Best MB engine for custom vintage build? - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-17-2012, 05:57 PM Thread Starter
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Best MB engine for custom vintage build?

I need to choose a MB engine & drivetrain to power a 1936 540K special roadster. This is not a "Heritage" or other fiberglas kit car; it is a true 540K built by some of the premier restoration experts for the original cars. It will be a 540K in every respect except engine, transmission and suspension. Of course the original was a supercharged straight 8. I'm thinking about an M103 from a 1989 300SE. What would you put in this car and why? Thanks for any input. I think the two basic arguments are: (1) something that looks relatively period (straight six), and (2) something that would cause car guys to exclaim, "Hey, nice engine."

Last edited by 540K; 05-17-2012 at 06:03 PM.
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-17-2012, 11:56 PM
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I'm curious about the story behind the project, did you find the car without the running gear or just want something unique? Have you fully ruled out original type engine/trans?

BTW congrats on getting the user name 540K, can't believe nobody had it already! lol

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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-18-2012, 12:42 AM
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Thanks for any input. I think the two basic arguments are: (1) something that looks relatively period (straight six), and (2) something that would cause car guys to exclaim, "Hey, nice engine."
Thats got to rule out an m103 ,athstetics wise
How about an m130 with a custom inlet and a supercharger hanging off the side for a bit of authenticity
Or if you have some real coin to spend join two 4 cyls into an eight, huge money but probly less the origional running gear lol
Personally Id be tempted to go with a WW2 aero engine Ive never seen a luxury style aero engine special..

Oh yeah post some pics!


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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-18-2012, 07:46 AM
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540K, is this the car has been the subject of a little discussion over on the AACA forum in the past; too bad you were not able to source an engine. Curious, when you say "original car" do you mean original chassis and special roadster body built to spec? Assume that is the case, which makes your approach a lot more understandable now. Who built the body for this?

If it was the car I am thinking of, the thought was it would be ready for auto show circuits this year, I think, but that does not sound like the case. In any event sounds like you are going down the right path, glad your first choice is MB, wihtout giving away too much, will the car present as "stock" or look like a hot rod?


1989 Mercedes 560 SL
1930 Ford A Roadster
1914 Ford T Speedster

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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-18-2012, 07:50 AM Thread Starter
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I have ruled out an original engine/trans only because I do not have $700,000+ to buy one of these cars and turn it into a "donor" car. I know others rebody cabriolets into special roadsters, but I would have a difficult time emotionally doing that, especially now that most people have already restored the surviving cars. If I could find an original 500 or 540K chassis/engine, I would certainly use that.

I will definitely be posting some photos this summer. I will be visiting the shop where the body is being fabricated next month.
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-18-2012, 07:59 AM Thread Starter
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OWS (I'm a dog person too),
No, this car has never been discussed on the forums. I just posted the same message to BW and AACA yesterday. I didn't say this is an "original car," I said it was being built by some of the premier restorers of original cars. The body is steel over ash wood just like Mercedes did it in the '30s. I am collecting "correct" parts as if restoring an original car. I thought I was going to be starting with an original chassis, but the car hasn't been offered for sale yet - at any price. So, building my own rather than waiting perhaps years for a "donor" car with no guarantee I'll ever find one at a price below $500K. My car won't be ready for 3-5 years. It will present as a correct 540K but for engine/trans/suspension - the stuff you cannot see without opening the hood or crawling under.

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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-18-2012, 08:05 AM Thread Starter
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It is a really fun project. The wood frame for the body is done and it is now getting steel panels - the well for the spare is done, the rear wheel wells, rumble seat frame. I also have correct head, spot, fog and fender lights. I'm expecting a box full of parts for the dash today or tomorrow. I will have the guages made in California - exact copies of the originals, of course. It's costing a small fortune to use all correct parts rather than significantly less expensive alternatives for lights, door handles etc.

Last edited by 540K; 05-18-2012 at 08:07 AM.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-18-2012, 09:52 AM
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M189 Engine

I have an 3.0l M189 engine and transmission available, from a 1965 W108 chassis. this is the Alloy block latest of versions..
I can get serial of motor, comes with a MBZ factory rebuilt transmission.
This motor sit vertical unlike the tipped gullwing/sL version.
fits inside a W111 or W108 motor compartment.

Brian O
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-18-2012, 10:02 AM
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Sounds interesting, 540K. Just saw your post on AACA, if you are Keiser's friend then it is the same project, if not, you may not be the only one doing such a project. If you are interested, I believe that discussion was in the "general" section, do a search there. Good luck on the parts search as well. Would love to see some pics from your coachbuilder. There is a shop here in CT building a period style speedster type body (like an Auburn) for a local customer on a RR chassis. Not authentic as it was designed by the shop and the customer, but it is period in all the details. Great use for a trashed sedan with a nice chassis. 3 years in, it is getting close and has been fun to follow...

Would be interesting to know the story behind gettng the chassis and body dimensions, etc. I am sure that took some time in and of itself.


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1930 Ford A Roadster
1914 Ford T Speedster
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-18-2012, 10:20 AM Thread Starter
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Don't know Keiser. The hardest part came easiest for me - the body. I'm using a craftsman who has rebodied original cars, so he already knows how to do it. The frame is easy enough because all they need is the marriage points from the body and the measurements for correct height taking into consideration the suspension and wheel/tire size. That rise in the rear of the frame is critical. Front suspension is more visible than rear - need to find a good coil & A-arm. Considering Kugel.
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