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Hungary Bill
Hungary Bill UberDork
5/5/17 1:37 a.m.

I was going to call the thread "Keeping it cool when it's hot" to take advantage of the obvious play on words given the climate of my current location and the coolness of the old ride but then co-workers happened. I'll explain, but before we get too far I have to do two things:

1) I have to warn you that this isn't going to be so much of a "build log" as it is going to be more of an "ownership log". For my sake I hope it's boring, and I hope there isn't much to type.

2) I have to give the back story, and that might get a little wordy. (TLDR? skip to the next post. You wont miss a thing)

So lets start at the start:

I moved to Kuwait.

When I did, I found that none of my current vehicles were eligible for import under Kuwaiti law. It turns out that anything older than 10 years of age had to be imported by a Kuwaiti citizen. That means I had to sell my '87 Toyota 4x4 and my '84 4-Runner. My '82/'85 (depending on the paperwork) Alfa GTV6 had to go to a babysitter because as tough as it was to sell my "toys", my eldest son would absolutely NOT let us part with the Alfa (I owe him big for that one).

No big deal, I figured. I'll find something "interesting" in Kuwait, and the search started.

While I was in the states I ended up finding a few semi-decent car options on the Kuwaiti classifieds, but nothing that was really "getting me going". At this point I wasn't too worried; we were just seeing what to expect and what to budget. I figured a WRX would be good compromise of "interesting yet reliable enough for a daily" and a Landcruiser would be the "sure thing". The former would pop up with one possible example about once every two weeks, and there were piles upon piles of the latter to choose from.

As things progressed I started to notice that there wasn't much here in the "older than a decade" bracket and absolutely nothing in the "manual transmission department". A few e-mails to friends already in the area didn't yield much info as to why that might be (harsh environment maybe?) and they all told me to buy a newer Landcruiser (hey, I'm game. I love to camp and the desert might have a few places to explore) and then one coworker tried to sell me his for almost $60k. nope.

aaaaaaaaaaand then I got here...

I could go on all year, but time and time again I was told the same thing

1) buy a Patrol, a (landcruiser) Prado, or a Pajero. (I now refer to these as "The Three P's") If you still have any questions, see "Patrol, Prado, or Pajero". Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

2) DO NOT buy anything OLD or anything that wasn't modified for use in the GCC (Gulf cooperation council) at the factory. They WILL overheat in the summer (130+ deg) and the AC WILL NOT even remotely keep up. Buy something new, preferably a Patrol, Prado, or Pajero.

3) Parts will be IMPOSSIBLE to find for anything that isn't Asian (Audi's here are many and plenty in the "sightly used" but "dirt cheap" category for that reason apparently) so buy a Patrol, a Prado, or a Pajero.

4) DO NOT under any circumstances buy a vehicle outside of its warranty period. People here do not take care of their cars, and it is a harsh environment. They wont even change their oil after the warranty expires. Find a Patrol, Prado, or Pajero that's still got its warranty.

5) "I said the same thing you're saying. When I was in Dubai I bought a (insert a car that is not a Patrol, a Prado, or a Pajero here) and I (insert doom and gloom here) so I bought a (Pick one: Patrol, Prado, or Pajero) and (insert happy ending here)"

and like I said. The mere thought of straying from this formula would have all your coworkers on your butt like flies on rice. It just cant be done, dont even suggest it. Go find a Patrol, a Prado, or a Pajero.

Weeeeeeeeellllllllllllll I gotta be honest. When you tell me not to do something, the first thing I want to do is exactly what you told me not to do.

When I feel like I'm getting pig piled on, you can amplify that sentiment a hundredfold and then double it. After a month of hearing this defeatist jargon, I was really feeling something like this:

Well, feeling like you're going to set the world on fire is one thing. Actually doing it is something completely different (see: Luke's co-pilot in his snow speeder during the battle of Hoth...)

I've been here a month now. Finding a car with decent air-con, that strikes emotion, and can be bought and registered for under 3000kd (about $10,000) turns out to be quite the daunting task.

In the Japanese theater, Subaru still pops up with the occasional WRX but I really am worried about the previous owners. One candidate that I thought looked pretty clean ended up having 8 exhaust pipes. Eight! (take your time. I'll wait)

The other candidate I saw had repaired body damage that would make you seasick if you tried looking down the lines. The rest of the vehicles seem to be penalty boxes or (wait for it...) Patrols, Prados, or Pajeros.

In the European theater I've pretty much psyched myself out on the 2009/10 V8 Jaguar XF's. In my opinion they check my boxes "just enough" (haul kids, reliable, safe, etc) but I cant help but feel like I'm trying to like it too much. Besides, I want to turn the naysayer world on fire here, and does this really do it? The 2-door Jaguar XK's are prettier but lack the ease of getting kids in the back seat.

With much persistence, M4ff3w has me looking at the twin-turbocharged V12 Mercedes CL or S 600. Unfortunately this falls just a hair outside my comfort zone when it comes to cost and ease of maintenance (but DOES, oddly enough, fall slightly within my budget). It doesnt help that there was a Mercedes Cl and S 600 thread on GRM lately that really made ownership sound not nearly as bad as the interwebz would have you believe. But I really need something my housemate wont see me working on every day (oh yeah, one guy I work with lives in an apartment below the house I picked to live in. Any excessive wrenching will be reported and the Three-P crowd wins) and I'm not completely confident in the care of the previous owners. Besides, heavy Germans never really had my interest....

I've found a couple Mercedes 560SEL's and an E320 that I've chatted once with Mezzanine about, but really only the E320 had my interest...

So there I was. Nothing old, everything new. Definitely feeling like I was in automotive purgatory and then the worst possible thing happened: I found out I didn't speak Arabic.

That's right. This whole time I've been thinking I could actually buy the cars I've been looking at online and it never dawned on me that while I can introduce myself over the phone, but I cant express interest in a vehicle and negotiate a sale in the local language. Take those slim pickins I've found so far, and reduce that by 100% because I can't answer a classified ad...

It's official: Automotive purgatory.

There was seriously a week where I tried to resign myself to the fact that I was stuck with whatever the local dealers had on their lots (read: The three P's and second hand supercars). I even went with a friend to what must have been EVERY dealership in town. I was done for.

and then I broke another coworker rule: "Don't pay a realtor, go straight to the landlord if you want a place. The realtors will charge you half a months rent..."

Well, I used a realtor to find my house. I actually had the landlords name from the previous tenant, but never got around to calling him. When I saw the property advertised on the local classifieds, I picked up the phone and called the realtor. In doing so, I got along very well with the guy (his name is Mustafa, he has a kid about my eldest's age named Mohammed). "If you ever need any help in Kuwait, please call me " he says.

OOOOOOOhhhhhh buddy. You should have never said that.... one week later:

20170429_213617_zps6zajhhzh

"Hi, would you mind calling this guy for me? I'm interested in his car, and I'm worried about my Arabic"

Begin build :

Hungary Bill
Hungary Bill UberDork
5/5/17 1:39 a.m.

Did you skip the previous post? No big deal, really it was just a lot of words explaining to the audience that what I've done in the eyes of my co-workers and the locals here is the GRM equivalent buying a Maserati Bi-Turbo from a classified ad that only said "Ran when parked" for use as my ONLY daily driver.

If that wasn't bad enough, I barely have what you'd call "basic tools" for the next two months.

20170503_175531_zpshbyxdtdj

while living in a hotel room at this place...

enough of all that! Lets introduce the subject of all this! Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce, for the first time....

mercedes photo

My new 1969 Mercedes 200. /8, The "Strich Acht", The "dash-eight", The W115, whatever you call her, here she is

(that's my Hungarian buddy Zsolt and Mustafa in the picture, they're having a pretty good laugh at my expense)

With a whoppin 2-liters of displacement, she's the smallest engine option in her line kicking out a blistering 95hp. Mercedes reigned those horses in with one smooth 4-speed automatic gear box and an open dif. Only the oil burner options can manage less take off power than this beast. Hoo-wee!

I've given this ol girl a good looking over and I think she should be up to the challenge laid before her. She's got a 134a AC system (that is leaking and needs to be recharged, and an added electric fan to assist the stock clutch fan.

I had to bring a flashlight when I did my inspection because apparently here, "after 5" means any time on the clock's dial that is passed 5pm. It was evening prayer time by the time I actually got to see the vehicle (evening prayer is when the last sliver of red is on the horizon). Which reminds me!

The inspection was done in a mosque's dirt parking lot! Boy, I really wish I could have got pictures of that. What a day, I tell ya. (sorry, I have two heads but only enough blood to use one at a time) We drove by it again on our way out after the purchase though. it looks like this:

20170504_181755_zpsaidc0pc4

The owner was super nice. He spoke pretty decent english and after introductions he asked if we minded if he went in to pray real quick and he'd be right back. Of course we said "no problem" and then we were handed the keys and left to our own devices. Brave considering he really had no idea what kind of people we were.

So we took it for a test drive and everything seemed ok. Suspension is a little soft, the driver's seatbelt doesn't pull out (inertia reel keeps locking it), aaaaaaand there's a little "old car delay" in the steering wheel but I think that's about it.

When we got back, I brought out my flashlight and started giving the vehicle a "once over". Apparently this is very odd here, and the owner was delighted to see me do my thing. "I can tell you work with your hands... I built this whole car..."

A long conversation follows, where I try my best not to jump out of my skin with excitement because I've been advised by Mustafa that the Arab way of doing things is much more reserved to help with the negotiating part. Apparently I have a lot to learn about that because the most we could talk him down was 50kd (so 2450kd instead of 2500kd). meh. I had a good time

There's a lot about this car that isn't original (things like door cards, and the color), there's a lot about this car that's been taken care of very well (new steering components, and bushings!), and there are a LOT of spare parts (a trunk full to be exact, AND an extra 2-liter engine!).

But of course there's a lot I still want to do.

Notice the clutch mated to the engine in that last shot there? That means there exists a manual transmission option! mwa-ha-ha-ha!

Hungary Bill
Hungary Bill UberDork
5/5/17 1:42 a.m.

The drive home was pretty uneventful.

(if you're wondering, I dont have a Kuwaiti driver's license yet so I have to depend on Mustafa and Zsolt to haul me around and drive my car, etc. ETA on that one is probably goingto be Mid-June inshallah)

The car does highway speeds pretty comfortably, and 120kph (about 75mph) sounds about as wound as I think the car needs to be (about 3000rpms by my ear tachometer). That'll be enough for fast lane passes when traffic is moving too slow (driving here is crazy, by the way. Not India crazy, more like Rome crazy)

The coolant needle moved slightly above the 80deg c mark (slightly meaning "above by one thickness of the gauge's needle") and never moved from there. It only went up that high while sitting at one of the loooooooong stoplights during very humid weather. Of course I'll be double checking the cooing system before I drive it too much but I also want to verify the operation of the aftermarket electric fan and possibly wire up a manual override system for it.

There was one instance at a stoplight where I had a bit of a scare. I was smelling hot oil and was worried it was the car. It turns out it was probably an old ford police car next to us (oh yeah, our old police cars are pretty popular here but none of them seem to be in very good condition). It was blowing a bit of blue smoke when it took off.

I definitely need to figure out the AC system though. It's going to break about 120deg f soon and I'm not entirely sure how to turn the AC on. There are 2 sets of controls and everything I do seems to blow warm air. We'll start with a recharge and go from there.

Otherwise the goals for the car are simple:

Keep it safe

Keep it daily drive-able

Keep it family friendly

Oh, and if possible "make it fun" (without making the Alfa suffer). I may not be near my other project, but I can still buy parts and plan for the next chapter in that build.

The devils on my shoulder during all this are definitely M4ff3w and Mezzanine. If the two of them were given my credit card tomorrow I'd have an engine swap and air bags on my hands (don't get me wrong, this thing NEEDS more grunt, and it looks damn good on the ground but back to that Alfa thing...)

I've got a basic "car starter" parts list already going (things like cap, rotor, plugs, points, condenser, fluids, filters, etc) and approved by the budget committee so we'll see what I can get done and what direction the car takes along the way.

Cheers!

Hungary Bill
Hungary Bill UberDork
5/5/17 1:44 a.m.

Here she is in her resting spot

Hungary Bill
Hungary Bill UberDork
5/5/17 1:44 a.m.

And here's the view from my room

Good times

Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett UltimaDork
5/5/17 6:45 a.m.

In reply to Hungary Bill:

100% pure baller...not only do you have a sweet vintage Merc, you have two chauffeurs!

Dusterbd13
Dusterbd13 UltimaDork
5/5/17 6:48 a.m.

Neat!!!

American guy in middle eastern country working on a german car while living in a hotel and not speaking the local language.

You, sir, with the whole forum.

Slippery
Slippery Dork
5/5/17 7:22 a.m.

Excellent!!

That looks like a w123 lower dash and a newer steering wheel. If I remember correctly and these are like my w126, the center vents should always have cold air coming out of them, while the outer can be hot or cold depending on where the levers are.

Looks like you have both the w115 heat cold controls up top and the w123 below. The w123 looking ones should have the arrows pointing down for cold, not sure the upper ones.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito UberDork
5/5/17 7:47 a.m.

Cool thread, and cool car! I'll be following this one for sure.

Acme Lab Rat
Acme Lab Rat Reader
5/5/17 7:56 a.m.

As I looked through the pictures, I kept repeating "that car is from 1969. That car is from 1969?" Great find!

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim MegaDork
5/5/17 7:59 a.m.

The steering wheel was available in later /8s, so that might well be original.

At least in Europe, these mostly came with a manual transmission so there's definitely a possibility of converting it to manual.

Slippery
Slippery Dork
5/5/17 8:22 a.m.
BoxheadTim wrote: The steering wheel was available in later /8s, so that might well be original.

I agree. I meant from a newer w115.

tuna55
tuna55 MegaDork
5/5/17 8:26 a.m.

So I'm dumb, but why don't you ask your helpful chauffeur to ask the super nice seller how to operate the HVAC in a car which he built himself?

Also, nicely done!

mazdeuce
mazdeuce MegaDork
5/5/17 8:36 a.m.

You are the hero we deserve.

Hungary Bill
Hungary Bill UberDork
5/5/17 8:37 a.m.
tuna55 wrote: So I'm dumb, but why don't you ask your helpful chauffeur to ask the super nice seller how to operate the HVAC in a car which he built himself? Also, nicely done!

Ah! I forgot to mention: We met at the paperwork office to do the transfer and then agreed to meet at his house 45 minutes away. When we got there he wasn't home (we had the keys) so we were kind of left to our own devices.

Its also worth mentioning that I left the bag that contained the title (along with my take-away Thai food) in his garage. We have to meet again to get the paperwork so hopefully I'll be able to grill him then ;)

Hungary Bill
Hungary Bill UberDork
5/5/17 8:39 a.m.
BoxheadTim wrote: The steering wheel was available in later /8s, so that might well be original. At least in Europe, these mostly came with a manual transmission so there's definitely a possibility of converting it to manual.

From what I understood, this car came from Greece and parts can be shipped from Greece and Egypt pretty cheap. The previous owner offered to be a Greek contact, and Mustafa has family in Egypt.

Hungary Bill
Hungary Bill UberDork
5/5/17 8:40 a.m.
Acme Lab Rat wrote: As I looked through the pictures, I kept repeating "that car is from 1969. That car is from 1969?" Great find!

I really couldnt believe it myself. The interior and the body lines make it look so much newer. Add in the electric windows, that steering wheel, and whatnot and I certain that something was off... (I spent a fair amount of time looking at google images to be sure I was seeing what I was supposed to be seeing)

Hungary Bill
Hungary Bill UberDork
5/5/17 8:42 a.m.
Slippery wrote: Excellent!! That looks like a w123 lower dash and a newer steering wheel. If I remember correctly and these are like my w126, the center vents should always have cold air coming out of them, while the outer can be hot or cold depending on where the levers are. Looks like you have both the w115 heat cold controls up top and the w123 below. The w123 looking ones should have the arrows pointing down for cold, not sure the upper ones.

Ooooh man, I can tell I'll be pinging a lot of questions off of you Once I get settled in, it'll be time to get the car sorted and see what came from where. This is my first Mercedes and I have absolutely no prior brand knowledge

Hungary Bill
Hungary Bill UberDork
5/5/17 8:43 a.m.
Dusterbd13 wrote: Neat!!! American guy in middle eastern country working on a german car while living in a hotel and not speaking the local language. You, sir, with the whole forum.

Chauffeured by an Egyptian and a Hungarian

Hungary Bill
Hungary Bill UberDork
5/5/17 8:45 a.m.
Pete Gossett wrote: In reply to Hungary Bill: 100% pure baller...not only do you have a sweet vintage Merc, you have *two* chauffeurs!

Ball till ya fall

Mustafa couldnt believe I was buying this ancient vehicle. He's asked me more than a few times if I was sure.

Then half way home a group of laborers were crossing the highway and cheered and waved. Mustafa honked and waved back and then he was on board (ear to ear smile for the next 20 minutes).

Closer to the hotel he caught the car next to us taking pictures...

I think we may have our first convert

759NRNG
759NRNG Reader
5/5/17 8:46 a.m.

What's the duration of your stay.....long enough to perform man/trans surgery

Hungary Bill
Hungary Bill UberDork
5/5/17 8:48 a.m.
mazdeuce wrote: You are the hero we deserve.

Deuce,

As someone whose builds I look up to, I consider that very high praise. Thank you

Hungary Bill
Hungary Bill UberDork
5/5/17 8:49 a.m.
759NRNG wrote: What's the duration of your stay.....long enough to perform man/trans surgery

Open ended contract. We're thinking we'll stay for about 5 years and maybe try for another European tour. The only constraint to time will be the amount of time I have before it needs to be driven again. I'm thinking it'll be a bit of a "rolling project". Nothing like the Alfa

759NRNG
759NRNG Reader
5/5/17 9:09 a.m.

This sled kinda has an obscure diplomatic air about it, especially with three onboard

java230
java230 SuperDork
5/5/17 10:10 a.m.

Most excellent!

AC and window tint would be #1 on my list (is tint legal?). If driving is anything like Egypt, make sure the horn works!

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