Red Fox
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Date registered: Dec 2015
Location: Near Zion National Park, Utah
Posts: 1,308
Garage
Vehicle Name Red Fox
Year 1983
Make Mercedes-Benz
Model 380SL
Color Red
1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SL
1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SL 1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SL
History Purchased 17 December 2015
Purchase Price: $2,906.00 US on eBay
Mileage: 199,963

Original Owner: Margarita C. Solis M.D. --- to approximately 1995
Second Owner: Dawn Tunbridge --- to 2005
Third Owner: Walt L. Williams (Me)
There was an owner previous to myself but he never transferred the title or drove the car. In storage from 2005 to 2015

An interesting note: The car was still equipped with a Bell-South Mobility car phone that the original owner had installed. The handset and cradle literally crumbled when I went to remove it. The hole in the right rear quarter panel for the antenna was plugged with a bolt down stainless steel plug with rubber seal.

The car sat in indoor storage in Salt Lake City, Utah for approximately 10 years. The fuel in the fuel system was, of course, varnish-like and it gummed up the fuel system. It ran rough when I bought it (Dec 2015) with a steady miss. The engine seems to run strong in spite of that. A positive note: The engine already had the dual row timing chain.

This car was neglected by its previous owner after they bought their new Mercedes as it required a considerable amount of overdue maintenance and corrections to bad repair jobs and "band-aids". See below.
Exterior
1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SL Exterior
The windshield wiper transmission pivot point lost one of its bolts and broke. An 1/8" thick reinforcing steel plate was fashioned to fit snugly over the pivot point base making it so that it could be firmly bolted down again. I opted to have the pivot point base brazed back together before mounting the aforementioned reinforcing plate.

I have now acquired a piece of trim for my hard top. This is what the old one looked like. ------->

The car looks very presentable and it gets a lot of positive looks. Upon further inspection it appears that the left door was involved in a fender fight. The body putty work is poor as it is wavy and the paint left side of the car has an orange peel texture. The body work looks like it was done by an amateur. I wouldn't take much to bring the body back to premium condition. Wet sand the entire body back down to the primer, fix the small dents and bad putty work on the left door, and repaint. The right side of the car I believe has the original paint and has worn through spots. There is only a tiny bit of rust on this car.

Interior
1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SL Interior 1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SL Interior
There is plans of replacing the worn seat leather and possibly the door panel skins. I have seen a door panel wood strip kit. I think would add to the elegance.

At the time I purchased the car the climate control system was completely inoperative. The push button control panel in the console face turned out to be fried. I found a couple postings here on this forum that stated that when the Auxiliary Water Pump goes bad that pump will start pulling too much current causing the push button module to overheat, ruining it. The push button module's circuit board is incapable of handling more than an amp. If the current exceeds an amp it will cause the circuit board to heat up beyond its thermal limits. A fresh "Programa" rebuilt unit has now been purchased. The Auxiliary Water Pump was checked and found to be seized up. It only made a clicking sound when 12V was applied. A new Auxiliary Water Pump has now been installed. I will be installing a 1 amp fuse on the power side of the Auxiliary Water Pump to act as a preventive measure against burning out the push button module in the future. Programa's own installation instructions states that if the Auxiliary Water Pump is pulling more than 1.3 amps that the pump should be replaced. The fuse should provide a good indicator as when that should be.

Checked all the vacuum connection under dash tubing for the central locking system. I reinforced all the connections with small zip ties -- like hose clamps. I tested the vacuum switchover valves. 2 of the vacuum switchover valves needed to be replaced. One was damaged, the other was shorted.

Repaired the front of the heater box. The forward panel on the heater box needed to be reinforced at the typical place; where the internal upper vacuum actuator is mounted. It has been reinforced with 2 pieces of (approx) 22 GA sheet steel inside and out and fastened with pop rivets; its not pretty but it made the front of the box very ridged and will likely outlast the rest of the car. I have replaced the 2 vacuum actuators inside the heater box at that time. Because the proper actuators for inside the heater box were either not available or grossly expensive I have purchased new actuators intended for the fresh air vents -- much less expensive -- and swapped the bases, as the plastic housing of the old actuators were still in good condition. This made it so that no actuator mounting bracket modifications were needed.

In the second year I replaced the convertible top and seat leather with new from Tops Online. The top was first and the seats came later that summer. The smell of fresh leather is a wonderful thing.

In-Car Entertainment
1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SL In-Car Entertainment 1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SL In-Car Entertainment
A new Blaupunkt Brisbane 230 sound system has been purchased along with a pair of new 4" JBL speakers. I am not confident that the speaker will fit in the factory dash speaker locations, but I will try -- they have big magnets. 75% of any good sound system is good quality speakers. This Blaupunkt does not have CD capabilities or a cassette deck as these are considered outdated. It has a SD card slot behind the face plate and a front panel USB connection. There is an Android phone app for control -- through Bluetooth -- and the ability to control the unit directly from your phone.

Under the Hood
1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SL Under the Hood 1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SL Under the Hood 1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SL Under the Hood
One of the major vacuum leaks was the power brake booster. When the brake pedal was pressed you can hear a hissing sound inside the car indicating a tear in vacuum diaphragm. The check valve in the vacuum line for the brake booster was cracked. A re-manufactured brake booster has been installed and the vacuum line has been replaced with a non-OEM hose and checked valve. A new master cylinder has also been installed as its rear seal being bad was the cause of the brake booster failure. The brakes still need to be bleed.

The timing chain was found to be very stretched; 10deg out of time at the harmonic balancer and the timing chain tensioner was nothing more than a glorified spring, so the timing chain was very loose and flopped around. I have now installed a new timing chain via the "right-cam-sprocket-feed-method". All the nylon chain guides in the heads, the chain tensioner liner, and tensioner were also replaced. Not an easy task.

8 new spark plugs, distributor cap and rotor have been replaced as a preventive measure. The old ones looked well used. The spark plug wires that were on the car and had cracked insulation. A new set of proper spark plug wires made for this car has been installed. One of the things I did to my classic pickup is to use a piece of solid core spark plug for a coil wire. I am thinking about doing that here as I found it made the truck run very smoothly.

Because the car was running poorly when I bought it on account of the ancient 10 year old gasoline, 8 new fuel injectors were installed. No one in the location where I was living at the time had a gasoline fuel injector tester. I also replaced all the injector seats, and the injector seals. I also replaced all the tubes connecting the injector seats, which are related to idle control system, as they were all hardened and wouldn't seal. Use of BG Products 44K Fuel System Cleaner has had a positive effect on the fuel distributor. It is likely that simply running the car will be the best remedy here to get it running clean again, possibly with the aid of more 44K.

The tubes connecting the injector seat were made by URO parts. The walls on the tube were very thin and ruptured they have been replaced again, this time with Mercedes parts. No more URO parts will be installed.

The engine area has been checked for vacuum leaks. I have reinforced all the connections with small zip ties -- like hose clamps. I have installed 2 new check valves as the old ones were no longer operating like check valves. I did find the vacuum lines were not connected according to the Mercedes vacuum diagram. Those line are related to the emission control, part of which is missing, have now been eliminated -- caped off. The air pump has also been removed and boxed up as it was seized up anyway. The rest of the vacuum lines now conform to the Mercedes vacuum diagram.

The Idle Control Valve was checked and found to be good. The Idle Control Valve received 2 new connecting hoses as the old ones had hardened and were leaking. As mentioned above all the other rubber hoses for the Idle Control system have also been replaced. I have re-flowed the solder joints on the Overvoltage relay and the idle control module. Further troubleshooting will be conducted once the engine can be started again and the engine is still idling high.

All new heater and radiator hoses have been installed as a preventive measure. I'm sure the heater hoses were the original hoses for the car, as a couple of them were on the brink of rupturing. The flushing of the cooling system flush will take place soon using citric acid. There is no actual radiator shop in my area so I couldn't remove my radiator and have it boiled out.

The engine oil was pitch black when I purchased the car. It looked like something out a diesel engine. An oil system flush is setup. Walmart 5W20 oil is being used along with a quart bottle of Marvel Mystery Oil -- an engine cleaner. This mixture has been poured in after draining out the old black oil. The oil filter canister contained a black filter and a layer of grim in the bottom that required scraping with a screw driver to remove. The mixture was drained after 100-200 miles only around the local area where I can keep the engine speed down. A second clean out was performed with 10W30 oil and Marvel Mystery Oil The engine was run for around 500 miles this time and was much cleaner when it was drained.

All of the fuel lines under the hood and the rear of the car at the gas tank have been replaced. I used high pressure fuel injection hose and securely clamped it with clamps designed for fuel injection systems. The lines inside the enclosed gas tank area are a project for another time. All the steel lines were blown out with 100# compressed air. A new Bosch fuel pump and accumulator, and a new fuel filter have been installed as a preventive measure. The tank was missing fuel screen on the bottom tank plug. The plug was present just no screen. I believe it was completely removed by a previous owner when it clogged up. I new plug/screen has been installed to keep large debris from clogging the fuel pump.

While investigating the inside of the tank with an inspection mirror and flashlight I found the the previous owner or their mechanic did the amateuristic repair of punching a hole in the side of the steadying bowl with a screwdriver and hammer, rendering it useless. The steadying bowl is an important part of the fuel delivery system. They did this for reasons which I cannot understand as both the fuel return line and steadying bowl venturi were all clear and open. I have plugged the hole using a patch made from a shop towel and saturated with fiberglass resin based body filler. I inserted it into the hole with a screwdriver tucking into place as firmly as I could without tearing the shop towel. Because I could touch the hole through the drain plug hole I finished tucking the saturated patch into place with my finger. I left the patch to dry overnight with the gas cap off the tank and gas door hanging open. The next morning I tried to pull the patch loose with my finger but found it to be securely in place and hard. By the morning following that I had the fuel pump/filter assembly mounted and connected, after which I poured 5 gallons of fresh ethanol-free premium gas in the tank.


Under the car
While looking at what I will need to do to replace the fuel filter I glanced at the exhaust and noticed that it was wired in place with bailing wire and the rear muffler is rusted through. Even though the muffler was still quiet it would have never pass Utah's vehicle safety inspection. A new Italian made Ansa replacement muffler has now been installed with a full set of proper hanging rubber. The replacement muffler had flares on the intake pipes so it would slip over and couple the existing pipes. It required sawing off the existing pipes in just the right places so the muffler would hang in just the right place.

The following year I have now replaced the remaining exhaust system from the head pipes back. The catalytic converter had clogged as the insides had melted. The rear most muffler is being reused as it is only 2 years old.

Suspension
1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SL Suspension
A new center drag link has been installed along with a new stabilizer shock. One of the tie rod ends was wore out.

Needed new bearings on the left. The new bearings fit so tight I had to grind out the middle of the bearing to make it fit. I only took a minutes worth of grinding.

Replaced the front suspension bushings and Bilstein shocks in the second year. Got the suspension aligned.

Wheel and Tire
1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SL Wheel and Tire 1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SL Wheel and Tire
Bought new Michelin tires off of Amazon for $99 each.
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