Date registered: Feb 2008
Vehicle: 2004 W220 (S430) ; 2001 R129 (SL500) Sport
Location: Alabama Gulf Coast--formerly Charlottesville, VA
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My W124 was the same way. Replacing the evaporator basically required the removal of everything in the interior forward of the B pillar except the seats. If I recall, the flat rate (remember this is a simpler 124) was 20 hours or some such.
The advice you are receiving is accurate; this is not a job for an amateur--even a talented one with time on his/her hands. You may find it more expensive to repair than the car is worth. I found an indie shop to replace mine, which turned out to be less than half what the dealership quoted, but it was still $2k or something like that including the new part.
"Don't pick a fight with an old man. If he is too old to fight, he'll just kill you."--John Steinbeck