Walter's jalopies

Discussion in 'Member's Rides' started by wfooshee, Apr 3, 2020.

  1. wfooshee

    wfooshee Premium

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    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!
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    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.
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    Some other shots, interior and engine bay
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  2. wfooshee

    wfooshee Premium

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    4,421
    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
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    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.
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    The um... racing seats
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    Space wasted by the wide-shouldered seats:
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    Upper A-arms with the L-O-O-O-O-O-O-N-G camber slots
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    Camber when I bought it
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    and after eyeballing it
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    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.
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    Changing out the seats. obviously used seats, but not in bad shape, just some normal wear, no holes or tears.
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    And they go all the way back!
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  3. wfooshee

    wfooshee Premium

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    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.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    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...
     
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  4. wfooshee

    wfooshee Premium

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    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...
    [​IMG]

    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.
    [​IMG]

    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.
    [​IMG]
     
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  5. wfooshee

    wfooshee Premium

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    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...

    [​IMG]

    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 for 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 handle 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.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2020
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  6. wfooshee

    wfooshee Premium

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    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.
    [​IMG]

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

    [​IMG]

    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:
    [​IMG]
     
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  7. wfooshee

    wfooshee Premium

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    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:
     
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  8. wfooshee

    wfooshee Premium

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    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.)
     
  9. wfooshee

    wfooshee Premium

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    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.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2020 at 2:29 AM