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1973 450SL project

96314 Views 546 Replies 24 Participants Last post by  redghost

I've graduated from the W123 forum with the purchase of this 1973 450SL. I enjoyed working on my wagon so much, I wanted a car to restore.

I spent three years in the air-cooled VW world, and to work on a car that hasn't been disowned by its manufacturer is refreshing. Give me expensive parts that work perfectly over cheap junk or nothing at all any day.

I bought this car from an Irish builder in Portland, who bought it from the estate of (the wife of) the first owner along with a house. He said the first owner kept it under a cover, in the garage.

Oddly, the original owners lived in Bend, which is where the first two owners of my wagon lived.

The PO took good care of it by keeping it in his driveway year-round (2008 until now) and never, as far as I can tell, washing it. It had moss growing in all the cracks in the body. It also had three modern snow tires and two Dunlops from the 1980s. He said he stopped driving it a year ago when the transmission stopped going into reverse.

Here is the service history I have:

Eddie PO:
16 Mar 2009 Two new tires
Anthony and Theresa PO:
7 Nov 1996 New battery
5 Sept 1996 Coolant system tested for leaks, none found; battery terminals cleaned
7 Jan 1994 New battery
7 May 1991 Four new tires

Who buys two new tires?

Positives are the paint job, which after a washing has marks in the clear coat from the algae and moss but is otherwise quite good, and the interior. The PO says that the first owners had the seats, the dash, and the soft top cover re-done by the dealer (!), and they are quite nice. The centre console is original, and is mouldy and discoloured. The door cards were probably replaced, but the plastic wasn't put back on the doors, so moisture has ruined the cardboard.

At least the car only has 200,000 miles...

VIN: 107 044 12 0089xx
Engine: 117.982 12 011692
Trans: 107 270 02 010 259 (where's the '722'?)
Build tag:
585 AC + front power windows
593 heat-insulating glass, all-around, heated rear window pane, single-sheet safety glass, band filter
466 central locking
491 US version
502 outside side view mirror, right
513 Becker radio, Europa, USA
531 automatic antenna
735G 735G astral silver body / a.s. hardtop
107044 12 7
78 N 85670 9684


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Here's a quick run-down of all the issues on the car.

All rubber seals, door and window, perished and leaking
Some chalking chrome
Trunk latch chrome piece is pitted
Left rear turn signal is broken, with scrape and dent in body below
Right rear turn signal has 1.5 mm crack on side
Rear bumper rubber strip fits oddly in places
Trim strip with broken clip; strip loose in trunk
Trim strip loosely in place on right rear quarter
All hubcaps damaged
Rock chip in windshield
Water in front turn signals and headlight surrounds
Front bumper rubber in centre fits oddly
Front license plate holder has surface rust
Fine crazing in left headlight surround
Antenna is loose in fender
Outside door handles sometimes don't work(!)
Black paint coming off of side mirrors
Rattle in front door when closing it
Front plastic air scoop grilles are soft and wavy
Missing undercoating at back of right wheel well, with surface rust
Driver door glass chipped at top
Rust in blower compartment and fresh air vents

Left and right floor sections rotten
Mould on cardboard panel
Lid has rust inside, coming through on the inside edge in one place
No bulb in courtesy light holder
Spare tire is dangerously old
Paint worn on latch
Fuel door lock actuator bracket has surface rust
Water appears to be leaking in past fuel filler - drain plugged?
Hammer marks on inside of right rear fender, panel is not straight on the inside - filler!
Water leak from right rear corner of trunk lid, from inside the frame, into taillight housing

Doesn't start
Leaking oil from drain plug
Oil filter housing bolt leaking, with other leak possible above
Very low PS fluid
Extensive Al corrosion on valve covers
Disintegrating hood pad
Water collects in wells in frame at both sides of the front - drain channels plugged, some rust starting
Extensive Al corrosion on auxilliary air valve (AAV)
Distributor appears to be missing wire from condensor to plug on case side
Rotor and cap are fairly burned and pitted
Rubber fuel lines in engine compartment perishing
Spark plug wires appear OK, but how to tell?
Examined spark plug looks fairly new, some carbon but no pitting
Points show some discolouration, but no pitting
Rubber air hoses perishing
Power steering rubber lines?
Probably ought to change lines to expansion tank as well
Cracking blower cover and perished seal

Door cards rough at bottom, map pockets falling apart inside, cardboard liners ruined by moisture - plastic sheeting is gone from doors
Pot metal threaded boss found broken off inside passenger door
Driver door - plastic cover for screw on door lever escutcheon brittle and broken, some loose parts found inside door, small rust spot near rear window track, check strap makes dreadful noise
Some rust spots under left and right rocker rubber pads - no perforation. Lots of water under the pads, even after three weeks in dry garage
Seat belts mouldy
Rubber rocker matting perishing
Chrome side sill pieces (carpet hold-down strips) dented and rough, hardware corroded
Leak at right top of hard top window
Horn doesn't seem to work
Driver window won't move (no noise - switch?)
Side mirror adjuster boots perished
Crack in instrument cluster glazing
Heater panel slider bezel broken, one slider is off (in map pocket)
Is hazard switch supposed to have symbol on it?
Mysterious knob next to gear shift - make sure it's stock. Panel is a little warped, wouldn't hurt to replace
Radio is wrong and bezel is broken
Glove box has been cut for something - alarm? Check other wiring for cobbling
Rear well has speakers in it - what is stock?
Chrome edge of soft top lid has strange deposits - corrosion? Dirt?
'Acculux' portable flashlight dock in glove box - appears to be dealer accessory
Centre console is mouldy and discolored
Key is wrong and worn - need real master and valet keys
Vinyl/Leather at back base of hard top is discoloured or dirty
Driver's seat cover loose at back and side

Hard Top:
Base needs to be examined for rust - trim strip fastners rusty
Rear locking pin is corroded
Large base to body seal is OK, but window seals and front seal are perishing or leaking

Soft Top:
Discolouration on inside (brown stains)
Inside material is disintegrating on lower left corner
Rear window damaged by wire with missing insulation
Mould on left rear corner
Frame has small rust pocks in places
Cover plate has slight surface rust at lower edge (when open, that is)
Seal channel for soft top lid seal on body has surface rust
Missing and loose felt strips in soft top compartment

PO says it won't reverse
Transmission cooler soft line leaking
Leak from bell housing, but torque converter itself is dry
Leak from one hard cooler line junction
Leaks from sides of case

With engine off, brake pedal firm but doesn't stop the car very well - maybe just a consequence of no boost
Front rotors worn down nearly 1.5 mm, but pads thick
Rear discs and pads OK
Rear brakes missing rubber bleeder caps
Piston dust boots front and rear look OK, but are not new - should be done in order to see piston condition

Differential is leaking - seals or cover
Small cracks in flex discs
Small fatigue cracks in axle boots
Pinion seal appears to be dry, but right output seal is leaking

Ball joints slightly damp - grease is coming out?
Front subframe bushings and a-arm bushings perishing
Front sway bar bushings, in body and on operating rods, perishing
Rear subframe bushings perishing
Differential mount may have been replaced, can't tell if it is perishing or if just flaking paint - just flaking paint - part OK
Rear shock absorber lower mounts perishing
Rear sway bar link rubber bits perishing
Right rear shock leaking; fronts not leaking

Exhaust donuts missing

Other than that, it's perfect.


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More condition pictures.


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Welcome from a fellow 73 owner near Portland. That car traveled my circle, heck I was born in Bend ! Sounds like most of your issues will buff right out ! I'm in the middle of my restoration, so I feel your pain ! You've come to the right place for help with your project ! Somebody here either has or knows where you can find every part or answer you need. What's your goal ? Passable daily driver or concours restoration ? :D. You might get some encouragement reading my saga. Either that or you'll be selling parts tomorrow !
By the way, nice write up. You'll do well here in the 107 asylum !
I removed the hard top with trepidation, wondering what the soft top was going to look like. It was a lot better than I expected, but still no good. There is a wire that crosses the rear window (what is it for?) that lost its insulation and marred the window, in addition to some water stains inside and a small tear.

The clear coat under where the hard top sat was extensively dulled.


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Looks like a lot less rust than I would have expected. My weatherstrip channels pretty much melted. That cable across the rear vinyl window is a tension cable that ties the upper top structure to the bottom bow and lock down pin. Of course you will be doing a new top in the big picture, so take that out and save it for later ! Be sure to make note of shims etc !
Leave the soft top cable alone. It should tighten with the top fully latched.
Really is a good starting point for restoration. The front subframe issue has been corrected properly. That fuel filter really looks terrible.
Looks prett familiar doesn't it Jimbo ? I'm getting ready to get back on my 107 project. I hope to kick that in the ass and make some forward movement !
A couple of Sundays under the tree in the backyard and you'll be good to go.

I've graduated from the W123 forum with the purchase of this 1973 450SL.
Well, those are two of my favourite Benzes!

Your new purchase looks like an interesting buy. Presumably you didn't pay much for it, but eventually you will ;)

Your post had a bit of an information overload, but it seems the car is not in too bad a shape. Better than some that are totally rusted out.

Look forward to reading about your progress.
You've done a very thorough inspection . Good luck with the resto.
Presumably you didn't pay much for it, but eventually you will ;)
Geez MBG , don't spoil the virginal flush with reality!
Geez MBG , don't spoil the virginal flush with reality!
Sorry :eek:

But, maboyce is no virgin - he has been around the block already with his W123
Sorry :eek:

But, maboyce is no virgin - he has been around the block already with his W123
Ofcourse! How silly of me. All MB owners have been screwed at some time. Maboyce must have been kissed as well so that's why he's back for more?
Thanks for the comments, everyone. I'm acutely aware of the possibility of losing my shirt on this car...the wagon looked terrible when I bought it, and $3000 later it still looks terrible.

An early lesson working with VWs was that using parts cars changes the economy of the job a lot. I've only spent about $600 above the purchase price (which is my secret, but would probably be considered too high by the forum) on brake stuff, fluids, and doodads for starting the engine without damaging it further or blowing myself up (the fuel lines may be original). I'm keeping an eye out for maintained cars that have been outside too long that I can strip and use to improve the mechanicals and general rattiness of this car. I expect to probably swap the engine and transmission. Anything I don't use gets sold for money, which the Classic Centre can use to buy themselves nice things.

Does anyone know what the story is on the transmission number? I couldn't find any other numbers on it, but shouldn't it have '722' somewhere in it?
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And got a phone call with a card and flowers the next day ! :D
By the way, I read tdoriot's thread a few nights ago. It was very encouraging to see someone power through a lot more rust than I have to deal with here.

I also have sympathy for his distaste for bad repairs. Let's see how not to repair a rusty trunk:


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That would be an ill-fitting piece of scrap steel tack brazed over the old tool well floor, creating a small void where rust can continue its work in secret.

I found quite a bit more rust in the trunk than I expected at first. The ribbed centre panel was heavily pitted, but had been cleaned and filled. There was a lot of spray undercoating on everything. I used an air chisel bit to scrape things until I came to the edges of the rust.


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I took the bumper off to see what was there. It looked good at first, but on closer inspection...


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I took the outer panel off by drilling out the spot welds, and unfortunately found the inner one to be perforated in a few places as well. These shapes are complicated enough I'll definitely have to get replacement panels from Mercedes.


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