Question re Sydney's Mercedes buses

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Greg in Oz
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Question re Sydney's Mercedes buses

Post by Greg in Oz » Thu 20 Aug, 2009 12:30 am

Many may or may not know that here in NSW, State Transit run a large number of Mercedes-Benz buses and have done so for around 25 years if my memory serves me correctly. I even remember reading many years ago that after Frankfurt in Germany, Sydney and Newcastle in NSW had the largest Mercedes bus fleet in the world.

The early Mercedes buses were a significant improvement over the Leylands they replaced, especially in performance. In the years since their performance has got even better. Many of the current models now run on compressed natural gas (CNG) and I believe they run modified versions of the diesel engines but fitted with spark ignition.

Now for my question. We live on a bus route previously serviced by a bus company that ran buses such as Hinos and Volvos that were slow but not too noisy. When that bus company went broke a few years ago, State Transit took over on the route. We now get their buses which include the better performing Volvos, Scanias and Mercedes. I hate to say it, but I've come to hate the Mercedes. They are so noisy. They have booming exhausts that shake our house and rattle our windows. The older Mercedes (which only run in peak times to handle the additional passengers) all have howling diffs or gearboxes.

The most offensive noise of all however is what sounds like squealing belts from the newer Mercedes. Under acceleration as they get up in the rev range they emit a very loud shrieking squeal. It's not just the occasional bus either. All the newer Mercedes seem to do it. If it is squealing belts I can't imagine how they don't have a serious reliability issue with failing belts. I can't even imagine how MB could have designed a bus that does this (or is it another case of failing belt tensioners as occurs with engines such as the M103 in their cars?).

Maybe it's not MB's fault but a lack of maintenance on State transit's part. Maybe it's not even something that MB designed but something fitted after market by the local bus body builder such as air conditioning. Whatever it is, surely my family and I are not the only ones who find it very irritating. Surely State Transit or MB can sort it out as it is a serious case of noise pollution.
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Re: Question re Sydney's Mercedes buses

Post by Tony From West Oz » Thu 20 Aug, 2009 12:46 am

You will probably find that the sound you are objecting to is the Turbo Whine, which is very high pitched and increases with engine load, but disappears under deceleration.
Normally, the air cleaner has adequate muffling to dampen the whine, but perhaps they are using different air cleaners to that which Mercedes Benz recommends for these engines.

I doubt that this helps you with the problem, but it may explain it.

Complain to the operator about the exhaust noise and the turbo whine. If you get no satisfaction, talk to the local newspapers, radio and TV stations to escalate the problem and gain widespread support for a means of attenuating the noise from intake and exhaust.

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Re: Question re Sydney's Mercedes buses

Post by Greg in Oz » Thu 20 Aug, 2009 12:57 am

Hi Tony,

Thanks for your suggestion but no, it's not turbo whine, nothing like it. The turbo whine on the new buses is quite subdued. The irritating noise is exactly like you get from a car with a slipping belt. It is a loud "rubber on metal" shreik whenever the engines get into the upper rev range.

You are correct suggesting that I should complain through the appropriate channels. I was just hoping someone here with mechanical knowledge of MB commercial vehicles may know the cause of the problem.

Greg
107023 - 350SLC: 1973, 3sp auto, icon gold, parchment MBtex (sold July 2012 after 29 years ownership)
107026 - 500SLC: 1981, 4sp auto, thistle green, green velour
124090 - 300TE: 1990, 4sp auto, arctic white, cream-beige MBtex
124090 - 300TE: 1992, 4sp auto, malachite (spruce green), black MBtex
201024 - 190E-2.0: 1985, 5sp manual, black, black MBtex
201028 - 190E-2.3 Sportline: 1990, 5sp manual, arctic white, blue leather
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201028 - 190E-2.3 Sportline: 1990, 4sp auto, signal red, black cloth (parts car)
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Re: Question re Sydney's Mercedes buses

Post by Ivanerrol » Thu 20 Aug, 2009 10:27 am

Some of the private companies that took over the governement run bus lines in melbourne also took over the existing vehicle fleet. Mnay of the original vehicles are still on the road - over 25 years old. There is only talk out now of replacing these.

When I worked in Asia most of the buses were Mercedes Benz. Intercity buses were exclusively M.B. The locals refused to get on if it wasn't a M.B. I had a friend who was the Leyland dealer for North Sumatera. When assembling buses he would get a big round MB logo and stick it on the front of the bus and also put 116 headlights and tail lights on.
The locals would hide bnehind a tree beside the road when waiting for the bus. If they saw a bus coming that wasn't a MB they would stand back behind the tree until a real MB came along.
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Re: Question re Sydney's Mercedes buses

Post by O305owner » Fri 21 Aug, 2009 3:40 am

G'day all,

Greg, sounds like you're in former Harris Park Transport land? (that company had all their fleet limited to 40km/h!)

The older mercs sound like the O305's and that sound you describe is possibly the hubs and the retarder (is the bus going down hill?)
The newer ones sound like the O405NH's (1999 to 2001) they run off CNG and have gained the nickname of "slug" or "gas chamber" and their belts tend to squeal when the engine temperature is high (coming into spring they'll all drop like flys due to overheating) and gas engines tend to run high as a given. The STA chooses to use cheap belts which start to warp and they'll squeal (the gas scanias do it as well). One thing with those buses, I have heard, so it's not exactly confirmed, but apparently someone at Merc gave those 300 buses lifetime warranty - so they can fail time after time and the STA's up for nothing.

They have just brought on the newer O500's it remains to be seen how they cope with the onset of summer. Mates of mine who work in the STA tell of days where retriever and the STA's own tow trucks are flat chat recovering CNG buses that have overheated themselves

Comparison - I purchased a bus for cash about a month ago (shed and parts) it had a very fresh reconditioned engine and gearbox, drove it back from the south coast and it barely went over 80 degrees (mid 80's on Mount Ousley) a gas engine seem to run at 90 - they conk out at about 120

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Re: Question re Sydney's Mercedes buses

Post by Greg in Oz » Sat 22 Aug, 2009 12:28 am

O305owner,

You obviously know your buses. Yes, I live on a former Harris Park Transport bus route, now served by STA buses. I knew the Harris Park buses were slow (getting stuck behind one on the way home always had me hoping it would have to stop for a passenger), but I had no idea they were limited to 40km/h. The STA buses don't create the same frustration speed wise, in fact they often pass our place at 60 to 70 in a 50 zone. The noise is my main gripe. It appears that my impression that it is slipping belts on the newer buses may be correct. I had certainly noticed it on the Mercs but I admit to not having noticed it on the Scanias. The other noise issue is the prominant low frequency energy in the the exhaust noise on the Mercs which is not such an issue on the other brands. The quietest of all I think are the new Volvos.

All the older buses seem to be Mercs as I haven't noticed many of the MANs that STA ran for a while. It is these older Mercs that have obvious transmission or diff whine. I'm not particularly knowledgeable on buses so I'm not familiar with what the issue with the hubs or retarder (?) may be. The whine (which can border on a howl) appears to be present on both acceleration and deceleration. Something that is amazing is despite these obvious issues possibly resulting from poor maintenance, these buses seem to go forever with some of them 25 years old and having covered huge distances. My only other gripe with the older diesel buses is the smell when following them. I find that some diesels produce an offensive exhaust odor whereas others don't. I find that the old MB buses fit into the former category (as do many Japanese diesel vehicles whereas diesel MB cars and light commercials tend not to).

So you purchased a bus recently? You are an enthusiast! Just a few weeks ago when I was driving home in my 500SLC following the track day at Oran Park, I passed an old STA Merc bus on the M4. It stuck in my mind because I was impressed at how for an old bus it was motoring along very well at close to the freeway speed limit with almost no visible exhaust smoke, admittedly unladen.

I can't speak for the others here, but I am certainly appreciative of the knowledge of heavy MB commercial vehicles that you can bring to this forum.

Thanks,
Greg
107023 - 350SLC: 1973, 3sp auto, icon gold, parchment MBtex (sold July 2012 after 29 years ownership)
107026 - 500SLC: 1981, 4sp auto, thistle green, green velour
124090 - 300TE: 1990, 4sp auto, arctic white, cream-beige MBtex
124090 - 300TE: 1992, 4sp auto, malachite (spruce green), black MBtex
201024 - 190E-2.0: 1985, 5sp manual, black, black MBtex
201028 - 190E-2.3 Sportline: 1990, 5sp manual, arctic white, blue leather
201028 - 190E-2.3: 1992, 4sp auto, blueblack, grey MBtex
201028 - 190E-2.3 Sportline: 1990, 4sp auto, signal red, black cloth (parts car)
201034 - 190E-2.3-16 Cosworth: 1985, 5sp manual, blueblack, black leather
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Re: Question re Sydney's Mercedes buses

Post by O305owner » Sat 22 Aug, 2009 3:11 am

Hi Greg,

As soon as I read about Hino's and Volvo's the penny dropped - that company was an odd one, they'd have a dozen buses built, only to sit them in a shed while they depreciated them, rather than run them straight away, I have heard a story through some of the bus nuts of someone buying an old beddie that had been delivered back in the 70's, it was parked in the shed and did not see daylight until it was sold in the late 90's early 00's.
The gas Scanias I referred to, you'd probably see them running through Newtown or around Canterbury/Rockdale (they all live at my local depot, Kingsgrove, whereas the mercs are more widespread)- you'd have Volvo B12BLE's up there - those are a mixed bag, they were an ok chassi with a 5 speed zf tranmission, then Volvo decided to change the spec to 6 speed zf tranmission - constantly going up and down

I have heard it said that the merc O305's (and later the O405's) "closed" Chullora Workshops (basically a large central overhaul workshop where the SMH and Tele printing plants are now) because they were so much more reliable than the Leylands, AEC's and whatnot before them. They are bullet proof, they withdrew about 20 or so O305's last year that had been running for 28 years - Veolia still run about 40 of them - some of them date back to 1979. They are basically as close to unbreakable as you can get.


Greg in Oz wrote: My only other gripe with the older diesel buses is the smell when following them. I find that some diesels produce an offensive exhaust odor whereas others don't. I find that the old MB buses fit into the former category (as do many Japanese diesel vehicles whereas diesel MB cars and light commercials tend not to).
Where my four mercs "live" there are all sorts of buses from all sorts of eras, about half a dozen mercs, a Scania, a hino or two (a few more hino trucks) and a snot load of Leylands and AEC's and one thing I've noticed when we have a yard reshuffle, each make seem to have their own smell, I quite like the smell of a merc
Greg in Oz wrote: So you purchased a bus recently? You are an enthusiast!
Yes, I will admit that, some choose to go take photos of them all day (or ride them all day) others record where they go.

Me, I've been fascinated with the Merc buses since I was a primary school kid, although I never thought I'd end up owning my own, but the opportunity arouse and I jumped at it, knowing a few mechanical basics that my dad had showed me as a kid over the bonnet of his Chrysler Lancer and later the Volvo 245 (he gave up after that, the two cars he has now have way too much electronics) of course alot of that means sweet diddly when talking about a diesel engine. It was a steep learning curve but I know alot more now than what I did the day before I picked my first bus up from Tempe and my ultimate aim is to restore two to what they were like in the late 80's and I want to expand my collection to one more O305 and one or two O405's (for me what came after the O405's is crap).
One thing I will miss that's coming very soon, there are 9 O305G's based on the northern beaches (originally 30 of them), the STA have more new volvo artics coming very soon and these 9 will probably get the chop pretty quickly after the new artics hit the streets, these would have to be the most unique out of the 2000 odd mercs that the NSW government has purchased over 30 years (first one delivered in 1977), so if anyone sees a couple of them out and about next Sunday, that's just us farewelling these workhorses (they have inpsired alot of the "to the moon and back" newspaper articles in recent years as well as being very speed camera photogenic on the Spit hill)
Greg in Oz wrote: Just a few weeks ago when I was driving home in my 500SLC following the track day at Oran Park, I passed an old STA Merc bus on the M4. It stuck in my mind because I was impressed at how for an old bus it was motoring along very well at close to the freeway speed limit with almost no visible exhaust smoke, admittedly unladen.
As a rule the STA O305's have 80km/h diffs in them*, so they top out at 78 (with exceptions), my first one is able to hold 85km/h quite easily (and 60 going up the harbour tunnel) and yeah as a rule you won't see a smoky STA merc (if it looks like an STA merc it's probably one that's been sold off to a dodgy charter cowboy whose too cheap to provide proper servicing, let alone paint the bus out of it's former owners colours) in speaking with a few mates who work there, they have lifted their game somewhat, if a bus is smokey after take off then it's to be booked up for a service. The older mark II's used to have a knack of doing that since some had not received reco engines for a very long time, they withdrew the last of these just on a year ago after starting the process a good 12 years ago (there were 550 of them but they were a mark with nine lives they'd be talk that they'd be gone in 6 months, then 3 months later a stay of execution), so with such a drawn out period there was reluctance to spend money on them because they could be gone in 6 months, in some cases that bus ended up hanging around another 6 years. Towards the end the process for deciding what was to go was decided by lining up a bunch of buses, opening the back hatch, taking off the oil filler and taking out the dip stick, starting them up (taking care to stand aside in case oil spat out) and the ones with the worse blow by would be off to Tempe (if they shot out oil, then they'd definately go!). With the mark III's (drive by old Tempe depot you'll see a yard full of them!) they were generally more looked after mechanically and their withdrawl process has been light speed in comparison, a few accident damaged ones and a few right clunkers being withdrawn before January this year, but in that time a good 140 odd having been withdrawn since. They had problems with the new O500's, there's to be 255 of them, the first 50 odd had weight issues, there was the whole "who pays for this?" debate between merc and custom coaches, so basically they sat around for nearly a year, so that on top of new B12BLE's and O500's built to a lighter revised design meant that rather than withdraw by condition or age and with maybe a few from a depot at a time, there were depots withdrawing their entire allocation over a weekend, or large chucks of their allocation, so some buses that are in very good nick have made it into Tempe yard, whereas before they may have been held onto or a bit of engine swapping happening, seems there hasn't been the time for that now.
Although word is that the STA is going to start parting out the mkIII's out to keep the mkIV's going (they're the first boxy ones) rather than try and sell them, people are buying them, but not at the rate they were

* Canberra, Perth and Adelaide also purchased O305's, the Perth ones were like ours, but part way through they received uprated engines and I think 90km/h diffs, Adelaide's were for their O Bahn, they are the ducks nuts, 100km/h diff, 4 speed gearbox (everywhere else 3 speed) and yeah uprated engine - one of the contractors down there bought a job lot of O305's from here for parts, they transplanted one engine out of a Sydney one into an Adelaide one and it blew up on it's first trip! The Canberra version had 90km/h diff and same engine - a few private operators here in Sydney purchased some - Sydney and Canberra ones are pretty interchangeable mechanically, one drawback of the Canberra ones, their bodies - built from mild steel - mild steel frames = rust, Sydney ones were built with galvinised frames, so if you see rust on a Sydney merc, might be because of a dodgy frame repair or it's the panels

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Re: Question re Sydney's Mercedes buses

Post by DBW124 » Sat 24 Jul, 2010 10:55 am

Amazing what you find when trawling the forum.

Before moving to Melbourne, I drove buses for STA (now for Dodgy Brothers here in Melb). Just before leaving Waverley depot was just getting rid of the last 30 year old "Mark 2s and 3s" as the new CNG OE500LE Mercs were being introduced. Most us were thinking thank god, but many of the older drivers were sad to see them go, and if you drove a good one they were actually OK.

Later 0405"Mark 5s" were (and are) great, with quicker steering, heaps more low end grunt and higher gearing (with a limiter at 80 kph), they just seemed to lope along effortlessly . Also with softer rate suspension, even the average ones (slack steering, less than smooth gearbox) were great to drive.

Many of the Mark 4s and 5s are being refurbed and there were discussions about the best ways to reduce exhaust emissions

Mainstream at Waverley are the 0405NH CNG "Citaros". Generally they give a new meaning to the term slow. If you've followed (or driven) a fully loaded one up Bondi Rd from the beach you'll know what I mean. Apparently, it was decided that as the previous order of gas buses (Scania) were considered too quick, turbochargers were not specificied.

Before moving to Melbourne, I got to do training on the new OE500LE. As these are turboed and have a 6 sped gearbox, they felt like an updated, Mark 5 (although I never got to drive them in service fully loaded).
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Re: Question re Sydney's Mercedes buses

Post by O305owner » Mon 26 Jul, 2010 11:18 pm

Hey DBW124,

I own a few O305's and one day would like to own an O405 they're what got me into "liking" buses as a kid, my own opinion (as a passenger) is that all that came after them were compromised in some way, be it performance or body quality. I know a few guys on the job who prefer to get a O405NH over an O500, they're in hog heaven when they get an O305 (these guys are at Leichhardt) for a part of their shift. My own opinion on them after riding a few on the 400 (I guess you'd have some experience with that route?) they're ok, but they'd be better with a 5 speed box, 6 seems too excessive for a city bus IMHO.
No doubt when I get to drive an O405 one day you'll be able to pick me, I'll be the mug in an empty bus with a grin from ear to ear....

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Re: Question re Sydney's Mercedes buses

Post by DBW124 » Thu 29 Jul, 2010 10:52 am

Ahhh the 400 run. Considered by many (including self) to be the nightmare run (now I wish I was doing them again having driven here in Melbourne for a year).

Timetable hasn't changed for 20 years (probably more), yet with the increase in traffic, more traffic lights, increased patronage and serviced by the slowest buses on the fleet, Waverley's 0405s (often getting overtaken by Kingsgrove's Scanias).

A good 0405NH isn't too bad. Some dead slow, but others OK and helps if the transmission changes smoothly, and will actually kick down. 5-speed would have helped, but a turbo would have been better.

We have 1-2 Mercs with 5-speed autos in Melb. Don't change into 5th until 55-60kph. All I care about is that they kickdown needed and change smoothly in all situations.

With each new bus they bring out, there are more things to learn such as the myriad of interlocks and overrides between brakes, doors, suspension etc. While great for safely, they all add complexity (not so good), and (amongst other things) actually make in harder to drive the bus in a completely smooth manner.
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Re: Question re Sydney's Mercedes buses

Post by carnut1100 » Sun 12 Dec, 2010 11:09 am

The company I drive for has an ex Sydney O305. Still in Hillsbus colours, and it's a damn nice bus to drive! Sure, it whines from the hubs a bit, but it sure goes well and is pleasant to drive. We also run 5 O500s in the fleet, one of which I'm driving today, just on my break at the moment. They go like stink but the transmissions aren!t what you'd call real smooth...the Allison in our Iveco is a much nicer trans. I must say though. i still miss my OH1418 Coach that I used 86 drive...they took it off of and sold it! :cry:

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Re: Question re Sydney's Mercedes buses

Post by O305owner » Thu 23 Jun, 2011 1:41 am

I'm Back!

carnut100,

The hub howl is what I love about the O305 and the O405 :)
You wouldn't happen to be at a certain Tassie company starting with O by any chance? ;)

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Re: Question re Sydney's Mercedes buses

Post by Greg in Oz » Thu 20 Jun, 2013 8:27 pm

Two mechanics were attending to a broken down Mercedes bus in front of my house this morning (see viewtopic.php?f=25&t=4254&start=600#p123599 ). I asked them about the issue of the squealing noise and they confirmed it is a slipping belt problem with the Mercedes. They said it is worse in hot weather with the air-con running and also worse heavily laden and up hills due to the need for higher engine speeds. A new belt fixes it temporarily but with time the slipping returns. Only the more recent buses have an automatic belt tensioner like what has been fitted to Mercedes cars since the 1980s.
107023 - 350SLC: 1973, 3sp auto, icon gold, parchment MBtex (sold July 2012 after 29 years ownership)
107026 - 500SLC: 1981, 4sp auto, thistle green, green velour
124090 - 300TE: 1990, 4sp auto, arctic white, cream-beige MBtex
124090 - 300TE: 1992, 4sp auto, malachite (spruce green), black MBtex
201024 - 190E-2.0: 1985, 5sp manual, black, black MBtex
201028 - 190E-2.3 Sportline: 1990, 5sp manual, arctic white, blue leather
201028 - 190E-2.3: 1992, 4sp auto, blueblack, grey MBtex
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Re: Question re Sydney's Mercedes buses

Post by Greg in Oz » Sat 05 Apr, 2014 9:25 pm

I was on my roof cleaning out the gutters this afternoon and noticed a Mercedes bus stopped at the bus stop across the road for an unusually long time. Then its engine stopped. A short while later another bus pulled up behind the first and the lone passenger on the first bus transferred to the second bus which continued on its way. Later again another bus stopped behind the first one and the driver of the second bus started working in the engine bay of the first bus. Eventually the driver of the first bus drove off in the second bus.

Curiosity got the better of me so I wandered across the road for a look. In addition to a small toolbox, the guy working on the bus had a collection of belts on the road behind the bus. He told me he was replacing yet another belt because they won't spend the required money to replace the pulleys. He confirmed that the squealing noise is due to the slipping belt and that the new belts often only last a couple of weeks before they are "f****d" (spoken in his indigenous Aussie accent). A while later he drove off giving me a wave and a smile.
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107023 - 350SLC: 1973, 3sp auto, icon gold, parchment MBtex (sold July 2012 after 29 years ownership)
107026 - 500SLC: 1981, 4sp auto, thistle green, green velour
124090 - 300TE: 1990, 4sp auto, arctic white, cream-beige MBtex
124090 - 300TE: 1992, 4sp auto, malachite (spruce green), black MBtex
201024 - 190E-2.0: 1985, 5sp manual, black, black MBtex
201028 - 190E-2.3 Sportline: 1990, 5sp manual, arctic white, blue leather
201028 - 190E-2.3: 1992, 4sp auto, blueblack, grey MBtex
201028 - 190E-2.3 Sportline: 1990, 4sp auto, signal red, black cloth (parts car)
201034 - 190E-2.3-16 Cosworth: 1985, 5sp manual, blueblack, black leather
YG2S8 - Mini Clubman GT: 1972, 4sp manual, blue, parchment vinyl (my first car which I still own)

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Re: Question re Sydney's Mercedes buses

Post by Mercmad » Sun 06 Apr, 2014 8:22 am

Brisbane must have different thinking. I don't mind getting behind our busses as even going up big hills they really move. I was heading along Fairfield road the other day at around 65 KMH and right behind me is a gas bus ,fully laden. I went straight through the roundabout and the damn thing was still behind me. Amazing. :laughing6: :laughing6:

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Re: Question re Sydney's Mercedes buses

Post by T-Modell » Sun 06 Apr, 2014 6:39 pm

Mercmad wrote:... I went straight through the roundabout and the damn thing was still behind me. Amazing. :laughing6: :laughing6:
Be careful, there could be trees planted straight through the roundabout ... :laughing6: ... my wife knows one in Melbourne :laughing5:

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1967 W111 250SE Cabriolet, horizon blue
1973 W115 220D 5.0 Pick-Up Argentina, work in progress 2017/18/19
1986 R107 500SL, arctic white, the midlife crisis viagra replacement
2007 R171 SLK350, calcit white
2008 S211 E63T, calcit white, sleeper

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