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Mercedes 380--450--560 SLs

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,266
    Okay, ataie, thanks for the tipoff, I'll check it out!

    shifty

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  • ecjrecjr Posts: 1
    I am looking for this car. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks
  • bigbozerbigbozer Posts: 22
    Mr. Shiftright: A guy on my street has a "for sale" sign on a 1981 Cream 380 SL here in Sacramento, CA. The car has done 135K miles and looks ok from the outside (no dings or accidents). It has both tops in good condition. He is asking $12,000 for it. Of course I will have it checked (incl. the dreaded A/C) out by a qualified mechanic, but do you think the price is too high for the year and mileage? Kelly's Blue Book days only $7,425. I noted what you said about the 380 SLs bieng like a Chevrolet Impala! I once had a 1960 Impala convertible. Straight line boulevard cruising was great (the girls used to stare) but at near top speed the rear would begin to rise, and the car had terrible road holding! Any advice you care to dish out would be most welcome.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,266
    The price seems high, yes, because the 380SL is the least collectible of all the V-8 SLs...it is slow and ponderous, but it looks nice and rides well, and has the typical MB build quality.

    I'd say if the car checks out perfectly and looks terrific, that $10K would be all the money in the world. And take it for a long test drive...it's a pleasant, solid car, but a sportscar it ain't!

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  • Mr. Shiftright, What do you thing about the 1997 SL 500 Aniversary addition. Will it have any increased value later or do you think it will be just like any other 500SL.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,266
    As a rule, "Anniversary Editions" do not, in and of themselves, make any difference in value over time, unless the car itself is also appreciating as a collectible. The AE edition cannot turn a depreciating or stagnant car into an appreciating one, is what I mean.

    It's hard to predict how a car will eventually turn out in the collector market. Probably, like most luxury cars currently in high demand, the price will stay high for one or two years until the supply increases or the next nifty model comes out, then the price will drop just like any used car, eventually bottom out in 10-15 years, and then, if there's collector car interest, it will start to rise again. Look how long it has taken the old pagoda roof 280SL to finally start rising in value...even now, the car I paid $11,000 for in 1971 can be had in very nice shape for about double that $22,500...not a screaming investment by any means, but better than the poor soul who bought most other 1971 luxury cars. And some restored 280SLs have broken $30,000.

    So I'd say there is no immediate prospect for appreciation in value for the 500SL, no. Best thing, if you don't have money to burn, would be to buy a 2 or 3 year old one with low miles and let someone else take the big depreciation hit.
    There's some delayed gratification in that plan, but if it suits you, try that.

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,266
    Maybe what you're seeing is "asking prices", but why anyone would pay $5,000 over top blue book for a 70s SL needing work is beyond me. Must be really ignorant of the market. $12-13K is PLENTY for these 350/450SLs in very decent condition all around.

    ANYWAY, that being said, the priciest of the older style V8 SLs is the 560SL (upwards of $20,000) but it is easily the best of the pre 1990 SLs. The 560 is better in every way than its earlier predecessors. While it is just as ponderous to drive, (for a two seater) it is NOT a slow car like the earlier ones, and mechanically much better, too.

    You've got to be very careful with the earlier SLs...the engine, for instance, is worth more than the car, so if the engine fails, you can throw the car away, literally. It's an easy $10K for a rebuild.

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  • c43amg7c43amg7 Posts: 32
    I also have thought about a older SL (I have a '98 C43 AMG), but on doing a bit of investigation was a bit surprised to see what seemed to be relatively low horsepower (ca. 230) for the size of engine in the 560 series (the AMG power-to-weight equation is addictive). Mr_Shiftright: would appreciate your comments, and as to whether there are economical and relatively easy (or worthwhile) upgrades for the 560 engine to boost that horsepower.

    On an allied point, the 560 sedans and coupes seem a relative value for their selling prices-- Mr_Shiftright, any opinion as to model years (are the earlier '86s and 87s to be avoided?) and mileages (stay under 100M?) to consider--realizing that the later the model and the lower the mileage the better, but also the higher price. Where in your opinion does the price/value curve yield the best deal?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,266
    I think the 560SL is plenty fast for a big heavy coupe that it is. It doesn't need a power boost, it's got enough to deal with as it is. If you drive a 560SL properly, using the automatic as a manual shift, you can make it perform admirably.

    As for the 500 series sedans and coupes, they don't really have much collector value either, but now that they've depreciated, it's a nice ride for not a lot of money. That being said, they aren't immortal, and even a Mercedes with 150K on it is a tired car, whether it looks like it or not. I'm always amused when someone says "it's got 150K on it and the mechanic says the engine is like new"...well, then, when DOES the wear start, or will it run for one million miles :(why not, it never wears out, right?).

    My point is that these old 500 series cost a helluva lot of money to repair, so you have to balance the selling price, mileage and the odds of having future trouble. To me , a car with say 200K on it is nearly worthless. You should never be paying good money for a car like that. Sure, 100K is a reasonable upper limit for an older Benz. There's bound to be life left in the car at that mileage. At 125K I'd bargain hard, at 150K I'd probably pass unless it were so cheap I could part if out for the selling price.

    What you want (what we ALL want) is that clean, reasonably low miles car that has not been messed up by inept paint, bodywork or poor maintenance. There is no such thing as a Mercedes "fixer-upper". They are all "fixer-downers".

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  • FREDERICKFREDERICK Posts: 228
    Believe it or not Mr. Shift Right it's me! Yes, you're old American land yatch buddy! The 82 Lincoln Mark is going to have to go because I'm moving up to San Francisco at the end of Aug. Parking in S.F.is a major pain. I'm going to be commuting from S.F. down the coast to Monterey, about 2 hour each way, at least once a week.

    As you know, I love heavy, powerful, V-8, rear wheel drive cars but I need something smaller. Is an 87 560 SL w/ 96,976 miles on it asking $16,200 a bad bet? The car is a private party sale w/ out of state plates, originally from Texas. Clean, rust and dent free body with a new soft top. I drove the car and it seemed crisp and responsive with good firm straight holding brakes.

    I'd certainly take the car to a MCB specialist mechanic to get it fully checked out but am I making a big mistake? I smelled oil burning after I stopped and parked the car and noted that the water pump hadn't yet been replaced.

    I have a close neighbor who bought an 88 560 SL w/ 84K miles on it about a year ago and she's put nearly $4,000 dollars into repair bills on that car since. I got copies of the bills and the list just went on and on. She's got 96K miles on her car now and its a beautiful looking car but man that's gotta hurt. She paid $21,500 for the 88 560 SL at a dealer.

    She had a 450 SL w/ 54K miles on it that was stolen so this was the car that she bought to replace it. I feel she got screwed on the 560 SL's purchase price but she actually took it to an independent mechanic beforehand to get the car checked out and he told her it was O.K. then later told her how much it'd cost to fix it when she found oil leaking on her garage floor. Needless to say she took it to a different mechanic to get it repaired.

    I know your passion for Miata's, is that really a much better choice? They just seem so small and squirty though. I've not driven one yet but I know they're substantially cheaper. Would I be happier in a Miata, or would it feel buzzy and an cheap on the long road trips down HWY 1 to Monterey. My wife always hated driving my Lincolns because they were just too big but I don't know about an auto on a 4 cyl. Miata. She doesn't drive stick!

    Talk to me. I like the MCB but is it just a big waiste of money. Is a $16,200 560 SL going to drop to $2,000 in five more years or have they basically hit bottom? Where's a $7,000 Miata going to go? Tough questions but I feel you're the most likely person I know who could really compare. How about an Alpha Spyder?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,266
    Hi Frederick,

    Why don't you drop by and see me and we'll go drive a couple of cars. I have a buddy who has a great used car lot and often has these fancy cars..also you can try my Alfa Spyder and see if you like it....it's a swell, cheap car but not a high speed cruiser...more for top down twisty driving on coast roads under 75 mph.

    To answer your question, well it's really impossible to know what a used car is going to do. Oil smell means oil leak, so there's something you're gonna have to deal with. The 560SL is a good car, but it is a complicated car, too. So any work you do will cost some money, no way around it. The price seems okay, pretty fair if it's really nice.

    That oil leak can be traced by adding a dye to the oil and flashing a special "blue light" on it. The source of the leak will show up clear as day. If it's a head gasket or rear main leak, that's bad. If just valve covers, only a couple of hundred bucks.

    I like Miatas, but they are very small (much smaller inside than an Alfa) and it is claustrophobic on long trips. Still, it's a tighter quieter car than the Alfa, but not as much fun IMHO.

    Have you ever driven one of the older Infiniti Q45s. Awesome car for not a lot of money...not terribly pretty ( a bit dull rather than ugly) but a honkin' 280 HP OHV V-8 and great amenities inside. All for under $10K.

    Shiftright your Host

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  • FREDERICKFREDERICK Posts: 228
    Very intersting response and much appreciated. I didn't know you had an Alpha! Are these fancy cars or just interesting to drive and own? I have a very dear and fun loving Aunt and Uncle who own one too!

    I saw a very interesting Alpha V-8 Coupe on the internet last night, it was orginaly from Canada but now residing in Florida. E-bay sale going on @ around $6,500 but it was a total rust bucket. I'd never seen that kind of Alpha before.

    I know well of your Q45 reference. I have a friend in Japan who has owned three of these cars in a row. Very nice automobile, but when they first came out with that totally Japanese style add campaign in the States of Shinto views of Rocks, trees, and babbling brooks I had to laugh. I'll look into your idea.

    Thanks for the input on the Miata. As you've probably guessed by now practicality has never been my strong suit. At least maybe not to a Miata kind of a degree. I think what I'm looking for most is something new and definitely different but not way out there in the automobile spectrum.

    I'd love to take you up on the test drive idea. I hope a ton of folks don't read this though because you'll have God and everyone asking to do it with you after this.

    Thanks again!

    Frederick
    danger98@earthlink.net
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,266
    No problem. The Alfa you are referring to is a Montreal, a very complicated and problematic car, although very pretty and fun to drive.

    No, the run of the mill Alfa is not complicated by any means. It's a tried and true design spanning 30 years or more. It's pretty bulletproof, at least the Spyder 2000. The other sedans and some of their vintage offering have certain problems that need understanding (I also have a 164LS sedan which is a sweet, fast car but a bit quirky for the average Joe).

    shifty

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  • I always admire the style of the SLs and looking to buy one in the range of 10,000. Would anyone please advice me on the characteristics of the SLs? Recently, I found 380SL, 450SL, and 500SL on local newspapers but also found myself clueless on what to get. I guess, I am asking for advice on which SL is the least problematic and best for the money. Your opinions and advice are greatly appreciated.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,266
    I think the 560SL stands out among them. It is the fastest and the least clumsy of the type. The SLs overall are expensive to maintain but generally very reliable if you get a good one to begin with. They are, however, heavy on gas (especially the older ones) and not very agile.

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  • sddlwsddlw Posts: 361
    My wife has a 84 380SL that we have been fixing up. I've come across a couple of companies that sell wood trim kits to enhance the original pieces of trim, but the only kits I can find for the 107s were made for the 450SL. One such place is:
    http://www.woodtrim.com/catalog_woodtrim.cfm

    My question is this. Does anyone know how closely a kit for a 450SL would fit the 380SL? This kit has 33 pieces to it! The shadow print looks pretty close to me, but the distributer claimed he had no information on this and would not guarantee a fit (ie, buy it at your own risk). I might have to ask my mechanic to call me the next time he has a 450SL in the shop so I can go look, but I thought someone here might know.


    On another note, although I mostly agree with Mr Shiftright about value, you've got to factor in the intangibles. My wife had the opportunity to get this car for essentially free, and it had a strong engine, but was neglected cosmetically. I tried to talk her into something else....well ... anything else. I took her to see the SLK, the Z3, etc. But she had her heart set on the SL. After new shocks, struts, radiator, ignition, soft top, carpet set, rebuilt seats, leather, trim, and more too numerous to list, I've got about $13K into it. But I also have one very happy wife, who get's constant comments on her car, which brings a smile to her at least once a week. I've put 7 coats of Zaino on it now and it looks like new. One thing I have found to be true in life is that when your spouse is happy, chances are good that you are happy too. I figure she could have ended up with the Z3, and at the end of 5 years, I'll be about even .... depreciation vs repairs, and she got what she wanted.
  • dgraves1dgraves1 Posts: 414
    "One thingI have found to be true in life is that when your spouse is happy, chances are good that you are happy too."
    Man, ain't that the truth!
    WRT your wood dash problem, I was wondering if the company would send you by mail or email, a full size paper pattern that you could cut and check the fit. If it fit, they could start listing the kit as applicable to the 380 and increase their market. Worth a shot.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,266
    Well, now, if you had asked me to factor matrimonial bliss into the equation of which car to buy, I may have been more liberal in my evaluation!

    In any event, I'm glad it's working out. I have no idea about your wood question, but knowing German automakers, I'd be willing to bet there have been changes to the wood trim here and there. They never let anything alone.

    33 pieces of wood? No wonder the rain forests are disappearing (just kidding!).

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  • sddlwsddlw Posts: 361
    The aformentioned SL has the original 15" wheels. I think they are painted with a paint that makes them look very much like the low-shine aluminum alloy. I was thinking of getting them chromed or replacing them with chrome wheels of the same style and size. I've noticed that after 16 years, one is a little out of round and they have a couple minor nicks. Any thoughts about this? Can they be trued? Is it worth trying to salvage or should I just replace them? My mechanic suggested going to 16" wheels for performance, but I was thinking of staying with 15" for the original look and better ride characteristics.

    Christmas is coming soon. It's going to be wood or wheels.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,266
    Just my opinion, but I wouldn't chrome the wheels...it doesn't strike me as appopriate for such a car--nor does anything concerning "performance". The car is built for comfort and luxury, so I think you should make any improvements in that area. Trying to turn it into a sportscar or a Camaro isn't going to work I don't think.

    That being said, yes, you can have the wheels trued and painted, or even powdercoated, which is a very durable finish.

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  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    So how would you feel about Cragars and a small block?
  • dgraves1dgraves1 Posts: 414
    Is Cragar still around? I had Cragar S/Ss on my '70 Z/28 and thought they were the greatest looking wheel on earth. It seemed like Cragar was king of the hill back then. I haven't heard of them in years.
  • sddlwsddlw Posts: 361
    Mr Shiftright, I agree about the performance/luxury aspect. Actually I think I misstated the original wheel size. They are 14". And I think we will stick to the smaller wheels, larger sidewalls for comfort. I don't know about the chrome though. There are actually quite a few old SLs around So Cal with chrome wheels. I think they look pretty good with all of the other chrome accents on the car. My wife is realy hoping to get chrome. (Which is probably reason enough.) What is it you don't like about them?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,266
    I don't feel they are appropriate for a German car of this type. Chrome wheels belong on a Camaro or a Harley or a street rod. They de-value the car in my opinion, "tart it up" and make it look cheap, like you outfitted it at Grand Auto. But aside from the subjective taste issue, I can list some more "solid" reasons-- chrome is a terrible for heat dissipation, is expensive, and is maintenance-intensive.

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  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    What we have here is more than the eternal purist vs. customizer debate. It's an example of the SoCal vs. Bay Area difference in style.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,266
    Sort of, but it's also a value question. As an appraiser, I take off value for something like this, as it is "non-stock" and also gives the car what is called in the business the "boy racer" look. I don't mean that as an criticism, only stating that your decision has a monetary consequence. Of course, we are not talking about
    a rare Ferrari, so maybe no big deal.

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  • sddlwsddlw Posts: 361
    Well, if this was a collectable car, and we were trying to restore it to original and show condition, I'd say saying with OEM wheels would definately be the right thing to do. I have heard that even today, MBZ dealers are having the wheels chromed rather than getting factory chrome, so I guess that might imply the W107s never had stock chrome. .... But I just don't see that as being that big a deal on this 380SL. As you pointed out, it ain't no rare Ferrari. Besides, if a purest wanted the car down the road, how hard would it be to find stock wheels? The car already has tons of chrome, and my wife REALLY wants them.
  • dgraves1dgraves1 Posts: 414
    Considering earlier posts regarding spouse happiness, I'd say chrome it is!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,266
    What can I say? I think they look terrible, but they're better than wire wheels on the car, I'd admit to that. Chrome is an "accent", like jewelry...too much is too much and it looks like too much. Less is more with chrome, especially on a German car. The idea is to highlight, but not emphasis the wheels over the rest of the car. It will look like ALL WHEEL with a body attached, I think. This is why some very nice older German cars have "beauty rims"...these are just chrome inserts into the steel hub...you may have seen these on older Porsche 356s and Karmann Ghias, etc. This gives the wheel some "flash" but not overkill.

    The stock rims are quite nice actually. If you've never seen powdercoating you really should check it out.

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