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1984 Production Euro Spec 280CE 4-speed

12112 Views 137 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  MSGGrunt
New to me and just arrived from Texas. September 1984 production 280CE 4-speed, European spec as confirmed by the VIN. 43,193 document miles. I am now the 3rd owner. The story on the car is that the original owner was a Doctor who ordered it and took delivery of the car in Belgium, drove it around Europe while on vacation and then shipped it to Texas. According to the 2nd owner who worked with this doctor he found himself on the wrong side of the law and went to prison for 7 years. The story was told to me that when he was released from prison he drove the car, presumably without checking the oil, and blew the motor. The 2nd owner paid $500.00 for the car, I have a copy of the bill of sale, and purchased a new short block from Adsit, which I have the receipt for, swapped everything over from the blown motor and had it installed in the car.

The Good: The block has only approximately 10,000 miles on it.
The Bad: It is no longer a matching numbers car.

When imported the car was federalized and US spec headlights, taillights and bumpers were installed. And at some point in the vehicles life the front manual window regulators were swapped for power ones.

The car came with its original owner's manuals, complete tool kit, original Pirelli Cinturato spare (I don't think it has ever been out of the car), original first aid kit, and even a mint working Becker Europa radio.

To Do:
  • Swap in Euro headlights (already have a set).
  • Go back to manual front windows (already have the manual regulators and cranks with trim).
  • Swap out US spec bumpers for Euro spec. Low priority right now.
  • The car came from the factory with a rear seatbelt delete option (I found this to be an odd option and even more odd to select it). I am missing and need to source one of the rear panel seat belt blanking covers. Done, I found the second trim piece in a box of spares in the trunk.
  • Replace all the wood trim. I have already ordered a complete set from W123 I am going with burl rather than the original Zebrano as I feel it will look nice with the black/grey interior. 10 to 12 weeks to make.
  • Source a crack free or less crack free dash.
  • Give the paint a good cut, buff and polish.
  • Possibly go back to Euro taillights.
  • Replace shifter bushing.
  • Replace cracked exterior window wiper rubbers.
  • Tune up with new plugs, cap, rotor, injectors with new cups and O-rings, adjust valves and replace all fluids as well as a good cooling system flush.
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I too believe the burl was only available in the earlier cars, but where I purchased my pieces you can get any of the trim made in burl or Zebrano, you just have to send pictures of your style trim and he will make it in either veneer.
Besides the new burl trim pieces, I also ordered a full set of Coco Mats in a black and grey to blend in with the OEM Anthracite cloth interior.

Sourced some vinyl in the correct grain and the seats and headrests are at the upholstery shop to replace the dried out covers and side bolster vinyl. I am off today on a three hour drive North into Vermont to look at a decent replacement dash. It is supposed to be 75F and sunny here today, so it should be a nice ride in my Saab 900 classic turbo convertible.

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I now have a crack free dash. Also scored some Euro bumpers down in CT. Pics to follow once the wood trim is installed.
Of the 1476 280CEs produced in 1984 world-wide (mine is a September 1984 production date) I would be curious how many were white with anthracite cloth interior with a 4-speed and European Spec? I would assume a pretty low number, the 4-speed probably the one thing that makes it a little more unique yes?
I'm surprised it's a 4 speed manual and not a 5 for that year of production
The pistons were scalloped (low comp).

Manuals were cheaper at the time and the lack of options on yours suggest there was a modicum of budget consciousness by the good doctor. Nearly all benz'es out here were autos as it was pitched as a "luxury" model. I suspect North America was the same.

UK was a different story and nearly all the manuals you find here are grey imports from there (I have a 5 speed wagon that came from the UK in 1986).
Not true, nearly all coupes in the UK are automatic, there are more manuals further down the range the UK had the 200 petrol option entry money lots of manuals here but on the main more autos than manuals
Not true, nearly all coupes in the UK are automatic, there are more manuals further down the range the UK had the 200 petrol option entry money lots of manuals here but on the main more autos than manuals
This wasn't a comment on the proportion of manuals to auto's in the UK, but rather in AU there were no locally delivered manuals and nearly all the manuals I see here (including the one I own) are grey imports from the UK, suggesting that it was an option that was exercised by many purchasers.
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If you look across the entire range of Mercedes in the late 70's and early 80's you see, in the US anyway, very few manual cars. Even finding a 4-speed 240D isn't easy and that car is a much better driver with a manual. I would attribute this to the clientele that Mercedes were market towards and that the cars themselves were more of a luxury car rather than a more sportier car like say a 5 series BMW of the same era. Sure, Mercedes always had coupes across their lineup, but I would surmise these too were bought by a more "sophisticated" driver, but one who still wanted the ease and luxury of a auto transmission. Additionally, the demand was so high when the W123 was first released that I bet a lot of buyers took whatever was at the dealership and fewer actually custom ordered their cars.

1476 is a low enough production number. I think it would safe to say that the number of white 280CEs with a 4-speed is relatively low. I know here in the US 60's muscle car guys always like to brag that their car is 1 of a few hundred or 1 of double digits if really rare, it would just be fun to say , "oh yeah, well my Mercedes is even more rare as only 1476 were made in 1984 and mine is 1 of XX".
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Coco Mats arrived yesterday. I can't say enough about the quality of these. Though they are not inexpensive, you definitely get your moneys worth. And I love the bag they are shipped in just as much as the mats themselves.

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I'm surprised it's a 4 speed manual and not a 5 for that year of production
I believe that’s from 1982 or 1983 on all the r107 manuals were 5-speed. You couldn’t get a 4-speed I believe. I had a 1981 280slc 4-speed with about 78,000 miles and it was a blast to drive, perhaps my peppiest m110 ever. It was from northern Vermont. I later picked up a 1980 280se w126, shipped to me from Colorado. Good fun. Then I spotted a 1985 280se manual trans I assumed had to be a 5-speed. I went to Buffalo, NY to get it. 4-speed. :-( Now I know that 4-speeds we’re available in w126 up to 1985. I think that the m103 only came in a 5-speed which isn’t what I’ve got in the 1986 300sel. (And my 1985 280sl 5-speed m110.)

I never had a w123, but lighter, they should actually be the sportiest of them all. And the m110 revs to the redline so well. I’ve found myself driving the highway in 4th in a 5 speed very often, but also found myself seeking 5th in a 4-speed. The 5 is only needed if there’s extensive highway driving to be done at about 70 mph or above (perhaps varies based on your rear end ratio).
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While not fast by modern standards, my M110 W123 is certainly faster than my prior non turbo manual 240 and turbo 300D. The M110 just makes these a different drive. I would love to have an 280sl with this motor, but the 280sl was only a grey market import and who knows how many actually made their way to the US?. I am a big fan of the straight six design. One with dual overhead cams is even nicer. The sound of the hi rev'ing M110 with all of its solid lifter noise is truly a mechanical symphony.

IMHO the 280sl is the TRUE sports car of the SL lineup. Sure, the 500sl is a little special when compared to the other V8s, but the 280sl with a 5-speed would be my choice all day long.
But the w123 coupe was the mos light and sleek and since the V8 was not offered with a manual transmission in the 80s the W1 23 is clearly the best performing manual transmission Mercedes you could get of the time since the M1 10 was the biggest motor you could get with a manual transmission at the time. In my opinion the only thing (edit: factory option) that could make your car better would be a fifth gear.

Edit number two: The W201 chassis was clearly where Mercedes was looking to do their racing development at the time though. The W1 23 was probably the best manual transmission rally car they had but the 5 L SLC of the 70s was the one that won the endurance rallies. You see a lot of W1 23 car is in the pictures from those rallies though. I wonder if the automatic transmissions we’re better for the drivers over the endurance rallies saving them lots of energy to focus more on the road itself.
It was actually a nail polish I found at my local Walmart.

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I know, I thought the same thing when I learned they could be had with a 5-speed. Or if really dreaming an M117 V8 under the hood, but unfortunately those were saved for the W126 cars.

I will be "personalizing" the car a bit. I want to lower the car, run 8"x16" Penta look alike Maxilite wheels with the centers black to match the aftermarket Euro bumpers I bought that I will powder coat a matching black. I already ordered the stripe decals from Acromann, but will have a local sign shop see if they can match the text/look of the AMG letters and replace them with 280CE. I like the looks of the stripes, but feel the AMG is a misrepresentation and 280CE would be a good substitute. That or no letters at all. And no AMG badging on the trunk. I feel I would keep the grill chrome because I will not be changing the rest of the chrome to black. I already have the Euro headlights and Zender side skirts, just need to pick and aftermarket front chin spoiler.

This is kind of the look I am after.

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The other big decision for me is what to do with the interior. The coconut fiber in the front seats, especially the driver's seat, needs to be replaced and the covers rebuilt. The fabric is in perfect condition, but the original vinyl on the sides has cracked and needs to be replaced. All of that comes with an expense. But, staying with the AMG theme has gotten me thinking about replacing the front seats with a more sporty seat. The one AMG W123, a wagon, that I could find pictures of came with Recaro Classic C seats. These also came in other models. The red ones pictured were from an SL owner in AU. At over $3,000 for a pair of used original Recaros, I stumbled upon a seat that sort of replicates the look for a much lower cost and I am throwing the idea around in my head of using these. The seats are sport seats out of a 1987-1989 Fox body Mustang. I already own the seats and would have them reupholstered using original Karo cloth for the center sections in a pattern that replicates the Recaro seats. Or I could keep them solid black leather, but then I would need to find another rear seat to recover in all leather, saving the original front and rear seats for originality sake.

First picture is the Reacro Classic C. Second picture is the Mustang sport seats I own.
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Well, after being with "my Mercedes guy" for over a year it is finally back in my possession. The car wasn't running the way it should so it got a CIS Flowtech rebuilt fuel distributor, rebuilt WUR, a rotted fuel filter replaced, a clogged fuel return line cleaned out, and other bits sorted. Still needs a valve adjustment and the WUR ground sorted out, but these will have to wait as I am deploying with my military units for at least 6 months.

When I get back the car will be going in for a stripped down to bare metal repaint, replace all of the seals, add euro bumpers that I have had powder coated black, Euro headlights and amber signal lights, some Penta style wheels, lowered 50mm and a "unique" body stripe like this, but modified to read 280CE instead of AMG.

I will be basically duplicating the Acromann look.

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That wheel looks mint.

I wish they were mine, just a representation of what I intend on doing.
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I liked the interior cloth you already have, sure it's been out of fasion for a loooong time, but hold onto something long enough and it's looking kind of cool again I reckon. How about using that (or replica) to trim your bucket seats? Than you save some money not having to trim the doors or rear seats to spend elsewhere.
I think with the low miles and overall originality of the car I am going to just reupholster the original seats using the original cloth and fix the vinyl where it has cracked. And of course, it needs new pads.
Nice. Everytime I look at those seats, it just makes me want to sit in them. Because the MB Tex is so prolific, the cloth and velour W123's (C123) really stand out I think.
The manual shifter is very sloppy and it's time for a rebuild. The bushings on the transmission side are fine surprisingly, but the ones at the shifter arms are completely gone. I have all new ones coming from Mercedes. The "top hat" bushing in the shifter itself has completely failed, so I am rebuilding the shifter mechanism as well.

Wish me luck...

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