Shed is not the biggest fan of electronic hardtops, for two reasons. One, because the roof opening procedure reminds him too much of Mrs Shed yawning; and two, because eventually just about every electronic car roof will stop opening. It’s literally just a matter of time.
From a professional standpoint, however, Shed loves steel fold-backs because there’s easy money to be made repairing them. Often as not, it’s down to nothing more complicated than the microswitches. Just Google ‘roof microswitch’ and you’ll be amazed at the number of different cars, many of them ‘premium’, that shamefully pop up on your screen.
Shed’s simple three-step process for fixing a busted roof is to give the general area where the microswitches are hiding a light tap with a monkey wrench. Step two is to smear some blobs of Brylcreem around the rubber seals, not just to stop any squeaks but also to make it look like he’s done something. The final step is to print off a hefty invoice under the expensive heading of ‘diagnose and rectify malfunctioning roof mechanism’.
If hitting the microswitches doesn’t work he will grudgingly locate some used switches off eBay at £25 a go and charge the students from the DIY Motor Maintenance evening class for the experience and pleasure of being allowed to solder them into place.
In regards to this week’s sub-£2k MOT’d banger, an unbangerish-looking R170 Mercedes SLK 320 with a usefully low history-backed mileage of 76k, no mention is made of any Varioroof problems. Mind you, no mention is made of any rust problems either. If this 23-year-old R170 is corrosion-free Shed will eat what’s left of his Fred Dibnah hat.
The greasy titfer is of course perfectly safe because even Shed can see some brown on the offside rear arch. Chances are there will be more getting ready to show itself at the backs of the front wheel arches or behind the front indicator lenses. SLK boots let water in too, generating electronic mayhem as well as rusty douleur.
Thing is though, the only time corrosion appears on twenty-one visible MOT certs dating back to 2006 has been in 2021 for a couple of front brake pipes. Any other advisories over those 18 years have related to either consumables or the enigmatic ‘items removed from driver’s view prior to test’ where the tester has moved something that, in their opinion, obstructs the driver’s view of the road. Things like air fresheners, sat navs Sellotaped to the dash or, in Shed’s case, a frantically-thumbed copy of the Kama Sutra dangling indecorously from the rear-view mirror. Overall, with luck and a good-sized bottle of Vactan rust neutraliser, this one might be worth saving.
The 3.2-litre engine used in the SLK was the M112 18-valve V6, a strong lump which when new would spin out 215hp at 5,700rpm and 229lb ft from 3,000-4,800rpm, not bad numbers if you ignored the cubic capacity. That was hard to do though when you went to fill it up having just achieved an mpg figure in the low 20s or high teens. The official combined fuel consumption was 25.4mpg, increasing to 17mpg in town.
It was rear-wheel drive though, and not too lardy (by modern standards anyway) at 1,400kg, so if you weren’t worried about the planet you could potentially enjoy 0-60mph times in the high sixes or low sevens at worst, and a top whack of over 150mph. The SLK 32 AMG was a low-five second 0-62mph car, but then again it was supercharged to 349hp/332lb ft and you won’t find one of them in SOTW anytime soon. The cheapest 32 we found in the UK at the time of writing was £6,500, and most were over £10k. Our shed is £1,995 and according to the ad that includes a fresh MOT.
Other running costs? Well, if those wheels are 17-inchers, which it looks like they might be, then you can get a full set of four suitably slidey ditchfinder tyres – Shed’s first choice for any 200hp+ rear-wheel drive car – for under £170 plus delivery. The VED should be £395 a year but, as usual, Shed denies any responsibility for getting that wrong.
Anything else to worry about? If the engine fails to proceed it might be something as simple as a faulty fuse in the CCM/ECU box next to the battery, another easy soldering job for the evening class students. The 5G-Tronic auto trans oil does need to be changed every 35,000 miles and while you’re at it you should check the bush where the ECU cable goes into the box because a duff one of those will allow oil to enter the cable and go on from there to cause more electrical mayhem.
The SLK platform is basically a C-Class, which is not a bad thing from a toughness point of view but the suspension ball joints aren’t everlasting. The rubbery goo that Mercedes (and others) put on plastic switchgear at this time to make it look posh gets flakier than Shed’s scalp, and that’s despite the 24-hour protection provided by Fred’s oily cap.
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