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Registered
1981 380SL, 1991 500SL
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174 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all, here I am getting ready to do what I thought was a simple engine rebuild on my 81 380SL engine, an engine which blows smoke the second I start my car until I turn off the engine. The smoke is white-ish and smells bad. My master mechanic friend said it smelled like oil, which implies values, guides, etc. The engine has about 110K miles on it. Compression is good for most cylinders except for the two on the right side towards the fire wall, which are more than 15% below where they need to be, technically, not that bad. I do have dual row timing, so that's covered. So, the engine as it sits isn't that bad, other than attempting to single handedly recreate the days of LA smog. I have more details but I'm kinda frustrated/disgusted.

I'm a few months away from retiring and was looking forward to sinking my teeth into a "fun" rebuild, rolling restoration of a very nice looking 380. Sooo... I started reading all of the posts about the nightmare of tearing apart a 380 with its aluminum block, finicky head bolts and very sensitive cylinder linings. I'm on the fence about tackling this but wanted to ask whether anyone has done a "simple" engine swap with a newer hopefully electronically fuel injected engine. I consider myself a fairly good mechanic but time, age and lack of patience are temporing my path forward. So either I swap the engine for much newer technology or I attempt a rebuild, hose up the block and swap it out for something else... Either way I'd like to understand what my options are.

Thanks in advance!
 

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Registered
1988 560SL Currently, 1972 350SL (RIP)
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459 Posts
Not technically inclined to really answer this but stepping back and thinking about what you are asking, if I have this right you are saying eh I think the 380 engine might be a lot of work and a pain to do and I’m not sure I want to go through all that, what about a modern engine. I don’t think anyone is going to say installing a modern engine is less work or less technical than a full 380 rebuild and I think you’d do it more for increased power or maybe mechanics that know how to work on modern engines (but if you did the work I’d expect you wouldn’t be farming too much work out anyways). Think about the wiring also. If wiring doesn’t scare you at all maybe that’s not a concern but i’d be way over my head just on that part let alone the fabrication probably/possibly needed.

From my perception of how you posed the question, go with the 380 rebuild. There’s at least one other recent thread on that exact thing with active members that partook in that thread that can help you along.
 

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1981 380SL, 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio, 2008 Corvette, 1965 Dodge Dart Wagon
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415 Posts
I swapped mine out for a 1985 500SEC engine. Had to change the oil pan, the oil filter base and modify the exhaust. Oh, and have a bigger core put in the radiator. It was tight but it fit. No other modifications needed.
 

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Registered
1981 380SL, 1991 500SL
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174 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you all for your replies! I think I'll go ahead with the 380 rebuild. I have the time and patience to see it though. Worst case, I'll do a swap. Wiring and computers don't bother me, I've done lots of that kind of work and have a "knack" for doing it. I think the thing that got me feeling dubious about the rebuild is the prospect of needing to re-drill and helicoil bolt holes in the block. That's about the only thing that makes me uneasy and question my rebuilding decision.

Thanks again!
 

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Outstanding Contributor , Bob's Your Uncle!
83 280 SL- 5 speed-The PIG
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31,777 Posts
Reach out to @Jyuma .

He recently rebuilt his 380 engine.
 

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Registered
1990 420 SEC
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796 Posts
Kent Bergsma on his youtube channel Mercedessource was announcing an engine for sale. I do not know what is a reasonable price for that kind of engine and if his price is reasonable.
 

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Premium Member
1976 450SL, 1992 190e 2.3, 1984 300D turbo, 1966 VW bus
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579 Posts
I would rebuild what you have or look for another 380 (1983 and later have double chain) engine.
 
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