Rough Ear of Corn - 450SLC(MB)

kaborgenkaborgen Member Posts: 2
edited March 2014 in Mercedes-Benz
I have recently become the proud owner of a 1977/8 Mercedes 450 SLC with 160K miles and would appreciate a bit of advice. The car is in moderate condition but was in an accident (some body work required, major mechanical work and a little TLC).

It is currently “parked” in my driveway pending a major decision. A local mechanic performed a diagnostic survey of the car and determined that it will cost approximately $3000 in order for the car to pass California emissions and get it running. The work required includes:

-Repair Oil Leak on Valve Cover Gasket & Cylinder Head Gasket
-Crankshaft Pulley
-Power Steering Pump Hose Leak
-Repair Exhaust Manifold Leak
-Replace Timing Chain

Could someone please provide the following information:
1. Does the above stated work seem reasonable for the condition of the car?
2. Is it extremely difficult / expensive to purchase parts for this car?
3. Is there a local (San Diego) resource for affordable parts and labor?
4. Am I getting myself into a mechanical mess?
5. Is there any value in restoring this car (what would the level of interest be upon restoration?)

Before diving into major repair work, I would like to know whether this car could be a reliable means of transportation for at least a year or a major mechanical headache.


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Given your description, I feel very strongly that the car is not worth fixing up and will be a disappointment.

    The car is simply not worth it. You can buy these cars all the day long in very very nice condition for around $8,000, pretty and clean and ready to drive.

    Also, if you put $3,000 into the car it may still not run very well. Perhaps the mechanic will find more issues as he disassembles parts of the engine. Then what do you do?

    Thirdly, should you decide to sell it after fixing it, you will lose a considerable amount of money because it is shabby. There is no way out on a car like this. You are building on a bad foundation in other words.

    My suggestion would be to dump it immediately, get your money out and start all over with a good one. Find a 450SL or SLC that has a pile of service and maintenance records as fat as a Manhattan phone book, and which has a known history of good care.

    You are on the edge of disaster here. Take a pencil and paper and do the math with the numbers I gave you.

    Remember, while your SL is the least valuable of all V8 SLs, it costs just as much to fix as the most valuable of the V8 SLs!

    In other words this car is the worst possible choice of an SL to fix up. However, if you want a really pristine 450SLC to drive, well nothing wrong with that if you buy the right car.

    To answer your questions directly:

    1. Does the above stated work seem reasonable for the condition of the car? No. The car itself isn't worth $3,000 as it sits if it needs this + body work

    2. Is it extremely difficult / expensive to purchase parts for this car? Not difficult but expensive, yes

    3. Is there a local (San Diego) resource for affordable parts and labor? Any dealer has the parts and you can certainly find more affordable parts on the internet, yes. But labor, no. That's risky. These cars require a skilled person and that costs money. You don't bring a 450SL to a back alley truck mechanic.

    4. Am I getting myself into a mechanical mess? most assuredly

    5. Is there any value in restoring this car (what would the level of interest be upon restoration) No, the car is of little interest to collectors. On a scale of 1 to 10, it would be about a 3 in desirability and value. A show car might sell for $10K. You must remember they made tons of these coupes (almost 70,000 of them) so the supply is quite a bit in excess of demand and is likely to remain so
  • sddlwsddlw Member Posts: 361
    A few other thoughts. You did not address interior and paint, trim, rubber seals, etc., etc. You can easily spend $5K and up just on rejuvinating the interior of one of these old cars, and another $4-5K on paint. I'd also be suprised if you got the mechanical work done for $3K. Your best bet is to shop for one that is in the best condition you can find, with the lowest miles you can find. One that you would be proud to be seen in and one that you can find little wrong with. Then take it to your mechanic and spend $3K on all the little maintanence things that are not so obvious.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Also I'm thinking that you can find an SL for just a little more money than an SLC and it is in many ways a more enjoyable car. It's got both hard and soft tops and is shorter and a bit more nimble (as much as any 450SL can be "nimble"--not a good word for the car!) than the SLC, which is a stretched chassis.
  • sddlwsddlw Member Posts: 361
    Kimberly, I live in San Diego too. I would recommend checking out Ziggy's Car Clinic on Autoport Mall road for mechanical work. I've used him for years for 3 different MBs. I'd also recommend Brian's Auto Trim down near the Sports Arena for any refurbishing of seats, headliner, trim, etc., and Amato's in Sorrento Valley for a high quality paint job. I have found these shops to give good value and good service over the years and they have been around for ever and know lots of other people that can help restore that older car.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Why would you recommend he restore a car like this sddlw? The cost of repairs you've outlined would greatly exceed the value of the car, so I'm curious where you are coming from. Sentiment or ????
  • sddlwsddlw Member Posts: 361
    Heavens no, but Kimberly might decide to go ahead for reasons that are not apparent to us, or she might find another car and decide to have some more minor work done in these areas. Information only seeing as she is in San Diego and I think very highly of these shops.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Ah, okay, I see, fair enough.

    Sometimes an owner wants to restore a car for sentimental value, even though it's "not worth it". In those cases, let's say because they were born in the back seat or something, I will suggest, if the car is really hopeless (and this one seems edgy) that they take out the steering wheel and seats and put those in the better replacement car. That way they still have grandpa's steering wheel to touch and seats to sit on.
  • sddlwsddlw Member Posts: 361
    Yeh, that's kind of like my case. Her 380SL was owned by her boss who is a local "figure" here in San Diego. The car was given to him by the board of his first company when he took them public back in 1984. He finally parted with it a couple years ago by giving it to my wife. We propably have 2x $$ in it for what it is truely worth. But my wife is happy and it's still cheaper than a new car with any kind of presence, so it works for me too.
    I'm actually suprised by how reliable it has been. When we first aquired it we put about $6k into mechanical fixes. After 2.5 years it is running strong with not much more than oil changes.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Once you "get on top of" an old SL they can be very reliable. The trick is to get ahead of the car and stay ahead of it. You don't want a 20-item laundry list on an SL.
  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564
    ...with old Saabs. I don't know how anyone can keep an old 900 on the road, unless they're mechanically inclined or independently wealthy or both. I bought my '90 about nine months ago. Since then, I've replaced the clutch and fuel pump, but also the front seatbelt latches (both) broke, the driver's door will now not open from the outside, the 'check engine' light comes on intemittently (as do the 'brake' and 'antilock' dash lights), the suspension is screwed up (maybe A-arms), the fuel system is bad (cuts off when turning left) and most recently, the driveshaft needs to be replaced (which causes all kinds of 'attached ' problems). I could probably have the drivetrain fixed for $600-1000 and probably still have a car that needs $1500 in work, and will continue to need $200 a month in repairs, on average. Needless to say, the car is now going 'bye-bye', to be replaced with a Honda, Toyota or Mazda. No sense throwing good money after bad.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Saabs are simply not in the Benz class in the 80s, not even close. More like Fords, if that good.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    I'll bet Audi and BMW came close to copying Benz build quality back in the '80s.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    I'd bet against that :) What are the odds?
  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564
    They had great design, really nice interiors (the '84+ 5000s in particular), but were unreliable and not especially well built, IMO. After having dealt with Saabs, I am quite leary of older European cars, at least from a financial standpoint.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Generally all old European cars are money pits except maybe VW bugs, but you know, some money pits are worth it and some aren't.

    Personally I would spend $5K-10K on a nice BMW 635 SCi coupe but not on a Mercedes sedan; conversely, I'd spend a ton on a 1970 Benz 3.5 convertible (or was that '71) but not a time on a Bavaria.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    Quite right, Shifty. Hey, I wouldn't waste my valuable time and money trying to keep a BMW 528e or Volvo 264 running, would you?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Not me but someone might I guess. At least with the 528e you could swap out motors and make something out of the car but with the Volvo you're just kinda stuck with it.
  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564
    Any four-seat Mercedes convertible from the 60s-early '70s is worth money, especially the '69 and up V8 models. I've seen 'asking' prices on these as high as $80k, with $30-50k being fairly average prices, IIRC. The 635 CSi is still among the most desirable of 80s BMWs, though their actual performance is now overshadowed by even the most modest new BMWs. '70s Mercedes sedans are basically virtually worthless, especially considering their performance versus cost of upkeep. Bavarias are somewhat more rare and interesting than a 450SEL, but don't perform much better, and are probably just as costly to restore and keep on the road. No thanx. Probably the earliest BMW sedan worth actually driving, IMO, is a ~1980 528i; lots of performance (169hp in a 3000lb. car was quite impressive then), but still not worth much money.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Yeah, it's kinda sad. I doubt if I could get $2,000 for my Benz on Ebay even though it is pristine and drives regularly cross country.

    This is why the big new Jaguar 4-door sedans and BMWs will take a beating on resale over time. Not that many people want to pay top dollar for a complex luxury sedan well out of warranty, and I can't say as I blame them.
  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564 have a 300D non-turbo, right? My brother's ex-girlfriend recently acquired (from her uncle) an '83 240D (kind of a cornflower blue-was this called Lapis? with blue interior, sunroof and alloys, manual windows). Very nice looking car in unbelievable condition, and fortunately it has a 4-speed. She says it's fine on the highway, and in any case, it's an improvement over her old car in many ways (she had a Ford Festiva!!). I don't imagine a 240D or 300D is too expensive to maintain, no? I know some of the gas engined cars of that era (280E, 450SEL, etc.) are pretty nightmarish, but I've heard mostly good things about diesel Mercedes of yore.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    I didn't know you could get manual crank windows in a low-end Mercedes up until 1983. Every 190E I've seen (yes, even the '84s) has power windows.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    A 240D or 300D isn't expensive to maintain, but you have to be willing to spend some money on basic preventive maintenance.

    You should definitely take her aside and emphasis some things that she MUST do:

    1. Change the oil frequently, every 3000 miles.

    2. Change the fuel filters (there are two) regularly

    3. Use diesel fuel treatment with every fill up. Don't skip on this.

    4. Have the valve adjustment clearance checked every 15,000 miles

    5. Never run out of gas. A re-start will require bleeding the injector lines and huge amounts of debris might be sucked into the fuel system.

    6. Replace the glow plugs every couple of years

    7. Do not run the engine at very high or very low revs for long periods of time. Drive in the 2,500-4,000 rpm range, that's the diesels torque curve.

    If she has no idea if any of this stuff was done, bite the bullet and have it all done now (except the glow plugs if the car starts right up. If it huffs and puffs and starts hard, it's probably glow plug time).
  • amazonamazon Member Posts: 293
    ....I would put a Mustang 5.0 in it.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    So that's how bad the infamous 264 was, eh?
  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564
    I do know that she just got new glow plugs, right after she got the car. I will e-mail her this list, Shiftright, and thank you for the advice from both of us.
  • amazonamazon Member Posts: 293
    The engine was terrible.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    It was a Peugeot V-6 wasn't it?
  • amazonamazon Member Posts: 293
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