Please help me with advice on 280se - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 33 (permalink) Old 08-07-2006, 06:21 PM Thread Starter
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Please help me with advice on 280se

I know there are sure to be folks here experienced with this car. I bought a 1968 280se sedan for $1500. I bought it with the intention to put maybe $2000 to $3000 into it in mechanical work to get it into my everyday driver.

I drove it to a guy right after i bought it who is known to really know these cars, and he looks at it after i pull up and tells me that i'm going to need to throw 20,000 grand into it. He could 'smell it' coming in. He didn't start it, but just looked around it, and said it will need:

-steering box
-springs/struts
-brakes
-top end rebuild at least, with maybe new pistons
-rebuilt transmission
-alignment

Lesson learned. But how much will it reasonably cost to make this a reliable car? Is it not worth it? Should I just cut my losses? The whole thing has left me kind of depressed and feeling foolish.
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post #2 of 33 (permalink) Old 08-07-2006, 06:36 PM
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Generally speaking, the W108/109 series cars are NOT worth restoring, since there are plenty of solid ones out there. You might recover some of your money by parting it out.

Felicita e un bicchiere di vino con un panino.
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post #3 of 33 (permalink) Old 08-07-2006, 07:05 PM Thread Starter
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So how much does a solid sedan tend to go for? About $5000? I'm not looking to [I]restore the car. I just want to turn this into a reliably running vehicle. Is that list going to run up past the cost of getting a reliable w108?
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post #4 of 33 (permalink) Old 08-07-2006, 07:08 PM
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Boris----

TIME FOR A SECOND OPINION.

Maybe what the man at the shop "smelled" was money!

First, do you work on your own cars? If so, buy a copy of the shop manual:

Passenger Cars Starting 1968 108/109/111/113.

You can find clean copies on eBay for about $50. US. That will help you countless times.

Sort out the safety-related items first. Make certain the steering and brakes are safe. These cars have kingpins for the front suspension, rather than ball joints, and sometimes it's difficult to tell if the front suspension is worn to the extent it has become unsafe. Get an alignment at a shop which is skilled in these cars. They also can comment on the condition of the suspension--if it is badly worn, they may diagnose the problems for free. Like I said: 2nd opinion time.

Provided the car is safe and can be aligned--or can be made safe with modest expenditure--then put it in daily use. Change the oil, and watch its level. Watch the oil pressure...it should peg at 45 psi (3 bar) off idle and stay that way, and should fall no lower than about 10-15 psi (0.7-1.0 bar) at idle. If it is not using oil, and produces no blue smoke (except possibly a puff on starting), then the engine probably does NOT require a rebuild. If not, an honest shop can diagnose "top end" (head/valves/cam) wear versus "bottom end" crank/rods/pistons) wear.

EVEN IF the engine is using oil, at a rate of 1 quart per 500 miles, or less, and is not smoking objectionably, just keep it oiled, and enjoy it. Even so, change oil frequently, as the "blowby" of a worn engine contaminates the oil much faster.

If you only see black smoke from the tailpipe, then you may have fuel injection issues. I don't know BEANS about the fuel injection on the 6-cylinder cars...ask some others.

If the car is smoke-free, the suspension is safe, and doesn't use oil, then you've proven the man at the shop wrong on most counts.

I drove a 280SE 4.5s as my daily driver for many years, and just loved it. I rebuilt the front end during my ownership, and that was over $1,500. Otherwise, it cost me little. There was the occasional item (window regulator, engine fan clutch, disk caliper) but I did the work myself, and bought used parts or deeply-discounted parts. You'll get to know the parts sources. Are you in the US? Many sell parts all or in part on eBay.

Lastly--KEEP THE SUSPENSION LUBED. These cars were intended to have a lube job VERY frequently. About every 2 months wouldn't be too often. There are over a dozen fittings, as I recall.

Don't be too worried yet--for a few dollars of diagnostic work, you can see how things really stand. Best of luck to you!

Jim Rothrock
Windermere, Florida
1970 300 SEL 6.3
1979 450 SLC 5.0
1990 560SEC Euro Conversion
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post #5 of 33 (permalink) Old 08-07-2006, 07:11 PM
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Boris, another thing....you didn't say whether the car was a true "basket case"---leaking from five places, obvious smoke, etc. I'm speaking of a car which give the appearance of being nice, and the shop which could be unscrupulous.

Jim Rothrock
Windermere, Florida
1970 300 SEL 6.3
1979 450 SLC 5.0
1990 560SEC Euro Conversion
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post #6 of 33 (permalink) Old 08-07-2006, 07:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by borisshiner
So how much does a solid sedan tend to go for? About $5000?
Here's what looks like a nice example.


http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1971-...QQcmdZViewItem

Felicita e un bicchiere di vino con un panino.
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post #7 of 33 (permalink) Old 08-08-2006, 06:34 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you greatly for all your information! I was planning on doing as much of the smaller work as possible myself. The car is from california and has absolutely no rust at all. Never been in an accident. Hell, I don't think it ever left the state. Granted I've only had it for 2 days and only drove it from the purchase place to this shop, but it's not smoking. It hasn't been driven much at all in the past year, and it does need attention. Sure, it stalled at every light on the way over, but I expected that. Also expected the completely impatient and unforgiving horns of LA traffic.
You're right about a second opinion, Jim. And I'm looking at getting that manual you mentioned. I can get this thing running smoothly at idle without rebuilding the damn thing, no?
Does anyone know an actual reliable and honest mercedes mechanic in the LA area whom I could take it to? I really like the car and don't want to have to get rid of it on account of it being a bottomless money hole with no satisfaction returned.
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post #8 of 33 (permalink) Old 08-08-2006, 06:46 AM Thread Starter
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Also, is Chiltons Repair and Tune Up Manual an alright text to get, or should I be looking at something like Haynes Owners Workshop Manual? Anyone have experience with these texts?
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post #9 of 33 (permalink) Old 08-08-2006, 07:57 AM
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I've never had a whole lot of luck with Chiltons or Haynes - I ended up buying the no-kidding Mercedes fix-it-up manual on CD rom, and it's been a good source (Except regarding MAP sensors and surging at high speeds).

I bought my 108 off eBay, and it was a RUSTY cancerous bitchy thing with a mother-in-law kind of personality. I did much of the body work myself in my spare time, getting it ultimately painted here locally. It now looks pretty good, and after speiding nickels and dimes here or there, I'm driving one of the smoothest cars I've ever driven.

Some parts can be pricey, but you can get some good deals on eBay, and there are a number of web sites that cater to the older Benz'. I say keep it, fix it up over time, and you won't regret it (maybe you will if you're married and your spouse has to hear you rail all night about a sensor that mystifies you ...)
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post #10 of 33 (permalink) Old 08-08-2006, 12:29 PM
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Boris, these cars HATE to be left sitting for extended periods, and many have said long periods of rest in a garage are their worst enemy--worse than willful neglect. Still, with a little persistence, I'll bet your car will be running good again.

The excellent body is a huge "plus" for these models, which did not have modern rust-preventive measures. I'll bet with a couple tankfuls of fresh fuel, your car will run better and better.

As for the manuals: I bought a Chiltons manual when I had my 280SEL in the eighties, and quickly found it was of very limited usefulness.

I don't know of good mechanics in the LA are, being on the opposite coast, but I'll make an inquiry with an LA-area Mercedes enthusiast with whom I converse.

Let us know how you are doing. Best wishes,

Jim Rothrock
Windermere, Florida
1970 300 SEL 6.3
1979 450 SLC 5.0
1990 560SEC Euro Conversion
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