Ok calm down fellas. I am just in the position of providing them advice and giving them free labor when the MB dealer provides them with high prices. Itís family. Theyíve expressed no interest in getting rid of it. I have not kept an eye on the market, and thought Iíd ask. I suggested this 1998 sl500 as a best of the best year to buy. Sure, maybe some m113 are better. In any case, I suggested buying the car, and want to make sure that I tell them if thereís a reason to sell.
I told them to be on the lookout for flakiness in the top functions before it dumps hydraulic fluid in their lap.
If they sell the r129, I might suggest some of the r107 beaters Iíve got around.
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I don't think anyone is getting worked up, just confused based on the initial post and your later comments, that's all.
As you know Mercedes' all too well, I'm sure you told them to expect some maintenance costs regardless of the condition at the time of purchase. I would agree that 98 is probably the sweet spot of model years for the R129, and with that in mind, will be one of the more desirable models when the time comes (when and if it does) to pass it along to another owner.
If it were me I would just calm them down over the costs they've incurred an assure them that they're unlikely to have significant expenses after this point for a while. Certainly the top cylinders won't be cheap (about $800/set for rebuilts from Klaus plus lots and lots of *your* labor) but again, once this is done they're good for a very, very long time.
If they can envision long term ownership they should be in a pretty good position with the car now based on what you describe. They just caught the car at a point in time where it has needs, but once those are addressed it should be relatively inexpensive to maintain for some time.
My 1997 R129 has 134k on the clock and I've owned it for over five years. In the last two years I've done nothing more than put motor mounts, a transmission mount, both strut mounts and a tie rod end on it. It's the daily driver of a very aggressive and "spirited" driver, so it's run hard. It performs flawlessly and has been probably the most reliable Mercedes I've owned in almost 30 years. They should expect the same once the dust shakes out and everything is sorted.
As for BAT, well, nothing is a sure thing. BAT is very particular about what gets listed, and even with a nice car, there are no guarantees that they'll accept it for auction.
Sadly, the R129 chassis' cars have been overlooked and underrated for years. The styling is either loved or reviled by people, the haters who often refer to it as a "Mustang" because of the lines of the body. They have a point, but that being said, it's a diamond in the rough as the soft prices have made it a very affordable convertible for a long time. As long as one avoids the earlier years and finds one that's well cared for you can expect to have a fun, reliable and sporty car for a long time for a minimal investment. If you can factor in the value of usage, you'll probably come out on the back end at break even if not a little better.
As for getting douched by the hydraulics, well, they'll probably get a wet leg when the top locks in the windshield frame fail. It leaks out of the top lock cylinder and down the "A" pillar, usually exiting at the point where the trim meets the metal at the top of the pillar. Better yet, warn them to look for puddles around the rear tires. If the lift cylinders go first, the hydraulic fluid leaks down into the body cavities and drips out of drain holes in front of the rear tires, leaving a puddle.
Sucks that they had to lay out some serious coin on the car, but in the long term they should be fine. Just tell them to drive it and enjoy.