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USED European Luxury Cars (pre 1990)

1679111237

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,032
    Pretty good car...the best developed and best performing of all the V8 SLs. It's heavy and it eats gas but it's a very nice ride. The style is getting a bit old nowadays and there are a lot of them around, so check the market pricing carefully before shopping. It's not a "collectible" so there's no hurry in choosing just the right one.

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  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    I've seen 560SLs, even this year, as high as $30k and as low as $12k. 380s are WAY cheaper, but of course much slower. 380s generally (here in Chicago at least) are $7-14k, they were made from 81-85.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,032
    The 380 is kind of a dog...woof, woof on that car. $30K for a 560SL is beyond ridiculous. High teens low $20Ks for a nice one with decent miles is plenty of money.

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  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    the $30k car was a trailer queen, low mile, on the showroom floor, and the price was still a dream at that.
    I saw an 82 $4995 dealer special 380SL in the paper the other day. The picture looked OK, but that car must have been a basket case for that money.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,032
    Actually, no, decent 380SLs can be picked up for around $7,000, so a $5,000 one should be running and able although maybe not too pretty anymore.

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  • sddlwsddlw Posts: 361
    For reference, my wife was given a 84 380SL, that was running, but needed mechanical work, good body and paint, but trashed interior. She really loved the car and no amount of persuation would get her to look at something else, so we restored it to a good daily driver condition. We spent about $6k mechanically and roughly $6K on the interior and top, and another $1K to take car of a small flaw in the paint. ...... Is it worth $13K??? I don't know but I can assure you, you will not buy one like it for $7K. (And the wife is happy, and that does count for something.)

    So anyway, my point is that although $30K is out of bounds for a 560SL, mechanical, body and interior work is expensive and worth quite a bit. You may be much better off paying a small premium for a really nice low-milage car with all the records then buying on price alone.

    ps: although Mr Shiftright thinks my wife's car barks, it really isn't that bad. The car is heavy, but the 380 is still a V8. And gets about 17PMG mixed city/hyw driving. Dropping the car out of overdrive peps it up a bit to. .... but contrary to popular belief, these old SLs were not really built as sports cars.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,032
    Well, you will forgive my careless remark I trust. No, it's not that bad a car at all, it's just that it could have been so much more with some effort from Mercedes.

    When I quote prices on cars, I am suggesting everyday drivers, not restored or rebuilt cars. You know, the average car you find on the street in decent condition. Top Dollar for a 380SL (if you really want to sell it) should be around $15,000 for a very sharp car with low miles.

    It never, ever pays to buy an SL dirt cheap & shabby that needs lots of work. Some cosmetics over a basically sound car, sure, no problem...but some neglected high mileage rat with dents and smoking engine? It's ready for scrap.

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  • sddlwsddlw Posts: 361
    I imagine some time, years from now, I'll pry my wife's (cold, dead) hands off the steering wheel of that car, but not for a while. She love's it, and get's lots of admiring comments from people around town. It's almost like a cult. So many people love that old body style, and few really understand the differences between the 450, 380, and 560 ( and wasn't there a 350 for a year or two?). I figure it could have cost me a lot more to make her happy and I got off cheap at $13K plus yearly maintanence. Hell, just depreciation over 5 years for a regular Detroit job is worth that if not more, let alone a new MB.

    But as you say it could have been more. If they had just imported the 500SL instead of making the 380SL. Oh well, at least the 84 has got the double timing chain refit. I think that would be a good reson to shy away from an 81-83 unless you're cracking it open anyway.
  • merckxmerckx Posts: 565
    When the Sl first came to the US in 1972,it officially was called a 350SL 4.5. For emissions reasons the Euro 3.5 was enlarged to a 4.5. I recall that MB didn't want Euro buyers to feel cheated,so they downplayed the larger US engine.
    I think the 380SL is not so highly regarded because there were longevity problems with this alloy V-8. But it is a little lighter,and therefore maybe a little more nimble. It still is a bit ungainly,as a car finished in 1971 might feel to a modern driver.
    I wouldn't say the car per se is a dog,just that the engine is not as robust as one might hope. Except for lack of sheer grunt,I think it actually driver nicer than the 450.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,032
    Maybe...I just find it very clumsy and heavy for a two seater, and I don't like the body style...I thought the 280SLs were much prettier, and, as you say, the 500SLs were as well. Besides, I have the public on my side...the prices for old V8SLs continues to stagnate or drop in some cases. This is possibly due not to the car itself but the fact that they made a whole lot of them, so supply equals demand.

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  • merckxmerckx Posts: 565
    I agree,the previous generation SL(230,250,280)is a much nicier car,and current prices reflect that. The last time I drove an SL(1988 560),I was surprised how truck-like it felt. Visually,it still has appeal,but really,driving one is nothing special. Not compared to,say,a much more modern BMW 3-series convert.
    As far as popularity speaking loudest,this might be another case of "I want the biggest" And that is often not the best way to judge a car.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,032
    I think people who buy collectible cars are more sophisticated than ever before, and more so than the person just buying a car to drive. For instance, the market shows that there is actually a price differentiation between the 230SL,. 250 and 280, even though they are very similar cars. But buyers know the differences, and which car is better, and pay accordingly. So a 280SL brings substantially more money than a 230SL.

    The V8 SLs, however, have a different price structure, which is the same as any used car. The older it is, the less it is worth, the newer, the more it is worth. This is exactly opposite of how a collectible car's value tiers work. So in the case of the V8 SLs, the older V8 SLs cars are a better deal since they look similar to the 560SL but for half the money or less. The 560SL is a lot better car, however.

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  • sddlwsddlw Posts: 361
    If you can find any of the 350-560SL cars in good shape you can get a daily driver that is admired by many people, for not a lot of money. For example, if you invest $10-20K for a nice one, depending on model, year, mileage, condition, etc. and plan for $1,000 - $2500 a year in maintanence, it will pencil out rather well against many new cars with much less presence. I think the main thing is not to confuse this line of SLs with true sports cars. They are top-down blvd cruisers. And they do still get lots of attention, even after 20+ years since the original body style was introduced.

    But, contrary to Mr Shiftright, at least in San Diego, I'd expect to pay at least $10K for a really nice, low mileage car with few defects or signs of age, good compression and seals, etc. And I think the price difference would be money well spent.

    The other point is that most people are unlikely to purchase a collectable and then use it as a daily driver.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,032
    Yeah, $10K sounds right for California for a fairly decent old SL.

    The appeal of the SL V8s, that is, look rich for cheap, is offset by a very real fear of the expenses involved in fixing one. This is what keeps the price down, in fact, that many buyers are reluctant to take this risk. Just the engine alone is the price of the entire car. A professional rebuild on a 560SL engine will cost you $15,000.

    What this means is that if you buy a $10K SL, and something terrible happens, you have to face the prospect of discarding the car entirely.

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  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    There must be a cottage industry built around sticking smallblocks in SLs.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,032
    I did see a *beautiful* conversion of a smallblock Ford V8 into a 280SL...in fact, even the trunk lid said "289SL".

    Nah, I don't think even a conversion to an American V8 would be economical. That's a hell of a lot of work.

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  • sddlwsddlw Posts: 361
    But that is true for nearly all of the old MBs .... at least $8-10K if the engine is rebuilt by someone who knows what they are doing. It's not just a limitation of SLs. .... Even the routine non-scheduled maintanence adds up over time. ... Heck, even the costs of keeping a new SL on the road, once the warranty expires, is pretty intimidating. What's a poor boy to do?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,032
    I think the V8 SLs are really a lot more expensive to rebuild, since the engines use a special alloy to coat the cylinders. Most any competent engine shop can rebuild an older MB six, but only very few shops can work on the later V8s. I'm not sure if the very early 350s and 450s have this problem, but even they aren't cheap to rebuild of course.

    What's a boy to do? Well, unless the SL is thoroughly tested with cylinder leakdown and unless service records are good, I'd run from any cheal SL I saw at auction or on Ebay, especially if it's in any way shabby. A cheap SL is the most expensive car you'll ever buy.

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  • My brother has a big "S"-class diesel-must be 1994 or 95. Anyway, the turbo charger on it failed, and a few weeks later the power door locks wouldn't work. My brother went to the dealer-over $5000.00 to rplace the turbo, plus another grand to fix the locks! No wonder people are scared of these! To add to his troubles, after all of this work was done, his headlights went out! I guess this says that a used M-B is still a VERY riskey proposition! Are these cars REALLY worth the expense and aggravation?
  • sddlwsddlw Posts: 361
    Good question. I've only owned 3 MBs but I'm convinced that (old SLs not withstanding) newer ones are by and large, more problematic and expensive to fix than the old ones, and the higher end ones are more problematic than the low end ones, mainly because of the increased complexity of the cars. They are great cars. Solid, stable, safe, and provide a great driving experience. There is also the ego boost. If one is suffering from self-esteem problems, owning an MB could still be cheaper than therapy. ...one private party ad I saw a while ago called the car "Prozac on wheels". But maintaning them is not cheap. And even though Toyota can seem to build a $12K sedan that runs trouble free for 100K miles before it self destructs, MB cannot seem to build a $120K car that will go 10K miles without some major system failure, even though many parts of the car are good for 300K miles. ...... I think part of the problem is the pressure to come up with new technology and design, but some of it is just bad or improper parts. For example, all 3 of our MBs required new shocks and struts before 70K miles. My E-class blew a head gasket at 38K miles and the radiator failed at 70K miles. My wife's 190 required 3 serpentine belts inside of 2 years. I don't think there is any way to justify this kind of performance or parts failure. ......I'm in a Lexus now, although my wife still has an old SL. I like the Lexus and it has been quite trouble free, but I still miss my E.
  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    My mom bought a 1988 300E in 1991 or 92 w/20k miles. She still has the car, with the original, non-rebuilt engine and transmission today, with ~305k miles (odometer stopped right after 300k). It's been an excellent, mostly reliable car, and still feels 'tight' today. Granted, most of those miles are highway, and the car has not been without problems; the a/c has been redone (don't know if condenser, compressor or what) at least twice ($2k+ per episode), the power seat and roof motors have failed at some point and were repaired, and the aforementioned odo ($500 to fix). I'm sure there's lots more. Anyway, that era seems to have been pretty good for M-B, it doesn't sound like they've kept their quality standards up in the last ten years or so.
  • bhill2bhill2 Posts: 1,359
    I have an '85 380SE that I bought in '91 with 70K on it. It now has 230K+ and you couldn't kill it with a cannon. The A/C compressor went out at about 200K, but that's about it. Maybe MB lost something in the last decade.

    2009 BMW 335i, 2003 Corvette cnv, 2001 Jaguar XK cnv, 1985 MB 380SE (the best of the lot)

  • Is simple.

    I have a saying, and I think that it pertains wells to the W123..W126...etc body cars.

    "These were made back when the Engineeres at Mercedes-Benz designed the cars and all the accountants did was figure out how much to charge for them"

    There's a reason that the employees atthe local MB dealer own a LOT of old 300Es and 560/420/300SELs...

    Bill
  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    Benzes in the 80s (vs. other cars vs. today) were frightfully expensive. My mom's 88 300E was about $45k new, whereas an E320 today starts at a bit less than $50k. It's like having almost no inflation. I think this was mainly due to the elevated deutsch mark, though maybe Bill has a point. After all, Mercedes didn't have half the competition in the 80s that it has today, so their high prices were gladly paid by people who could afford them.

    Another question: anyone know much about 80s-early 90s BMWs? I was toying with the idea of a 325e/i or maybe a 528e for a cheap used car. Is this a bad idea?
  • I am trying to establish a fair price for a 74 450SL 160,000 miles. I'm in the NW. Anyone care to give me some advice?
  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    It's almost winter, which generally means lower prices for convertibles or other 'Summer' vehicles. For a 74 450SL, condition is everything. One in bad shape could be as low as $5k, but *really* nice ones can be.......I dunno, maybe $14k? If you're buying, I'd definitely have it looked over by a mechanic. Check carefully for body work and/or rust also.

    The host here can probably help out a lot more on this one.......
  • The asking price is 7,500. I will look tomorrow for ny signs of problems and I agree it must be looked at by MB mechanic. Any thoughts on items to be sure to look for?
  • I had a friend who had one of these around 1994. He claimed it was the fastest 4 door sedan in the world at that time. What is the story on this vehicle and what was the list price? How are they on the used market and how are they in general as used vehicles(maintenance, reliability, etc)? I don't see too many of them but on occasion I do see the 300E ( Is the E first or after the number? ). Any advice?
  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    500E/E500 had:

    300E body but flared wheel wells to accommodate larger wheels; also, battery is in trunk to accommodate shoehorned engine;
    I think it had a Porsche-built engine, though the specs are similar to U.S. M-B S500 engine (5.0 liters, 322 hp), so I'm not sure;
    a total of 10479 were built for all world markets, from 1991-95; they were only sold in the U.S. in 92-94 model years (called 500E except 1994 model year, then called E500). Their U.S. list price was $79,200 in 92 and $80,800 in 1994. Used prices seem to be all over the place; I checked AutoTrader.com, they were as cheap as $25k and as high as $55k (for a 92, the seller is fantasizing). I would imagine body and engine parts aren't too easy or cheap to come by, because they are unique to this model, and had low production figures.

    Shift, please add anything I missed.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,032
    no, good job ghulet, I don't think there is much I can add. I'd probably go for the 500SE...it's a bit slower but still mighty quick and has the 140 body rather than the 500E's 124 body

    450SL---well, again, 160,000 miles is a hell of a lot of miles, so you want to hammer hard on the price, even if the inspection turns out well. The price of $7,500 is a realistic starting price however. I'd suggest a mandatory cylinder leakdown test and also dropping the transmission pan and seeing what's up. Having to overhaul either the engine or trans will bury you in the car financially.

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This discussion has been closed.