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1986 Mercedes 560SL

Sporting Lessons

Classic Velocity

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SL stands for Sport Leicht. The 560SL is curiously neither Sport nor Leicht. On this day, it stood for Sporting Lessons, or what happens when you attempt to drive the SL like a car that actually IS sporty and light. Fast is not a tremendous problem for the SL. The 8 cylinder accelerates fairly quickly, and has adequate power to propel the chassis down the road. The brakes are good as well. You can throw out the anchors and it will stop aggressively if you apply the pedal in the same manner. So what is the problem ? In a word, suspension. 

SL stands for Soft and Leisurely, and that is how the car is setup. Perfect if you want to emulate a large American luxury convertible. Not so good if you want to corner, or operate the vehicle on something other than a straight road at speed. It wallows and rolls and bounces. More than once it lifted an inside wheel while chasing Bruce's 911 through the curves. More than a few times the tires broke loose. More than once the suspension came close to its bottom. And once, it was airborne over a sharp crest. This is not how you drive an SL. What a blast !

And then for the Coup De Grace. At an opportunistic moment, while Bruce was napping, I passed the 911SC through some slight S bends. By the time he realized what was happening, I was around him watching his startled face in the mirror. SL stands for Shock and Loss-for-words. Brilliant !! In order to regain the position, he would have had to work really hard to get around the SL which was constantly out of shape on the narrow roads. At the next stopping point SL stood for smug laughter. I am pretty sure that in the history of the German automobile, this is the ONLY time a Mercedes SL has passed a moving Porche 911. This particular SL is now destined for the museum in Germany. SL stands for Stuttgart Legend.

 

Top Time

Classic Velocity

The soft top on the car was shot on receipt, having been torn up by cats of the previous owner, and the plastic was broken and yellowed. The new top in the trunk was beige compared to the dark brown on the car, but I decided to use it anyway. I toyed with doing the top myself, but decided against it, not having the room or the time to do it well. Installation took a long time to coordinate, but the results were good. I still like the look of the hard top on these cars, but now the car has all permutations of the top in good working order.

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Cool And Coffee

Classic Velocity

The run to a favorite coffee spot was perfect.....if it had been 20 degrees warmer! An early blast of cold fall made top down driving a bit...well...brisk. The hard top will stay off until the soft top gets replaced, so hopefully there are a few nice days still remaining. 

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The Breakfast Run

Classic Velocity

As confidence in the vehicle grows, the concentric circles get wider in radius. A favorite is a breakfast run to New Hope. Great Brioche, excellent Danish, and about 80 miles total. There is a stop in the middle, so any needed field repairs can be accomplished. On this occasion, none were required. The top stayed down on a glorious day, and the machine accomplished the circle with only a small issue around the A/C condenser drainage.

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Ragged Top

Classic Velocity

This car is either top down or hardtop on. The soft top is toast, with faded broken plastic windows and a few tears in places. It was obviously left up and was a home for a few cats. 

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New Snorkel and Sputter Resolution

Classic Velocity

This car was obviously cared for over its whole life including a very recent dealer service. However, the plastic air intake tube from the air cleaner to the front grill was broken and then circled with duct tape! My first thought was that it was some one-year-only discontinued part, but it wasn't. It was a $17 hose widely available at parts houses and dealers. This is no show car, but duct tape in the engine bay is below standards. 3 days later, problem solved. Also in the package were a couple of spark plugs. There was an intermittent miss on #1 and I decided to start my usual process of eliminating suspects. I pulled #1 and it was pretty black. I pulled an few more and they were new and light tan. I just changed #1 and the sputter was gone. The car now revved smoothly from idle. I am putting this down to a bad plug, but I will take a look at this new one in 100 miles.

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Grime Time

Classic Velocity

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The level of grime in the engine bay required a cleaning just to be able to have a good look around. It was off to the carwash for this. Grime mixed with time is an effective covering for areas that are not intended to be covered, such as an entire horn or  most of the steering pump housing, or a ball joint. A couple of cans of engine cleaner along with a brush and a powerful water gun got a lot of it removed. Next was a change of oil and air filters. The air filter housing was also coated in grime, so I am sure the carb and the engine will benefit from a good dose of sea foam. I now feel much better about driving the machine, and I can probably tell where any leaks are coming from!

SL Plus 20

Classic Velocity

The previous SL in the garage was 22 years older and needed attention. This instance arrived via a neighbor who had the car from the time the odometer read 5000 miles. It arrived with 129,000 but in good shape as it had been dealer serviced forever. As usual, there are many little things that need attention, but overall, it is in good shape. Now to learn more about a water-cooled V8 !!