Mercedes 190 Project ~ Epilogue
If you buy your gran some trainers and a tracksuit and take her on a triathlon don't be surprised if she has a fatal heart attack! ......... Mercitus, 2005 AD
Apart from the inconvenience and expense, I did not regret dumping the 190 a few weeks ago in Croatia and now, with the luxury of hindsight I can make some preternaturally wise observations on Project One Niner Zero.
The plan of course was at least, interesting: to try something different. The whole 2WD v 4WD motivation has been explained and was worthwhile, and the car scrapped through its task in collecting both routes and first-hand 2WD experiences for Sahara II. But, assuming mine was normal, I would not buy another 190 2.5D: too slow, that fore-aft wobble, gremlinous electrics (like wipers coming on with the lights sometimes), doesn't steer that nicely (even before springs) - and actually 800 quid was a lot for an 18 year old car with 230,000 miles.
I still feel all my mods were in the ballpark, though they may appear excessive as I had plans for a few more Sahara trips, not one and a half. Maintenance? Well I could have done more, but where do you start with an old car? The whole point is to run it till it drops and that box was finally ticked.
Nevertheless, for a single trip with less expense:
• Bashplate: essential - and the fuel line protection was useful too
• Bigger tyres: not really necessary (but of course good/new tyres are)
• Suspension: I would just fit the thickest spring pad, and maybe new springs and not bother with shocks orlonger/harder springs. Let the bash do its work.
That said, the firm springs and bigger tyres did all add up to great angles on the dirt. The gearbox was still going OK 15,000 miles later (but maybe could not hack another Sahara trip). As for the steep hill overheating, I was a bit lazy and didn't really look into it apart from the obvious things.
When we took the Merc to Croatia with our two kayaks I had an idea it might not make it, but I usually think that with my cars. Sure enough, it started overheating up steep hills and the bigger alpine passes took a few cooling stops to get over. At the top of one we packed the rad with snow (above) and refilled the spare bottles from a stream. Pulling away for the downhill stretch I thought the steering was a bit stiff; maybe just low revs with the steering pump? But half an hour later, having whizzed through a stack of hairy hairpins, the front wheel half broke off....
Turned out the worn steering knuckle had had popped out. We deliberated over dumping it, but that would cost dearly in tidy Switz, so the new part arrived at the village next day and we carried on. Now running the engine on new gearbox oil (the mechanic had to be restrained at the very idea! He thought the car was a rusty abomination), the passes where crawled over in one go, though still inching into the red and with heater fans on stun. Then in Italy the alternator went, the fan could not blow, the windows or indicators would not work. Mulling it over on the autostrada and through Slovenia, unsure what would break next, we decided to try and flog it or just dump in next time the engine stopped.
Conclusion: As is often the case with old cars, components do not wear evenly as the mileage piles up; engines typically last longest of all and so you think: 'I'll fix it as there's still a bit of life in it'. Now it is clear that the heavy duty and longer springs plus the Morocco trip exacerbated the wear on the aged wishbone knuckle ball joint thing. It may have been a Merc before Mercs lost their build quality in the late 1990s, but it was still a tinny old car with a very high mileage.
As the great bodger-philosopher Mercitus observed: If you buy your gran some trainers and a tracksuit and take her on a triathlon - don't be surprised if she has a fatal heart attack!
After the 190 went I ran an Audi 80 tdi for a couple of years - a much better-built machine for a similar price. Now, if I go back in a desert 2WD I'd get a French hatchback like a Twingo or an airey C15-D, or an Audi Allrad if I'm having a good year.