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Discussion Starter #1
I haven't logged on in years. I never did buy that SL500. Other obligations too priority.

I've been hunting around for a good deal on a Mercedes, and really just scared away by repair costs that I simply cannot afford if I'm being realistic.

I do have some mechanical ability but newer MBs are simply too complex for my ability. That lead me to look around at some older seemingly bargain Benz. I stumbled on the gorgeous lines and style of the 300SE. I love classic looks such as this. A real gem.

I found one, a 245,000 miles, 1988 Mercedes-Benz 300 SE Sedan 4D, for $1300. I bet the owner would take a lot less. Exterior is brown and looks straight and clean and shiney on all sides. He claims it drives fine but the interior has damaged seats from normal wear. I may go look at it. He has no service records.

I don't want to get in way over my head and throw away $1000-2000, but if I can do normal wrench turning on most of this 1988 technology, I feel pretty confident I can get this old girl caught up on maintenance and it could be a good driver. Obviously the mileage and lack of any records is a concern.

When I look at cars I'm very thorough, and look for rust, look at all fluids, air filter, brakes, tire wear, underbody on the entire car, take pictures, look for water damage, accident damage, etc.

If the motor, transmission, or shocks are bad, are these relatively affordable and easily sourced replacements? (I would have to take it to a mechanic for these items.) IF I had to put a new motor in this and a German one isn't available, are there any common stock American motors like a 350 or 383 or similar, possibly with mated transmissions, that would mate to the car?

What are the pitfalls I'm overlooking? I don't want a $10,000+ money pit. (For instance, I found a 15 year old Audi S4 for a bargain but it needed a new motor. The Audi mechanic quoted $5000 for a used motor or $17,000 for a new motor, plus $5000 installation!)

Thanks for any insights as I learn and read about this beautiful car.
 

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1989 560 SEC - V-8 Kompressor - 95 E320 Estate
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2,001 Posts
As a reference I am finishing up this 91 300SE and will have it on the market in a couple weeks. Interior is near perfect, cluster needles are brilliant orange, Bilsteins on all corners, updated sound system, Pacific Northwest car so "0" rust or sunburn. Everyone that comes to my shop can't believe the condition. Here are a couple cell phone pic's I've taken over the last couple months. This car will be offered for $5500. Only thing this car will need is an oil change in 3000 miles.
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1986 420 SEL
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55 Posts
Just my opinion, but the price of owning an older car is directly proportionate to your ability to fix any issue that occurs with it, and I mean anything. I would never recommend anyone without a lot of either mechanical knowledge or money to burn buy an older/classic European car as they can eat you alive financially if you cannot fix the issues yourself. Even a well looked after car is still going to be getting up there in years at this point and can have surprise issues. I would bet money everything on that car that can wear out probably is worn out. The car in my sig was purchased for $1000 dollars and has electrical issues that I am still working through. I don't even want to think how much it would cost to take it to a shop to get it looked at for that. My advice would be to take up magicbigdaddy's offer if you want a sorted car at a reasonable price. Just know even then it is still an old car, and there can always be surprises you don't see coming.
 

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1985 MB 500sel (Euro)
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328 Posts
Even a well looked after car is still going to be getting up there in years at this point and can have surprise issues.
Now you tell me.:):). I got my car at 100K and it was like new. There has been a fair amount of maintenance work and big stuff like a new tranny, but it has also been a great daily driver. To me, well worth it. With 300K however,"life is what happens when you're busy making other plans (attributed to John Lennon)."

Yesterday I started getting a squeal from one of the belt pulleys. I hope that's what it is and its fixable, we will keep on going, but ledsmark and magicbigdaddy offer good advice. I also wish my dash and engine, while nice, looked like those photos. good luck..
 

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68 250S, 91 300se, 98 SL500, 450SEL 6.9, 14 CLS550 Past MB's; 300SD, 300E, 300TE, 190E, ML420
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4,356 Posts
My 300se has 250K and runs excellently. That said I have stayed on top of all maintenance for over 20 years on it.

At the mileage of car you are looking at I would imagine the head gasket has already been replaced. Look forward to suspension bushing replacement if not already documented. The W126 are pretty straightforward to work on.

Stay away from the Audi - they are terrible cars to work on and pay outrageous prices for parts.
 

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1989 300SE 232k miles
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1,221 Posts
I bought my 1989 300SE a year ago, for $400 (She wanted $2000, but I promised to restore it and take care of it), as a project. It had 232k miles. It didn’t have any power until after I bought it, when I gave it a jump. Looking at it, you could tell it had been maintained, but that had fallen off under that owner.

If you take your time, darn near any part on these can be found. And at pretty reasonable costs (Thank you to magicbigdaddy for keeping that streak alive). And they’re pretty easy to work on. Most every problem I’ve found comes from the age of the car. And the PO’s lack of maintenance.

For example, my car stopped upshifting on my first drive, after that first jump. That took me 6 weeks of testing and prodding, but it really turned out all the car needed was a couple transmission fluid/filter changes to clean off tarnish and revitalize gaskets. Today I took it for the longest interstate drive yet. And it was marvelous!

That said, I probably have $2k into it in parts. But I’ve done a lot. I mean, a lot. Of little things. But I also tend to be proactive. And my car drives better now than most of my friends’ new cars. I mean, the power headrests work. On a 30 yo car. To me, that’s amazing!

If you have the money and are worried about repairs, I say take magicbigdaddy’s car. If you’re looking for a project for yourself, look at the other one.
 
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