!


What got replaced is the whole clutch and bearing on which the pulley rides, the stuff you see behind the pulley in the picture. That assembly, new, is quite pricy, but I found several salvage on eBay for around 250. ordered one, and it went one smooth as silk. It did take some VERY careful tapping and nudging to get it exactly centered and straight onto the supercharger shaft, but once in place it slid on smooth. I now have access to all of the horses that were previously missing, and let me tell you... this is by FAR the quickest car I have ever driven! It nails my friend's C5! I now understand why the brakes are so big!!! They have to convert a lot of kinetic energy into a lot of heat, and dissipate that heat well! Front calipers are eight pistons each, and the rears four!

As an aside, speaking of huge brakes, when I changed the wheels, I of course test fit the wheels to make sure they cleared the brakes, and they did. What doesn't clear, though, is a row of stick-on balance weights on the centerline of the wheel! :lol:


Rather ride my FJR
Almost got whacked the other day by a guy running a stop sign. he was going through the intersection, slammed brakes just in time to stop before reaching my lane. Fortunately I was on the far side of a 4-lane road, which gave him enough room to get stopped before t-boning me.

Afterward, though, the most perverse thought occurred to me: Had that accident happened, and torn up the side or the rear quarter of the Mercedes, I'd be there with a car that my insurance would probably not want to fix, a total loss. There I'd be with just the Miata and a wrecked Mercedes with a phenomenal engine.

My perverse thought was... people have been dropping V8s into Miatas for decades! :eek:

OK, not really a consideration, I have NO IDEA what would have to be done and how much it would cost to build a 490-HP Miata... :lol:


Rather ride my FJR
I've been driving the S55 with the different transmission modes to experience the difference. The owner's manual describes DC and DS as Drive - Comfort and Drive - Sport, and describes the difference as Sport giving faster shifts, allowing more revs, and Comfort actually starting in 2nd instead of 1st. After playing, there's more to it than that, and those Germans that work for the three-pointed star have some brain cells going for them, and some appreciation for what it is to drive, rather than operate, a car. One of the things about it is that in both D modes, it downshifts as you slow down, not when you give gas after slowing down. Your basic American Dodge or Ford, you slow down for a curve, and then hit the pedal to come out, the transmission shifts down after you've asked for acceleration. The Mercedes is already in the lower gear because you've slowed down. That's a HUGE difference in driving! maybe a lot of cars out there do this, but this is the first automatic I've experienced with that anticipation.

The transmission has three modes, DC, DS, and M, with M being fully manual, no automatic upshifts. (It downshifts to 1st once you stop, but otherwise no auto-downs either.) M shifts are operated by buttons on the back of the steering wheel at 9 and 3 o'clock, left for down, right for up. You can also tap the shifter left for down and right for up. If you redline in a gear, that's as fast as you go. If you ask for a downshift that would destroy the engine, it won't until the car slows down appropriately.

DC is the everyday "I'm a banker or a lawyer driving around town in my Benz" mode. No screaming revs, the normal kickdown if you hit the gas hard, it shifts up as soon as practical given the load, and actually moves out from a stop in second gear instead of first.

The discovery of "Hey, these guys know their cars" comes with DS mode. Like I said, shifts are a bit quicker and firmer, but it never shifts if it thinks you don't want it to. It holds the gear for a couple of seconds even after you let off the gas. In Sport mode, you might not be done with that gear, and this car knows it! Say you're in a series of sweepers, and you accelerate out of a medium-slow apex. It's already in second because it downshifted as you were braking. You nail the gas, then have to lift, maybe even tap the brake for the next curve, but you're 30 mph faster than when you left the last curve. It DOESN'T upshift immediately in Sport mode just because you lift off the gas. The assumption is that you're not through with the gear, that you might still be needing it in that piece of road coming up. It may be two or three seconds of straight and steady before the transmission says, "OK, that's enough second gear, let's shift." By holding the gear, you aren't clicking up and kicking down all the time the way a "normal" automatic would be doing, and it's a phenomenal experience!

Also, in both D modes you can manually shift by tapping the shifter left for down, right for up. It won't shift higher than a reasonable gear in wither D mode (although M mode will go up almost as soon as the car is moving.)


Rather ride my FJR
So I took the car in to a local well-known indie shop to have the A/C looked at. He says it's gonna be about 2 grand.

In this system, and many European systems, the compressor doesn't cycle on and off, it has a solenoid valve which increases and decreases the refrigerant flow as needed, and he says the valve is frozen. Being part of the compressor, he says I need a new compressor, and to replace the compressor, the ABC pump has to be removed, as it's either in the way or on top of the bolts, or something. The cost of the job is about 65% labor. I've decided to wait.

Meanwhile, he read the codes off the computer, and gave me a SIX-PAGE printout of faults, with their descriptions. At least it's not six pages of just a list, it does have the descriptions with the faults. Some reading for when I get bored. Most of them are things I already know about, anyway. SRS failures, because the front end has been dinged and I don't think the sensor is up there. Parktronic failure, same reason. ABC failures, we already know about, and I'm working on getting the suspension sorted.

Since then, in doing some research, I've found that the solenoid is available as a separate part. Not from Mercedes, so his software doesn't say, "Get a new solenoid," it says, "Get a new compressor." But they're all over the place in the aftermarket, for anywhere from 20 to 50 bucks, and they're held in the compressor by a big C-clip. System has to be evacuated to replace it, but if it's just the solenoid's bad, I can get one, it's accessible on the side of the compressor without removing anything, so I'm thinking, "WIN!" We'll see. I need to match the connector, as the solenoid has Audi, Mercedes, Volvo, VW, and other applications, all using various Denso compressors, but this should be as simple as evacuate the system, change the solenoid, charge the system, profit.

Stay tuned.
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Rather ride my FJR
New suspenders for the Miata! Tein Street Advance-Z. The middle level of their line, these have height adjustment and 16-point damping adjustment. The models below this (Street Basis-Z) line have no damping adjustment, and the model above this (Street Flex-Z) adds height adjustment and separate preload adjustment. (These adjust height by compressing the spring, so while height adjustment is the goal, you end up reducing preload if you lower the car, adding preload to raise the car.)

After they arrived, I see in the instructions that I'm supposed to use the stock upper pieces: the hat, bushings, top washer and nut. Well, I don't have those because when I bought my car, it came with a cheap POS set of eBay coilovers that make it ride like a dump truck. The Flex-Z, in addition to separating height and preload adjustments, also come with pillow-ball upper mounts, so that wouldn't have been a worry. The price difference was enough, though, that paying return shipping on these and getting the Flex set would still have been a couple hundred more than buying all the stuff I need from an online dealership. The hats were about 30 bucks apiece, but the rest, upper and lower top bushing, washer, and nut, for each shock, was less than 40 bucks. Turns out two of the hats are backordered, so I'm still waiting to be able to install.


The upper mount of the existing set. Completely different from NB stock pieces, and not transferable to the Teins.

BTW, the current ride is so harsh that bumps in the road trigger the event recording in my dashcam!!
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Rather ride my FJR
Got a package from moss Miata yesterday! YAY, THE BACKORDERED SHOCK MOUNTS!!!!

Wait... wait... there's only one! They sent ONE of them, the last one is still backordered!!!! How does that happen?!?!?! 🤬🤬🤬:banghead::banghead:

Anyway, I've assembled the three that I can, waiting now for the final top hat to arrive. For each shock, I had to obtain the bushing under the hat, the hat itself, the bushing over the hat, the washer over the upper bushing, and the top nut, used as a locknut. Tein supplies the larger nut, and they say not to reuse, so I supposedly can't use the ones on the cheap shocks that are in the car. The spec is 45mm from the top of the shaft to the bottom of the lower nut, and that really squishes those bushings, as shown here:


And here's one assembled shock, ready to go into the car. Spec on initial ride height setting is 31mm of the black plastic showing under the adjusting rings. After installation, you drive around a bit, let the stuff settle, measure your ride height as center of the wheel to the fender, then raise the car and adjust as needed.


Rather ride my FJR
So I went to take the Mercedes out to the grocery store, I get in the car, start it up, foot on the brake, shift to drive, and... wait a minute, there's no "shift into drive!" I can't move it back from Park! Shut the car off and restart it, because a reset fixes EVERYTHING, right? Nope, still stuck in Park. At least I'm home, and not out and about somewhere!

Fine, put the top down and take the Miata to the store...

Get back home, hit the Intertubes for info. Turns out there's a plastic piece inside the shifter that is a common failure on the W220 car, among others. That piece breaks, and when the solenoid energizes to move that piece to disengage the shifter lock, nothing happens. Cheap enough part, 20 bucks or so, but VERY difficult to get to! You take the console out, take the shifter out, take the shifter partly apart, and there it is. Mercedes, by the way, does not offer the part as a repair, they will only sell you an entire new shifter, approaching 8 to 12 hundred bucks. Nope, not gonna go that way!

Diving into this, the shifter is one of the most over-engineered things I've ever seen in a car!!!! All except for that one plastic piece...

Haven't removed the console yet, just the knob and cover, but here's the goal:

This has nothing to do with the shifter, but with the console off, we find the rear seat climate control. The car has independent controls for all four seats (except for the fan speed, as there's a fan for the front passengers to share, and one for the rear passengers.) The rear isn't just vents from the system under the dash, there is refrigerant and engine coolant running back here, and its own blower!

Back to the shifter. Here's the offending part, then we'll go over what it took to get to it:

in situ.

Here's how it works. The big canister on the left is the solenoid, it extends a pin upward which is supposed to rock the plastic arm, not break it. First picture is locked in Park, second picture is released.


This is the housing for the shifter, the top of which you saw in the first picture:

Then this plastic plate comes off the side...


Finally, you have to yank this curved sheet metal piece off the top, because that piece on the side is in the way.


Damn thing has an electronic black box!!!

And just because the post hasn't been geeky enough, a video of the Park unlock function:

The replacement arm is ordered, may be a week before it gets here. It's OK, I guess, because the car apparently likes to sit stuck in Park!

And speaking of over-engineered, this clip, retaining the linkage from the transmission onto the bottom of the shifter, was EXTREMELY annoying, and I anticipate further annoyance on reassembly. Mercedes: what's wrong with a simple cotter pin?!?!?!?!
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Rather ride my FJR
FINALLY got the last backordered OEM shock mount for the Miata last week. Took the car over to the house (that I'm still not back in after the hurricane) so I could work in a driveway instead of a gravel lot. Downside of that was when I drank the last of my water bottles from the cooler I took, I was in a bit of a bind with the car disassembled... it was HOT, and my shade moved away as the morning progressed, but I was able to get a couple of big glasses of water from a neighbor. (Water's off at my house, and all my glasses are in storage, anyway!)

So, two corners at a time, raised the car up, removed the wheels, loosened the existing junk coilovers (one big bolt at the bottom, two nuts on the mount up top,) and realized I can't move the lower arm far enough... I didn't even think about unlinking the sway bars! Please please please don't make me put the wheels back on and lower the car! I was able to get the link undone, although it was slow. This IS a '99, after all. I have those headlock wrenches, where the box end can slip backwards over the corner of the nut without actually pulling the wrench off; next best thing to a ratchet wrench, but still open end! That was a godsend, as I could only get 60 degrees at a time of turn, while holding a 5mm Allen key in the bolt end. Then kinda just bang the bolt out, as the sway bar had some twist on it, with one side of the car in the air!

Once I was loose with the sway bar, I could shove the suspension down far enough to get the old unit out, and the new one in. pretty straightforward, with no spring compression needed. Changing the whole unit is no different than replacing the old-style shock absorbers on an '75 Plymouth! Got both left-hand side units in, put the wheels back on, and dropped the car. Well, crap... Their recommended starting point for height adjustment is too low, the tires are just inside the fender. It's about an inch and a quarter low. Backed it out and drove around the block, to "settle" it, still the same height, needs to come up. So I jack the car back up, look for a ratio in the instructions and don't find one, so it's a guessing game. Great. How many times am I going to have to lower and raise the car off the jacks?!?! (Ratio I'm looking for is how much adjustment on the shock equals how much vehicle height changes.) Up it goes, increase front and rear the same amount, just guessing how much, put the wheels on, drop it, looks good! Drive around the block, still correct height! Now I know where to set the other side to start, at least.

Got the other side done, and with the car on the ground, relinked the sway bars, and set the shocks 8 clicks from full hard as directed in the instructions as a starting point. Test drive. Pretty damn hard, still! Not enough different to justify nearly 700 bucks, THAT'S for sure! Decided to go full soft, start with Crown Vic mode, see how it goes, and tighten it up from there. Glad I did, because it turns out these things have THIRTY clicks of adjustment, not the 16 given in the instructions! My 8 clicks out was still 3/4 hard!

I was actually quite happy with the full soft. No floating, only one really nasty RR crossing gave me any wheel bounce, so I'm gonna leave it there for a while and see how it goes.

And the event recorder on the dash cam hardly ever goes off, now!

BTW, still waiting on the part for the Mercedes shifter. Should see that this week...


Rather ride my FJR
New part arrived for the Mercedes shifter's Park lock release. About an hour to reassemble, reinstall into the car, connect everything up, reinstall the console and trim, and drive away!!! I can use the car again!!!! The comfort! The POWER!!! :D



Rather ride my FJR
So we had a bit of a weather event this week, with Hurricane Sally striking about 100 miles west of here. While we didn't see strong winds here, with maximum gusts in the 20s, we were definitely in the outer rain bands, and as slowly as the storm was moving, it dumped on us for nearly 36 hours, giving 14 or 15 inches of rain!

I still live in a camping trailer behind my office, with repairs on my house from Hurricane Michael in 2018 just now starting. Both cars and my bike are here with me, of course, not at the house.

Midday Tuesday, already too late to move the cars out of the parking lot behind the office. No reason to panic, yet, as this amount of water had happened twice before in the past couple of years.

A few hours later, and the neighbor across the street is in panic mode, trying to get stuff off of the floor of his garage as the water starts to come in.

Another couple of hours, and it's higher than I've ever seen it, including during Hurricane Michael.

There's always an idiot that thinks they can make it through... :indiff:

Moved to the highest ground in the lot...

Cars in the water now, although not in the water...

I have to wade to my trailer, as well.

The next morning, Wednesday the 16th, it's this close to getting into the office, and still raining.

OK, starting to panic...

And... it's coming into the office! I'd already begun the task of clearing the floor, finding tables, desks, anything with free horizontal space to put stuff on.

We ended up with about an inch and a half in the office before it was done.

Up to the doors of the Miata, and... Hey! Why are the brake lights on?!?! (This was the moment it first occurred to me to disconnect the batteries.) And obviously still raining hard.

Another idiot!!! This vehicle became my water level reference, as I watched the water rise into the grill, and when it receded, the chrome strip under the grill appeared.

This is as high as it got. The Mercedes belly pan is wet, and the Miata is well and truly wet. My FJR1300 has more clearance, but the lower part of the engine is wet. No worries, nothing electrical there.

As the water receded so that I didn't have to wade to the cars any more, I examined the Miata.

I started the Miata, it fired right up, and pumped water out of the exhaust pipe. I left it to idle for a half hour or so to clear the exhaust of water. When I tried to start the Mercedes, it just clicked. Brake light was on long enough to drain the battery before I disconnected it, so I jumped it from the Miata. Cranks but absolutely no fire; no cough, no sputter, no nuthin'. Other stuff not working, either, so I disconnected the battery again and put a charger on it. A few hours later I came back to try again, same result. As for not-working stuff, the brake lights are still stuck on, and while the doors lock and unlock from the remote, the trunk doesn't open remotely, and open or closed, its lock just sits there and clicks every couple of seconds. The door mirrors don't fold out when you open the door, the steering column (which is power-tilt) does not move into position like it should when you insert the key, but that may be lost memory, so I reprogram it. Nope, still doesn't work with the key. And all the starting attempts have confused the ABC system, which has released pressure in the front struts and lowered the front suspension; the front is low-riding, and without engine power to drive the pump, the system has no pressure to raise the suspension to proper height.

There's no water inside the car, but the may be rain penetration under the hood, and the belly pan certainly got wet. I'll open everything up and hope it dries out and gets better. It never did. Today, Sunday, when I reconnect the battery, all the behavior is the same: brake lights on, cranks but no fire. Starting to look like Progressive wants to buy my Mercedes.

The bike is fine. Started right up, I rode it over to its normal, now-dry parking space. Miata runs fine, needs to be dried out.

I took the shop-vac to the car to get the standing water out, then I pulled the seats and center console, easy-peasey, and started removing the plastic buttons that hold the carpet down. The carpet goes across the transmission tunnel under the dash, though, and I don't see how to remove the lower dash trim to get that clear. I consulted my Miata forum, and the "correct" way to remove the carpet is to remove the dash. The entire dashboard! The "forum" way to remove the carpet is to cut it just above where it disappears into the plastic trim. Cut it I did, and without cutting any fingers off!

More water to remove!

Rip up that fibre-mat stuff and some more shop-vac. I also found that the weather boots on the shifter are toast, both upper and lower, so I Amazoned those pieces. I don't know where to find some of that stuff for under the carpet, but I don't want the carpet going back in without it. I don't want that level of road noise, and there are actually a couple of bolts up through the floor that are long enough to eventually pierce the carpet without that pad under it.

I took the carpet to a self-serve car wash to use the pressure sprayer on rinse mode. Before:

and after getting it back home and some more shop-vac:

I put the seats and center console back into the car so I could drive it. Not pictured is the carpet panel behind the seats, also removed but not needing cleaning, just drying.

I hate that the Merc appears to be dead. It's a car with problems, which I knew going in, but it was cheap to buy, the problems are not insurmountable, or at least weren't before this, and OMG the performance! Dropping from 490-ish HP to 0 absolutely sucks.


Rather ride my FJR
Progressive towed the Mercedes to Tallahassee today to have it checked out. The dealership there said they're backed up far enough that it will be a week or two before they can even look at it. Progressive called my indie shop first, but he said he won't touch a flood car. So, off it goes to the closest dealership, an hour and a half away!


It took the tow truck operator almost an hour to load the car! He "walked" the tilt bed under the rear wheels without moving the car, lifted it just a little, walked the bed further under the car, slowly and gently, until he had the front of the bed under the front lift points of the frame. He put blocks under there, and lifted the front end into the air, put blocks under the front wheels and set it back down, then continued walking the bed back toward the front wheels. The front bumper still got a couple of popped spots on it, so we'll see what happens there.

I did find water in the car that I was unaware of before. I didn't look at the right rear footwell, because everything on the left side was dry when I checked. Turns out the floor under and behind the front passenger seat is wet, and was starting to smell, today.
If they total it, I'm not gonna buy it back to part out, I'll take the money and run.
Honestly, buy something domestic to work on as a project car.

Yes older German cars are a treat in terms of uniqueness and rarity and what-not but it's not worth the headache.

Even if you lived in Germany it's not worth the headache, emissions laws aside.


Rather ride my FJR
I've gotten rather used to the S-class room and comfort level!! :lol:

Meanwhile, I've got the console and seats back in the Miata and am driving it. I've got some peel-and-stick insulating foam sheets ordered to put in the floors, and the shifter upper and lower boots to weather-proof and heat-proof where that comes up into the car. As for footwells, for now the rubber mats will have to do! The stuff should be here by the weekend, and I can stick the foam stuff down, install the shifter stuff, and put the carpet back in.


Rather ride my FJR
From earlier in the thread, post 7: 💡 :cheers:

"Almost got whacked the other day by a guy running a stop sign. he was going through the intersection, slammed brakes just in time to stop before reaching my lane. Fortunately I was on the far side of a 4-lane road, which gave him enough room to get stopped before t-boning me.

Afterward, though, the most perverse thought occurred to me: Had that accident happened, and torn up the side or the rear quarter of the Mercedes, I'd be there with a car that my insurance would probably not want to fix, a total loss. There I'd be with just the Miata and a wrecked Mercedes with a phenomenal engine.

My perverse thought was... people have been dropping V8s into Miatas for decades! :eek:

OK, not really a consideration, I have NO IDEA what would have to be done and how much it would cost to build a 490-HP Miata... :lol:"

I don't think I'll get to keep the engine and electronics if they total it :D, and I'm not going to buy it back...


Rather ride my FJR
After Hurricane Michael (see post #4 above) the car cleaned up OK, had some dents and dings and scratches, and the top, while not punctured by any falling debris, apparently got a little bit bent. The third bow was obviously bent, and I shove it back out as best I could, but the top was not smooth to put down and up after that. You could do it, but it was not a 1-hand job like it should have been. I ordered a new top soon after, but I didn't want to put it on a bent frame. Some time early this year I found a frame for my 2nd-gen Miata on eBay and had it sent. Turns out that not only was it a good frame with a torn-up throw-away top, its weather seals along the windows were in better shape than mine, and I was going to have to replace those. Score!

The stresses on the top from the bent frame, and maybe from the debris falling on it, have resulted in some stitches starting to pull,, and the rear interior seam pretty much completely unfolding, causing a lot of interference in the folding action.




The top had started to leak, so since I had the carpet out after the flooding, i didn't want to put that back in until the top was sorted. This past weekend was cool and dry, zero percent chance of rain, so time to git 'er done!

This is probably the hardest thing I've ever done on a car. I've crawled under dashboards to hook up stereos and pull speaker wires, I've replaced head gaskets, starters, springs and shocks, all kinds of stuff. THIS... was a pain in the butt!

The water drain around the back is a rubber molded channel that has to attach to the base of the top with snap rivets that you hammer into place, and later, the base of the top with that drain rail bolts to the car body. First, you have to drill out several rivets holding the top fabric to the frame, and the new fabric gets pop-riveted in those spots. Only about four on each side, and the replacement top has the holes in place. Same with the holes lining up the rain rail, and the holes for the front bow. Every place the top is pierced for hardware is clearly there, it just has to be done in the right order.

I elected to attach the top to my frame, then drop the assembly into the car. The last step is to fasten the back of the top to the car body. There are about 13, maybe 15 studs that the top/rain-rail assembly attach to, with a metal bar clamping the top down, with nuts on the studs over that bar. That makes a solid seal all the way around the back, with the rain rail acting as a gutter behind the top, bringing water forward to drain holes behind the doors. The instructions say to attach these brackets with the header bow fastened. Nope... no can do. The top doesn't even reach the studs if the header is fastened. So I fastened the back, and then couldn't close the top. It was over an inch and a half from reaching the windshield:

At this point I'd been working inside the car nearly two hours, cramped in there. I had the seats out, kneeling on the metal floor, reaching up to the back of the top for all of that hardware. This was annoying!!

What I ended up doing was loosening the nuts on the bars clamping the back of the top to the body, so they were just on the studs, and I was able to latch the header. Then I tightened those nuts back down and the top stretched tight.

Finally! DONE!!!

I left the top up for two days, and I've just now gone out to lower it and finish the weatherproofing along the base, which you can't reach with the top up. It should be good to go now, and we'll find out over the next couple of days, as there is more rain coming, and... Hurricane Delta is out there in the gulf!!!

BTW, no word yet on the Mercedes...
United States
United States
What a drama filled thread. It seems like your cars are fighting mother nature and morons running red lights. Still, I'm enjoying the read.

Is there anything that you have in mind if you have to replace the Mercedes?


Nothing to see here...
South Korea

Mercedes V12!


I really truly got rather attached to that S-class space and comfort! Even if it's not an AMG version, I'm gonna shop around for another S. might not be able to do it, but here's hoping.

Why not both? I've always quite fancied a CL600. They're cheap as chips over here, if a little rare.


I wish somebody would have told me
United States
Puget Sound

Mercedes V12!

I really truly got rather attached to that S-class space and comfort! Even if it's not an AMG version, I'm gonna shop around for another S. might not be able to do it, but here's hoping.

Have you thought about a newer E55 or E63 to replace the S55? They seem to be coming down in price quite a bit.


Rather ride my FJR
I've had my eye open. Don't know yet that the S55 is gone, though, I've still had no word.