Restoration

When describing the restoration I’m trying to do so based on Mercedes-Benz article/components groups, not following a chronological order. Since the details of the restoration primarily is intended for other restorers I think this grouping makes more sense. Following a pure chronological order, like a blog, would make it hard to follow the restoration of a specific part since it can span over several years, interrupted by work on other parts and other reasons...

I publish my story together with photos in order to:

  • Show you the scope of the work involved.
  • Help others to do the same thing, maybe inspire you who haven't dared to start your own restoration or who  have come to a halt in it and need a restart.
  • Get comments on things I've done. I'm unfortunately not perfect and hence make errors, and I would like someone to point them out for me so that I can correct them.

Some stuff has of course been done to the car during the years. I'll try to pin-point those deviations. If you find things here that you find strange, contact me for clarification. Some deviations my father did during the early years of the car's life. I treat them as original, at least for my car, and will keep them...

You have to bear in mind that a lot of things aren't equal when you compare this car with other cars. I've found out - for example - that the color in the coupe (the dark grey paint) differs from car to car as well as how joints/seams in the motor compartment has been puttied.

On these pages, you'll not find detailed explanations on how to restore this and that, just some pictures and hints to give you an idea of what I've gone through. If you're gonna do this yourself you definitely need Mercedes-Benz original spare parts list, the workshop manual (three parts) as well as the Tabellenbuch. Buy the old editions or the re-prints from Classic Centre. Then I suppose you need some tools, time, money and understanding relatives and friends. But if you don't get the books I mentioned, I think it is very hard to accomplish much and you will have spoiled your time, money, relatives and friends for nothing.

I've tried to get answers to my question about how everything really looked like and how it was done from a wealth of well-informed and experienced persons (like old mechanics, restorers, MB mailing lists etc) and well known companies. What I've found out is that there is no single truth. Mercedes-Benz AB in Malmö and Bernats Bil in Stockholm has been able to help me with some information. They had (still have?) some mechanics that worked during "the good old days", but a lot have been forgotten, unfortunately. Conclusion, there are as many answers that there are persons asked! I'm lucky, I can go back to my own memory, my pictures and for a long period during this restoration, also my father to try to find out how this and that ought to be done.

The pictures are of course too few. You can never-never-never take too many pictures during a restoration. But luckily I also have a small pile of drawings that I made during the dismantling. If you're interested I'll try to publish these as well.

First dinner in the garage I had in Spånga with the heater I got as a birthday present 2003

First dinner in the garage I had in Spånga with the heater I got as a birthday present

The reason for the restoration

Yes, why did I do this? The car was actually in a rather good shape. As you can see from the "pre restoration" pictures it looks quit good and I wasn't unhappy with the exterior so to speak. What annoyed me was that I every second week had to change a sealing, a bearing, change an electrical wiring, adjust that, repair this...

The car has over 300.000km behind it and I thought it was time to do something. And yes, it very soon went in the wrong (?) direction. I found myself taking the car down to the smallest particle. I don't regret it and I would do it again.

As said above, the car was in a rather good shape from a technical perspective (the rust for example, was "minor" if you compare how these cars can look like, especially if you take into consideration the mileage and the salty roads here in Sweden). From an "exterior" point of view it was ok. Worn yes, but not that bad. Remember when you look at the "before pictures", the things look bad partly due to that they have been used over a long period of time but mostly because I have taken them apart and I expose the flaws when I take pictures of them in that state. Most pictures are also taken after a couple of years in storage; dirt, dust and stuff has spread over them, nothing is polished etc. 

The goal of the restoration

The goal of the restoration is to get the car back to original shape, with a bit of luck as it was when it left the factory. I will re-use everything that is re-usable and replace only the things that has to be replaced, for example rubber, sealings, bearings and the electrical wiring.

The first wash of the Ponton after several years of work, 2010

During ascension weekend 2010 I felt it was time to wash the jewel

Due to the variables time and money I suppose that a lot of things will be left to improve during the first years on the road. The quality of the restoration of the individual parts has the highest priority, even though it'll mean that the car is not 100% perfect the first time it rolls out of the garage. I'll fix the small details when the variables let me, for example restoration of chrome and stuff like that. 

The following items were not installed when my father bought the car, but I do think they will make our vacations nicer: 

  • an original Blaupunkt Köln radio with mechanical antenna
  • an original sliding roof
  • and maybe an original towing hook that I bought for a small sum during the early 90ies.
  • hazard light consisting of an original knob with a new electrical gadget for higher safety... 
  • ... as well as safety belts

My father resting during car wash 2010

My father, at that time 82 years, helped me out. Tiring I suppose

 And since I couldn't find an interior that matched the original cloth interior or - in my opinion - looked good enough I decided to switch to a leather interior.  

How long time does it take?

I've forgotten when I started this work but I think it was in 1991 or 1992 and it started in the car's living room since 1966, my parents garage. Taking it apart is one thing, then you decide how long each activity is going to take, you're the boss of the project. But when you start to restore things, the duration of your activities are in the hands of spare parts suppliers, mechanics, welders, tool shops, wise guys, mailing lists, friends etc. On top of that you need to find out what new tools you'll need for dismantling the item, what parts to buy and from whom, waiting for them to arrive, waiting for screws to come back from finishing, during assembly finding out that something is missing (and starting all over again with that part), finding the correct paint and lustre, buying the correct paint, wondering why the workshop manual tells me to do it in this or that way and confirming it somewhere (thanks Ponton-list), etc, etc. That takes a h-ll of a time!

An instrument panel in an early Merdeces-Benz 180 Ponton with radio, © Daimler AG

An instrument panel in an early 180 with radio, © Daimler AG

The process (waiting or whatever you would like to call) I describe above normally takes 2-3 months, effective working days are however 2-5. Hence, I normally run 4-5 items in parallel so that I can work on one item while waiting for something for the others. Running more than 4-5 different items has turned out to be quite hard, too many small bags and loose parts in the garage, to many things to have in memory or on small notes etc. So during 3-4 months it seems like nothing is happening. And then, bang, after this period the garage is glimmering with another set of items in a condition like new. That's a fantastic feeling.

As you may already understand, since I'm not finished yet I have no idea how long time a restoration of a MB219 takes. If it'll take me 15 years it may take you 5 or 20 years, all depending on your wallet's size, your partners interest/indulgence, your normal work, if you decide to create a homepage in parallel and so on.

Todos

As I write under Dismantling a car, dismantling a car is not that difficult. You "only" need the right tools so that you don't damage anything. Putting it together is something completely different. It requires more tools, technical understanding etc. That is probably something obvious. But what is maybe not that obvious is that you need a memory of five elephants, an IQ of 250 or already have done this five times to succeed. Especially if you do it in your spare time and the restoration takes longer than expected ;). In order to succeed then, you need to:

  • As stated above, buy the Mercedes-Benz original spare parts list for your model, the workshop manual (three parts) as well as the Tabellenbuch
  • Take photos.
  • Make detailed drawings and notes of everything, correct/clarify the content of the spare parts list and workshop manual. What was the color of that thing, was it a yellow dot under the crud on that screw, how did the nut or the washer look like, was it standard item or of different size etc, was the screw stamped with Verbus or Kamax, how's that pipe bent over that thing, why, how, what, how many, in what order,.....
  • Take photos.
  • Make detailed ....

Sending a Ponton to bed

Auto pyjama on

  • Put everything in clearly marked boxes or bags with small notes on exactly how it was positioned etc (if you don't think it will be extremely obvious even after 15 years). I mark everything with Group number, Table number and Fig number according to the spare parts list.
  • Then take some more photos and make more drawings and notes.
  • Then sort everything into clearly marked boxes, one or two per Group (yes, I know that e.g. the doors or entrance sills won't fit into boxes, I hope you understand when to use this bullet.)
  • If you send anything away to a company, take photos of the parts, note exactly what you sent away and in what shape it was. If possible, note where the company put the stuff and how. The company who's going to fix it for you may forget things too, doesn't have the necessary order in their workshop or send things away as well. Visit them from time to time to see that everything is OK and still available.
  • If you send a large batch, of e.g. screws for plating, place everything on a paper and write exactly what Group, Table and Part number each part - or smaller group of parts - belongs to and take photos. When you get the batch back after two months you need to be able to put them back in the boxes and plastic bags where they belong. 
  • Newer throw old parts away until the car is fully up and running. You have no idea how often I need to go back to my scrap box to search for how a part looked like (new parts are unfortunately not always correct e.g., a difference in thickness of a millimeter or the shape of a washer can make a big difference) or search for markings on it that may guide me on how it was assembled.
  • Always keep everything together, in one place in the attic or on one shelf in the garage or in one... If you put something in another place, make a note because you will have forgotten it one year later.
  • Then take some more photos and make... And see to that you have at least one copy of them stored in at least one other place if something bad happens.
  • Carefully note everything you need to buy new when you take the car apart. End every day in the garage with half an hour searching exact part number etc and start to compile a shopping list. A bunch of post-it here and there wont help you. I have mine in an Access database so it's easy to search and sort and export lists for quotes and orders well in advance before I start a new phase in the restoration process. And when you get your new, precious items, note it in your list so you know that you not only intended to buy the item, but bought it and that you actually also got it. And it's good to be able to look in this database ten years later and see from whom you bought that bad rubber bushing and how much he charged you for it. Unfortunately it also gives you the ability to sum up how much money you've spent on the restoration - not counting your own hours. That sum is normally not funny.
  • Keep a list of items you need and bought

Rubber

Your shopping list will to a large extent contain rubber parts. However, you don't want to put old, hard rubber in the car when assembling it. So the first step is to really check the items you receive, even if it's (of course) original parts, they can have been stored for decades. This problem is also applicable to parts bought from Mercedes! The second thing is to store them correctly before you use them. Actually, I don't know the ideal condition, but some parts stored on my parents attic (temperature between -30C to +50C) proved that isn't a good idea... So, I would recommend you to store it dry in normal room temperature so that you don't have to order the same part twice.

Anyway, storing rubber for longer periods isn't good, either if it's your dealer who does it or you. I therefore highly recommend you to soak every part (I've done it twice a year) with liquid paraffin. Let them dry up for half an hour or so and then wipe with some cloth. The best result is achieved if you mix the paraffin with some alcohol (sorry, I don't remember the shares). And then put them back in their carefully labeled bags and boxes. It's fun to know where you can find your parts later when they're needed. The rubber is kept like new, at least for 10 years according to my experience! 
Note: I'm fully aware of that you are not able to bring life back into old, dry rubber. But with the method above I seem to be able to protect the rubber and prolong its life.

  • I try to preserve my rubber parts by soaking them in liquid paraffin and alcohol

Finishing of screws etc

I try to re-use as many screws, nuts and bolts as possible. That means of course that I have to clean, grind and sand blast everything. It takes a lot of time but on the other hand most of the bolts and screws are original with their original labels (Kamax, Graeka, Verbus, Ribe etc). Those can be quite hard and expensive to find at least to my knowledge.

Most of the parts in the car is of ordinary steel, that is; it's prone to rust. To prevent rust you therefore cover the metal surface with anti corrosive oils, plating, paint etc. You can of course use screws etc in stainless steel but then you'll risk to get galvanic corrosion.

Ponton in bed

Back in the small, but dry garage

When my parts are cleaned I therefore hand them over to a company for plating (Skeppstedt & Pihl, Fintling Ytbehandlingsfabrik, Ytcenter i Upplands Väsby, Excellent etc in Stockholm); black, "white" (natural color) or yellow "cadmium". I used the term "cadmium" since it unfortunately seems to be a widely used term for plating in our hobby, but as far as I've understood it isn't, it is zinc chromate (at least at the time for this text).

It's not only the color you need to choose, you need to consider how prone the plating is to scratches, how well the plating should protect the item from rust etc etc. Often there is some sort of trade off... Ask your plating shop or have a look on the net, for example finishing dot comfinishing dot com. I won't go into any recommendations here since:

  • this is a complex area which I do not understand in depth
  • in some cases there are as many answers as there are plating shops
  • due to environmental regulations things changes quickly and, above all, it looks different in different countries.

Some say that all plated parts were "white" on my car and that the yellow finish came first after 1958 or 1959. I've however found yellow plated, original screws also in my car, which is from February 1957. True or not, I use the finish that I think suites the item's usage. If it is visible I try to follow the color that it "should" have. If it is not visible or painted, I normally go for yellow since I've understood that that plating have the best rust protection. And if I'm not sure I normally go for yellow. Since most of the screws etc I get from my suppliers are in yellow I try to stick to that color. Otherwise I would have to re-finish new screws...

There are some things to take into consideration when you have parts plated, especially something called hydrogen embrittlement. Don't plate things if not necessary. Don't plate things twice. Be extra careful if the material is hardened. In such a case you probably shouldn't do it at all. Check the stuff you get back because sometimes the company has done something wrong and the parts are destroyed. Not easy to see but you will at least notice it when that parts brakes up when you assemble them (been there...). This can obviously be prevented with a method called baking but you need to know what you're doing and sometimes it doesn't help or, even worse, it is actually counter productive.

Another thing to consider is the finish you want on the parts when they have been plated. The coating is 5-10µm so any imperfection on the item's surface will be visible when you get the part back, actually even more than before. If the surface is to be visible, like the brake fluid or brake booster can, it has to be buffed and polished into perfection before you hand over the part to the plating guy (especially for parts that are to be chromed and look perfect). Or you let them do the polishing. But it is often expensive since it is time consuming (on top of that a very dirty work). After a couple of polishing failures myself I have the highest respect for the polishers.

  • The nice result of the finishing process. And it also protects the items
  • An example of a 219 part in original yellow finishing
  • Another example of parts for my MB219 in original yellow finishing
  • Another set of yellow finished parts