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Old 07-15-2002, 02:32 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 25
72 280 SEL 4.5: Where To Start?

Just bought her. Body is in pretty good shape, paint is good, as well. Tiny bit of rust on rocker panels and trunk floor. Engine is strong. Transmission is good, but reverse comes and goes. Brakes (especially front) need attention. A/C blows, but not cold. Interior is not too good: seats in good condition, everything else will need minor to major attention. No radio. Wood trim needs replacing. As far as I can tell so far, all electrical stuff works just fine (except the clock, of course!).

My dilemma: where to start? I don't want to do a total restoration, i.e. a show-class car, but just want to restore it to weekend driver status. I'm an OK DIYer and can handle most of the "simple" stuff myself; major stuff I have to take to my garage.

I know it's hard to answer without more details, but where/how should I start? Inside the car? Outside the car? The tranny? Brakes? System by system? Front to back? Back to front? I'm so confused!?! Excited, but confused.

-- Jason

1995 E320 Wagon
1972 280SE 4.5
1999 Land Rover Discovery Series II
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Old 07-15-2002, 07:46 PM
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Southern California, U.S.A.
Posts: 8,538
I always start with the "safety" issues first so that I can feel comfortable driving it around to get the things done that you can't do.

I'd start with brakes, tires, suspension. If these fail (esp. brakes) you could be in deep trouble. Then, I suppose the cooling system would be a good place to move to next. If you overheat on the road, you're just going to cause more damage. Then I'd move to engine / trans issues.

Just my .02 cents.
Paul S.

2001 E430, Bourdeaux Red, Oyster interior.
79,200 miles.

1973 280SE 4.5, 170,000 miles. 568 Signal Red, Black MB Tex. "The Red Baron".
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Old 07-15-2002, 08:35 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Evansville, Indiana
Posts: 8,150

Brakes first, then the rest of the running gear -- plan on engine mounts and front subframe bushings relatively soon, especially if there has been any oil leakage onto the rubber.

The master cylinder seems to leak on these cars -- I've located a couple or three in locak yards and the all have the paint gone on the booster and other evidence of master cylinder leaks. Brake hoses are a must replace item, and I'd rebuild the calipers if the fluid looks nasty. Make sure you have full thickness rotors -- most owners begin to cheat on maintenance on older cars, and not replacing rotors is a classic. Causes the pads in calipers to hit the antirattle spring and cocks the pistons in the bores -- this can ruin the caliper.

Next, get the front and rear window gaskets replaced, they are surely leaking, and will ruin the body with water induced rust. Water leaks around the seal and drips down the back of the firewall under the noise control coating on the floors and under the back seat, and into the trunk. Probably the source of the water back there -- look for water drip tracks on the wheel wells.

Reverse problems, especially if accompanied by slow engagement of first gear (check by flooring the throttle at a stop or manually shifting directly into L from Park) indicates a worn or misadjusted reverse/first band, probably normal maintenance. Crappy old tranny fluid that won't flow properly cold will do this, too, along with late, slow shifts cold.

Seats and wood trim, etc can wait until after you get the body fixed up -- you need to get the window gaskets done first, then get a decent body shop to fix the rust in the trunk. Surface rust under the trunk pad is best addressed with conversion primer and good medium gloss black paint -- factory quality if you can get it. Unless the metal is actually perforated, leave it alone.

Check taillights for leakage, front fenders for rust behind the headlights -- this can be fixed if only surface by conversion primer, good paint, and some serious latex (high quality, please!) undercoat.

This is a large, heavy, fast car -- make sure the running gear is in good shape before starting on the interior.

At least your's runs! I'm contemplating an engine switch to an M117 from an early 70's 450 SEL -- K-jetronic rather than D-Jetronic fuel injection.

1972 220D ?? miles
1988 300E 200,012
1987 300D Turbo killed 9/25/07, 275,000 miles
1985 Volvo 740 GLE Turobodiesel 218,000
1972 280 SE 4.5 165, 000 - It runs!
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Old 07-16-2002, 02:53 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 25
Thanks all. Good advice all around.

I'll start with the brakes and other safety issues first (suspension, cooling, transmission, tires) then work on the cosmetic types of things (trunk, interior, etc.) Window gaskets and door/trunk seals are also a definite must at this point. All are very cracked and dry.

I really appreciate the advice. I'm sure I'll be seeking more as I go along.
-- Jason

1995 E320 Wagon
1972 280SE 4.5
1999 Land Rover Discovery Series II
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Old 08-13-2003, 02:19 PM
Posts: n/a
Where to start, too...

I just bought my '72 280 se 4.5 a week ago. Body in good condition, a few minor dings, not original paint, a few rust blisters, mechanically runs okay, strong engine, has a slight tranny leak in front seal.. brakes ok..needs interior work (seats, headliner, carpet)..dash lights don't work..Odometer not working...A/C not working (no belt on condensor motor) , needs a lube job, lots of squeeks and moans while driving.....
Lots of good info in this forum..Thanks
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Old 08-13-2003, 05:40 PM
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: Austin, Tx
Posts: 439
Well, I had a 280SEL 4.5 years ago, a really nice car. I just purchased a 300SEL near the same car as you may know, I have asked a lot of question of this GREAT board some really good guys wiith top information you have already received. I advise you also to use SEARCH for more information on your car.

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