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USED European Luxury Cars (pre 1990)

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,967
    I think there is certainly some risk involved, digging into an engine with that many miles on it. What if the mechanic finds a scored cylinder, or a bad crank, etc...then what are you going to do? The rebuild is worth more than your car in that case. But certainly he's right, at 230K the power in your diesel is undoubtedly much less than normal.

    And aren't you going to do a valve job? That means expensive machine shop work, and very expensive parts prices.

    I guess if the car is really really nice otherwise, it may be worth it, but you and the mechanic should plan a budget and also some "what if?" scenarios, where you just might want to stop and button up the engine and leave it like it was. If you end up putting $5,000 in the engine, you might be able to find a nice replacement car for that amount.

    So I'd say plan this thing out and keep your eyes open and you'll be okay no matter what you do.

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  • The head is a for-sure. I had already gotten local pricing on a simple valve grind / seat grind. Assuming no valves need replaced, about $230. And yes, they know it's a mercedes. It doesn't scare most of the machine shops I've contacted. Most of them even know how to locate after-market parts if I need them.

    So you don't have an opinion on the zero-gap rings? I thought perhaps from your racing days you might have had some experience with them and...

    ojl
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,967
    No, I''m sorry I really don't know anything really useful about them other than the theory. I usually put in what the factory puts in...if they lasted 230K miles, that says a lot. When you're dealing with the monstrous compression ratios of diesels, you don't want to be experimenting, seems to me.

    I don't see how a head could be rebuilt for $200 though. Just the guides alone is a pretty big job, then there's cleaning and magnafluxing (check for cracks) and planing and new guides and seals and labor for all that plus a gasket set...I'd say more like $600....but maybe I'm thinking California prices here.

    When it comes to opening up old engines, I am genetically disposed to thinking the worst possible scenario, so don't mind me.

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,967
    Well, again, it's all about a matter of having a good plan, a good mechanic, and a few alterative positions so that you can pull the plug without breaking the bank.

    Basically, your plan is sound enough and with any luck you should do fine. You just need to think about things like this: Okay, the mechanic pulls the head and sees that your valve are wobbling in the guides, so they won't hold a seal very well, which means you'll have blow-by and new valves won't seat all that well, so less power over time....hm...do you press in all new guides or ?????. And do you plane the head flat or just slam it back on? And gee, aren't you going to re-core the radiator to better cool that "new", "tight" and friskier engine? And what about new belts and hoses while you're in there?

    So you see what I mean....how much do you want to accomplish and for how long?

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  • Have long loved the looks and 300-plus HP of the SL500. Am seriously considering a '94 or a '95 version of this model with around 60K miles from a pre-owned Mercedes dearship. I know NOTHING about cars--can anyone advise me on the wisdom of this investment? Thanks in advance.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,967
    Well they're great cars, but not investments if you're using the pure sense of the word (i.e., expect them to gain in value). They will behave like a used car and lose value as they grow older, and, if they behave like the older V-8 SLs, will not become collectible.

    However, they are a luxurious well-built car--more of a GT car than a true sports car. You can't hardly beat Mercedes build quality no how.

    Of course, I trust you won't mind if I slighly shake the Mercedes mythology by warning you to have this car checked out thoroughly, as no car made by human beings or the robots who obey them will ever build a totally trouble-free car. And in the case of a Benz, you don't want to be replacing major components, as the cost will kill you.

    So choose a well-maintained car with a known history. If a fast luxury cruiser, a "gentleman's express", is what you want, as opposed to a lean and mean sports machine, this car is an excellent choice.

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  • Mr. Shiftright--I'm new to these boards. As I scanned them for info recently, I came across your posts time and time again. When I posted my question, I really hoped you'd respond. So thanks! Your response is great, and exactly what I was starting to suspect. In the end, I'm not enough of a car buff to be buying a used luxury car.

    I instead opted for an Audi S4. With 250 hp, it'll give me all the oomph I'm after. First I went to the local (Palo Alto) dealership, and dealt with first being completely ignored, then getting lots of attitude from its sales staff. They made it seem like they were doing me a huge favor by allowing me to pay $2,500 over MSRP for this car. Yeah, there's a long waiting list, but they promised they'd call if a cancelled order ever came in.

    Instead I got a brochure off the shelf, went home, and ordered the car from carsdirect.com. The long wait is still there, but no car salesman's attitude to deal with. Your assistance was invaluable--perhaps I'll be able to buy a NEW SL someday. Thanks again.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,967
    Yep, there's a lot of peace of mind in a warranty, there's no getting away from that fact.

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  • jbradbjbradb Posts: 39
    You answered some great questions for me on a different classic topic which my wife deleted, so i can't find it.

    Anyway, re the Benz 280SE coupe/cabrio, do the expense issues apply as much as the 6.9 u speak of here? Were'nt the '70-'71s more hand-built than earlier models? But, does this issue apply mainly to the fit/finish of the cabin and not the mechanics? does the hand-built issue apply to sedans of the same era? do u think the 3.5 engine would be a better buy ($ aside) vs. the other inline 6s as far as cost and reliability?

    Thanks for your obviously knowledgeable responses.

    BB
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,967
    The idea of "hand-built" is really a myth...at best, modern Merecedes after the early 1950s are in some parts "hand-fitted", but one could say that about a Corvette, too. Mercedes is a mass-produced car done to high quality standards, and this is why it's still highly profitable, while companies like Rolls Royce were practically hand built and pretty bad because of it. So don't let "hand-built" equate with your mind with quality--quite the opposite is often true.

    That being said, by 1970 Mercedes had a lot more experience with making reliable cars (again, not the same as build quality, which was always pretty high with Benz), so the little V-8s aren't as difficult or prone to trouble as the big Eights were in the 600 class cars of the 1960s & early 70s. Less complicated, to be sure.

    But you can still drop a bundle into a 3.5 coupe or cabriolet, since parts are expensive and labor isn't cheap, and with a car like that you want things done well--you're not going to put a vinyl top on it that looks like it came of a '64 Mustang, and the upholstery (which is often NOT leather but looks like it) also needs to be done tightly and neatly...a kit won't work.

    So to restore a 3.5 well you have to pay for a lot of custom work done by specialists. The local gas station shouldn't rebuild the engine, either, because tolerances are much tighter than domestics, and tragic mistakes can be made.

    But I like these cars because they are perfectly modern and can be used daily, unlike many of the earlier Benzes, which are marginal on today's highways.

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  • burdawgburdawg Posts: 1,524
    Don't most of the early 70's 280SE's have the 4.5L engine? Prior to the 116 body anyway? I know that once the 116 body came out, the model designations followed the engine size-such as 280 for the 2.8L single or twin cam, 450 for the 4.5L. The exception of course was the 6.9 which had the 450 badge besides the 6.9 script. I've seen a few 3.5L cars, but I always thought they were brought over by the owners from Europe. What's the true story, anyone?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,967
    The 3.5 V-8 is the M116 engine used in the 280 & 300 SEL and SE, 1969-1972. Then the 280s went up to the 4.5 M117 engine. Also the 350SL uses the M116 3.5 engine. This engine was available in the U.S. as a regular production US car.

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  • jbradbjbradb Posts: 39
    Again, ty for putting it into perspective!
  • Convertible/hardtop, great condition, trying to get a rough idea of its value. I've gotten #'s that range from 10K to 25K. Which end of this wide spectrum is closer to the truth?
    Thanks in advance to anyone that can give me any guidance.
  • I live in the S.F. Bay Area and these cars are really popular here. I love them myself and would one day love to have one. Because of this, I always look at what they are selling for. Usually I have seem super clean cars with great mechanical, paint/body and interiors asking in the mid to high $20's. There is a dealer south of San Francisco that handles a lot of SL's with super clean cars that asks even more than this. Cars that are still clean, but with more tired paint and interiors I have seen asking in the high teens to low 20's. Seems to me the most desirable model is the 280 SL, with the 230 and 250 SL models usually asking less and getting less dollars. The 280 SL was the most sophisticated of the SL's and the last of the series, thus go for more. Seems to me that if your car is very clean with good pain, body, interior with A/C and not super high mileage or in great mechanical condition, you could get in the mid 20's for it. I think $10,000 is way too low unless the car has a lot of issues to deal with to make it nice. IMO
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,967
    All those numbers are correct...the value of the 280SL is strictly tied to condition, but at $25K it had better be a real jewel with no excuses or obvious flaws of any kind. Deduct 30% for a European car, and deduct for repaint, rust, mechanical deficiences, incorrect upholstery, door dings (aluminum doors are VERY hard to get right)...you get the idea.

    A $10K car would be a bit of a rat. Most clean 280SLs you see driven on the street are $16K-18.5K cars in real money. Top quality show cars can bust $30K.

    Still an appreciating collectible car that will stay ahead of the collector market in general. More valuable than the earlier 250 or 230SL, or the later 350 and 450SL V-8s.

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,967
    That's a very sensible rule of thumb, markman...I figure the same way!

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  • burdawgburdawg Posts: 1,524
    What kind of repairs does it need markman4?
  • mbzvtmbzvt Posts: 5
    I have a friend who wants to get rid of a 1976
    Mercedes 6.9 . It is in pretty rough shape,has
    215,400 miles on it. The body is straight,but does
    have some rust.It runs,though the starter is inop
    right now.It would need a total restoration. It
    is a German market car,brought here to the U.S. as
    a "grey-market" car. Does anyone have any ideas?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,967
    Yes, run away screaming as fast as you can! The car is practically worthless as is, and has little or no potential as a collectible. You can buy a nearly perfect US model for around $8,000. There is nothing so expensive as an old worn out Benz.

    In my opinion, this car is ready to donate parts to better automobiles of its type.

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  • burdawgburdawg Posts: 1,524
    I wouldn't touch a 116 body car with rust. If you really want one, look for one in the southwest US, where rust is not a big problem. With all of the trim on the car, there are literally hundreds of places where there can be rust lurking, not to mention the trunk, where sometimes the whole spare well is missing or about to fall out. The design of the 116 tail lights allowed water to run into the trunk if the seals are bad. There are many fine late 70's MB cars available, from diesels, 280's, 450's, and a few 6.9's around, but it takes a lot of knowledge of the car and a lot of looking to find one. Also, these cars need a lot of maintenance to keep them in peak condition.
  • I have come across a pristine one with only 15,000 miles in a private estate. Perfect condition, no rust, full maintenance and sales documentation. One elderly owner. I can establish market value for condition 1 and condition 2 cars (6-point scale). Condition 1 is $16,000 and condition 2 is $11,200. I like these old 116 models and am familiar with them. Question: how much of a premium should one expect to pay for the very low mileage factor? Thanks
  • In post #48 you indicate that the US model 350SL had a 3.5 liter v8. I beg to differ. The US model 350SL, which was imported to the US only in 1972, has the 4.5 liter engine. This was the first year of the 107 chassis, which was sold in the US as the 350SL (1972), the 450SL (1973-80), the 380SL (1981-85) and the 560SL (1986-89). The 107 was sold in Europe beginning in 1971 with the smaller 3.5 liter engine. By the way, my 350SL is 107 chassis production number 531.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,967
    Yes, you're right...the 350SL used the 4.5 liter in the US because the 3.5 would not meet US emissions laws. Thank you for the correction.

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,967
    Sounds like either car should sell in the $5,000-6,000 range.

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,967
    I think the 560SL is the best of the older style V-8 roadsters. As for price, it's simply not the kind of car one would buy at auction, and besides, they are so plentiful (they made a ton of them), why not just find one in your area? For a 1987 with that mileage, presuming very nice condition with all service records and no damage or needs, I'd say around high teens low 20s should be enough. These are fast, comfortable cars and very durable, but are too plentiful to ever be collectible. Nonetheless, their value will drop slowly since they represent a lot of car for the money, and in time they'll probably bottom out no lower than the 450SLs, around $12K-13K for very nice ones.

    As for your sturdy MB diesel, as you know diesel cars are a hard sell in America, so your car would really best appeal to the Mercedes bargain-hunter. I don't think it would be worth very much, especially with that high mileage, and you'd be better off keeping it I think. Or donating it perhaps and taking a write-off? Otherwise, I don't think the market would bear more than $3,500-4,000 for the car in the best of circumstances.

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  • typlus5typlus5 Posts: 1
    I need a good reliable car and came across a 240D with 171K miles. This car is in excellent condition; new paint and garaged, new calipers and pads, plus other minor maintenance. The car still runs good but uses a quart of oil every 500 miles or so. The air conditioning is not working but seems a minor fix is in order. My question is this; is this car worth $4000 or is that out of line? It is a very clean car, all trim in excellent condition, no rust, interior almost perfect, and everything works. Don't want to pass up a potential good deal or get slammed with a car not worth anything. Thanks.
    TY
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,967
    I think it is overpriced. The mileage is very very high, and in theory the car's useful life is over. The a/c is probably not a simple fix since Mercedes a/c of that era is notoriously bad and will never really work anyway. Also, the car is so slow as to be almost dangerous to drive on modern roads. Even as clean as it is, I can't see offering more than $1,500 for it. And the oil burning is not a good sign, either. Who knows? It could go on for years, but just because it's a cheap Mercedes doesn't mean it won't cost every bit as much to fix as a $40,000 one. I'd pass and keep your eye out for a clean 300SD with fewer miles. Much better car, and much more luxurious.

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  • slguyslguy Posts: 2
    I THINK I am interested in purchasing a "collector or classic" MB. I am fond of the styling and attraction of the 230sl-280 sl models. I don't really know the first thing about how to value the cars, other than the CPI book, and I don't know whether these cars are 1) a collector,
    2) a classic in the real sense, 3) just another old car 4)something to run away from due to high maintenance, etc. could you help me with your opinion on this?
    I DID drive a '67 250 SL on a whim, pretty nice, 4 spd, both tops, probably a 3-, 133K miles, drove nice, asking price $24K..... the books seem to thnk price should be between 10 and 16K. Is this more of a realistic price?
    Would a car like this likely hold it's value? How much should I expect to spend on maint/month if it drives 3K per year?
    Thanks for the help. I really am glad to have found this forum to help on this question.
  • slguyslguy Posts: 2
    I appreciate your quick response and views.
This discussion has been closed.