1973 Mercedes Benz 280SEL 4.5 Projects 34

September 9, 2017

Car Photo Day!!

I have been talking with a gentleman for the past week or so about a 1982 380SL. He lives in Winston-Salem, NC. Every second Saturday there is a Winston-Salem Cars & Coffee held at Reynolda Village. Reynolda is the name the Reynolds family, of tobacco fame, gave to their family home. It is now open to the public and is a beautiful home filled with period furniture and artwork. Reynolda Village is on the Reynolds property and houses unique shops. So it is a great place to take your wife to a car show!!!

We met, I looked over the car, drove it and decided it was not what i wanted. The price was attractive (asking $5300 OBO) but it had more needs than I want to address and he did not have any history on the car. One encouraging point in its favor was that it had been converted to the dual row chains. In the photo below you will see his car parked next to what turned out to be an ’81 380SL that also happened to be for sale. It’s owner was a gentleman I met a couple weeks ago at the Mercedes show. This one had a motor from a 500SL. I drove it and it was a better car than the blue one. Again no history but this one did have fewer needs and the body was better. I think i will keep looking for my next project car.

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The owner of the blue car had never attended this event and we spent the next couple hours together looking at the cars. He has owned a Porsche 944 in his past and thinks he would like to buy an air cooled 911. Since I have had lots of experience with these cars, as we looked at the 911’s there, I discussed the pros and cons to the various models. If he is going to get an air cooled 911, he better do it soon as the prices are still very high.

One of the first cars we came across was the 240Z. What a spectacular car. One of the best cars there.

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The 240D in these photos was sandwiched between the 240Z and the Ford GT.

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This 1960 Jag sedan was also very nice as was the XKE.

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I asked the owner of this car why he didn’t bring his “big” car!!! 1960 Desoto.  My grandpa had a 1959 Desoto.  You could always tell that it was his car by the trail of tobacco juice down the driver’s side.  He loved to chew his tobacco!

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This was a replica of a 1935 Morgan but very nicely done. I would not be looking forward to adding coolant the reservoir was located in the passenger footwell.

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Very nice TVR.

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I love these Alfa Duetto’s. I could see one of these in my garage someday. In case you are wondering why I don’t have a closeup what looks like a Ferrari GTO in the background, it is because it is a replica on a Datsun 280Z chassis.

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Among the many nice cars there, this 356A stood out. According to the card on the windshield, all of the restoration work was done by the owner. He is very skilled.

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This Diablo was a good representative for the exotic Italian cars present.

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This 635 was very nice and had a number of performance mods including a fuel cell in the trunk.

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A beautiful XKE coupe leaving the venue.

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What kind of car show would it be it it did not have a contingent of three Delorean’s.

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It was well worth the 45 mile drive on a beautiful Saturday morning. Around 60 degrees when I arrived and mid 70’s when I left. Windows down driving on the way back. By the way, those two 380SL owners would not want to run me for pink slips!!! With the new injectors and the throttle bushings, the car just purrs down the highway.

My wife had a reception for an art show at her gallery last night. I parked the Mercedes in front and had a number of people ask about the car. One of them is a BMW guy doing a restoration on a E30 convertible for his wife. After looking it over, he told me he would like to have a ride in it someday. I replied that now would be a good time and we took a 20 minute drive through city streets, some backroads and a short stretch on an interstate. He was so impressed with how the car went down the road that he said if he had the garage space, he would make me an offer. I was glad he enjoyed the ride!!



1973 Mercedes Benz 280SEL 4.5 Projects 33

September 1, 2017

Originally Posted by dobrodan View Post
Those flat springs and eccentric bolts are your caster adjustment. It is likely that you will need an alignment, or at least have it checked. If you haven’t moved the car and you reassemble the flat springs before the sway bar kit you may be OK. The bolt with the flat sides is the adjuster for caster, so try not to move it. There is another caster adjustment at the top of the king pins but it is to be used only if you can’t get it in with the flat spring adjustment.

Thanks for the info. I happened to have only one set of bushings for the adjuster as I did not realize that it takes two bushings to complete a side. Turns out the right bushing was in great shape but the left one was not. I pried out the old bushing after taking some “before” photos and tried to put it back together the same way it came apart. There is a metal ring one each side with a notch and there is a matching notch in the bushings. I did not turn the bolt to remove either side so I am hoping the alignment will at least be close. I do want to get an alignment later on anyway.

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September 5, 2017

I talked with the powder coater and he may have the sway bar done either today or tomorrow.

In the front wheelwells, there was a residue left after I had power washed them earlier this summer. When I was cleaning up the sway bar areas, I had overspray of the Simple Green on the left front wheelwell. When I wiped it off, I could see that the residue came off relatively easily. Today I worked on the wheelwell. The rear part is textured and the combination of Simple Green and a brush cleaned it up nicely. I also cleaned the topside of the upper control arm. Looks much better.

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With that wheelwell finished, I moved over to the right one. Big difference here as there was a heavy black substance covering most of it. I ran out of time to complete it but did get a section clean.

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September 6, 2017

It took me about two hours to clean up the right front wheelwell. Upon doing so I discovered more issues caused by the battery. I had previously applied some POR15 to parts of this wheelwell. I now have some more areas to coat. Once it dries, I will paint it to match the body color.

I had run out of POR15. According to Google, the population of the town where I live, Rockwell, NC, is 2144. Would you believe that we have Autozone, Advance and NAPA auto parts stores with an O’Reilly’s under construction. And none of them had POR15.

There is an old time parts store in Salisbury that caters more to the trade than to retail. A call to them found that they did have it in stock. My wife’s gallery is across the street from them. So she had the honor of visiting an auto parts store. It is in a very old building near the train station. She thought the place would be a mess but was pleasantly surprised to see how organized it was.

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I paid the powder coater his $10 for doing the sway bar and installed it this afternoon.

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This project is a perfect example of how one thing leads to another when working on an old car. It began as a simple job of replacing the bushings. I expected to remove the sway bar, clean it up and re-install it. Discovering rust on the bar led to two trips to the powder coater. Cleaning up the area around the sway bar led to cleaning the wheelwells. Cleaning the wheelwells led to having to do some painting. Jobs on old car are rarely simple or quick.

September 7, 2017

First thing to do today was apply the POR15. After letting it dry overnight, I will paint those area with the body color paint tomorrow.

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Next I cleaned the rear wheelwells. Neither of them had any of the undercoating that I found in the right front wheelwell. Cleaned up pretty good but I could not get everything out of the textured areas. Some of the areas that look dirty in the textured area are some spots that have the paint worn away caused by throwing up debris since the car was new.

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The new oil pan arrived the other day and I installed it today. I always love it when they place these stickers on the parts. Lots of fun to get them off. It is a Bilstein part made in Italy?? The new one has the smaller drain plug compared to the original one. The 35 year Mercedes dealer mechanic said the oil pickup was close to the bottom of the pan and I you can see that in the photo below. That is why he thought I should do something with the pan.

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September 8, 2017

Originally Posted by Tomguy View Post
Honestly I never liked how large the old plug was. Oil was almost guaranteed to overflow any drip pan I had. I had to lift it up high enough to fit a bucket underneath! It’s nice to see they changed that.

I don’t have access to the parts diagram book any more, since it went with my car when I sold it. Shouldn’t there be a screen on the pickup tube?

Your progress on the car is incredible. I really think you’re doing a great service to that car and having one hell of a good time in the process. For a car that’s appreciating in value rather quickly, combined with your work, I would expect you can probably sell it in 4 years for 3 to 4 times what you paid for it!

Thanks. I am having a good time and it does feel good to know that I am making a good car better. It was about time in its life to have someone like me own it.

I don’t know about the screen but I did find something interesting today on the inside of the old oil pan. The 35 year mechanic I met was concerned that the old oil pan was dented because he said the pick-up was very low. There is a faint outline of the four feet on the pickup on the bottom of the oil pan. From day one this car has had great oil pressure. I didn’t see any difference today when I drove the car.

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Yesterday evening I discovered that the POR15 had dried in the right front wheelwell. Using the same paint I had used in the engine compartment, I added a coat of body color paint. Not a perfect match but it looks much better than it did.

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9-8-17 RF wheelwell


1973 Mercedes Benz 280SEL 4.5 Projects 32

August 30, 2017

When I installed the cabin filters, I removed the cowl molding and noticed that it was very brittle and that parts of it had broken off. I ordered a new one and installed it just before going to the Mercedes show.

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Yesterday I did the final adjustments to the cruise control. It is now working well. As I mentioned previously, there are a number of dip switches on the main control unit that determine how the cruise reacts to inputs. It is a matter of experimentation to determine the correct settings as every car reacts differently to the inputs.

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After receiving the comments about the kick down issue, I first made sure the accelerator pedal would make contact with the switch. My carpet kit did not include a cutout for the kick down switch, which i remedied by cutting a hole. Also, I had added the Coco mats which are very thick. After checking it out, I cut off a portion of the mat to make sure the pedal had full travel.

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I then went under the car to locate the switch. After removing the plug, I checked to make sure I had 12V to one side of the switch. I did. I then found the solenoid connection on the passenger side of the transmission. I applied 12V to it and the solenoid clicked, so it appears to be working. Unfortunately, I did not have a helper to depress the gas pedal to see if I get 12 volts at the solenoid with the kick down switch engaged. At this point, I am guessing the switch has, as they say on Wheeler Dealers, perished.

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August 31, 2017

I have had new sway bar bushings for awhile and finally got around to working on them today. After taking the sway bar off, I noticed that it had a rusty area on the right side. I didn’t feel comfortable with that rust so I used my angle grinder to take the paint off and to grind down the rusted area. It is now at the powder coater.

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I had two embarrassing things happen at the Mercedes show. One of my new found friends was looking at my engine bay and asked if I had changed the power steering filter. I told him I didn’t know it had one. For no apparent reason, I decided to remove the knurled nut on the PS reservoir and proceeded to drop it. It fell down next to the reservoir. After feeling around on the ground, we could not find it, even after backing my car up to reveal the ground better. Four guys and a woman are now looking all over the engine area with our phone flashlights trying to find it. To no avail. To secure the PS lid, we used the nut holding down the air cleaner.

I was upset that I dropped it and could not understand why we couldn’t find it. Just before leaving, I decided to look one more time on the ground. A couple of passerby’s asked what I was looking for. I now had another team looking on the ground and in the engine bay area. Suddenly, one of the guys said, “I see it!” He was looking down between the distributor cap and the radiator hose. I looked down in that same area and could not see it. He looked again and said he still saw it. I reached under the car to the area above the sump and, sure enough, it was there. The embarrassing part was that there was so much crud on top of the sump, that it captured the nut before it hit the ground. My now best friend will forever be called “Eagle Eye!”

Now that I had the sway bar off, I decided it was time to clean the sump area. In the process, I discovered another treasure…the wing nut for the air cleaner!! It looks like it had been there for quite some time.

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The 35 year Mercedes mechanic I met at the show noticed, while looking for my errant nut, that my oil pan had significant dents. He said the pickup was not far from the bottom and, if it was him, he would remove the oil pan to knock out the dents. I planned on doing that until I found that I could buy a new oil pan for $25. It is on the way.

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He also noticed that I did not re-install the electric cooling fan correctly. It should have been installed so that the back of the fan housing was flush with the condenser. I corrected that yesterday.

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I was surprised when I removed the sway bar brackets that they were fastened with a 24mm nut. That is, by far, the heaviest fastener I have even seen on a sway bar mount. However, I assume the reason is that it also is the front mount for the suspension piece that I don’t know the name of.

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I removed this right one and cleaned it up along with the sway bar brackets and hardware. I also cleaned up the right suspension and the engine mount. Lots of dirt!!

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1973 Mercedes Benz 280SEL 4.5 Projects 31

August 26, 2017

I attended my first MB club event today in Dobson, NC at the Shelton Winery. I have been here once before for a car show and it is a wonderful venue with lots of shade trees, a good restaurant and good wine. I would guess there were nearly 75 cars there. This was my first chance to see other cars like mine and to talk to very knowledgeable people. I learned a lot. It was a very pleasant way to spend a day and we even had very moderate weather.

One guy there had transplanted a 4.5 motor into a 280SE coupe. He attributed marking every relay and fuse panel to being old and forgetful!!!

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He also had this cabriolet. I really like the wood on these dashes.

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This cabriolet was even more spectacular.

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There were a number of pagoda SL’s in attendance.

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Only one Ponton but it was very nice and very original. The owner worked for 35 years as a Mercedes mechanic at a dealership in Richmond, VA. After spending some time with him, I wish he lived near me!!! Among other things, he knows how to make 4.5 engines make more power. I may have to go to Richmond.

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In my estimation, best engine bay went to this 280SE. The attention to detail was exacting. The car next to it was his as well. They are just two among many that he owns with the youngest one having been with him for 19 years.

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The owner of this car is president of the region and rescued this car from the crusher. It was one among a number of 280SE and SEL’s there with 4.5’s.

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The backgrounds in these images show a good view of the venue and the turnout.

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1973 Mercedes Benz 280SEL 4.5 Projects 30

August 20, 2017

I left early this morning to drive to a Cars and Cappuccino in Charlotte, about a fifty mile drive one way. I take a twisty two lane road, with a 55 speed limit, over to the interstate that I typically set the cruise at 63mph. The cruise was very slow to engage but once I had it set, it worked great. Going up and down some hills wasn’t as smooth as it should be. More adjustments needed.

Once I was on the interstate and had the cruise set, it worked great and kept the speed within two mph. Again, it was slow to engage.

One of my friends has a ’90’s Volvo two door coupe. When I first met him, he had a 5.0 Ford V8 in the car in a very professional installation. During the past year, he took that motor out and installed a Chevy LS3. He does great work and you would think that LS3 came in the car. On both of these engine conversions, he had used the same Rostra cruise that I used. He told me that he originally set his dip switches for V8 high. I set mine on V8 low as it does not have high horsepower. His didn’t work the way he wanted either and he eventually set the dip switch for four cylinder low and it works great!! The setting was the exact opposite of what he thought he should be using. He told me to keep experimenting with the settings until I found the one that worked. His car is also beige so we created our own beige European car section.

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Cars and Cappuccino is supposed to be for European cars only. More and more non-European cars were beginning to show up and about four months ago, a Corvette left the event with tires burning. The property owner said they did not want them back. So they did something unusual. On their Facebook page and on threads on various car sites, they said they were going to make the event invitational. If you wanted to attend, you were to send them a list of the cars you had to determine if you fit the bill. Then they sent those who had the correct type of cars an email with the location and you were asked to refrain from forwarding the email. You pay $20 per year and get a cling on sticker that can be used in a number of cars. This lets them know you have paid your dues.

I was gone on my RV trip for the first two events so today was my first time at the new venue. It worked out great as there were about forty very nice cars, they opened the restaurant early with a limited menu and everyone had a great time. Nobody created a scene when they left. It’s a shame that car groups have to resort to these types of procedures to keep their venues.

Italian cars were well represented with a number of Ferrari’s and a Lamborghini Miura.

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There was a LeMans replica MGA there that was outstanding.

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The Germans were well represented by Porsche and a E34 M5.

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An unusual Porsche there was a 968 cab in a very purple exterior and interior. I had never seen this color combination before and the owner said it was one of three. Not sure I would have ordered a car in this combination but it was striking.

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There was also a 356SC there with a 912 motor. It was for sale but I did not see the owner to get a price. It contained an early Porsche cup holder prototype!

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A great time was had by all!!!

1973 Mercedes Benz 280SEL 4.5 Projects 29

August 19, 2017

On Thursday I worked on completing the under hood work on installing the cruise control. The blue wire needed to be hooked up to the tach. The reason for this wire is that the cruise control will sense any sudden change in the engine RPM, such as accidentally engaging neutral, and quickly shut off the cruise control. Since I don’t have a tach, I knew that I should be able to pick up this signal at the coil. I wasn’t sure which side of the coil to use, so I called Rostra and was told to use the negative side. I also needed a ground in the engine bay so I used the common ground at the coil. The cruise servo box is supposed to be at least 10″ from the coil. I had the box physically that far away from the coil but I had routed the coil wire so it entered the coil from the left side. I changed that wire over to the right side to make sure I did not get an electrical interference from the coil.

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The two wires from the speed sensor were way too long so I shortened them while making sure the wires remained twisted as you see in the photo. For some reason it is important to twist these wires. With that done, I inserted all of the wires in convoluted tubing and tidied up the engine bay with zip ties.

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Today I also worked on the wiring for the cruise control inside the car. To feed the wiring into the car I got out my trusty coat hanger and pulled the wiring through the hole made by the person who installed a cruise unit back in 1976. I found a grommet that was the correct size to seal the hole.

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The red wire from the cruise harness was to go to the side of the brake switch that had 12V with the ignition on while the purple wire went to the other side. The function here is to turn off the cruise when the brake is engaged. Using my voltage tester, I determined which side was which. I found the switch, unplugged the brake switch cable, cut back the insulation, and soldered the wires to the appropriate sides.

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As I mentioned earlier, I had to change out the cruise control switch to a remote unit. This unit uses a RF signal sent from the switch to the receiver that is plugged into the cruise harness. Both it and the main harness are to be hooked up to a 12V ignition hot wire. I used the same one that I had previously used for the hard wiring for the GPS.

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By late afternoon, I had the wiring part of the installation completed. There is a wiring status check using a voltmeter that could now be performed to make sure each function of the cruise will work. All systems were go!!

This morning I placed all of the inside wiring harness in convoluted tubing. There was lots of extra wire but it would have taken me forever to shorten each wire so I bundled everything up and secured the switch receiver and the wiring loom under the dash.

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Now I could reinstall the cover under the AC, the seat and the steering wheel. When I had installed the refurbished Becker radio a few months back, I had forgotten to install the AUX input that Becker had provided. I remedied that this morning.

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Now that I had the seat and steering wheel in place, I could determine the location for the switch. Since there are no wires, it could be mounted anywhere. Using a combination of velcro and very thin double sided tape, I mounted it on the bottom of the steering wheel hub. It is easily accessible while driving and has a factory installed look.

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Now I was ready for a test drive. The cruise works and the hitting the brake pedal shuts it off. It is a bit slow to engage but there are changes to the dip switch settings that can adjust that. On Monday I will talk to Rostra about which settings will make it work like it should. I have had to do this every time I install one of these units as there are a lot of adjustments.

This was also the first time I have driven the car with the new throttle bushings. Much more responsive and, under hard acceleration, it will now hold the car in gear much longer. It still does not kick down to a passing gear, so I will need to address that.

August 20, 2017

I took my wife to dinner yesterday evening in the Mercedes. I like to use cruise even on relatively low speed roads in towns to keep me from going too fast. The cruise was very jumpy, to the point that the bucking could make one queasy. That drive told me I was going to have to make some adjustments.

1973 Mercedes Benz 280SEL 4.5 Projects 28

August 9, 2017

To complete the job of installing new windshield washer hose, I thought I needed to remove the cowl sheet metal. Turns out I only needed to removed the fresh air intake grill. However, before I figured that out, I had already removed the windshield wipers. Even though I did not need to remove them, I will show you how I did it just in case someone has a need to know.

First I covered the area around the wipers with tape. After lifting up the cover, I removed the nut with a 13mm socket. To remove the wiper arm from the post I used a small puller. There wasn’t room to line up the center post of the puller with the wiper post so I screwed the nut back on and used the puller on it . It did not take much pressure to remove the wiper arm but I could not manually do it.

The silver colored plastic nut cover lifts off to reveal a 19mm nut. Once it is removed, along with the sheet metal screws, the cowl trim could be removed. Since I had them off, I removed the tape and used my polish around the wiper arm posts. This is a hard to reach area with the wipers in place.

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Next I removed the aluminum fresh air grill by removing the screws at its base. Once I had it off, I could access the windshield washer line. Unfortunately, the longest piece of hose I had was about six inches short. More is on the way.

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I also took this opportunity to replace the cabin air filters. There is a large one on the right side and a small one on the left. They were very dirty and even had holes in them.

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Since I am at a standstill on the cruise control install until the new switch arrives, I decided to install the rebuilt clock I had purchased before we left on our trip. Following instructions I found online for removing the instrument cluster, I unhooked the speedometer cable at the transmission to give it slack.

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I had already removed the cardboard cover under the dash for the cruise control install. It was also advised to remove the bolts that fastened the parking brake bracket to give more room to get to the back of the instrument panel.

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Since I have a column shift, I also needed to remove the bowden cable for the shifter. It is located on top of the shift column on the right side of the steering column.

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I also removed the steering wheel which will make it easier for me to work under the dash for installing the cruise control. After working under there today, I think I will also remove the driver’s seat.

The upshot of all this is that I could not reach the knurled nut that is supposedly holding in the instrument panel. When I reach up there I am encountering what feels like an air duct for the HVAC system. I cannot reach the back of the instrument panel. I even removed the radio and the sunroof switch but I still cannot access the rear of the instrument panel. It does pull out a about a 1/4″. Tomorrow I will put the car back on the lift to see if there is a retainer for that speedometer cable between the transmission and where it enters the inside of the car. I am hoping that there is no knurled nut on he back of the instrument panel.

Originally Posted by 124Coupe View Post
Ha! Been there, done that. My 4.5’s knurled nut is now stored in the glove compartment.

That’s where mine may end up.

My wife reminded me that I have a troubleshooting camera which I had totally forgotten about. It is charging on my workbench. I’ll see if I can at least locate it.

August 10, 2017

After spending the morning doing lawn work, I broke out the camera to see what I could see. I bought this camera at Harbor Freight and it works great. It has a light at the camera end of the cable which really helped in finding the knob. It can also be hooked up to a computer and you can download to a Mini SD card.

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The first thing I did was to stick the camera end through the radio hole. By looking in through the hole, the light soon lit up the knob. It was there.

8-10-17 knob 6

Now that I had an idea of where the knob was, I placed the monitor in the driver’s footwell so I could see it while I was trying to feel for the knob. I taped the camera cable so it would not move if I bumped the camera.

8-10-17 knob 58-10-17 knob 48-10-17 knob 3

I tried shining a light up there to see if I could find a place where the knob would be accessible. After much fiddling, I finally stuck my hand up in a narrower hole. After some wiggling, I could see my fingers on the monitor. Before too long, I got one finger on the knob. Fortunately, it was not screwed on very tight. After some more contortions, I was able to spin it off. Victory was mine!! The knob will be placed in the glove box.

8-10-17 knob8-10-17 instrument cluster

Now I could pull out the cluster far enough to remove the nuts that retained the clock.

8-10-17 clock 38-10-17 clock 28-10-17 clock

With the repaired clock installed, I hooked up the battery, set the time and then waited to see if the hands moved. They did. Now all I have to do is put everything back together.

8-10-17 interior 2

August 16, 2017

After five days of doing projects on the house, after mowing the lawn this morning, I finally got back to the car today. I finished up the windshield washer hose installation. I had to remove the right cabin filter to give access to the hose in the cowl area. To get the new lines to fit over the nipples, I had to use a heat gun. Once warmed up, the hose slipped on.

8-16-17 windshield washer 38-16-17 windshield washer8-16-17 windshield washer 2

The other job I completed today was installing the new bushings on the throttle arm. Now when I push down on the gas pedal, the throttle body opens all the way. I popped off all of the rod ends and lubricated them as well.

8-16-17 throttle bushings 58-16-17 throttle bushings 48-16-17 throttle bushings 38-16-17 throttle bushings 2

Now I can work on completing the cruise control installation.