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

32185 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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and yes, I am scouring the earth for any more Gen I bits. Specifically an AMG muffler, any consoles, and Recaro tables. Let me know if you come across anything interesting. Cheers!
Let me know if you come across any Gen I bits...
Let me know if you come across any Gen I bits...
you meant gen II bits, right?
a couple of photos updates:


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most recently I replaced the grill...


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The SEL shined when she was called on recently to tour California and NV toting 5 with a boot full of luggage across the state for three weeks. LA to SF, SF to Napa, SF to LA, LA to LV, LV to SD, SD to LA and all over the southland. Over 2000 miles in total. Enjoyed the travels for sure.

Brought her into the pits after it was all said and done. The SEL developed splits at both inner rear CV boots and a slight A/T leak but with nearly 160k on the clock it's to be expected.
Absolutlely LOVE it!!!:thumbsup: Looks great with the French lights, too! The dark color with the yellow lights gives a nice contrast!
I HATE you!!! In a goood way.

The wheels really set it off on the ext. but the wood, seats WOW!
:bowdown: :bowdown: :bowdown: :bowdown: :bowdown:
:bowdown: :bowdown: :bowdown: :bowdown: :bowdown:
Crap I love that thing.
Crap I love that thing.
Thank you!

Dimm, I like your new avatar, so much more innocent.
The SEL received a little more love in the way of a 2.82 non-LSD diff.

Those in search of greater acceleration should seriously consider this OEM option. For the Gen I W126 owners it is the most readily available, easiest, most cost effective performance upgrade available. The performance increase ranks closely to that of my try-y dual exhaust upgrade.

Highway cruising 75mph at 2850 rpm.
I have to thank jonwhite99 for a day at the yards and his help pulling this unit! Thanks mate!
Your industriousness makes me want to go do something to my car. Something fast.
your car is what dreams are made of....
those seats are sick! I want some. Was it problematic making the built in controls on the seats work? What did you do with the old seat controls on the doors?
I'm not the most mechanically inclined person in the world, so I was admittedly a bit in the dark reading the last suggestion you made about the differential. What do you mean by non-LSD, and where do I get one? 2850 RPM, that's phenomenal!
you meant gen II bits, right?
Yes, sorry...
Holy shit... I just wet myself. Especially over those seats. Those must have set you back a fortune. I can't even understand how you were able to find a set in such condition in the first place. Absolutely beautiful...
there was a 3.27 on eBay not long ago, still on there actually .

For those who have not driven with a 3.27 diff, it screams, I mean it really screams through the gears, and it's a lot of fun for it. My SE has a 3.27 and it really goes fast.

Just don't plan on taking any long road trips with it....
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