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Post Info TOPIC: Thoughts on cutting roof off W126 420 SEL Sedan to make convertible.


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Thoughts on cutting roof off W126 420 SEL Sedan to make convertible.


Well as some of you may know from my past postings I recently gave my son the old family 420 SEL. This 420 was my very first daily driver W126 and I took it all over the country buying other W126s including the 560 I drive now. The current state of the 420 SEL is prime for custom work considering the interior is all removed, the engine and transmission, and there is a few mis-matched exterior panels due to my selling off or giving to friends. But everything is there and I have more than enough stock to rebuild this car 3X over. The best part is the car is very clean on the frame and underside.

 

My son suggested that this particular Mercedes Is too much work, which to me as someone who has had to bust my ass and cut down 4 Mercedes to make the one I drive today was a total slap in the face. So now to make things interesting and ensure the kid dont get lazy I am going to do what I have always wanted to do with a sedan. I am going to cut the roof off and make a convertible SEL. I have always loved a large sedan in convertible trim, and to date I have never seen another SEL convertible. You might think I have lost it, but I have done a lot of thinking and I have cut a lot of tops off parts W126s to know what gets weak and where to cut.

 

Here are some of the things that I have been concerned with that Ill just figure out as the process unfolds.

 

First there will be some level of hookey-pooherary to this setup, which is to be expected because Mercedes never made a W126 convertible to my knowledge. For starters, NO POWER WINDOWS, in fact, No door glass whatsoever because all of the door pillars will need to be removed. It would have to be an all out Toy much like the million dollar exotics that have a snap on tarp to keep rain out if you were caught in a storm. I was thinking of keeping the hard top and later down the road figure out a way to re-attach it, for a Removable Hard Top but it would be somewhat pointless given the fact there will be no windows. So a top is not high on the list right now.

 

With that in mind, that this 420 W126 Sedan will be exclusively a Toy what you are about to see are photos of the all but forgotten 420 as it sits now, and then Off with the top.

 

Now in the past I have cut tops off of W126 sedans and trust me, they get VERY flimsy once cut. The key here will be bracing the vehicle. I have installed many frame ties on many vehicles so I feel pretty good I can make something work, but if anyone has any ideas I am all ears.

 

I figure the back package tray should remain, with a clean cut right at the bend in the quarter panels. So basically right where the old rear windshield used to end will have to be Frenched or blended in, as with the surrounding portion right up to where it meets the rear doors. The doors will be stripped of regulators and windows and all of the sub par doors I was about to throw away will have the pillars cut off of them. No need in cutting up the original 420s doors as they a very nice, original and rust free. Ill be saving them for my 560 or something. I got 3 rough black doors and a white one that have been sitting in the back 40 waiting on someone like me. LOL

 

With regards to interior, I have some real nice late G2 seats in burgundy, along with various black centers and interior door panels. I have a dash in just about every color, but Ill use my worst condition dash, which happens to be black. So black and burgundy two tone on the inside.

 

The exterior will no doubt need paint. I am not sure what color yet but I am thinking a single stage enamel that I can spray myself after everything is road worthy.

 

The engine? Well given the custom nature it could be anything down the road, but for now I have a nice 560 core that I could freshen up thats been looking for a home every since the Silver Dragon got slayed. ;)

 

1st step is to get the photos of the car sitting as is. Its been sitting in the back 40 for almost 5 years now. Its looking neglected and perfect for a Before photo. Then of course I must empty it of all the parts I been storing in it. Then clean it and move it into my other garage. Then Ill pull the doors and cut the roof. Wish me luck and please, any ideas or possible pitfalls you can think of let me know.

 

I have never seen a convertible SEL, but if you have feel free to post up a photo because I am curious how someone else may have went about it.



-- Edited by SELLC on Monday 3rd of June 2013 02:29:03 AM

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IN THE RUNNING

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Hey SELLC,

Whoa, what a project ! You did say that this was going to be "Toy", which is a good thing, as you would be very lucky indeed to ever get it into an acceptable and legal road-worthy state. I don't mean to put you off or anything, but it was essentially the tough laws of the USA in the first place that actually kept the 107 SL series going for so long, as it was only this design that passed the regulations and why lots of other makers kept away from "open-top" cruisers. This kept the door open for MB who were almost the only people making these types of cars successfully and in full-compliance with the US regulations. They pretty-much had this market to themselves...The 2 primary things that are needed are a full-length-chassis and a super-strong wind-sheild surround, in the event of a roll-over...Good-luck, though as a project for you and your son, priceless !

Cheers,

Rastus

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Yes the laws here in the USA for automobile makers are quite tough. That's why the US  W126's have bigger bumpers than Euro cars and some other unique safety items native to US models. HOWEVER, these laws do not apply to vehicles already imported, registered and then later "Modified" or made "Custom". It would be completely street legal and in fact DRIVEN on the street. Pretty much a toy, or a garage queen. It would have to be, with no top or windows and only a custom made cover for emergencies. Just something fun to let it all hang out in, good or bad, as I really dont know exactly how it will turn out.

How much I end up doing to it in terms of engines, paint, ect. will depend on how sturdy it feels. Having cut over 10 of these vehicles I can tell you the front Windshield pillars have about a 1/2 inch round solid steel rod that is welded inside the pillar. I know this because I once tried to cut one, and if you notice in every car I have cut it's never in the windshield pillar because of that damn 1/2 rod, it wears out the saw-zaw blade.

I have since this posting seen some photos of a convertible W126, some of them pretty fancy with windows and a retractable rag top. I am going to weigh in on this now, it's not going to be "fancy" but by no means do I want it to be ghetto. If Ferrari, Lamborghini and Vipers can have some insanely cheap top / emergency cover designs then so can I! LOL

I gotta do something. It's sitting there, I been having the bug for quite some time to do something custom and it's paid for with all the parts present with only hard work needed. I'll show the kid "Too much work"! 

This here is what I call the teaser photo. I call it that because it's when I first seen what a convertible W126 would look like and even in thr rough I was impressed. This vehicle above was cut due to serious frame rot, it was also cut about the same time as I slayed the Silver Dragon (you can check out the Silver Dragon thread in the forum).

I have also cut quite a few other Mercedes in the past, so I am pretty comfy with the frames and what areas will need bracing.

This here was my first ever Mercedes. It was a 1990 MB 560 SEL. At the time (back in 2000 when I originally got it) the thing was mega expensive for anything. I ended up parting it out before ever getting to enjoy that vehicle, however it allowed me to buy several other Mercedes W126's and pretty much got my foot in the door with regards to repairs and getting to know the car inside and out. Back then I worked out of my driveway on this stuff, without even a garage!

Here is where I first started really "cutting" these cars, as I gave the back half of this W126 to someone in need.

This Mercedes I purchased in Edgewater NJ for an engine. It just so happend that I picked up the vehicle near New Years eve, and NYC was just across the bridge from Edgewater NJ. So I partied in NYC times square with the family and we drove the soon to be convertible 420 during that trip. I should also mention I drive that POS above all the way back from NJ with the roof damage and a bad alternator, having to swap batteries between the vehicle above and the soon to be convertible 420 all the way back! It was such a pain but hands down I can pull and install a battery in a W126 faster than any man now. I was getting so good that I could even swap them suckers while the car ran! Tricky. I was and still am dedicated and motivated.

The rest of these photos just show that same old donor 560 (with ASR) getting cut up and you can see how the cars frame is made or should I say goes together.

I look forward to taking photos of the ole' 420 as she sits now, which is going to be pretty much in dire straights and in need of serious attention. Then it's time to put the kid to work pulling it out! It must have sunk in the mud 5 inches by now. An inch per year! LOL!



-- Edited by SELLC on Monday 3rd of June 2013 03:20:22 AM

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Okay... Got the kid working on digging out the ole' 420 and what a job!

Here are the BEFORE photos.

Here she is in all her glory! LOL! Just what an 11 year olds car should look like! Meanwhile I been using it as a donor / storage shed.

One time a long time ago I needed a rear sway bar link for my car about an hour before I left for vacation. As you can see I never got back to putting that left rear wheel back on. But, at least the kid learned how to un-sieze a frozen to the rotor caliper.

It's just been sitting for a few years.

Theres all them parts I been looking for!

Too much work? I don't think I'll ever hear them words again.

You really can't imagine how big the inside of a Mercedes is until you fill it up over 5 years then have to unload it. Getting it cleaned out and up.

Here it is in my garage. It's easy to roll in and out so the city cant crawl up my ass. Hell the kid can roll it out by himself!

Next on the list is a full power wash, complete carpet removal, door removal, then a very good vacuuming... Then... Off with the top. Stay tuned



-- Edited by SELLC on Thursday 6th of June 2013 01:06:53 AM

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I think it was Rastus that asked me the other day how the progress on the 420-Vert was going.

Well... I did manage to get the kids to powerwash and clean the entire 420 prior to tucking it back in the garage, but since then I been tied up with a black 420 customer pay upper half job, which has put the clamps on my free time. I also think it might not be such a good idea to give a saw-zaw to an 11 and 8 year old and say "Well go ahead and cut it off" LOL! So I been holding off on making the cut.

There are still a great many things for them to do, but the most important part was getting it out of the mud pit and cleand up and stored in the garage, otherwise it might have sunk in the mud like quick sand with all this rain we been having here in Detroit! I swear the past three weeks have called for nothing but thunderstorms and showers.

But here they are in action, slowly getting this 420 ready for it's big day.

So they got it out of the hole and cleaned up. I guess a task list is in order to keep them busy and progress moving forward. It's not like they don't bug me about wanting to work on it, I just havent had the time to help them.

 



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Hay SELLC,
I joined this forum just to share my interest in the 420 roof surgery. I am planning to do the same on my daily commuter 280SE once I get a new back up vehicle, however I am planning to keep to glass and the door pillars joining them like a T top for structural support and allowing me keep the power windows. I was also planning to install a manual top that is stowed right behind the rear seats with a flip open sheet metal cover.
If its OK could you share how far you've got with yours?
Thanks
Ken

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Ken


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The kid's project is getting moved to the "Bull-Pen" for the winter while I perform a Corvette and Trans AM restoration. Customer pay always trumps toy projects.

Best to check back early next spring because that's when I plan to cut off the roof. For now the car has been cleaned up inside and out, and ready for roof removal and structure bracing. Bracing the frame will be the most important part of this project.

Cutting the roof off is the easy part.

 



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Well spring has come and gone... Yet our project Mercedes remains in the bull-pen..

With the Woodward dream cruise coming on, and my inability to even get the time to go; I figured I'd revist this thread just to get the bug out of my system. I still have big "dreams" of this topless 420, and I have been poking around at odd times trying to figure out just how it should look. I have seen many examples of a topless W126 sedan, and all of them look rather nice. Given all the cut up Mercedes in this post, I figure we need to take a look at some of the other examples out there

Not too crazy about the colors... Or the designs on the leather, however it appears to be a fully functioning top - with windows and all. Cant be sure but it looks to be the SE as the doors just don't look at long as an SEL, but I could be getting thrown by the fact there is no top. While it sure is "open air", it just seems really cramped in there, and the package tray seems to be hogging up whatever room the top isnt. It's still a very clean, professional example of a conversion... But not quite what I am going for.

Moving along,

This looks really clean, but then again it's not real life... And anyone can make a model look good... But still a good vantage point given my plans.

This is a very interesting job here. Seems like a clever idea incorperating the side panels into a "roll bar" of sorts. Nice looking, and by far much less cutting and fab work than the previous one. Looks good, yet just not the 100% "Open Air" that I'm looking for. I don't really care for the roll bar on a sedan, maybe a two seater, but even then, I feel it would take away from the feel of top down bliss.

By far, I thinik this example looks the best. Clean, open air and a killer euro look to it... Yet, given my budget I think it's more than I can muster anytime soon.

What I have seen, in terms of that big old "open air" luxury is slim pickings... But this example right here, while not a Mercedes - is the direction or "Look" that would be really cool to capture.

I dig the suiside doors in the back, and the bucket seats make it look really cool as well. Seem's to me, to really take advantage of the room the W126 has to offer, it would be best to relocate the fuel tank, and you would get at least 2 feet more room back there. I don't know if that Cadillac is in production, but I really like the interior lay out, even if I used cheaper buckets. It's a toy, something to knaw on... At the end of the day I'm still just dreaming, but you got to start somewhere with something like this. Maybe next year...



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Yup... Just found out that Cadillac "CIEL" or French for "Sky" is still just a concept for GM... So cool that even them GM guys arent sure it can handle the road... Kind of makes me feel a little better now...

http://www.cadillac.com/concept-cars/ciel-convertible.html

Still the rear end is ugly, yet the front end is somewhat interesting. I'm just interested in the look of the interior and the rear doors... GM can keep the rest of the car! LOL!



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I just wanted to update this thread for everyone following it....

Since getting my Corvette convertible I have pretty much decided that the effort and expense of making a W126 sedan a convertible is just not worth it for me. I must also add that cutting off the roof of a W126 makes the vehicle VERY weak, and no amount of bracing IMHO would make it safe enough to where I'd feel comfortable going down the highway at 100+ MPH speeds with myself and 3 other passengers in tow. I mention this because I really did intend on making the 420 into a convertible, even if I didn't waste the money on a retractable top or other such things, which in my opinion I find too bulky and very out of place on a W126... With the exception of that photo with black cabriolet, that is a model by the way, all of the other examples I have seen had a very unflattering hump in the back where the retractable top went. My idea was to do away with the top all together and just make a fair weather car, or make provisions to set the top that had been cut off back on it, almost like a hard top.

HOWEVER, I have cut up more than a dozen of these W126's and I just don't see how you could possibly put enough stability into the uni-body to make the vehicle safe, save for bolting the chassis on a full frame! And at that point, lol, you might as well make a monster 4X4 Mercedes Benz, top down of course! LOL...

So ladies and gentlemen, if you think it's possible to make a W126 into a convertible and have any good ideas of how to stabilize the uni-body to where it would be safe at highway speeds with a full passenger load, let alone in an accident, feel free to post up your ideas here because honestly, I just could not send anyone, let alone my own kid down the road in what amounts to a wet noodle once you cut the tops off these cars. 

With that said, here is the last known photo of the 420 that I had considered making into a convertible before it was sent of with the scrap man to be melted down into new sheet metal.

RIP Ole' girl! You did us proud and now it's time to be reborn into something new, perhaps a framing hammer or perhaps another Mercedes... Who knows!



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