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Discussion Starter #1
I have a quick question about some body problems, and whether fixing them even makes sense.

I have 1976 450SL that I have owned for a long time. About 10 years ago, I spent a little over $20k going over it head to toe. New transmission, rebuilt engine, boatloads of electrical work, complete upholstery job, and painted it. It was a great car. It has been a daily driver.

The only issue that has been a persistent problem is the body work. First, on both front fenders, rust bubbled up and through at the front (just behind the headlights). The right has slight bubbling, and the left has completely rusted through. Second, on the trunk lid, the paint has cracked in several places. I suspect there may have been a couple of dents that they bondo'ed, and the bondo cracked or something. The cracking happened within a year or two after the work was done. I'm not happy at all with the work the body shop did, so I won't be taking it back to them.

The car runs great as a daily driver. But here are my questions:

1) By the time I replace the two front fenders and have a decent body shop do a new paint job, how much should I expect to pay for all of that?

2) If the front fenders are experiencing this kind of rust, am I just asking for more problems? In other words, if I repair all this body work, how likely am I to see more rust bubble up in some other area a year down the road? I would love to see the car looking pretty again, but if I'm going to be in the same place a year from now anyway, I will just leave it as is.

I live in Southern California, so our weather is pretty good. However, the car does sit outside.

Thanks for your thoughts.
 

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I would guess a decent paint and body job for this car would be in the 3-5K range, turnkey. Only you can decide if that is worth it, but since it sounds like you have an other wise "new" car, seems like this may be money well spent.

This assumes the rockers and floor are in good shape, as one would expect them to be in California. The fenders are a weak point as all the dirt collects in the areas you describe and traps moisture.

My car is an "import" from California and I specifically went looking for rust in those areas where you have it. I didn't find any, but that California silt, coupled with the (now) Florida moisture would have eventually done mine in. The 560s used a liner that keeps that from happening.

If that's too much to spend, consider doing some of the work yourself.

I have found a guy who will let me prep our car and he will shoot it for $500. Most of the cost is in the prep, not the paint.
 

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If you get the work done properly and the paint is taken care of, it should last indefinitely. Sounds like the problem is coming through from the back side, not through the new paint surface. There is no problem with using filler, but what needs to happen is everything must be sealed completely. Front and back sides of the sheet metal. The problem with the backsides is they aren't accessible any more, so without complete disassembly, who knows how bad off the car is.
Where in SoCal? SoCal near the beach can be a problem with salt in the air.
An all-over paint from a reputable shop should average about $7k or more in SoCal. Add more for rust work/fender replacement.
 

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It Is What It Is, Dude
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Get it to a body shop with MB experience for a comprehensive inspection for hidden rust. Even if you have to pay for it, you'll be money ahead if there are problems you can't see.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
This has been extremely helpful. Thank you all for your feedback.

I am in Orange County, California. Can anyone recommend a top-notch body shop locally? And what do you all think of taking it to the (gasp) dealership for body work? The results from the last bodyshop were so disappointing that I don't mind paying extra for a really good shop. I'm not looking to put this car in shows or anything, but I want a good job that will last.
 

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ive always had italian metal before my 107, loose the fenders and the rear arches, and put post 85 wheel liners in, metals boring but best keep rot out before it ravages it,,,
 

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Discussion Starter #7
This has been extremely helpful. Thank you all for your feedback.

I am in Orange County, California. Can anyone recommend a top-notch body shop locally? And what do you all think of taking it to the (gasp) dealership for body work? The results from the last bodyshop were so disappointing that I don't mind paying extra for a really good shop. I'm not looking to put this car in shows or anything, but I want a good job that will last.
 

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Don't be fooled into thinking that because it's a dealers bodyshop, it HAS to be quality. Verify their work no matter who it is. Dealers often farm out work to locals, and beat them hard on the price, then mark it up for you.
 

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Don't be fooled into thinking that because it's a dealers bodyshop, it HAS to be quality. Verify their work no matter who it is. Dealers often farm out work to locals, and beat them hard on the price, then mark it up for you.
True. I had body work done on a Honda I used to own, and had it done at the dealership where I bought it and had all the service done. When I went to unload the car, everyone that looked at the car noticed the terrible body work. One of the shortcuts that I noticed myself was when I took off my thule roof rack to sell there car... four big rectangles on the roof because they sprayed nearly the entire car and did not even take off the roof rack. Of course I took it back and had them fix this, but it still must be the worst body work I've ever seen. The car had a squeak in the trunk that I had to "fix" by putting cardboard between pieces of sheet metal that probably should have been welded anyway. That was a good car, but I'm glad to be rid of it. Hopefully it's getting someone some excellent gas mileage.

So in my experience, I think it is actually best to stay away from dealership body shops because they actually don't need to get their business from reputation, because they get business from people that think a dealership is a good place to have any auto work done. I definitely disagree now that I have some dealership bodywork experience.

Oh... BTW, fortunately the dealership where I bought the car and had all the work done bought the car back from me for cash, at least $500-1000 more than any other sell-to-dealer options ($2000 more than some). It was a 1998 civic ex 4 door 5-speed manual in ~2002 with 60k miles. I paid $16k new, and got $8k from the dealer purchase. It never got less than 27 mpg, and often 33mpg. The damn thing gave me a static shock every time I shut the door on my way out due to the damn velor seats. Leather or vinyl on every car from there on out.
 

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It Is What It Is, Dude
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This has been extremely helpful. Thank you all for your feedback.

I am in Orange County, California. Can anyone recommend a top-notch body shop locally? And what do you all think of taking it to the (gasp) dealership for body work? The results from the last bodyshop were so disappointing that I don't mind paying extra for a really good shop. I'm not looking to put this car in shows or anything, but I want a good job that will last.


Check the Recommended Shops board on the main title page. I'd also suggest you go post your query to the various model forums. After all, the more the merrier!
 
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