Here’s the first instalment of the story of my 1982 Mercedes 280e track car, project “Cunning Plan”.
I hope to try and keep it all in chronological order, and add as much detail as I can, but this has been a long saga and I’m trying to write this from memory, as the build diary was on the now gone Practical Performance Car Forum.
This is how it looks now…
I bought it way back in 2009 for a friend who was looking for a parts donor for his Mercedes restoration project.
I drove past it in a village not too far from me in near Matlock Bath, it was sat on the front of a house half buried in the hedge, and sitting lopsided , looking sorry for itself.
I knocked on the door and a guy answered, I asked if the car was for sale, and explained to him why I wanted it, he said yes as he was getting earache from his wife about it, and I could have it for scrap value if I moved ASAP. I asked him to give me a price and he said £150, if it was gone that day. So, I did the deal and went straight back for my trailer to collect it.
I winched it onto my trailer and took it up to a mate’s to park it for a bit (where the pictures were taken),I then called my mate to let him know I’d found him a parts car, it was then that he dropped the bombshell, that his project had been written off a couple of days earlier!!!
So, here I was with a car I didn’t really want, so I thought I’d go and have a good look at it, and decide whether to sell it as a whole, or break it for parts.
A couple of days later, I went up to my mate’s yard to inspect the Mercedes, it had rotten arches all round, the sills were rough, the drivers door had lost the lower section of the skin, and it was lopsided because it had a broken driver’s side front spring, and the passenger side spring had fell out completely!!!
But on the plus side, it had an immaculate cream leather interior (which is rare as most of this era had vinyl), good lights, several good panels, a tidy set of alloys, a low mileage 2.8 litre engine(143k), and a manual box(which only about 15% of 2.8’s ever had)!!!
After looking round it for a bit, a thought entered my head…
…wouldn’t this be a laugh as a track car!!!
My plan was to strip it out, and use it for a handful of track days, then finish breaking it after a year of playing.
It turned out, due to having my own business, and a life, this would take a few years to do, so here’s a condensed version of the saga…
First thing I did was post on a few forums looking for a buyer for the interior, I posted saying open to offers as I didn’t know what to value it at.
I had the usual messers message me, then a lad called me from the West Midlands, he asked what I wanted for the interior, and I told him to make me an offer, he said “Will £350 do?” so I ripped his hand off!!
2 days later the car had no interior, and I was already £200 up on the purchase price.
I then started trawling the forums, and ebay for parts, I found most of the repair panels, and a complete SPAX lowering kit.
I then took it over to a mate of my dad’s to do the welding for me, as I hadn’t got the time, and I didn’t have the confidence to do it either (how times have changed!!).
This is where the car took a turn for the worse, he made a terrible job of the repairs, just welding the new panels over the old panels, without cutting the rust out!!! This is a problem that I’m only just now getting round to correcting.
Luckily he didn’t touch the driver’s door or the front wings, I managed to pick up good replacements and just had to get them sprayed to match the car.
I then got on with fitting the lowering springs and adjustable shocks, and I also set about replacing the brakes too.
I found out from the PeachParts Mercedes forum, that the front bigger, vented discs, and callipers from the bigger S-Class Mercedes were a direct swap for the solid discs on my car.
So I got hold of a set of new discs, callipers, EBC Yellowstuff pads, and braided hoses, for the front and rear.
I took the discs to a lad who I know in Chesterfield who put them on his CNC machine and grooved the discs for me.
I also had to sort the interior, or lack of, and see what other weight I could remove too, so it was time for it to go on a serious diet.
I stripped out all the sound deadening that completely covered the floor, and removed the whole sunroof mechanism, and refitted the skin using some bits from a couple of old fluorescent light fittings, and some Tigerseal.
I decided the doors and glass were far too heavy, so thought I better do something about it…
Then it dawned on me, I might need a seat and some sort of restraining device…
After this I discovered that the original 14″ alloys wouldn’t fit over the new front brakes, so had to fit 17″ wheels that I found in a local scrap yard(near the cone in the first picture).
Fast forward now to May 2012!!! (yes it really did take that long to happen!!!!)
It went on it’s first outing to Practical Performance Car’s PPC in the Park show, at Mallory Park…
It performed fairly well, even though it was blowing brown smoke out of the exhaust for the first few laps (this was the rust out of the silencers!!!)
The suspension was still pretty soft, and there was a lot of body roll, which is evident in future pictures.
Then a month later it was an entrant in PPC’s £999 Challenge.
This was a competition run by Practical Performance Car magazine, the basic rules are, you have to buy and tune a car for a total cost of less than £1000, there was an offset allowed where you could sell upto £250 worth of parts off of the car to bring it back under budget.
It was held at Santa Pod Dragway, the competition was in 2 parts, you spent the morning doing 1/4 mile drag runs, and the afternoon you had 3 runs on an autotest course, you then took your fastest time from each part and added them together, the fastest combined time is the winner, SIMPLE!!!
There was about 30-35 cars entered when I took the Mercedes, I think I came in 15th, which Isn’t too bad for a 30 year old car that had just been dragged out of a hedge, stripped out and used, at this time there was no engine mods at all.
It even made the cover car of the feature in the magazine!!!!
I think that’s enough for part 1 of this thrilling automotive misadventure.
Stay tuned for the next instalment “Cunning Plan, a Mercedes misadventure” coming to a cinema near you soon!!!!