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

32205 Views 153 Replies 46 Participants Last post by  ianrandom
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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.

Want...is 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 yes...it 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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Wow, that is a WICKED looking sedan! No wonder you jumped on it.

My grey-market SEC has three cats in the same postions you mentioned, and still failed about every other time. And runs like a bat-outa-hell.
Thank you for all the positive comments. I wasn't particularly seeking out a SEL but it was lust at first sight. The overtop 80's bling factor is just so...80's. gold package, gold rims, curtains, cell phone antenna, etc.

I was hesitant to post this until I returned to US soil as I knew questions would arise... The SEL was running horribly when I drove it from Oakland to San Mateo. But even with the coughing, choking, shakin' and rattlin' the asre dyno registered far more than my well tuned US 500SEC with tri-y's. And since all of the mechanical restoration and tuning, Martti has reported after a weeklong test drive, that it's insanely quick. We'll see. I will further investigate when I return next week.

I'll spend a few days in SF before heading south. Would've liked to join you guys at the GTG and/or Irvine but timing was off by a week.

I am also seeking out some odds/ends and will be making a few tasteful adjustments upon my return including a mild de-bling.

Hope all the eBay crap has made it home safely.

Meanwhile, cascade's definition of AMG applies here...if you aren't hoarding the goods for yourself, I'm seeking out (like everyone else) AMG Gen I Type I's, AMG/sebring rear muffler, AMG Type II steering wheel, Recaro Classic-C seatback tables, second set of emblems including A M G, (want to keep the gold set for nostalgia), euro headlights, euro corners, and......(long pause) blahhhhhh, just threw up a little. Thanks again!

Look forward to the picts from the GTG in sunny southern California this coming weekend.

Meanwhile, I'll share one from not so sunny FIN:

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Henric...now all those questions you've asked me in PM make sense;):) Congrats on your SEL purchase.. take good care of it! You've got the same AMG speedo as I have... very rare to find one in MPH and KMH!:thumbsup:
I've seen cars that had that speedo (originally) tend to lean towards serious engine mods, good possibility it has either mechanical valve conveersion, and/or the 5.2/5.4 stroker kit. Check the labels on the door sill and engine compartment, also stickers over the valve covers if any present.

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Henric...now all those questions you've asked me in PM make sense;):) Congrats on your SEL purchase.. take good care of it! You've got the same AMG speedo as I have... very rare to find one in MPH and KMH!:thumbsup:
Even with an AMG as a starting point, there is so much left to be wanted.
I can truely appreciate your patience, persistance and time spent searching for these pieces. Really look forward to your SEL finally getting put together with all the rare bits you've located over the years!:thumbsup:
Check the labels on the door sill and engine compartment, also stickers over the valve covers if any present.
you betcha!
DAMN, that car is VIP all the way...:bowdown::bowdown::bowdown:
Wow, that is a WICKED looking sedan! No wonder you jumped on it.

My grey-market SEC has three cats in the same postions you mentioned, and still failed about every other time. And runs like a bat-outa-hell.
I suspect your cats have seen better days as well. Look into replacing them with hi-flow units. You'd be surprised how much expired cats can hurt performance.

I was quite disappointed that I had to invest in the exhaust in order to complete the registration process as it was expensive. I'll look at how these cats were installed and hope to reuse them when it comes time to mount the tri-y's and downpipes.:thumbsup:
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?
Thank you Jim. I will have to look into the what, if any, engine mods were made. It's a true euro no doubt but beyond that further inspection is in order.

Leaving Suomi for SF on Monday, will spend a few days there and then head south.
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.

cascade...you're in the area this weekend.....GO, GO, GO, and document this baby :D
David, are my eyes deceiving me? Or is that Speedo in MPH? Looks to me like 190 Speedo?
It's in both KPH and MPH (in red). These are tough to find and as mentioned above, typically on cars with engine mods. My 6.0 32v'er had this face. I believe AMG NA were fitting them on their conversions only, but you could probably get one from them if the car was imported with AMG mods already. As a yank, it's nice to take the guesswork out to determine just how fast you are going when you eclipse 250kph...
It's in both KPH and MPH (in red). These are tough to find and as mentioned above, typically on cars with engine mods. My 6.0 32v'er had this face. I believe AMG NA were fitting them on their conversions only, but you could probably get one from them if the car was imported with AMG mods already. As a yank, it's nice to take the guesswork out to determine just how fast you are going when you eclipse 250kph...
Don't forget about the UK AMG's. Several RHD AMG's have that same speedo, including Talbir's and "Vladimir's" old RHD Hammer. In one of the UK's car magazine that covers an AMG, you can spot that type of speedo as well.
Well picked up the SEL today and all I can say is...wow and I really looking forward to stretching its legs on the I-5 tomorrow. :thumbsup:
We're all looking forward to seeing you and the car somewhere near LA.
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Well the long stretches of straight highway were really paved for this SEL. SF to LA, LA to Vegas, Vegas to LA was the flightplan. The SEL is almost, dare I say, tame off the line but once it shifts out of second the AMG really comes alive. Though the SEL has been converted to meet Fed safety standards they didn't take the autobahn urge out of it. Wow.

I briefly inspected the vehicle on the ground and confirmed the following:

Full AMG body kit
AMG 300kph/190mph speedometer
Black spring up front, white springs in the rear.
Bilstein shocks
Rearend 407867 2.24
Engine Number 117 963 1208 4390

Labels found:
Imported by: Black Beauty, Inc.
Odometer reading when changed: 275
Bureau of Automotive Repair: A23738

The vehicle is solid overall. The suspension is very ridged. The acceleration is timid thru the second gear. The transmission is very fast, snaps into the gear without any hesitation regardless of whether its an upshift or downshift.

I have Euro French Headlights on the way. Searching for AMG Gen I Type I five spoke (penta style) wheels and a AMG/Sebring muffler.:thumbsup:

I'll inspect it further once I have it off the ground.

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Why not paint the wheels to match the body. The car is HOT!!
I am so in love with that car. Sedans usually don't do anything for me, but yours definitely does. KISS's 'I Was Made For Lovin' You' comes to mind...

I'd be tempted to leave the goldtone alone! It's DEFINITELY dated, but WHO CARES??? It's a wicked 80's ride.
Same here... although I'm not really a big fan of the gold tone... it is VERY period correct and gives the car that "80's" look. Either way you go with the gold toning... its an AWESOME rare car! What plans do you have for it?:D
I am SO drooling for that AMG speedo for my car as the finishing touch.

Your car would look GREAT in any configuration you decide. Blacked out totally, or with tasteful balance of blackout and chrome, or subtle gold trim which as Snibble said, is period correct. I'd do it as long as I saved the original parts and used new hardware.

I noticed your economy gauge at idle - once you get that vacuum leak sorted out the idle should be smoother. My AMG has the 2.24's also - even though it pulls off the line pretty well, i was SHOCKED at first to find out it had this ratio. Cascade had it up to nearly 140MPH and it was only turning 4k RPM's before he let off.

How comfy it would be to draw the Japanese style rear curtains and take a nap in the back while being driven to a GTG royalty-style! Wink.
I was planning on sporting the gold package for a little while.

What plans do you have for it?
I have the french euro headlights on route. Seeking Gen I Type I AMG (penta style) wheels, AMG/Sebring muffler and rear burlwood tables. I have a set of Tri-y's standing by. The Classic-C's that arrived during my absence turned out to be vinyl and not leather, damn it. So those will be listed shortly.

Otherwise it's the endless list of minors that will be addressed.

Why not paint the wheels to match the body.
I prefer the mesh wheel in gold but when it comes time to swap out the wheels I'll go with black on type I's.

I noticed your economy gauge at idle - once you get that vacuum leak sorted out the idle should be smoother.
car wasn't running :D

My AMG has the 2.24's also - even though it pulls off the line pretty well, i was SHOCKED at first to find out it had this ratio. Cascade had it up to nearly 140MPH and it was only turning 4k RPM's before he let off.
80mph 2500 rpm
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