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Registered
1986 560SL LS swap project, 1981 300D (non-turbo), 2005 S55 AMG, and an old Lexus SUV
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81 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Good morning, afternoon, and evening!
Long-time lurker and reader. Finally made an account.

I just got a new-to-me 1986 560SL for $3000. It has 120k miles, is rust-free where it matters, has been a Texas car its whole life, and has never been wrecked. But it also has a good amount of small issues.
I've rebuilt and restored about a dozen Mercedes on everything from entire wire looms to full engine teardowns, but I wanted to do something entirely new. So, I'm going to be starting a huge project with my new toy (that I know is going to piss some people off)... an LS swap and a full interior restomod.

But why an LS?
Well, this car in particular has nothing wrong with the drivetrain. It's a rock solid engine and transmission, and I was able to drive it home 300 miles after it sat for a year, but I'm going to be honest that I do not know the intricacies of mechanical fuel injection. In addition to my lack of knowledge, finding parts for these engines can be brutal if something breaks on the road. Since I plan to drive the hell out of this car, like it was intended by the original designers, I want to be able to walk into just about any auto shop in the middle of nowhere, and find a replacement part. Since I'm also not aiming for anything more than 300 horsepower, the choice was clear to aim for an electronically controlled engine that is omni-present... a.k.a. an LS.

My ace up the sleeve for mechanical stuff is my ol' dad. He's an ASE master tech of 30+ years, and a mechanic for 45+ years. Yep, this is a father son project. We never did something big like this, so it's an adventure. As for the transmission, I'm going with a manual transmission obviously. The exact choice is currently in the works, because I don't need the beefiest one on the block. Remember, only 300 horsepower is the goal.

But why deface a 560SL like this?
The 560SL has a very special engine. I know this. I've seen it, heard it, and read the engineering documents while doing research. However, I'm just not someone who can fully appreciate it. I admire the engineering and packaging of such a monstrous engine, but I am only 28, and I didn't grow up with these cars as a dream car. I would rather pull the engine and transmission, and sell the whole drivetrain package for ~$2,000 to someone who can make better use of it (keep an eye open for this in the near future). The reason I chose a 560SL was due to many of the other, smaller things. The beefy brakes, stronger suspension, the galvanized metals (better rust protection), the electronic ignition system, the more modern wiring, etc. Unfortunately these are the ones everyone wants. So it was a hellacious challenge to snag a deal on a 560SL that was neglected in the right places.

Shut up and show us the damn car already!
Here she is! I didn't take pictures of the interior before starting work, but you can see a few issues immediately. Wheels aren't the best, the paint is all-over corroded, and the interior is a little ratty. The worst gremlins are what pictures can't show. Stereo broken, AC isn't functional (shocking, I know), seats struggle to adjust in any direction at all, visor held on by a zip tie and God's love, airbag light was on, etc. It clearly needs some love. This is where the creative side is really going to come out.
Wheel Automotive parking light Tire Automotive side marker light Vehicle registration plate
Wheel Tire Automotive parking light Car Land vehicle
Vehicle Hood Car Motor vehicle Automotive design



Creative side?
Here's where my background in electronics and engineering comes in. I plan to install and route an aftermarket air conditioning system (think VintageAir). That's nothing new. But some other things I'll be fixing in unconventional ways. Those visor clips? I could pay $60 for some old clips on ebay... or I could model and 3D print my own! I took measurements (poorly), modeled some clips, and printed multiples of them for test fits. I printed in red filament so I could measure fitment. It definitely needs adjustments, but I'll come back to that later. I have other creative plans, but those will be discussed later.
Computer Rectangle Font Screenshot Display device
Hood Automotive lighting Grey Automotive design Automotive exterior


So this is my project! I'm going to be posting updates here when I can. Please give feedback and ideas!! It always helps to have more than one mind at work.

---
Where I'm at as of August 17, 2021 is here...
Mostly just stuff disassembled for cleaning, removal, and repainting.
I bought a Momo steering hub, an adapter, and a Nardi classic 390mm wood wheel (only picture I have).
Vehicle Car Hood Motor vehicle Steering part


I also have removed the dashboard, gauges, shifter, center console, rear shelf, passenger seat and frames, kick panels, etc etc. You have eyes.
Vehicle Hood Car Motor vehicle Automotive tire


Next up, removing the vacuum elements of the air conditioning system to get the whole mess out. It's a huge clusterf*ck! Still working on this bit, so it's not out yet.
Automotive tire Motor vehicle Hood Automotive design Automotive exterior
Motor vehicle Steering wheel Hood Steering part Automotive exterior


For the external bits of the car, and under the hood...
Check the next post! I can't attach more files here :ROFLMAO:
 

·
Registered
1986 560SL LS swap project, 1981 300D (non-turbo), 2005 S55 AMG, and an old Lexus SUV
Joined
·
81 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Alright! Now for the external bits so far.
Performed the infamous bumper tuck. It made a HUGE mess of oil spray, but now the bracket will have the bumper sit 2-3" closer to the frame of the car.
Bumper Gas Wood Auto part Automotive exterior
Motor vehicle Automotive tire Bumper Wood Automotive exterior



The wheels are off. I NEED SUGGESTIONS FOR NEW WHEELS! I would prefer not to use spacers, stay in the 15-16" size, and I'm looking to get wider wheels (especially for the backs), and also not break the bank. I know this is a tall order for the 560SL.
I also took the headlamps off to buy some euro replacements. Ignore the mess of the shop. I need to clean up.
Automotive tire Tire Bumper Motor vehicle Automotive design


Lastly, I've been going through and removing everything that's attached directly to the engine. My dad and I are hoping to pull it this weekend.
 

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Outstanding Contributor , Bob's Your Uncle!
83 280 SL- 5 speed-The PIG
Joined
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32,775 Posts
Good luck! I will be following along.
 

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Outstanding Contributor, Vintage Moderator
450slc5.0cab 280sl5sp 280se4.5 500seAMG +250seStkW108 350sl4spdX3 500secEuro 300sel5spd R+C107galore
Joined
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24,300 Posts
I will subscribe to this one (just like all the rest of the supposed drive train swap threads), and wish you luck in completing it. You will be among a small group of people to complete the project if you do, and huge kudos to you if you make it happen. Most fail somewhere short of 80% done and just barely get on the road and have a host of custom build issues that nobody has the desire to sort out. Give it a big push on the first go round! Don’t peter out like the rest!
 

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Registered
1986 560SL,1995 911 Carrera 4, 2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio QV
Joined
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219 Posts
Welcome to the club as I am also a recent 560sl owner as well.

FYI if you want a clean side rubber replacement to compliment the bumper tuck the ends off of a W116 is supposedly shorter and a direct bolt on to the front and rear bumpers.
 

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Outstanding Contributor , Bob's Your Uncle!
83 280 SL- 5 speed-The PIG
Joined
·
32,775 Posts

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Premium Member
Joined
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335 Posts
I won't be complaining about what you want to do with your car, either. While I'm sure this is a very special car to a lot of people, having a car that's rock solid and reliable because you made it that way is also great, and the LS is a solid choice with many advantages.

I know on the later model Mercedes, everything runs through CANbus so if you pull the engine and lose the ECU you also lose all the details like the turn signals, defrosters, windows, power seats, etc. I'm not sure if the '86 is late enough to be that integrated. If it is, then you've already found what you'll have to do; replace all of that stuff, and look to the hot rod community for sources for those kinds of things. If it's not as tightly integrated as later Mercedes, then it's probably a better choice to try a swap like this on than something newer would be.

Effectively doing a resto-rod out of it should be no harder than any other resto-rod, and it'll be a beautiful, classy, comfortable car to drive. Even if all the "Mercedes" that's left is the skin.

I also remember that there was some folks already 3-d printing a bunch of interior parts for the older cars, like those clips, and vents and things. But I'll be darned if I can remember where I saw it, and I didn't bookmark it because it wasn't relevant to my newer car. Hopefully someone here will know where it is and save you some duplicated work.

Good luck, and enjoy the project and your car!
 

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Premium Member
1980 450 SL
Joined
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528 Posts
I think the problem most people have with LS swaps is you never get through with it. At some point you just get tired and park or sell it or drive with all the issues not cleaned up. They never seem to accomplish the goal of having a more reliable parts ready ride.
$3000 is a real bargain for a running 560. I am in Texas and would have bought it for that price even though I am not looking for a 560.
 

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One of the BW Old Guard/R129, W204 Moderator
1997 SL500- 40th Anniversary
Joined
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7,332 Posts
I really want to hear of a successful completion of this project. How many years, John, did you devote to Samson, and additionally your latest project?
 

·
Registered
1972 350sl; 2006 slk350; 1992 190e2.6; 1985 380sl; 1982 380sl
Joined
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9 Posts
I'm totally in your court. I have 3 sl's an '82 380 that's my driver, a '72 350 that's a rust bucket and an '85 380 that in need of a motor so I will follow you with interest. I also have a '06 slk which I'm thinking of swapping into one of these cars, simply because it's a low mileage stick. Interestingly the slk has nearly the same wheelbase as the earlier sl s. Best Wishes.
 

·
Premium Member
1986 560SL with M120 V12 Engine, 1988 560SL Stock
Joined
·
13,038 Posts
Good morning, afternoon, and evening!
Long-time lurker and reader. Finally made an account.

I just got a new-to-me 1986 560SL for $3000. It has 120k miles, is rust-free where it matters, has been a Texas car its whole life, and has never been wrecked. But it also has a good amount of small issues.
I've rebuilt and restored about a dozen Mercedes on everything from entire wire looms to full engine teardowns, but I wanted to do something entirely new. So, I'm going to be starting a huge project with my new toy (that I know is going to piss some people off)... an LS swap and a full interior restomod.

But why an LS?
Well, this car in particular has nothing wrong with the drivetrain. It's a rock solid engine and transmission, and I was able to drive it home 300 miles after it sat for a year, but I'm going to be honest that I do not know the intricacies of mechanical fuel injection. In addition to my lack of knowledge, finding parts for these engines can be brutal if something breaks on the road. Since I plan to drive the hell out of this car, like it was intended by the original designers, I want to be able to walk into just about any auto shop in the middle of nowhere, and find a replacement part. Since I'm also not aiming for anything more than 300 horsepower, the choice was clear to aim for an electronically controlled engine that is omni-present... a.k.a. an LS.

My ace up the sleeve for mechanical stuff is my ol' dad. He's an ASE master tech of 30+ years, and a mechanic for 45+ years. Yep, this is a father son project. We never did something big like this, so it's an adventure. As for the transmission, I'm going with a manual transmission obviously. The exact choice is currently in the works, because I don't need the beefiest one on the block. Remember, only 300 horsepower is the goal.

But why deface a 560SL like this?
The 560SL has a very special engine. I know this. I've seen it, heard it, and read the engineering documents while doing research. However, I'm just not someone who can fully appreciate it. I admire the engineering and packaging of such a monstrous engine, but I am only 28, and I didn't grow up with these cars as a dream car. I would rather pull the engine and transmission, and sell the whole drivetrain package for ~$2,000 to someone who can make better use of it (keep an eye open for this in the near future). The reason I chose a 560SL was due to many of the other, smaller things. The beefy brakes, stronger suspension, the galvanized metals (better rust protection), the electronic ignition system, the more modern wiring, etc. Unfortunately these are the ones everyone wants. So it was a hellacious challenge to snag a deal on a 560SL that was neglected in the right places.

Shut up and show us the damn car already!
Here she is! I didn't take pictures of the interior before starting work, but you can see a few issues immediately. Wheels aren't the best, the paint is all-over corroded, and the interior is a little ratty. The worst gremlins are what pictures can't show. Stereo broken, AC isn't functional (shocking, I know), seats struggle to adjust in any direction at all, visor held on by a zip tie and God's love, airbag light was on, etc. It clearly needs some love. This is where the creative side is really going to come out.
View attachment 2707608 View attachment 2707609 View attachment 2707610


Creative side?
Here's where my background in electronics and engineering comes in. I plan to install and route an aftermarket air conditioning system (think VintageAir). That's nothing new. But some other things I'll be fixing in unconventional ways. Those visor clips? I could pay $60 for some old clips on ebay... or I could model and 3D print my own! I took measurements (poorly), modeled some clips, and printed multiples of them for test fits. I printed in red filament so I could measure fitment. It definitely needs adjustments, but I'll come back to that later. I have other creative plans, but those will be discussed later.
View attachment 2707611 View attachment 2707612

So this is my project! I'm going to be posting updates here when I can. Please give feedback and ideas!! It always helps to have more than one mind at work.

---
Where I'm at as of August 17, 2021 is here...
Mostly just stuff disassembled for cleaning, removal, and repainting.
I bought a Momo steering hub, an adapter, and a Nardi classic 390mm wood wheel (only picture I have).
View attachment 2707613

I also have removed the dashboard, gauges, shifter, center console, rear shelf, passenger seat and frames, kick panels, etc etc. You have eyes.
View attachment 2707614

Next up, removing the vacuum elements of the air conditioning system to get the whole mess out. It's a huge clusterf*ck! Still working on this bit, so it's not out yet.
View attachment 2707615 View attachment 2707616

For the external bits of the car, and under the hood...
Check the next post! I can't attach more files here :ROFLMAO:
My thoughts on this. If your going to go through the trouble of doing all this work. Make it a respectable LS swap as in LS7. Samson started out as an LS7 swap uintil I saw the price of wrecked SL600's.
 

·
Registered
1988 560sl
Joined
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8 Posts
My thoughts on this. If your going to go through the trouble of doing all this work. Make it a respectable LS swap as in LS7. Samson started out as an LS7 swap uintil I saw the price of wrecked SL600's.
Alright! Now for the external bits so far.
Performed the infamous bumper tuck. It made a HUGE mess of oil spray, but now the bracket will have the bumper sit 2-3" closer to the frame of the car.
View attachment 2707622 View attachment 2707623


The wheels are off. I NEED SUGGESTIONS FOR NEW WHEELS! I would prefer not to use spacers, stay in the 15-16" size, and I'm looking to get wider wheels (especially for the backs), and also not break the bank. I know this is a tall order for the 560SL.
I also took the headlamps off to buy some euro replacements. Ignore the mess of the shop. I need to clean up.
View attachment 2707624

Lastly, I've been going through and removing everything that's attached directly to the engine. My dad and I are hoping to pull it this weekend.
 

·
Registered
1988 560sl
Joined
·
8 Posts
Alright! Now for the external bits so far.
Performed the infamous bumper tuck. It made a HUGE mess of oil spray, but now the bracket will have the bumper sit 2-3" closer to the frame of the car.
View attachment 2707622 View attachment 2707623


The wheels are off. I NEED SUGGESTIONS FOR NEW WHEELS! I would prefer not to use spacers, stay in the 15-16" size, and I'm looking to get wider wheels (especially for the backs), and also not break the bank. I know this is a tall order for the 560SL.
I also took the headlamps off to buy some euro replacements. Ignore the mess of the shop. I need to clean up.
View attachment 2707624

Lastly, I've been going through and removing everything that's attached directly to the engine. My dad and I are hoping to pull it this weekend.
 
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