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USED European Luxury Cars (pre 1990)

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Comments

  • dspersondsperson Posts: 1
    I have a choice between two very different MB's, both in excellent to pristine condition - from a reliable, knowledgeable mechanic - '94 280 100Kmi- $12,000 or a pretty '85 380SL w/2 tops 47Kmi- $17,000 (which I think is too high but it is convertible season). I've read through the board and it seems the 280 would be a better buy, but I love the 380 drop-top. Should good sense outweigh style?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    the 380SL is a problem for a number of reasons....first, as you say, it is way overpriced. But if we assume the mileage is correct (3,000 miles a year for 16 years....really?) and PROVABLE, it's still not a good buy because you've paid a huge premium for low miles....so what do you do? Put it in a garage and not use it? And if you use it, then you put miles on it and ruin the very thing you paid extra for.

    Also, the 380SL is a slow, gas-hungry car, and with prices hitting $2 a gallon, are you sure you want to put in a tank of fuel for $40 and go about 260 miles on that?

    The C Class 280 is priced more fairly and is a better car in all respects...safer, faster and more economical.

    I'd only consider the 380SL if it was an extra car for Sunday drives. And I'd still make him prove that mileage with records, otherwise I wouldn't believe it to be true.

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  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    Got Hemmings and also wife got the Star Mag. Researching parts as find the time. As to reving, she is not real shy, but I also get to drive it some on weekends. Suprised me out of our left turn onto the 2 lane access road, chirped over the stripe and since I stayed in it got a patch as it shifted into second. Wife just raised eyebrow and said it was lucky mom was not around. It is fun, getting the bug for something to replace my almost 14 year old Pulsar.
  • allthumbsallthumbs Posts: 1
    Can anyone help with how to get driver's door apart on 1993 400E? My doorstop/detent broke - sounds like there's a troll inside with a sledgehammer - and I can't figure out how to get the panels off to get in there and replace it. Thanks.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    Hmmmm....most Benz doors I know, you have to take off the armrest (or at least look for screws there), then the screw that holds the door opener, then there are usually either screws or snaps along the bottom and sides of the door and then you LIFT up on the panel. If you break the plastic moisture barrier once you're in there, be sure to re-tape it or replace it. Very important.

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  • ebekinsebekins Posts: 21
    I've seen mention here that the Mercedes 300SD is a decent car for a diesel. Does that same approval apply to the coupe as well? I like the look of the 300CD, and I've seen a few for what looks like decent prices. Of course, the miles are high. I've been thinking about diesel in light of the current gas situation, and I was wondering if an older Mercedes turbo diesel would be worthwhile. Any suggestions on the coupe?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    I don't think the 300CD makes a lot of sense, except that it is a few inches smaller than the sedan and therefore a bit more nimble. But still, for a car that looks sporty one would expect better performance than 0-60 in 13 seconds (turbo diesel)

    Also, the later diesels have a problem with the trap oxidizer, which is upstream of the turbo. This device was meant to cut emissions but can cause problems with overheating, clogging, etc.

    US models using this oxidizer are the 1985 300D, 300CD, 300TD and 300SD (californian versions) the 1986 300SDL (california) and the 1987 300D Turbo, 300TD Turbo and 300SDL (federal and california versions).

    In theory, these old oxidizers have been replaced/improved, but if you find a car that has one, have it thoroughly checked out.

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  • orthodoc2orthodoc2 Posts: 2
    I just bought a 1987 420 SEL that is nice in all ways except the front seat: the leather is cracking (not so bad) but the springs in it are soft soft soft. The seat sort of rocks and gives whenever I shift my weight. Is this normal for this car? (My new ML 320 has very nice firm seats) If not, what is the best remedy?

    An upholstery guy says he can "rebuild" the seat for $150-200 (no fix for the leather of course, and no guarantee that it will be firm) and some friends suggest getting a late model MB seat from a junk yard--but how can I know if it is compatible with this car?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    I had the identical problem with my 300D...it is rather common for the springs to break on these cars, and I bet that's what the problem is inside. I don't understand why the upholsterer would not guarantee the job. My guy was quite confident the seat would be firm and he was right. It was well worth the $200.

    The movement of the seat is another matter. It could be just loose in the anchoring bolts, bu the rails could be worn out and that might require some new parts or some junkyard parts. Perhaps this could be ascertained before the seat is removed, and then the new/used parts installed at the same time the seat is repaired.

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  • sddlwsddlw Posts: 361
    We just did a major interior restoration in my wife's 380SL. For about $650 a seat we had a guy completely rebuild the seats with new guts and new leather with a design that matches the original seats. What a difference! A new carpet set, wood trim and a few other minor details, and it's almost like having a new car.
  • sddlwsddlw Posts: 361
    Re; our discussion on black smaoke a while ago.. I finally got the 380sl in for a check-up and sure enough, the enrichment valve in the injection system was trash. It's driving like a whole new car. Not only no black smoke, but a lot more power.

    Thanks for the advice.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    Good for you! Glad the problem wasn't too severe, and think of all that clean air that's been preserved!

    RE: seats----I always felt that a car needs good seats and a nice dashboard to look at, otherwise the driving experience is much diminished. While old German dashboards aren't the most elegant, they don't look good with torn and tattered dashboards, and nothing could be worse than driving while tilting left in the seat.

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  • orthodoc2orthodoc2 Posts: 2
    Any opinions out there about painting a 1987 mercedes? Is this a good way to get the car to look young again? Right now, there are some scratches, but no major dings. And would you entrust the car to a national franchise to paint (given that they are 50% the price of my local, but trusted body guy)

    thanks for your thoughts
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    I'd try a good machine buffing and wax done by an expert detailer before I'd paint the car.

    I'd never, ever give it to a national chain, they will just ruin it. Either cough up the $5,000 it costs these days for a quality paint job or drive it like it is.

    Paintwork is all in the prep work and the quality of the paint itself. Even a $2,000 paint job has to be a "tape" job, and if it isn't prepped correctly, between the overspray, tape lines and possibly peeling paint you'll see in two years, it isn't worth doing.

    The only proper way to paint a car is to strip the paint off, and remove all the glass and trim. That is, as you might imagine, very labor intensive.

    If it were a Pontiac, I might say go for it, but with a Benz, they really look BAD with a cheap paint job, and their value is much diminished.

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  • sddlwsddlw Posts: 361
    It's really is amazing what a good polishing will do. Starting with a fairly abrasive compound and going down to the really fine glazes. Or if the car is really beat up, a color sanding to start with. I'd only repaint as a last resort.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    I've had amazing results giving a car to a real buffing expert (few and far between!)

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  • sddlwsddlw Posts: 361
    Ahh yes, finding an expert... I would go to a quality paint shop and start asking around there. One of those places the show car people get their paint work done at. They may do this kind of work, or be able to recommend someone. Alternatively, talk around at a classic or custom auto show. Do NOT let your fingers do the walking! There are so many bozos out there who buy some rags and wax and are suddenly "auto detailers".

    If you do it yourself, which I have a couple times, stay with a high quality, well balanced orbital buffer and use the appropriate pads for each of the compounding and polishing steps. A good auto parts or auto body supply shop will have everything you need.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    It all depends on whether there is enough paint to "come back". Some experts can start with varying types of compound, from rougher to finer. They of course, know enough to stay away from edges and don't abraid your chrome or stainless trim. They also know how to add waxes.

    The work on my Alfa Spider was miraculous. But it took the man hours and hours to do it right.

    Way cheaper than paint, though, and now I have the original paint job back again.

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  • jace1jace1 Posts: 23
    Mr. Shiftright,

    I wonder what you might recommend as a used German or other Euro car purchase. I have a 1990 Saab 900 base model with 110k and a 1999 Passat 1.8T. Both are manual trans. and I maintain them faithfully. The Saab was rear ended recently and experienced frame damage which has largely been corrected and the car is in good running shape. I do plan to replace it though as it had some reliability issues last winter(I live in Maine)and now needs repairs to the ABS and AC.
    My price range is up to 15k.

    I love the handling and chassis response of both cars although their charcteristics are very different. I am more oriented to performance/safety than luxury but need four doors, firm, excellent seating, and decent reliability. I do not drive hard but like precise steering and cornering ability and will put both city and highway miles on this vehicle. There will be kids in the back at times.

    Mercedes 300E, Volvo 850, Saab 9000 Turbo are all available in this area and I am always looking for cars that are interesting and special. An E30 or E36 BMW might work. If I could find one, a Volvo 850 T5 or type R would be of interest. I could of course look for another Passat but it is nice to have variety too. My Saab has been manitenance intensive but otherwise a solid performer. Do you have any thoughts about the above vehicles and am I overlooking ST worthy from Audi or another make?

    Thanks in advance for any help.

    Jace1
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    Hmmm...Mercedes 300E is a good solid car but not all that exciting. The Saab 9000 and Volvo 850 are just trouble if you ask me...they will replicate your Saab 900 experiences. Swedish cars of that period aren't really all that good, myths not withstanding. The record is there for all to see and review, and it isn't pretty in some areas of the total car's evaluation. "Safe" they may be (relatively speaking) but that's not all that a car is supposed to be.

    An Audi Turbo Quattro would be very nice for Maine, if you can get service and parts. Also not necessarily an exciting car to drive (in the years you'll be shopping for), but a very credible handler and very comfortable. By the early to mid 90s, Audis were pretty good cars, too. I would avoid any 5000 series however.

    A BMW 325 would be a good choice I think, even though it is not a superior winter car. I think I would avoid the bigger 7 series, but if you could find a very clean, well-maintained 5 series BMW, that would be worth a look.

    Shifty

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  • jace1jace1 Posts: 23
    Very sound advice on the Swedish cars. They are of course very popular here but not surprisingly there are also numerous repair shops busy keeping them going. I agree with you on the MB 300E, solid as they may be, I think the lack of driving enjoyment takes it out of the running. An Audi may be a solid contender. Are you thinking 1995 or earlier 100/A6 Quattro T? Should I stay away from the Audi 90? I see they did make an S model for several years in the early 90's.

    Re: BMW, I have wondered about the 325 but they are not known for their snow-worthiness, as you point out. I run 4 Nokia NRW's on my Passat and maybe that would work on the rear drive BMW too.

    Interestingly, there is a '92 525 touring wagon being sold privately in the area, white with 63k for 13,500. I have'nt seen it, only the ad in the paper.

    Thanks for your help, it is helping me focus my search.

    BTW, I see by your profile that you own Alfa's. I think the 164 is lovely and saw one in Portland recently (they are rare here). If you are ever in the area, check out the Owls Head Transportation museum. They own and run a 300SL Gullwing in beautiful, but to their credit, not perfect condition. It is silver over red with a lovely patina.

    Thanks again

    Jace
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    Ah, yes, I love the gullwing...my buddy owns one and we've been working on it off and on for the last few years. It's running and just about finished except for some chrome work on the uprights (bumperettes) and a nagging fuel pump problem (doesn't idle well).

    Audi 90 is fine, but no very exciting to drive I'm afraid. My brother has one and it's been pretty good to him after 100K....no major issues except let's see...fuel pump, general wear and tear, but driveline on an Audi is pretty bulletproof.

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  • sddlwsddlw Posts: 361
    As a former owner of a 92 300E I can tell you they have their good and bad points. The car is very solid and a good driver if you do not need to have a sporty car. It doesn't accelerate all that quickly and it weighs a ton (well actually nearly 2 tons). But for high speed driving it holds the road very well and is very safe. But because of it's weight, brakes and shocks, etc. wear out quickly. In 1992, the electrical system and cooling systems still tended to have problems. Mileage is no indication of cost of maintanence. We were spending $2K/year when the car only had 40K miles on it and over the 3 years we owned it, averaged $2,500 every year. I've heard of other people who have not experienced the same cost of ownership, but it is probably the luck of the draw. Still all things being equal, I miss that car. I'm currently driving a Lexus and the driving experience is not the same.
    Maybe others can comment on the pre- and post 1992 300Es?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    I think your maintenance costs are in the ballpark for any luxury car. Some people claim not to spend that much but I think that they are not doing all the maintenance and are trading their cars in before big trouble hits.

    MOre often than not, when I meet a Lexus or Benz or BMW or Volvo owner who claims less maintenance costs over time than $200/250 month, and I drive/look at the car, I can see the result of not giving the car everything it needs.

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  • sddlwsddlw Posts: 361
    We are a bit on the anal side when it comes to maintanence. Both mechanical and cosmetic. I like to keep my cars in as near perfect condition as possible. That being said, we use an independent mechanic. At the dealer we would have spent even more! But what a driving experience. In my mind, the current E is pretty close to my perfect car (cost of ownership not withstanding).
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    I'm also very fastidious with maintenance. I need a car that I can hop in and drive anywhere, anytime, without worry. Even my Alfas are kept in readiness for that, so you know I'm crazy.

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  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    Discussed a 71 280SL awhile back and it has been running great for several months. Got a little rough and backfired once or twice so took it in and turned out to be the points, "gumming up". The car is probably getting driven a little harder than it used to, mother in law was pretty easy on it and wife is willing to rev it some, I only drive it occasionally, usually to the dealer for service. They said if it persists there is something called maybe 'grooved points' ? What would they do, that the stock points don't? Thanks for any input.
  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    Almost like a social experience. Took it out Saturday morning to the Farmer's Market and got 3 comments. Then to fill it up and a guy and his wife in a Lotus, asked a few questions about if it was original owner, has original plates. And then getting on freeway, lady in Sebring Convert, I think, comments about how nice the temp is, not too hot or cold to have the top off.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Shiftright goes on record as saying "if it were a Pontiac, I might say go for (a cheap paint job)..." Hey, some of those Tin Indians are worth a few bucks.

    But seriously it was good to see the feature on our own Shiftright in Road & Track. It's been a while since I've looked at a Chronicle but I remember Farley looking a lot like Nigel who looks a lot like Shiftright. Different artists, same rugged good looks.

    BTW I once brought back the shine on a '61 Catalina convertible with 0000 steel wool. It started out as an accident--I was working on the chrome trim and strayed onto the paint--but it brought back paint that rubbing compound and a cheap buffer couldn't bring back. I tried it (carefully) on a Dodge and it didn't work, so I guess it only works on $200 Pontiacs.
  • sddlwsddlw Posts: 361
    speedshift- The fine steel wool is not a bad idea to begin the rejuvination process for old paint. Especially on the old cars that really had a nice thick paint job. But most of the time polishing with some compounds and glazes afterwards would be necessary to really shine that puppy up. Otherwise, I would expect the finish to be a bit dull.

    starrow68 - My wife get's this all the time in her restored 380SL. Even the last CHP that gave her a ticket was oogling the car. I think I'll be keeping this car on the road for a long time to come as she really enjoys the attention.
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