dknemeyer - 5/31/2005 4:30 PM
Thanks for all of the continued good responses. I appreciate the advice to focus on something newer from the standpoint of reliability and total cost of ownership, but I confess that the design style of the earlier cars strikes me far more than the 1989-1991 era models, for example. Reviewing the different recommendations, I particularly like the 280 SL model vehicles. The earlier vehicles are easily the most striking, but even the early 1980s-era vehicles look much nicer to me than the late 1980s.
Can anyone give me an indication on the sort of gas mileage to expect, or any hidden costs (higher insurance? difficulty meeting smog compliance?) that such a vehicle might have.
Additionally, I would appreciate any advice about the basic process of buying such a car, how to evaluate a vehicle to determine whether to buy it, "where to go" to have a variety of reputable purchases to make, etc.
I own a 280E sedan that gets no more than 20mpg.
Your choice of the 280SL is a good one, but I would add that it's a convertible as well as a coupe. It's also (in most cases) a 2-seater. Just so you are aware. The 280SLC is a 4-seat coupe. In addition, neither the 280SL nor the 280SLC were ever imported here by Mercedes, which means they are all gray market vehicle, which presents its own set of challenges. The definitive US-model coupe of the time (1973-1980) was the V8 powered 14-17mpg 450SLC. There happens to be an unusually pristine example on ebay now. Here it is:
The smaller coupe in those days was the 280CE and its diesel version, the 300CD. I can tell you a lot about the former as it's a 2-door version of my car.
The diesel ones are more common since there were a lot more of them imported, but here is an example of a 280CE, pretty decent price, too:
Given the choice, I would go for 1977 and later vehicles because it was that year that Mercedes reaplced the occasionally problematic electronic fuel injection system with the far more reliable and simple (those less efficient) mechanical system known as CIS (Continuos Injection System).
I don't know that much about the diesels, so I will defer to other members on that but here is what seems like a nice example and it's already in California.
Ebay seems a good place for classic Benzes. That is where I got mine. In fact the seller I bought mine from is currently offering up what looks like an interesting Euro-spec 450SLC. These were a lot more powerful than US-spec versions due to less restrictive emissions equipment. I don't know if that will be an issue in California given how old the car is, but it's a thought. Here is that car:
Look for a seller with a high feedback score. People that take their business seriously understand that it is their reputation (feedback) that makes the difference and so they try to be honest about their vehicles. Having said that, keep in mind that, being older vehicles, some of these cars may have defects and issues even the seller didn't know about. For this reason, you might want to look for a seller that specializes in Mercedes or, at least, older imports.
The insurance costs on these cars seem pretty reasonable to me but I know not what it's like in California. As for smog, I wonder what year a car has to be in order to be smog exempt but I imagine seventies has to be pretty close.
I know, we are all giving somewhat sporadic advice, but you ask a huge question that invites a large number of possibilities.
Feel free to ask more questions.