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USED European Luxury Cars (pre 1990)



  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 56,773
    I'd like to stay on topic please.

    You have cited a reliability study for modern cars that are 5 years old. This type of discussion really belongs in with the modern cars. I would suggest the Coupes or Sedans Boards. This is the Classics Board and so we like to stick with older cars here.

    To summarize the current thread, we were talking about pre 1990 German luxury cars in this topic, 13 years or older, and we are talking about build quality, assembly and materials of cars 13 years or older, so comparing cars concurrent with 1990 or older German luxury cars.

    thank you


    If you want to talk about the inherent defects in reliability and/or materials of Lexus or Toyota, please use the Sedans and/or Coupes board and I'll be glad to share what I know about recurring problems with these cars.

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  • gekko2gekko2 Posts: 87
    Mr_Shiftright HOST wrote "It's (MB is) still the standard of the world for quality, which I don't think we should use as a term synonymous with reliability."

    Which leads me to ask: What is Quality?

    Answer: Quality is consistent, long-term, on-target performance of products and services in the hand of the customer. Quality is a moving target driven by customer needs and competition. Quality is Conformance to Requirements/Zero Defects. QUALITY is meeting customer expectations. Quality is not goodness, prettiness, or luxury.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 56,773
    I was specifically referring to the quality of materials used to build a pre 1990 Benz, the "build quality" in other words. The build quality of the pre 1990 Benz is unsurpassed by any car in the world in my opinion, which is the point I wished to make regarding these cars.

    Historically, Mercedes Benz was the first manufacturer in the world to conceive of, and actually implement, the *mass production* of cars of superior quality. Prior to Benz, perhaps the closest anyone ever came to the mass production of quality automobiles was Cadillac in the 1930s through 50s. Postwar Mercedes were made in the hundreds of thousands to a very high standard, and being a historical first, I thought it appropriate to mention it.

    Whatever other manufacturers have since replicated this feat, Benz was the first to do so, and remained the only maker of mass production quality cars for at least two decades.

    If you'd like to talk about relative build quality of modern cars, that's also an interesting subject, but please use the Sedans or Coupes Board and I'll join you over there.

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  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    No wonder Mercedes cars were so darned expensive throughout the '60s and '70s.
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    Reliability is an essential part of overall quality. I'd have a hard time aprreciating hand-stitched leather and perfect panel gaps while waiting for a tow truck. Conversely, I wouldn't get much satisfaction owning a Chevy that goes 200,000 miles but rattles like a baby's toy over bumps.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 56,773
    Rolls Royce was a perfect example of this contradiction, lance, although Rolls was a far worse case for reliability than Mercedes ever could have been.

    I believe in your own field of work you realize the connection between complexity and failure rates or how new technology sometimes pushes the limits of absolutely faultless levels of reliability.

    The Germans, in my opinion, do tend to over-engineer and this sometimes leads to problems. Whatever Benz made work in the 80s with 56 parts, Toyota made do with 35 and probably got by with a better reliability rate, too. But their cars were boring and not very stylish.

    Another factor to consider is that in the 1980s the gulf between a Benz and a domestic was vast indeed. I think people were so impressed with the quality of the car's materials and workmanship that they were more than willing to forgo the basic reliability of a Ford pickup truck's simplicity.

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  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    To be frank, even though Mercedes is cheapening their cars a lot, I am still impressed with their materials and super-solid feel. There's nothing like a Mercedes door shutting like a bank vault. Comparing an E320 to, say, a Chevy Lumina, would be hopeless.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Shifty, is there really anything to the idea that the sound a door makes when it closes is an indication of quality? Or is it just an indication that a particular manufacturer's doors are really heavy? That by itself isn't necessarily a sign of quality.
  • jrct9454jrct9454 Posts: 2,363
    ...and anyone else who can help..

    I just posted a series of questions on the MB300 board, with a longish post that I would rather not repeat here. Those of you who don't subscribe might wander over there and offer whatever feedback you can...
  • jrct9454jrct9454 Posts: 2,363
    I'm a long-time MB nut, have owned a grand total of 13 of them on and off since 1968, but never ran one out of warranty. [I've also been an MBCA member most of the time since 1973, and an an avid reader of the tech advice in the STAR, but up to now only as an interested spectator].

    So here's the question, for our host and anyone who wants to chime in:

    I'm looking for an MB that we can use reliably for longer trips, but where total annual miles probably won't exceed an average of around 6000 or so. We have a nice reliable late-model Corolla for the local runaround stuff. Because I'm not a mechanic, I haven't bothered with looking for anything but low-mileage cars. For the past 2 issues of the STAR, there is a guy in SoCal who is trying to sell an '81 300SD [more or less identical to a car I once bought new] with less than 10,000 miles on it since new [no, not a typo]. He wants $20,000. Yeah, I know...but the questions are these:

    -What is this car's value, do you suppose, in the cold hard real world?

    -What should I be looking for in inspecting the car, beyond the obvious [starting and running like a car with only 10k on the clock, AC function, no obvious leaks, running vibration-free at freeway speeds, etc.]? Yes, I'd probably take it to a professional, but only if it passes my cursory examination on the driveway and the road - here's where I can use some hints.

    -How should a garage queen like this have been maintained? At least annual oil changes for the engine, but how about other fluids?

    -Should I be worried about other rubber parts besides tires [which I would replace in almost any case - I have strong prejudices here]? Seals, suspension bushings, door/trunk rubber?

    -Joe has already given me some ideas about maintenance costs; anybody else is welcome to chime in.

    I owned a total of 5 diesels during the 70's and 80's. My experience was that the turbos were far and away the most enjoyable cars to drive, and always seemed to run better on the crappy diesel fuel we have in this country than the normally aspirated engines. Still, I'd welcome any "watch-out-fors" from any source - I'm an MB veteran, but not in the area of cars with 20+ years behind them.

    Finally, a question for Joe: are you the "Troise" half of the R&T cartoon team? If so, I'm a big fan....

    Thanks in advance for everyone's input.

    John R.
    Elk Grove CA [near Sacto] working AC is an absolute necessity...
  • magnetophonemagnetophone Posts: 605
    I'm unhappy about those apple layoffs in Elk Grove ;(
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 56,773
    Hi JR,

    Real world price for an '81 300SD that is immaculate?

    Well,here's my reasoning. There is no sense in paying much of a premium for these ridiculously low miles. Why not? Because if you start to DRIVE the car, then you put on miles and the very thing you paid the premium for disappears. If you DON'T drive the car and try to preserve the low miles, all you have is an old Mercedes diesel that will never be worth much anyway. What exactly are you saving?

    I'd say this particular 300SD with only 10K miles is basically unsaleable, because the owner obviously does not really want to sell the car. If he did, he would not have such an absurd price on it. I mean, get real. You can buy some REALLY NICE used cars for $20K, including mint S Class Benzes.

    Anyway, I'd say the car is worth perhaps, at best, $5,000-6,000, maybe $7,500 if you want to establish new levels of charity to owners of old Benz diesels. Even then I feel like I'm being magnanimous. I bought a mint 300D for $1, 200 with high miles, so I'm giving a 4X value for low miles. Seems fair enough.

    As for what to look for, I'd say seals, seals and more seals, and all the belts and hoses you can possibly replace. I'd spend at least $1,000 to renew everything and flush all fluids. Tires will have to go, too, no doubt, so that's another $600 or so.

    Last of all, I"d ask that the 10K be verified. If it can't be, then it's just an old Benz diesel with a new speedometer if you ask me.

    SPEEDSHIFT -- I think there is something to the mystique of a door closing like it was a "bank vault", as opposed say to the "reedy twang" you hear on some cars when you slam 'em. But it's not just about doors, of course, but about the door locks and striker plates and window construction and door fit and quality of the door seals and steel frame to which the hinges attach, etc. In other words, the old "neck bone's connected to the shoulder bone" theory.

    Unless I'm missing something, I don't see any more "cheapening" in a Benz than in any of the other premium makes. All new cars are more plastic then they used to be. Nobody lines the inside of the glove box door in chrome anymore like Benz used to do. Forget the days of lavish use of acres of leather and wood and chrome and stainless. It's all "trim" nowadays.

    Let's face it, we could take any new car and destroy it with our bare hands and feet. Surely we could rip the dash and door panels apart and bend the hood and trunk into curlies no problem, and stave in all the body panels with a few swift kicks. This would really hurt on a 1948 Packard..

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  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    Let me tell you something, I really, really hate the excessive plastic that is used in all new cars. I will have none of it.
  • im_brentwoodim_brentwood Posts: 4,883

    If itwere me, I would pass on that 10K miler.

    First, $20,000 will be MORE than enough to by what would be the best W123 in the world.

    I sold a 1991 560SEL, Smoke Silver/Palomino (one of the most valuable combos) for $17,500 not too long ago. 45K original miles, not a drop of paint on it since it left Germany, brand new MXV4 V rated rubber, service book current to the 90K mile service simply due to time. One-Owner. Oh, it also had ASR and a CD Changer.

    So that 300SD... Sheesh, I like it more than Shifty does, I'd say $10K. I know of several reallyt nice 150K+ mile 300SDs that have sold near me lately for $5Kish, so let's keystone it for the miles. Maybe you could, as a seller, get $12K on eBay or something, but, like shifty said, without total and documented proof of the mileage... no dice.

    $20,000 is smoking rocks of crack the size of boulders.

    But more importantly, I would be afraid of the car. First, like shifty said you start putting miles on it and you run its' value. And, if you start driving it all sorts of stuff will start to break. Quickly.

    Find a nice old 300SD... or a clean 300SDL (86-87). Avoid 350SDLs and stay well under $10K for a mint one.

  • magnetophonemagnetophone Posts: 605
    How about a nice 300D instead? Or a 300E? something in a 1988 or 1989 model? Hit up upgrading doctors!
  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    There are 'good' cars and there are 'nice' cars. I think 300Ds and 300Es (and 260Es and 420SELs and on and on) are well-built, safe, very well equipped, durable, but most of all they're nice cars.

    When I think of 'good' cars at the same price as say an '88 300E (~$4-6k), I can't help but think an early or mid-90s Accord or Camry would be better, more cost efficient daily transportation. Less exciting to drive or be seen in, sure, but less exciting repair bills, too.
  • jrct9454jrct9454 Posts: 2,363
    ...on the '81 SD. In my own mind, I had a limit of around $9k for this car, so we are not that far off.

    As it happens, I DO believe the miles are legit - the guy is a collector, has several cars at his disposal, but simply misunderstood the nature of this car: it is not a collectible, so the low miles do little for its resale. No one wants an SD to use as a weekend car or to admire as a garage queen to drive to Concours. He has all the documentation, but has, as noted above, an unrealistic view of the worth of the car. I just needed some reinforcement in my mind that the risks and things to be concerned about here were the same list I had put together on my own.

    An example of a practical concern: I would use the car for 6-8k miles a year of longer trips, it would be out weekly, it would be exposed to all the normal risks of traffic, etc. No insurance company is going to cover this car for theft and total loss for more than $5-6k or so...

    Anyway, thanks for the prompt responses and reasoned ideas.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 56,773
    This is why, in spite of the cranky replies I get sometime, that I always tell people who have nice old cars that are pristine but NOT collectible to "use 'em up", drive them until they are worn out and then put them to sleep.

    300Ds are nice but really almost too slow for modern aggressive highways. I have to "drive ahead" with mine and keep the pedal mashed most of the time. About 50 extra HP would be nice. But they will chug along eternally it seems.

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  • im_brentwoodim_brentwood Posts: 4,883
    A 300SD will, in all likelihood, NEVER be a Valuable collector car. Ever.

    Use it, drive it, enjoy it, smoke in it, get the odd parking ding, etc...

    Just dont ever plan on making a dime off of it!

    Now, a 500E? E320 Cabriolet? Yeah, someday those will sell for a lot of money. Maybe even the old 300CEs.

    But not a common sedan. Very nice cars, I am a big fan of the W126.. but sheesh!

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 56,773
    Don't count on any modern Mercedes ever being a collectible, because they make too many of them; however, some of the convertibles will always have a certain amount of value naturally. They just won't ever be worth more than MSRP or even close. That goes double for coupes. If you need convincing, just look at how the old V8 SLs are doing---some are 30 years old and still only worth $10K, near show for $15K, and the SLCs as low as $5K in good shape. Same with Corvettes, Vipers and all the rest. Too large of a production for the market to drive up the price. Supply will always meet demand.

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  • im_brentwoodim_brentwood Posts: 4,883
    I think E500s will be worth something in the future. I mean, they were pretty exotic and they never did make very many of them.

    400Es? 300Es? Nope.

    E320 Cabriolets? You make a great point, But look at actual wholesale values.. The suckers are wholesaling for more than 500SLs! And they are rare and in strong demand.

    Will they always be expensive? I think so. Look at 280SE 4.5 Cabs, they have never been "cheap" cars.

    A true collector car likea gullwing tho? I dont see it..

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 56,773
    Well, we'll have to see. I am very skeptical that they will ever be anything more than nice used cars you can buy at a big discount off MSRP.

    Aside from rarity, beauty, style and all the rest is the big 600 pound gorilla of collectibility---someone has to care. And frankly, I don't think any of the cars you mentioned really will get collectors blood rising. They pretty much look like any other luxury German cabriolet. Certainly none of the visual power of a Gullwing. A '57 Chevy convertible will draw 100X as many people as a 320 Cabriolet.

    I think these cars will be more of the type "picked off" by bargain hunters who want a lot of used car for the money and are willing to risk the problems of fixing complex cars out of warranty. You know, people like us :)

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  • sddlwsddlw Posts: 361
    I'm not sure I am in agreement about the value of some of these older cars. I think there is a quantifiable value to these cars if the overall condition of the interior, paint, and mechanics are in premium condition, along with the few miles on them. Here's my thinking.

    If you are going to buy and old car, and then try to gradually replace the worn seat covers, or scuffed dash, or stained carpet, or whatever, you will spend a fair amount of money. Especially on these old German cars. Also, except for the condition of the seals, and other rubber components like motor mounts and bushings, if the car was stored properly or driven a little every couple of weeks, you should have many miles to go on the mechanical side of things before you wear it out. This is not dissimilar to what we do when we buy a new car. We buy it and use it up. And take a huge hit in depreciation in doing so. Of course a new car is much more reliable, but in this case, I think your trading new car reliability for the fun of driving an older Mercedes.

    I'm not defending $20K for an 81'SD. But if I was looking to buy one, and came across this one, in perfect condition in every little detail, I'd be willing to pay a premium price to get such a pristine car. Knowing all along that if I bought a car that wasn't in pristine condition, I'd start to gradually replace all the worn stuff and spend the money anyway.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 56,773
    Oh, I have no argument about the "value" of some of these older German cars. All I'm saying is that they are not collectible, that is, as they get older they will get cheaper or at best stagnate in value.

    But good, well cared for German luxury cars will always command a decent price vis a vis other used cars of the same type. You might get $5-6K for a pristine 1981 SD, but this is hardly possible for a pristine domestic 4-door or an old Japanese sedan.

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  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    I've got to make an overnight road trip on very short notice tonight (death in the family, have to go from Cedar Rapids to Buffalo) and the sealed beams in my car ('89 Volvo 740) are insufficient at best for long distance interstate night driving. Obviously, my optimum answer would be Cibies or a full E-Code conversion; unfortunately, I can't get anyone to beam these to my house in the next five hours (and I know, I shouldn't have waited this long. Most of my night driving is in the city,
    so I don't really notice the bad lighting as much.) Therefore, I need a short term "Wal-Mart" solution. Does anyone have a good recommendation for off-the-shelf sealed beam lights?
  • magnetophonemagnetophone Posts: 605
    Do you have the quad lights or the two lights?
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    Quad sealed beams. The 740 went to the flush mounted dual lights in '90.
  • magnetophonemagnetophone Posts: 605
    The GE ones are probably not so bad. Best of luck on that drive. Maybe you should check last minute flights. They do give discounts for emergency matters such as this one.

    Also, I've found last minute flights from Austin to seattle for 200. before, so I couldn't imagine Iowa to NY being any more than that, probably less.
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    The cheapest fare was $500, and I'd have to buy three tickets for the whole family. Oddly, it's always very expensive to fly from Cedar Rapids. Driving is best on such short notice. I guess I'll head down to Auto Zone and see what they have.
This discussion has been closed.