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a 1985 500SEL AMG that I didn't share...

32260 Views 153 Replies 46 Participants Last post by  ianrandom
Though most of my findings have been passed along to those of you here, I did keep one for myself.

Back in January I purchased this 1985 Black on Black European Grey Market (imported in 1989) 500SEL AMG just prior to my travels abroad. I purchase this beaut from an individual in the Bay Area who purchased the vehicle from a local dismantler's auction. The individual never registered the vehicle during his one month of ownership but did begin the DMV process. "It's running a lil' rich." he says, "and it didn't pass smog, just gotta adjust the nox." (1st alarm bell went off but I ignored it...the AMG crack is strong.) Later CarFax proved a history of smog failures.

Unfortunately the service history was not included as it was retained by the dismantler. (That would have been bell #2...the AMG crack is good) Though the original owners manuals, AC, radio, cruise control manuals and AMG price list booklet, all in German, were included. But only the first owner and Belgium dealer's name inscribed within from way back in 1985.

Against everything I believe in when it comes to purchasing a vehicle, I made the polluted choice to purchase the vehicle anyway...without a clean title, without service records and with only partially completed DMV paperwork. I should've have turned and walked away when I had the chance but no, AMG will blind and will confuse.

The thing is, this little find is in such a wonderfully preserved original state I just couldn't walk away, I couldn't bear the thought of it being parted and I couldn't understand why it ended up in a dismantler's auction to begin with. what overwhelmed and I negotiated the best deal I could, grabbed the wad of DMV papers and rode off into the sunset with my new bad habit.

Soon thereafter I contacted the Bay Area dismantler with regard to the vehicle and the missing service records. They had existed. Unfortunately the dismantler denied my request to provide the vehicle service records as accordance to law. Reluctantly the dismantler did however share some general information about the vehicle. But when I began prying into specifics he quickly backed off and stated that he could loose his job if any further info were disclosed and quickly ended our conversation.

What I did gather from that conversation was that in California a vehicle could be turned over to a dismantler to rid the current owner of any back registration, penalties, accumulative smog issues, fees and/or dues. And this is why the previous owner surrendered this vehicle.

Then the true physical inspections began. After I kicked the tires and rubbed the hood star, the vehicle was sent in for a full PPI (POST Purchase Inspection, LOL) inspection at MB Garage. "How bad is she doc?" The inspection results came back with favorable results, a fantastic structure report and only deferred maintenance needs. (whew... line 'em up)

Before any major service was to be performed we opted to complete the registration process. First it was off for a smog check next door and that's where the issues were confirmed as noted by the CarFax. SMOG Failure! This euro grey market import had failed several times over the past 5 years.

Poke, prod, sniff, test, adjust, 8 plugs, oil, filter, air filter, three cats (yes 3) a new O2 sensor, timing and CO adjustments later and we were back in business. The three cats replaced the tired, non effective, burn out units originally installed south of the Euro log and dual downpipes system. A single pre cat was installed on each dp and a two in two out main cat to follow. That got things cleaned up. Big $$$ thank you California. And I suspect this was that obstacle the previous owners were not willing to overcome and gave in, smart men.

The SEL was now burning clean and passed smog. Unfortunately the next hurdle was VIN verification. Because the vehicle was turned over to a dismantler and the plates were turned into DMV the vehicle's VIN now had to be verified by the CHP and a brake and light certificate issued. chadahar, sound familiar?

Smogged, VIN verified and brake and light cert issued, now it was time for DMV to complete the registration process.

Meanwhile, the mechanical restoration continued...both tie rods were replaced. Seems some tow truck jerk off used them as secure tie down points.

That was followed by new disks/pads and rebuilt calipers up front with new pads in the rear and a parking brake adjustment.

The vehicle was finally safe, registered, running well and burning clean.

Then the big services...without any prior service records the covers were pulled and the stretch was checked and was time, chain/tensioner replacement.

Finally, the temp control unit was replaced and AC leak-down checked and AC recharged.

And that's where I'm at or at least that's where the SEL is at. This was all made possible by Janet and Martti at MB Garage in San Mateo, California in my absence. Now, If I were only back in California to retrieve the little bugger and hit 5 south. Soon baby, soon.:thumbsup:

Here are a couple of picts:


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nice car, no matter what it cost to fix, it looks in great shape, I hope you have many years of happy driving.
What a well told story - and what a gorgeous car. Congratulations on your find! You certainly deserve to come across a unique and exclusively appointed gem like that after the many, many "came across this..." threads you've posted for us. Great start to what I hope will be an immensely rewarding odyssey for you 48. :thumbsup:
I really really like it! Looks beautiful! I would have purchased it as well and dealt with the problems later. Time is all we have in this world.
wow, just wow.

no historic tag option in california? lame.
Great find! Congrat on your new baby. I love those rear window curtains.
Really LAME! No historic tags! We have to smog cars back to 1975 and newer.

WOW! really nice car!

Yes I know well the drill, but even so, we have saved a couple of really nice cars.

I was lucky in the fact that the first P.O. kept all his receipts back to the day it first was smogged in CA 17 Feb, 1988 a month after it had been imported through Houston TX and Federalized there. A whole month before Houston issued the title for the federalized car. So basically, except for a short stay in TX, it has been a CA car all but 4 years(Germany).

Let me put this out there to the Newbies with these cars that have Smog problems in CA. Especially the super nice ones.
1. Just because your car fails smog twice, you do not have to turn it in to the crusher and collect the $1000.00.
2. You can fix the car if it fails several times, IF, you choose to do so.
3. To save the next owner some grief, come on the forum and ask for help.
4. DO NOT turn in the title and Tags before you at least make the forum members aware of the vehicle and the problems.
5. There may be someone on the forum like 48hp or myself that would take a chance on the car to save it from the crusher.
See less See more suck. That is all.
how much?
Just get those US parts off of there ASAP, hah.

I'm glad you saved the car. That really is a nice one. *jealousy*
Hee hee....."the AMG just takes you over" I understand that much.

300KPH speedo?!?! Does that mean some serious engine mods?!

You did the right thing keeping this car from anyone. I mean, you provide a SERVICE posting w126 FS, hey gotta let the fuddy daddy get the cake one day! Thanks again for all that you do for the board.'re in the area this weekend.....GO, GO, GO, and document this baby :D
Nice work 48. California law can be a pain in situations like these. I am glad to see you saved this great machine. I would have done the same thing if i was in your situation so i guess your are not the only one on amg crack.:thumbsup:
Unfortunately 48hp is out of the country so none of us will see this car this weekend....D$%M!
Minus emissions....California seems so much more fun than Florida.
Very nice.I love SEL's.Good job on saving this gem.
That's a beautiful SEL - it sure came out nice. Excellent find.
I NEED to have that 300kph speedo (190MPH) With 2.24's my AMG seems long legged on the freeway moreso than off the line. And it was no slug getting up to 140MPH, driver chickened out after that. After 100MPH keeps pulling, so its good for 160MPH, at least.

Would you lynch me if I dumped the stock speedo for an AMG 300KPH unit (with matched mileage, of course).
Not if you can find one. See I'm not that much of a!
Does your AMG's have AMG speedo faces?
If so Double what I said If I can have the one you take out...LOL!
Great save, Henrick!!! Fascinating story, so well told....

I'd love to see the car on one of these trips to LA, or when you drive it up to South San Francisco one day.

What exactly did AMG do to the exhaust and engine?

Quite correct, nothing like an AMG. The last 2 days I have alternated between a stock coupe, and mine.....its true, AMG may =
"All Money Gone" but it's worth it!!!

When are you coming back from Finland to Los Angeles?
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