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Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Hate Makati

Rest assured the rest of the country will never be like that. Bumpy roads, traffic jams, stressful environment. Greenfield City is the best environment for locators and techno startups. Situated really farther south from Makati, the roadworks here is totally awesome for speed freaks like Bill, Steve and me.

From Susana Heights, Greenfield City is less than 10 mins. at varying speeds of 120~140kph depending on the road traffic, toll booth is right after Sta. Rosa Exit. From the toll booth is a spirited but not Sunday driving.



Preparing for my stress-relieving sprint.

Really now, "Ganito ba sa Makati ngayon?". While the rest of the country's roads are improving by global standards, Paseo De Roxas can't be even at par.


This place reminds me of Jurong Science Park, gloomy. But seeing other left-hand Euros eliminates the discomfort brought by that memory.


The difference between Greenfield City and Jurong Science Park is that here you don't need to worry about speed cops, you'll die here if you're not in control. That's quick justice.

Sa ibang bahagi ng bansa ganito, sana sa Makati ganito rin!

Do you believe it's a weekday?

Don't be carried away, we're still in the Philippines. It's just we're not in Makati.


It's not even a ghost town, just check the full parking space which tells me that the crowd here is of a different subculture who just hit a jackpot somewhere nearby and enjoying it while they kill me with envy.


I don't want to leave this place. But I promise I'll be back for more, for good.

At the horizon is the Philippines' second largest beer brewery, Asia Brewery

Klaudia, one of the most well-balanced car ever built in the world, is waiting for her two victims, both a Vios.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Klaudia's Northern Journey

So our Hong Kong trip was postponed with that H1N1 threat, and instead of putting the scheduled vacation (very well-deserved) aside, we decided to do last minute hunt for a nice vacation spot. Without any advanced bookings, we decided to hit north with very little preparation except for Klaudia's rear suspension job. Other than that everything remained status quo, no oil checks, no tire checks, no water checks, no electrical checks.

It was Sunday morning when we started to drive north from Susana Hts. in SLEX to Manila, of course, the shortest way to start Northern journey is at any nearest point from Kilometer Zero (Rizal Park, Manila), not the dog-legged C-5-EDSA-Balintawak which is a journey by itself. I'm surprised a lot of shuttle service and utility drivers today doesn't know this logic, that the shortest point between northern tip of South Luzon Expressway and southern tip of North Luzon Express (NLEX) is within the Manila area of Paco, Pandacan, Gov. Forbes, Dimasalang, La Loma, A. Bonifacio and finally the Balintawak entry of NLEX. If you can recite the commonly-known route points from South which is via EDSA it is longer than what I've listed. And that's twenty years of driving in and out of Manila.


Long journeys will always have its share of almost axle-busting experience and the only two places Klaudia had it were in Makati and Manila area. These two cities are both moving backwards in terms of road improvements compared to the place we've been and to the place we're going. Rough roads in the city doesn't worth shutter counts in this journey. This should be fixed with taxpayers' money as soon as possible.

But since modestly-living Filipinos (those who drives and declare themselves poor in the surveys) has a very short and forgiving memory once they're through with this rough ordeal. To me, rough road in a city is a sign of deliberate insult for the powerless, voiceless and selfish middle-class.

Enter the North Luzon Expressway, the last time I drove this stretch was seven years ago and in fairness, a lot has improved. There's really no excuse to ignore the signs, and I don't think bashing drivers who can't understand English is discrimination, they should have passed the English-written driving tests in the first place, else, they will end up driving on the passing lane below speed limits which a lot of brand-new compact Japanese sedan owners do and when you flashed them to get out of the way, they will even hit the brakes, good enough to return the favor with a dirty finger for a very "educated" driving. Too bad, the infrastructure has improved, but most drivers hasn't.

Land Cruiser Club

After a smooth NLEX drive, Klaudia finally got a taste of SCTEX concrete. I hate being a cynic in the wrong place, but SCTEX is a proof of receipt that my tax was well-spent at the national level, not the mythical "...ganito kami sa Makati ngayon..." propaganda, fortunately, some part of the country is not like that.


At this point, we already know where we're going; The Camayan Beach Resort in Subic Bay. It has been more than 10 years since the U.S. Military left, and much of what remained is still intact and well-maintained from roads to lush vegetations. The route via SCTEX has made this journey even more interesting.


And I will agree that this is indeed a world-class expressway, and hopefully with the tightly-enforced world-class driving.


A glance at the control tower of Subic International Airport which is mainly an air cargo terminal is a sign that we're close to destination in half-hour or less.


But we still have to negotiate some twisties along the way, which Klaudia handled gracefully the way she does for the past 25 years.


And finally, at the former, largest U.S. Naval facility in Southeast Asia, The German has arrived.


From South to North, Klaudia clocked 3 hours with one gas stop.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Shock And Awe

Recently, restoration, I mean rehabilitation activities for Klaudia has been around the powerplant and the latest involved upgrading the engine with a belt tensioner vibration damper or in other places it's called tensioner shock absorber. What the belt tensioner shock absorber actually do is to prolong the life of the belt tensioner by taking in excessive vibrations. Excessive vibrations can cause belt slapping that can result in a split-second of a slack, this is triggered sometimes when A/C compressor kicks in. This moment of slack can possibly make the compressor and its sensors go crazy that may behave with a prolonged shut-off interval which can make the engine operate in higher temperature levels or at worse, overheats. In other words, this is a chicken-and-egg problem. In addition to this, premature belt fatigue and squeaking is more frequent and damaging to the early M102 installations. Early W201 models with M102 engine from 1984 to early 1985 does not have this feature. Obviously, for Klaudia this is a major but simple feature "upgrade", something AMG has never thought of because the patent is owned by an American. And this is the one rudimentary component that never gets the credit of putting 190E in the "tank" status in its glory days.

Now that Klaudia is settled with the engine shock. It's now time to focus on the other vibration handling components which is known as the suspension system. 190E was among the early adapters for multi-link suspension even before it became a buzzword in the Japanese area of rice responsibility. In this project, Klaudia was treated with a pair of brand new Bilstein B36-1389 Heavy Duty Shock Absorbers.

The major parts were acquired from ENKAT (Evangelista, Makati City)


Then drove a few kilometers further South to reach JP Wheels at Paranaque City. JP Wheels was the shop who did Lavramon for Klaudia and very happy about it. JP Wheels veteran technicians quickly went through the job.


While getting ready for the camber alignment as well, The old and dysfunctional Sachs has to go.


In layman's term, camber alignment/correction is the process of making sure the tires are standing straight up the vertical axis, I hope the last two words aren't too technical.


Dismantling an old shock and removing the old busted spindle bushings are not really simple tasks, but definitely doable and these guys have been around the business long enough to know how the previous owner totally sucked up.


The cheap Sachs is gone and now here comes the Bilstein.


Putting all these together is really fun to watch.


After swiping the plastic and went home. The ride is no longer "sporty", if you know what I mean.


The Bilstein Heavy Duty Shock Absorbers suits my daily driving needs, it doesn't have to be a sleeper, all I need is just a steady ride and a smart stance. And Bilstein delivered the punch. As I have read from some people these type of shock absorbers are rough, but I guess it's relatively subjective.


Job well done for JP Wheels.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Manila International Auto Show 2009

This year's Manila International Auto Show has successfully delivered its usual punch to the Filipino motoring fans whether they are in the market for a new car or just want to see what's hot in the automotive industry. This year's theme is actually "Passion for Performance"; despite the economic cowdang we're in to. At any rate, the passion for performance was celebrated by Mercedes-Benz with just a few of the ordinary, overexposed stuff. The absence of any AMG-tuned W211 or W204 has seriously put some doubt to the sincerity of that passion as far as the show is concerned. Nevertheless, we're just happy with the red rooster, er, roadster.


The show usually features car club display where different car clubs are invited to park their members prized rides in the driveway for public viewing. European Car Club Philippines was blessed to have a bright sunny Sunday to put up a show.

amg560's W124

So if you're an owner of a Mercedes-Benz in the Philippines and wondering why there aren't much classic Mercedes-Benz in this country's car shows? Chances are you're probably isolated in the wrong club for the wrong reasons.

While the others who doesn't really give much care about being involved in an activity that is not sanctioned by the Mercedes-Benz "international club committee" such as this show (where the actual dealer is literally putting up some expensive wares, come on!), are truly the much appreciated ones.



All in all it was really a great show, inside and outside. Since this is also a period of financial slowdown in different levels, some of the regular vendors were not around to exhibit their products. At least, we still enjoyed our beloved classics and those, from time to time, cross the borders of the Thankfully-Unaffiliated clubs to enjoy this sin of omission (They should be free to enjoy it).


Happy European Car Motoring!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

"Chedeng" The Coffee Table Book

Sometimes things gets done faster when starting off with fewer heads. There's just too much ideas but lack the appropriate actions. Too much talk but that's just about it. More than a year ago, the idea of a coffee table for book Mercedes-Benz in the Philippines just popped up off my head out while I was observing the beauty of the marque cruising one of the street of Metro Manila. This idea was never kept a secret in order to get important inputs from different Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts specially those who owns and drives them in the Philippines. For quite some time, it stayed as it is, an idea.

Enter 2009, my first resolution was to get a draft printed. Second, not to post/share anything about whatever's in my mind anymore. I failed on the second. Perhaps because my expectations was too high since it's about Mercedes-Benz. In short, it's simple as talking to the wrong people.

Finally, three days after I placed my order on SharedBook to have this blog printed as a draft, I'm convinced this is what coffee drinkers will pick in the magazine stand of their favorite coffee shops, free of charge.


Browsing through the glossy pages, the draft basically contains the writings and pictures of this blog. Which will provide the fundamentals on what goes in to the real public version of the coffee table book in which other writers will be given space to write about the marque and magazine-quality photographs where budding photographers will be given an opportunity to share their works on Mercedes-Benz.

Coffee Table Book

The book will only contain stuff that a coffee table reader can understand and learn right at the very moment of his/her relaxation, so none of those mystified "AMG-spec", "mil-spec" or even assuming what's on the mind of the designer and car lingos that can't be referenced from an official manufacturer's documentations and service manuals. In the larger picture, the content is just about the marque and its relationship to the country it's running on; the culture, the ownership, the legacy, the lives and the challenges that the owners has gone through together with their reliable Mercedes-Benz whether it's a classic (there's no old Mercedes-Benz) or new, in which club they belong (so what? Even Germany has more than one official club).

Coffee Table Book

This is "Chedeng", Philippines' Mercedes-Benz Coffee Table Book/Magazine. What's next? We seriously want to distribute it free of charge. For now, please do enjoy the online version. ;)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hot Rod Festival And Restoration Expo

Hot Rod is loosely defined as any typical American car with modified engine for straightline speed. If this definition is strictly followed, then Mercedes-Benz has no room for it. But thanks to the organizers of 2009 Hot Rod Festival and Restoration Expo in the Philippines where everyone has been given fair and equal treatment...including those who invited themselves which gives a whole new meaning of the word "Hot Rod".

So what can be considered a Mercedes-Benz "Hot Rod"? First that "Rod" has to be a roadster, with the "SL" that stands for "Super Light" and not "Stretch Limo", forced induction not required but can be an advantage.



That looks good on everyone.



It can be a convertible.


Sometimes it doesn't have to be a classic roadster. It also has to be squeaky clean.


But most important of all, it doesn't need to have "flame". Because a Mercedes-Benz "Hot Rod" can hold its own. Just like the individuals who keep them.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Head Job

It's not what environmentally-friendly-minded(read: green) people think it is. Klaudia, after providing great runs for me for more than a year has run into an uneventful state of serious corrosion in the cylinder head that turned into a cauldron creating coffee-like mixture of oil and water, inconsistent idling, higher idling temperature and many more symptoms of a major illness. Surprisingly, Klaudia's M102 powerplant just run too well to warrant a neglect and fortunately, her new owner will not sleep over a minor hiccup.

The problem was confirmed upon opening the cylinder cover and dismantling of the cylinder head. Lo and behold, what stumbled upon us is an ugly but a hopeful situation.


Upon seeing this, my blood seems to rush all over my head. I was quoted with a very ridiculous price for a replacement and I believe there's a cheaper alternative. In a mild state of panic, I started making phone calls and posting questions online on where to get a cheaper replacement. I was in a very impeccable timing as it looks like a cylinder head season and almost everybody's buying one to replace theirs. Among my calls made its way to Terence Cosiep of Enkat who told me that the cylinder can be repaired and asked me to just bring it to him and he'll take care of it, another call went to Mike Lugtu of the famous Mike and The Mechanics who suggested to bring the cylinder head to Bavarian Machine Works in Pasay. On the following weekend I brought the head to Terence and got one of his helper to bring us to...Bavarian Machine Works, B.M.W.


Bavarian Motor Works is located in Cabrera St., Pasay City. This is a machine shop whose very specialty is rebuilding Mercedes-Benz cylinder heads, engine blocks to name a few. It's a typical machine shop with middle-aged people hanging around, never mind the ragged looks, these guys are competent craftsmen that can passed up as AMG engine builders in Affalterbach, sometimes even better. For safety reasons, I was not allowed to go to the work area and see what they are doing but those lathes, shapers and grinders surely helps a lot in building the nation's economy. They have every right tools to build a Mercedes-Benz engine.


One machinist approached and took a look at a badly injured cylinder head, he spinned out a micrometer caliper and started measuring the damages. With a sigh of relief, my cylinder head passed off as "repairable". So the cost estimation went on with the friendly owner who has been kind enough for my impatience.

On my part, I went around buying the new parts I need. Of course, I got several stuff mostly from Enkat which included a new camshaft, water pump, gaskets etc. Also went to Delodur for the sliding rail, timing chain, chain tensioner, oil seals etc. Also been to Charon for the coolant reservoir and for the hydraulic valve lifters which I cancelled because we didn't able to rummage a complete set.

Days gone by and the cylinder head is finally ready. I went to B.M.W. to pick it up and paid the cost, run to Mang Danny to have everything assembled. Although got some minor problems on small parts that was left out or missing such as the camshaft woodruff. But eventually, the cylinder head is again on top of the cylinder.


B.M.W. did an excellent job in regrinding, re-surfacing and cavity-filling of the cylinder head, as if it was new and nothing has happened.



Again, don't be fooled by the ragged looks, these guys(Mang Danny's) are competent. While I was shooting this assembly process, behind me is a dismantled 2006 Volkswagen Touareg in which the owner is having a hard time looking for a shop to fix it.


After which, Klaudia started normally as if only a tune-up was done. Mang Danny didn't recommend the mythical "break-in" so out of the garage I pushed the pedal to the metal and thankfully, it is catching up again.


Next phase is body works, but honestly, it's difficult for me to put her in the garage again for a long time, she just runs like a dream.