Date registered: Aug 2005
Vehicle: 1972 250C, Ducati ST
Location: Norfolk, Virginia
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RE: WANTED: 1970 300SEL LOW MILES
I would suggest that with a 36-year old car, mileage in and of itself is almost a non-issue. Mercedes drivetrain components are famous for going long distances without appreciable wear.
Soft bits like hoses, seals, and suspension components, on the other hand, are going to age over time whether or not the car is driven at all. Likewise, worn paint and rust are more a result of age and where the car was parked than how many miles are on the car.
You'd be much better off looking for a clean, complete car with a straight, rust-free body and not worrying about the mileage. Even if you have to re-build the engine, transmission, and rear-end, that's going to be a lot cheaper, quicker, and easier than fixing rust, re-painting the car, or trying to track down replacements for missing/damaged pieces. And God help you if you have to spend time fixing a previous owner's "repairs".
You have to be very careful when selecting a 300 SEL. Since they're very popular and desired, they tend to change hands fairly often, but they're still inexpensive enough that people can buy them without really being able to afford the upkeep, so they may have been maintained poorly, or not at all.
If you want proof of this, look at all the 300's for sale that have air suspensions that "stay up for a day or two when parked, but may need a little work". What that means is that the seller bought the car but can't stomach the $2000 it will take to get the suspension working properly.
Likewise, if you ever see an ad that says "The A/C blows warm, but probably just needs re-charged", that should send up a BIG red flag. If a recharge is all it would take to get the A/C working properly again, they would have fixed it already, if for no other reason than to be able to advertise "ice-cold factory A/C". More likely, they've discovered that they need a new compressor, compressor clutch, hard lines, and maybe a new condensor or evaporator, and they decided to drive around without the A/C rather than spending the money to have it fixed.
When you're looking at something like an original Lamborghini Countach or a Ferrari GTO, you can be pretty sure that all of the prior owners had the funds to maintain them properly. Sadly, the same isn't true of a vintage Mercedes.