1999 ML320 "AAV Montana" Build

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JasKolp

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Hey guys! I wanted to get a thread started for my build of my Merc, and go in more detail of what all I want to do to it.

I have a 1999 Mercedes-Benz ML320 with 106k miles on it. Its in pretty good condition for its age, with the usual wear on it and some very minor body damage (a few dents here and there), and so far the only repairs I've done on it have been maintenance items.

It has a small bull bar on it with the fog lights attached, and some steps that are in poor condition. I'll be removing them at some point. Other than that, the vehicle is standard.

Why did I choose a ML320? Two main reasons; it would be capable enough to take me where I want to go, and I want to build a replica of one of the ML's from The Lost World of Jurassic Park. I could only afford to do one, so I figured I'd hit two birds with one stone.

In July I had to get new tires. I went with Yokohama Geolander A/T with the stock tire size, since I wanted an A/T tires but couldn't afford the taller tires. I also got the brakes checked out, and it turned out the Merc needed 4 new rotors, 2 new calipers, and brake pads all around. As I was testing the new brakes out, one of the low pressure power steering hoses broke, and that had to be fixed. All of this before a trip to Tennessee I was taking with my family (picture of the Merc next to the tent)

Oh, and I had to literally cut out the spare tire carrier because the previous owner backed into something and bent the latch so I couldn't get it back in. I had been thinking about using that space for a either a spare fuel tank or a water tank, so I at least know how much room I have to work with now.


Alright, with that out of the way, I'll tell you guys about the latest work I've done to it.

Last weekend I had some help from one of my friends and we got started on some storage systems for the Merc. The plan is for two separate units, one in the cargo area, and one where the driver rear seat is. We built the rear cargo cabinet, but it still needs to have a support wall in the middle, stained, and I need to find plastic bins that will fit in the top shelf. This unit will be camping and general gear storage. Cooking supplies, tent, sleeping bag, ect, will be organized and stored for easy access.

The front unit (that will go in the seat area) I'm planning on being tool storage. It'll have wrenches, hammers, rope, winch gear (when I get the winch installed), and it will be as tall as the rear storage so the two can act as a sleeping platform!

I have an ambitious project, and I'm excited for the work I'll be doing on it in the next year or two. There is PLENTY to do, between the overlanding items, the movie conversion items, and making sure everything overlaps nicely. All of the movie modifications will need to have practical applications on the trail. Thankfully, most of them seem to be adding armor to the ML, so the projects overlap in most regards.

Thanks for reading and I'll be back for more updates soon!

_20180724_165322.JPG ML_Front-Side_View.jpg
 

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ZRex

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This will be a neat project! I'm intrigued to see how it turns out and really wonder how capable it is around the mountains here! Sounds like you're off to a good start!
 

JasKolp

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Thanks! I'm also looking forward to see how it preforms on the trail.

Today I removed the sidesteps, since they were in pretty bad condition and drastically limited my already low ground clearance (8.5 in front, 9.5 in rear). It wasn't too hard thankfully, but I'm glad I did remove them so soon because they were rusting out from the inside. From the looks of the passenger side one, the previous owner hit something with it and bent the support bar and knocked a hole in it that rusted out. On the driverside step, the rear plate wasn't even installed properly. One of the bolts didn't even go through the step support plate!

I think the Merc looks a lot better without the steps. Next year I'll be putting new ones on it that match ones in TLW, but for now I'll just have to do without.

MercNoSideSteps.jpg BadStep.JPG ByeSteps.JPG
 

JasKolp

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It is a bit, but not as bad as the steps. After I tighten the torsion bars and raise the front by an inch it'll be good. I'll be removing the bar next year when I install a winch.

I think I have 8 inches of front ground clearance with the bull bar, but only about 5 behind the front tires with the steps. Now that the steps are gone, I have 8.5 inches behind the front tires.
 
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JasKolp

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8 inches where the front axle frame is. After the torsion bars it'll be 9 inches, and after some larger tires it'll be 11ish depending on the size of the tire is. I also measured the bull bars ground clearance: I have 10 inches at the front axle.
 

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JasKolp

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Nice rig! I like those tires, what brand are they?
 

JasKolp

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And it rides good? The tire shop I bought my tires from went through a few different tires because they were scared about the difference sizes messing with the AWD system.

I hadn't even thought about doing a long travel kit, that's a good idea. . .let me know how it works when you get it finished.
 

B rad

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Ya they ride great.
They are noisy on the highway.
Besides that no problems as far as the awd system.
I go through tie-rods really fast, maybe 6 months is all they last.
 

B rad

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Long travel kit made from scratch.
No one makes anything for these cars.
But ya I'll post pics as soon as I have everything fab up.
 

JasKolp

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Sweet!

And yeah, finding anything to buy that is off road related for the ml is basically impossible.
 
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JasKolp

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Before Hurricane Florence visited, I removed the rear bench seat in the Merc!
I'm planning on building another cabinet that will go there that will store recovery gear, tools, spare parts, and I'm thinking about making a cubby for a solar battery to eventually be stored. The cabinet won't be built for another month or two (I have a friend who is helping me with the build and getting our schedules to match is extremely hard), but I wanted to get the seat removed so I could see just how much space was there.

This upcoming weekend I'm hoping to do a few minor cosmetic/quality of life repairs to the Merc.
 

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JasKolp

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So I forgot that I didn't actually post a picture of the cabinet my friend and I built for the Merc a few weeks ago (I'm really on top of this I swear). It isn't finished yet, the inside needs to be painted and I think I'm going to cover the outside of it in carpet that closely matches whats in the Merc already. Originally we were planning on having a few small drawers on the top for tool storage, but we decided to shift the tool storage to be in the front cabinet, and use the rear one for camping gear. I'm planning on getting another one of those green Plano bins for compartmentalizing storage. I also added a cargo net to the top of it (you can sort of see it in the previous posts pictures) for additional storage. The space saver tire fits perfectly in that right cubby, and its a good place for it to be stored until I get a carrier and a full size spare.
 

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JasKolp

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I painted the cabinet! I'm planning on eventually covering it in carpet, but I'm going camping soon and wanted something on it to protect the wood some. I was going to use some textured spray paint on the top to give items a bit more grip, but it wasn't turning out very well so I went ahead and just painted it grey. I just used some Rustoleum grey, although it looks more like silver. Oh well, like I said; it'll eventually have carpet on it. It still needs another coat on it, but it'll be ready for the next time I go camping (which is very soon)!

DSC_0213.jpg DSC_0214.jpg
 

JasKolp

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Thanks! Unfortunately I didn't get it completely finished before going camping this past weekend. The cabinet needed more sanding and painting than I thought I had time for. Bright side is that I'm working on plans for a new rear cabinet because of that awkwardly sized top space (my forearm can't fit past the opening and I can't reach for items back there), and my friend helping says likes the idea of a mk3 being made out of steel/aluminum.

I'm transferring pictures of my trip from my camera to my computer now, I'll upload some of my trip when they're ready!