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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. My grandmother has a 1971 Mercedes-Benz four-door sedan. She has given up driving and wants to sell the car. It is a 300SEL model with a 3.5 liter V8 engine. My grandparents bought it new and it is in only fair condition. We have looked in the Kelly Blue Book and have not been able to find it listed.
Y.M. Reno, NV

A. Your grandparents would have been better off buying the 6.3 liter version of the same car. It was only a couple of thousand dollars more but it's now considerably more valuable due to the fact that the engine develops 300 horses. Market reports like the Blue, Black or Red Books are really loan value guides and can't be depended on as historical research encyclopedias, especially in regards to old foreign cars. Your grandmother's car is in the Standard Catalog of Foreign Cars (a much more reliable source for this kind of information) and I found one like it in Hemmings Motor News for $5500. If your grandmother had gone for one of the more exotic M-B open sports cars of the same year, she'd really be in good shape now. In pristine condition, some of them are going for up to $95,000.

Q. My pride and joy is my 1991 Toyota Tercel with a manual transmission. It only has 28,000 miles on it but lately it has been sporadically growling at me when I shift from first to second and less often when I shift from second to third. It never makes any noise when shifting from third to fourth gear. The sound is like an overworked ball-bearing but is brief and I don't notice any loss of power. I haven't talked to anyone about this problem because my favorite mechanic retired some time ago and I haven't found anyone to take his place.
F.D. Redlands, CA

A. The first step is an inexpensive experiment. Have your transmission drained into a big, flat, clean drain pan and refilled it with the factory recommended lubricant and possibly add a couple of ounces of some kind of aftermarket super-lube. Have the drained oil checked with a magnet to see if there's any ferrous chips or flakes in it, then do a visual check for non-ferrous flakes. If that fresh lubricant doesn't cure it, you'll have to bite the bullet and find an experienced mechanic that will test drive your car and give you an expert opinion. My first reaction is that the gear synchronizers in your transmission are worn out. Gear synchronizers are cone-shaped "blocking" rings that are fitted between each of the gears and the sliding hubs that do the gear engagement. When you shift, these rings act as brakes to synchronize the speed of the gears and hubs. The hubs are the devices you move when you shift. If these syncro rings wear, the gears can clash when you shift unless you move the lever at just the right speed. This might account for the noise only at certain times. The gearbox bearings in your Toyota are not fragile so your analogy of overworked ball-bearings may not be a good one. Make finding a new trustworthy mechanic a high priority because like the old Sophie Tucker song says, they're hard to find.

Q. I'd like to buy a Chrysler product muscle car like the '69 Dodge Daytona Hemi or a Plymouth Hemi Roadrunner of the same year. Are these cars readily available? Can they be bought inexpensively and fixed up? I'm graduating from high school soon and will be able to spend my salary on a car like this.
D.K. Terre Haute, IN

A. I hope you have a good job lined up and plan to live at home. Cars like the ones you describe are very hot on the investment car market and even those that are rough are snapped up for top money and get high- dollar restorations. You'd be better off setting your sights on one of the lesser versions. A '69 Dodge Charger with a 383 cid V8 engine is easier to come by, cheaper to fix up and is very quick in standard form.

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