1999 ML320 "AAV Montana" Build | OVERLAND BOUND COMMUNITY

1999 ML320 "AAV Montana" Build

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JasKolp

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Idaho, USA
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Jason
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Kolp
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This past month I have gotten quite a few things done to the Merc:

-Hitch installed
-Painted rear bumper
-The two pieces for the spare tire carrier arrived
-Installed dashcam/backup camera

The hitch was actually really easy. I was worried it would be difficult because of the placement of some of the bolts, but I think it only took me about 30 minutes to 1 hour or so.

For the rear bumper I used bondo on some of the damaged parts, then painted it black using a Rustoleum primer+paint combo. It turned out really well! I haven't been able to do the front bumper yet, due to it raining a lot.

I'm super excited about the tire carrier! I need to make some modifications to the carrier I bought (Curt carrier needs to be cut and then a new hole drilled so it'll work with the Masterbuilt folding receiver bar), but the plan is for it to be able to fold down so I can open the rear hatch. Either this month or next month, I'll be getting a full size spare and putting it into my tire rotation.

I bought the dashcam (Pruveeo D700) because it also had a backup camera. Originally I was going to have a backup camera installed and linked to the Raspberry Pi computer I'll be installing, but then I figured it might be nice if it was on a different screen. The Pruveeo takes the place of the rear-view mirror (and can act as one, its really neat), so I wouldn't have to add another screen anywhere.

Later this month I'm planning on getting the front bumper repainted, and the tire carrier put together. As soon as I find a touch screen I like, I'll get back to work on getting the Raspberry Pi set up.
 

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JasKolp

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Member III

2,354
Idaho, USA
First Name
Jason
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Kolp
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12037

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I got a full size spare tire in last week, and this past weekend I painted the front bumper. Hopefully later this month I'll be able to get the torsion lift done. While looking for a wiring harness for the trailer lights, I found the OEM hitch kit that included the wire harness. After some internal debate, I bought the kit and will be installing that this weekend.

Yeah, I realize I already bought an aftermarket one, but after seeing how much beefier the Mercedes frame reinforcements are, I figured it would be worth it to get those considering the weight I'll be putting on the rear (bumper armor, spare tire carrier, and eventually towing). When I install them I'll take some pictures comparing them to the ones I bought earlier.

Next up, I'll be focusing more on some of the interior mods such as the sleeping platform and Raspberry Pi computer while I build up funds for the suspension upgrades and winch.

New Tire Carrier.jpgFront Bumper Painted.jpg
 

JasKolp

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Idaho, USA
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Jason
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Kolp
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This month I attended a minor meetup at Brown Mountain in the Pisgah National Forest (NC). I was with several Tacoma's, a Tundra, and an Izuzu Trooper. It was the first time I had ever been on an OHV trail, and is probably the first time my ML320 was off road.

Aside from hitting a root with my bumper (minor damage), the only damage I have are scrapes along some parts of the underside (and I bent my bull bar along with cracking the fog lights). I really need to fix my clearance...

A week before the trip, I tightened the torsion bars. A few days later, they sagged. After doing some more reading online, I thought maybe the bushings needed to be replaced. I ordered them and got them installed the day before the trip. Unfortunately, they sagged again. Someone on Instagram (who owns a ML320) told me I need to tighten them more. But, from measuring the height in the torsion bar housing, it should have the wheels sitting level. I think there is one of two problems:
1. My shocks are locking up and keeping the nose from 'springing' back to the set height.
2. My torsion bars have lost their spring and need to be replaced.

I'm already planning on replacing my shocks in the upcoming months, but I'm kinda concerned that my torsion bars do need to be replaced. Does anyone have any thoughts?
 

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JasKolp

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2,354
Idaho, USA
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Jason
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Kolp
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12037

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I post 99% of the progress I make to the Mercedes to my Instagram account (link in the footer) so check that out if you want more constant updates. Most of the updates are small, so I kinda wait until I feel I have enough progress made to do a large write up on them here.


I have solved the issue with the torsion bars. They just needed to be tightened more. The forums I've read before weren't clear other than 'just keep tightening' and I wasn't sure if there was a stopping point or not, but there is, and I just needed to tighten them a lot. Now I have 9ish inches of clearance in the front! To lift the front further I can do something called 'reindexing' the torsion bars which takes the adjuster off of the bar and moving it back 1-3 splines on the bar so it will allow the bar to tighten more. I'm not going to do that until I have the lift done in the rear, and get some larger tires. I'd love to have about 12-14 inches of clearance, but we'll see what I can get out of it (especially after I add the winch and armor, then I might need to reindex them to compensate for the added weight).

Speaking of the rear lift, I got my hands on spacers for the rear shock/spring assembly! I'm planning on using them with King springs that add 1 inch of lift so I can get a total of 2 inches of suspension lift in the rear. That should allow plenty of room for larger tires and to compensate for the added rear armor/tire assembly.

I realized I never posted pictures here of my completed spare tire assembly, so pictures are below. I also installed new headlights!

As far as the sleeping platform; some changes have been made to my design. Currently, the plan is to build a platform which will level the rear seating area with the rear cargo area when the rear seats are removed. This platform will split so that if one of the seats need to be installed, the rest of the empty space can still act as an extended cargo floor area. Instead of building a separate platform on top of that to sleep on, I'm looking into mounting hooks on each end of the vehicle to hook a hammock on to sleep in. This will weigh less, take up less room, and still allow me to sleep inside the vehicle comfortably if needed/desired.

For the computer, I've decided to nix the navigation part of it in favor of just using my phone. Google Maps and Gaia GPS are far superior to anything I've been able to find for Rasbian OS, and I'd rather spend my time with the Raspberry Pi getting it set up to monitor the ML's stats, be able to play music, have some fun Jurassic Park documents/pictures on it.

Last month I had a lot of maintenance done. New cat converter, new spark plugs, new engine/transmission oil pans (due to them leaking), new brake fluid, tire rotation/alignment, and new diff/transmission fluids. They were done at the only Mercedes certified mechanics I could find who wasn't a dealership, who wanted over $2,000 just for the fluid changes. It was still very expensive for all of the maintenance/repairs, but it they needed to be done sooner rather than later to prevent a major mechanical failure later on. Unfortunately it cut into my spare money I would have for some of the more expensive upgrades I was planning to do this year (I was hoping to get a winch installed and the rest of the suspension work done), so my progress is going to be slow again as I pay off the repairs. Hopefully whatever job I get next will allow me to afford to budget better for this project.


And that's it for now. Thanks for reading and check out my Instagram for more constant updates! I also post pictures/videos from my adventures I've started going on with some other OB members.

ML320 Lights Day.JPG

ML320 with Spare Tire Carrier.JPGML320 Rear Spacers.JPGML320 Spare Tire Carrier.JPG
 
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Swalsh

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Westfield, IN, USA
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Sheamus
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Wow great job I have a 2003 Mercedes Benz ml320 that I want to recreate as in jurassic park I plan on using it as a overlander also
 
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18163.175

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Carl
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Severtsen
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Wow great job I have a 2003 Mercedes Benz ml320 that I want to recreate as in jurassic park I plan on using it as a overlander also
Me too. I have a 03 ML500. I have installed the same spacers as BlazingArmoury. I turned up my torsion bars all the way and it leveled the truck out perfectly. I went with 275/70r17 cooper discoverer s/t maxx tires, much quieter than the s/t pro. I'm having trouble getting the front end aligned because I've run out of adjsutment (too much negative camber). I'm trying to find somewhere to make custom bumpers and sliders, I have a MIG welder and chop saw but no experience with this type of work. My full size spare fits tight between the rear seat and the hatch in the same location as the factory spare on an ML55, I just use a ratchet strap to hold it against one side of the cargo area.
 
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JasKolp

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Kolp
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Wow great job I have a 2003 Mercedes Benz ml320 that I want to recreate as in jurassic park I plan on using it as a overlander also
Thanks! And it's nifty you're planning something similar! Don't let others in their Jeeps and Toyotas put you down for driving a Mercedes off road: there's a lot this vehicle can do in the woods, and the only major issue I've found is the subpar ground clearance. Raising the torsion bars all the way will get you about an inch or so in the front, and then just watch your fuel tank as that's the only thing that hangs low. After that, larger tires! I think it can fit 32 inch tires without rubbing. I kinda want to put 33's on mine, so I'm working on the suspension (hopefully this year...). But for mild off roaring the torsion lift and slightly larger tires will get you around 10-11ish inches of ground clearance!

As for the Jurassic Park mods; there's a ton of things that need to be done to it, but there are more people I've found who are also building ML320's part of the Jurassic Park Motorpool so more resources are coming out about specifics of the kids that was added to the vehicle!
 

JasKolp

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Jason
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Kolp
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Well, last month I was laid off from the park, and used my unemployment monies to get the ML painted and to buy a cargo trailer! I was kicked out of the ranger house, and it took me far too many trips to get my stuff moved out in the ML, but with the trailer I can fit all of my things in it and move in one go.

I still need to paint the rims (they'll be painted the lighter green color), and will hopefully do that this week now that I have a few days off work. I was hired back at my job the week I finished painting the body, so I didn't have time to do them when I was laid off. Later this year I'm hoping to get the rear lift done, but that entirely depends on if I'm able to get a higher paying ranger job or not, since it'll cost me 2 months worth of my current wages...

The paint isn't 100% movie accurate, but its accurate enough for my taste. Plus, with the overlanding changes I'll be making (different roof build, spare tire carrier, no holes in the bumper armor, ect...), it wasn't going to be a perfect replica anyway.

I'm planning on building the trailer out to be a base-camp camper, and to live out of if needed depending on what future ranger jobs I get. Its a 6x12 with a ramp, and currently weighs 1200lbs. I specifically wanted one with the RV latch side door, and this one happened to also come with rear stabilizer feet and interior light fixtures. Originally I was going to get a used one, but so many in my area were in various states of decay, and the decent ones were almost as expensive as a brand new trailer. So after talking with one of my friends about it, we decided it'd be best to get a new trailer and have a clean slate to work off of. I'm debating about making the exterior theme of it to match the trailer from The Lost World, but we'll see about that!


ML_and_Trailer.jpgML320_Forest.jpgML320_DriverSide.JPG
 

JasKolp

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Kolp
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I haven't really done anything else to the ML in the last couple months, save for putting the spare tire and the roof rack back on. I joined a ML group on Facebook where a few members have theirs built for off roading, and I've learned a few things for how to move forward with getting it lifted. As usual, just waiting for funds to build up...


ML320_Finished.JPG
 

JasKolp

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That would look good with 32" tires on it :)
I'm eventually planning on putting 33's on it! Well, 32.8...close enough!

Just gotta finish the suspension lift before putting those size tires on it to avoid any chance of rubbing.
 
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JasKolp

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2,354
Idaho, USA
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Jason
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Kolp
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12037

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So a couple weeks ago I found a nail in the sidewall of one of my tires...which couldn't be patched (I'm not trusting a sidewall patch unless its the only option to get to a tire shop) and so thanks to the all wheel drive nature of the ML, I had to get all new tires.
Decided to go from 255/65r16 to 265/75r16 tires for some lift. I was originally going to get the rear suspension lifted and then get 285/75r16's on it, but without the rear lifted those size tires would rub. So, happy in-between.
ML320_newTires2.jpgML320_newTires1.jpgML320_newTires_2.jpg
 

Neon Paradise

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So a couple weeks ago I found a nail in the sidewall of one of my tires...which couldn't be patched (I'm not trusting a sidewall patch unless its the only option to get to a tire shop) and so thanks to the all wheel drive nature of the ML, I had to get all new tires.
Decided to go from 255/65r16 to 265/75r16 tires for some lift. I was originally going to get the rear suspension lifted and then get 285/75r16's on it, but without the rear lifted those size tires would rub. So, happy in-between.
Looks really good! I'm sure you must get a lot of compliments on that every day.
 
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JasKolp

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Jason
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Kolp
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After nearly a year since my friend and I painted the ML, I finally took some video of it driving! Really need to get out but money has been tight all last year so haven't been able to afford to get out and explore :disrelieved: