Fifty-Nine Merc conversion
Hello Michael, welcome to your personal build blog.
We will be posting updates and media to this page throughout the initial evaluation and build. For your privacy, this page is not navigable from the ampREVOLT website, just via the following link:
APRIL & MAY 2022
All of the doors on the vehicle have been automated and are now prepared for permanent wiring once reunited with the body. This means all original sound proofing was removed and scraped/sanded clean and replaced with Dynamat applied to the door inner walls. New grease throughout, remote and power windows, remote and power locks and a manual override feature, meaning if the 12V battery were to become unreliable, each door has a lock release pull cable within its interior door panel compartment.
This was very messy and tricky work as about 90% of the innards had to be removed from the door shells. Also bench top design, fabrication and testing was needed for both the locks and windows as we found no plug-n-play solutions for this vintage application. For multiple reasons we have saved all the finishing work for last - i.e. new glass, rollers, etc. Now that we know and understand how (and in what order) that crazy puzzle fits together we’ll be able to take extra good care of the replacement glass, etc.
Lastly we came up with our own solutions on how to integrate the different systems so all window / lock switching and remote control devices could coexist happily. We will now begin working on a master rocker switch panel solution for the driver to control the other three windows from the driver’s seat. At the moment the goals for the remote control fob are:
1. Lock doors
2. Unlock doors
3. All windows up
4. All windows down
5. Trunk release
6. Fuel door release
We did notice at the beginning that one of the front door latch mechanisms had a spring issue. This was observed when there was zero resistance when locking the door from the inside. The concern is that the door lock could possibly fall into the locked position by itself.
My conclusion is that the one front door lock spring was already broken and should be somehow remedied. Additionally, while bench testing automated lock solutions using the other IN TACT front door lock spring, we heard a loud “crack!” and unfortunately this one has suffered the same fate as the other one. We have been looking online for replacements as well as considering other approaches.
The multi-fold Mercedes transformation at ampREVOLT continues in multiple locations. In the conversion shop we are currently focused on reverse-engineering the harvested Tesla motors and traction battery so they can be bench-tested to confirm a healthy and ready state.
Work also continues on the window and door lock automation. The heavy internal mechanisms with their broad range of motion are well outside the capabilities of currently available automation kits. Custom fabrication will play a role, while forever striving to keep the final product as simple and elegant as possible. For example, we have 3D printed a longer rack gear which maximized a standard aftermarket lock actuator travel from 3/4 of an inch to 4 inches.
In the office we’ve set up an eBay account to liquidate the 300d engine, chassis and many unneeded parts.
Outside, one of our technicians has been busily disassembling the rest of the 2015Tesla P85D to facilitate a deep dive study of the structural composition of the unibody frame and suspension, as well as Tesla’s own approach to mounting the battery. Once stripped, the entire roof was sheared off.
What remained of the body was collected and taken to our partner’s frame shop where the B-pillars were chopped exposing Tesla’s unique and minimal use of steel members in the otherwise entirely aluminum Model S body. Study and adaptation of the front and rear air strut suspension has begun.
The stripped down vintage Mercedes parade car designed for the political elite of the 1950s and 60s was transported to the hot rod shop where it is due to receive a full custom frame and chassis package. This will allow us to discretely stow the entire, unopened 1200-lb Tesla Model S traction battery within the floor of the vehicle, which should, in itself, enable amazing handling characteristics.
Final removal of wiring, plumbing, support fixtures and gussets would occur in preparation for body/chassis separation, as well as cleaning and notching of the left and right rocker panels for ultimate access to battery tray. All floor pans in left and right passenger compartment would be removed to facilitate body removal. Rigging, chains, tie-downs and clamps installed temporarily on jig to aid in body separation. Structural fixtures were added to rocker panels and back-up lights, rear bumper assembly and trunk lid were all removed, including all brackets and mounts
A salvaged 2015 Tesla Model S P85D was acquired for parts for this transformation. The letter “P” identifies the large rear drive unit as the high performance option whereas the “D” signifies all-wheel-drive, dual motor option. “85” is the number of kilowatt-hours(kWh) capacity in the car’s battery, analogous to gallons of gas in a traditional gas- or diesel-powered vehicle
Work has also begun to fully automate with remote access, the vehicle’s door locks, windows and trunk, not to mention several other modern upgrades, all done with discretion and subtlety in mind.
Fabrication of the body jig begins! The body has been stripped of almost everything right down to the few remaining body/frame bolts. The interior trim, vinyl and rubber matting, sound absorption material & floor insulation have all been removed to facilitate floor “surgery.” The A, B & C pillar brackets jigs and fixtures have been fabricated and located. Bumpers, dashboard, interior and all doors have been removed. Exact door positions have been noted and mapped via the drill and dowel.
A door automation jig has been set up for installation of new glass, rollers, remote &power windows, remote & power door locks. Meetings have begun with potential automation and restoration partners.
The VCU (vehicle control unit) which serves as the vehicle’s main computer continues to quickly take shape after many months of R&D. Our temporary VCU/SCU laptop display and control interface can be seen below boasting significantly more information and functionality since this time last month. This not only represents Tesla’s own BMS and drive unit data, but also the coveted protocol for battery treatment. Not only the “what” but also the “how,” which top Tesla engineers have developed to maximize battery safety, performance and longevity.
The Sprinter Van test mule for this new platform is proving to be a bona fide dream drive. We will soon get the van weighed, but the guess-timated ~ 6500 lbs curb weight presents absolutely no challenge for the 450kW Tesla Model S drive unit. This Tesla energy and power package promises a smooth, quasi-weightless driving experience for the stately ’59 Adenauer.
Preparation of the donor continues with removal of steering box & linkage, undercarriage wiring harness, front and rear bumpers & brackets, brake and gas pedals, hydraulic lines in engine bay, existing trunk panels. Bob finalizing vehicle specs with regard to front & rear track width and Ackerman Effect. Also ride height and ground clearance. Design time spent on body braces for structural integrity at doorjambs. Master brake cylinder and voltage regulators removed from body wall.
First lot of removed components have been price researched for resale. Spreadsheet is being shared for your approval of all price points.
OEM level EV R&D stage nearing completion. Pics below offer a bench test glimpse of the SCU (supervisory control unit) which we engineered to gain coveted access to both the Tesla BMS (battery management system) as well as the battery energy, itself, without breaching the original battery tray and removing the sixteen individual battery modules, which is the primary practice in the EV conversion community today. The larger version below is the VCU (vehicle control unit) which serves as the vehicle’s main computer. This governs the SCU and basically all systems, including climate control and the extensive thermal management for the car’s battery, motor and inverter.
We’ve documented some of our battery work very briefly on film. First you’ll see the powering up of the traction battery using our newly built SCU described above. The342-volt reading indicates about a 40% state of charge at the time of filming. Empty and full are roughly observed to be at a pack voltage of 300 and 400 volts, respectively. In the second video, shot on a different day, you’ll see live battery data being sent directly from the Tesla BMS. This is vital information includes 33 temperature readings and 96 individual voltages.
Starting on the donor disassembly, prepping it for migration to the frame shop. Seats and interior removed. Documented 40-some engine parts leading up to the actual engine removal. Removed engine, transmission and driveshaft. Removed exhaust system, including front to rear 16-foot assembly.
The thrown rod presented a special challenge as it prevented turning of the crankshaft and torque converter and thus transmission/engine separation. Discovery was made that the rod looks to have pierced through the cast aluminum oil pan (repairable) and not the engine block itself, as assumed.
This truck-sized German engine was both impressive and educational to work with. Such epic machinery deserved a German soundtrack of similar scale and prestige, so we naturally thought of Richard Wagner. An excerpt from the massive 15-hour orchestral work Der Ring des Nibelungen was chosen. Specifically Götterdämmerung, Act III.
Evaluation meetings continue.
First two pics are one of our prior TSLA tear-downs followed by some useful "skateboard" references from image searches.
Transporting the car to the laboratory in PA for a non-invasive evaluation. We will take critical measurements, analyze stock dimensions and determine what geometry and clearance limitations there may be. Can all desired components/assemblies be accommodated by this conversion candidate?
Also, bench testing has begun of the large drive unit (LDU). Goal is to incorporate two drive units, front and rear, for the elusive electric all-wheel-drive outcome. Stay tuned.
This challenge was first proposed to ampREVOLT on June 4, 2020:
Convert a rare, post-war limousine to 100% electric drive using the "TSLA skateboard" approach.
This refers to using the battery and front and rear subframes of the TSLA Model S. The reason this has not yet been knowingly attempted is that it requires the design and fabrication of a custom frame and chassis. The three principle OEM assemblies - front drive unit, battery pack, rear drive unit - were all designed to independently attach to the underside of the car's unibody structure.
Calling on the skills of a race car builder with 25 years of building frames and chassis from scratch. His deep experience in safely harnessing insane amounts of car-twisting torque is critical to the success of this project.
And it all start with this simple frame jig: