Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Temptation

I lifted this photo from somebody else; my car looks a lot like this, but isn't around for me to photograph. How sad is that?

I had an interesting conversation on Monday.

There are two different mechanics who have been recommended for rebuilding the engine of the Benz. When I spoke with one he immediately asked whether I wanted the high-dome pistons that are found on the 185hp European spec engine, or the lower compression pistons that are standard for North American engines, ie what is in the car now that grunts out 145 hp.


All sorts of thoughts went through my head. First of course was the idea that 40 more hp was there for the asking. Then the cautious part of me took over and started wondering about the crankshaft, transmission, head gasket and other components that would have to put up with more hp, higher pressures, more torque and so forth. And the frugal part of me started wondering about whether the 91 octane gas around town would be enough, or whether I would have to start adding boosters. Heck, one of the reasons I wanted a post 1977 vehicle was so that I could be sure it ran on unleaded gasoline, so the idea of a car that knocks on premium was not that encouraging.

When I spoke with my other candidate mechanic, he figured he probably had a whole set of racing parts around somewhere, pistons, crank, camshafts and so forth, for this engine. But he wasn't sure, and he wasn't sure whether it was worth doing. He recalled raising the compression ratio on another 280 to 11:1 and it doesn't ping when using premium.

So I'm asking around about anyone who has experience rebuilding a North American spec engine to European spec. Parts would have to be bought, of course, but my fear is that something about the rebuild would leave me vulnerable to catastrophic and expensive mechanical failure, somewhere far from home.

OK, this car could turn from a hobby to a temptation to an obsession. Time to take deep cleansing breaths...

5 comments:

Frank B said...

My '79 280CE is a eurospec. With 107, XXX miles it runs fine on regular gas. I've been told the euro spec pistons are very expensive. Beyond that I'm unsure as to what else is different in the engine. In addition, the car has the slimmer bumpers the designers intended, manual HVAC controls (apparently a big deal), city/country horns and a cloth interior. I'm starting to learn more about it from the links you provided. I've tried to sell the car but have had no luck and may have to keep it.

Halfwise said...

Can you tell me a little more about your car? I would guess it has manual windows too. Automatic or 4 speed? Heck, I might be interested in buying it...

Halfwise said...

Frank if you want to contact me directly rather than through this blog let me know.

Halfwise said...

Well, looking at your car on the benz forum, I have to confess I don't like the brown either...

There's a guy in New Brunswick with a cool Eurospec in black, about 130,000 miles, 4 speed. But he wants serious money for a car that is a long way away. He tried to sell it on eBay but it didn't meet the reserve price and stalled out around $5000.

Frank B said...

Mine has power windows, cloth interior, the head lights were converted to US spec though (perhaps during import?). There's a spare set of lights in the trunk which might be the old ones. Anyhow, the story is that a US diplomat bought it and drove it in Europe for about ten years. He retired to Florida in the 90's and subsequently either died or stopped driving the car then going to his grandson. The kid was going to college and tried to take care of the car but wasn't very mechanical. Stuff like smearing silicone caulk over the rear window seals to stop them from leaking. One of my neighbors noticed the vacuum advance on the distributor isn't hooked up. The power antenna is stuck down so the radio has poor reception. Lots of little issues. I believe the car to be fundamentally sound. It always starts even after sitting all winter in storage. It does not leak (you can appreciate that). It doesn't overheat even in our latest round of 100 F heat (in Minnesota?). On the highway it just soars. I just don't have time for another car in my life, I already have eight. I collect English cars mostly. If your interested give me a call at (612)824-1201, I'll even lower the price to $2000 to you.