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1987 Porsche 911 Carrera coupe, 1989 BMW 325i, 2001 BMW R1150GS, [SOLD - 1991 Mercedes Benz 350 SDL]
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Discussion Starter #1
Hi All,

I am exploring/considering buying a W126 SD or SDL as a daily driver as a second family car. We're expecting our first child (a boy) in Sept, so I am starting to consider another MB diesel. I owned a 1980 123 series 300D 20+ years ago and loved that car. Thinking about the 123, 124, and 126 series now.

Any thoughts on this car which is somewhat local for me?
90 MERCEDES 350SDL TURBO DIESEL

Thanks,

Richard
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1987 Porsche 911 Carrera coupe
2001 BMW R1150GS
2007 RAV4 V6 Limited (For Sale)
2012 Acura MDX Tech pckg (Wife's new car)
 

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1979 280SL, 1984 280SL
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5,654 Posts
The '87 linked to in the 2nd post is by far the preferred car. Lots of good maintnance work already done, and a 3.0 6 cylinder instead of the 3.5. These are great cars.

While I love my own '91 350SD, that is only after I installed an '87 3.0 engine. The 3.5 is too risky a proposition- unless it is a fairly recent, verifiable factory rebuild, I wouldn't touch it. Maybe for free, but that's it.
 

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1983 300SD, 2013 C250
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374 Posts
+1 on the 300sdl, pass on any 350
 

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1987 Porsche 911 Carrera coupe, 1989 BMW 325i, 2001 BMW R1150GS, [SOLD - 1991 Mercedes Benz 350 SDL]
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211 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the input. It sounds like the 603 3.0 diesel is the way to go, and trying to find one that has well documented maintenance history is important. The link above to the black SDL in SF seems like a step in the right direction. Although, that rust around the rear window looks troubling, but the owner has done a lot of work to the car to sort it out. Perhaps that's reflected in the $7,500 asking price.

Personally, I am not a fan of black cars, since keeping them clean is such a chore. I'll park the SD/SDL outside, so a lighter color is preferred. I assume these 80s SD/SDLs don't have the LATCH system for child seats too. I think that system became a requirement for 2002 < cars.

From what I've read on this forum so far, it seems like there are differences of opinion on which is better ... an SD or SDL. Does the SDL mainly have more space in the backseat area plus a few more features? Thanks.
 

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1979 280SL, 1984 280SL
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For you, the SD/SDL is almost apples and oranges. Here's the deal.

'85 and earlier, Gen I 126's are available as a 300SD. This car is equipped with the 3.0 5 cylinder engine. These engines have a large following, because the OM617 engine has a reputation for extreme durability. If they are well-maintained, they ARE extremely long-lived, but somewhat slow, and unrefined- Think agricultural engine.

1986 and 1987 are Gen II 126's, and they are SDL's. The car was mildly redesigned, and yes, the SDL is a longer wheelbase car having a great deal of rear seat room. They feel a bit less nimble than the SD, but I think that will be really offset when you factor in the engine. These cars have the OM603.961 3.0 litre 6 cylinder engine. This engine has more HP, more torque is smoother, lighter and will get slightly better fuel economy, all while being much less noticeable to the driver- a more "civilized" engine.

Diesel engines were not available for 88 and 89, returning in '90 as the 350SDL, and in '91 the 350 SD and SDL. WHile they are my favorite diesel 126, I wouldn't recommend one UNLESS you have a documented, factory rebuilt engine.
 

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1987 Porsche 911 Carrera coupe, 1989 BMW 325i, 2001 BMW R1150GS, [SOLD - 1991 Mercedes Benz 350 SDL]
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Discussion Starter #7
ChiefRider: Thank you for the overview!

This car looks interesting
1987 Mercedes 300SDL, 250k miles, rebuilt transmission, $4500
1987 Mercedes 300SDL turbo diesel
 

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Not bad looking, but you'll want to pull those chrome wheel arch trims before purchasing.... they're infamous for being rust magnets. Good luck on the search.
 

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1987 Porsche 911 Carrera coupe, 1989 BMW 325i, 2001 BMW R1150GS, [SOLD - 1991 Mercedes Benz 350 SDL]
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211 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
Not bad looking, but you'll want to pull those chrome wheel arch trims before purchasing.... they're infamous for being rust magnets. Good luck on the search.
Thanks for the tip about the chrome wheel arch trim. I hope to check out the SDL this weekend.
 

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1987 Porsche 911 Carrera coupe, 1989 BMW 325i, 2001 BMW R1150GS, [SOLD - 1991 Mercedes Benz 350 SDL]
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211 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
Did the 124 series have the same 603 engine as the 126 series? I assume the 124 series are the same as the 126 series, perhaps just smaller and less luxurious.

I found a nice 124 locally, that looks like a good option to a 126.
1987 Mercedes 300D Turbo

Thoughts? Thanks.
 

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1979 280SL, 1984 280SL
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The '87 124 300d is considered a pretty desireable car (from a diesel standpoint). Yes, it is the same OM603 with some minor differences for the 124 application, and the only year it was available in the 124 (afaik).

You will find the 124 somewhat less luxurious than the 125, and obviously smaller. The styling to me is more dated- at the time it was the more modern car, but I don't think they have aged as well as the 126. It will not have the great ride of the 126 either.

On the plus side, the car is much "sportier" than the 126, and can handle quite well- the shorter wheel base and the 5 link rear suspension help there. the 124 is an outstanding, rock solid car, just different in character to the 126.
 

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1987 Porsche 911 Carrera coupe, 1989 BMW 325i, 2001 BMW R1150GS, [SOLD - 1991 Mercedes Benz 350 SDL]
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Discussion Starter #12
The '87 124 300d is considered a pretty desireable car (from a diesel standpoint). Yes, it is the same OM603 with some minor differences for the 124 application, and the only year it was available in the 124 (afaik).

You will find the 124 somewhat less luxurious than the 125, and obviously smaller. The styling to me is more dated- at the time it was the more modern car, but I don't think they have aged as well as the 126. It will not have the great ride of the 126 either.

On the plus side, the car is much "sportier" than the 126, and can handle quite well- the shorter wheel base and the 5 link rear suspension help there. the 124 is an outstanding, rock solid car, just different in character to the 126.
ChiefRider: Thanks for this info. Today, I am hoping to look at a 124 and 126. I've only driven/owned a 123 and am trying to figure out if the 124 or 126 suits my needs better. The search for a car is as fun as owing one. :)
 

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1987 Porsche 911 Carrera coupe, 1989 BMW 325i, 2001 BMW R1150GS, [SOLD - 1991 Mercedes Benz 350 SDL]
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Discussion Starter #13
I drove my first 126 series 300 SDL (1987) today.
1987 Mercedes 300SDL turbo diesel
It wasn't as smooth as I imagined it would be, and perhaps that was due to the all-season tires (almost a snow tire pattern). The sunroof had recently become stuck open and one of the front door locks had stopped working. Acceleration off the line was a bit sluggish until the turbo kicked in a new seconds later. It did feel heavier and bigger than my old 123 sedan. I love the look of the car though. So classy; the design has aged well.

I drove my first 124 series 30OD (1987) today.
1987 Mercedes 300D turbo diesel
It was pretty smooth and the acceleration off the line was very respectable. I did notice when the car slows to about 10-5 mph the automatic transmission seemed to downshift rather abruptly. Upshifting was pretty smooth. While driving the fuel gauge bounced around a lot, and then when the car was parked and idling dropped down to "R" or empty. The stock Becker stereo didn't work and the dash cover revealed a cracked dash.

Both cars had a generous body lean when cornering, and as expected the 124 felt much more nimble than the 126. 124 was smoother in all areas, maybe due to the better tires too.

Both cars were a bit scruffy, had various smaller issues, and need a really good cleaning and polishing inside and out, but perhaps that's par for the price in the $3,500 - $4,500 range.

I am trying to weigh the pros and cons of these cars. Is it better to buy a cheaper car like these or spend up to twice as much for a cleaner car with less small issues? I would assume any 25-year-old Benz is going to have some issues. Maintenance records and a pre-purchase inspection are the best view into potential issues with older cars like these.
 

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1987 Porsche 911 Carrera coupe, 1989 BMW 325i, 2001 BMW R1150GS, [SOLD - 1991 Mercedes Benz 350 SDL]
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Discussion Starter #14

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1987 300SDL 114K miles
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My first thought on seeing the brown SDL was that it was a clone of my car. It's not; mine has the tan interior.

I bought mine in '09 with 98k on it and now have 128k. It's my first Benz so I was and still am an amateur when it comes to these cars. I have a trusted indie who has guided me and lusts after the car. I paid a lot for it - $10500 in '09 but decided to pay more up front rather than bring back something neglected. I love the car to pieces and don't contemplate ever selling it.

Regarding the brown car in PA, I am always skeptical about what I consider to be over-use of Armor-All. That and striping the carpets with the shampooer makes me suspicious and turns me off. The radio replacement may or may not have been done well; it depends. The dealer states that there are two air bags. I think there is only one, but others may be able to tell for sure by the pics. The climate control push button panel seems to have all buttons up. Maybe that's just the angle of the pic. One of them needs to be down. The screwed-on cup holder just shouts to me that the previous owner did not treat the car as well as the dealer's detailing would have you believe.

The black car seems more honest to me. And it's black which does have the drawbacks you mentioned. The price is high but only you know if it is too high for you. It could very well be the last car you would ever need to buy.

One thing to remember about these cars is that the transmission will need to be redone between 95-115k miles. Mine started going at 115k and I paid $1800 for the rebuild. If the brown car has had it done it won't be long before it's needed again. The black car will need it before too long so plan for it.

Sorry for the long reply. Best of luck. These are wonderful cars.

Mark
 

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94 S350, 06 E320CDI
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If you are going to put child seats in the back, I'd go with an SDL. While they both have enough room in the back for child seats, the SDL has more room for "baby maneuverability" while putting the kids in the seats.

I have three 350 diesels and love them. I'll probably be selling one of them because I just have too many cars. Just get one that the OP has not skimped on service. You can spend an enormous amount to get them right.

I replaced almost the whole A/C system on mine -- evaporator, compressor, dryer, hoses, etc. All suspension, rebuilt tranny, new IP seals, water pump, radiator, etc.

If you find one that the owner has kept up on, it will be a good reliable car.

Good luck!

One more thing - the sunroofs get fiddly over the years. I have had work done on both of mine. I have no idea why - I never use them, but I just want everything to work right. So getting a non-working sunroof may not be all that uncommon.
 

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1986/1990 W126
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Ditto, the brown one just seems way too much money. Its a very attractive brown, but just looks like its been tarted up a lot and plastered in beautifying fluids.. Possibly has had quite a lot of paintwork done too. I'd be slightly wary, which is a shame cos I personally think its the more attractive car of the two colour-wise. The ad doesn't seem very honest.

The black one looks good, but again its a lot of money. The low mileage will see to that though, that is uber low, for a diesel especially. The ad does seem quite honest.
 

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There is some cover up going on with the brown one. Not worth more than maybe 6k IMO. And if you look closely, you can tell either the lower cladding or driver's door isn't lining up quite right. The other one is nice, but I just couldn't see shelling out much more than the 11k the bid is at now, even though it will probably last longer and look sexier than most new 20k cars. Both of them are across the country from you though, correct? For such a readily available car, I would never buy one I hadn't personally inspected.
 

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1987 Porsche 911 Carrera coupe, 1989 BMW 325i, 2001 BMW R1150GS, [SOLD - 1991 Mercedes Benz 350 SDL]
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Discussion Starter #19
The brown one is very pretty, and has some interesting reflections in the paint on the different doors and the radio antenna and the fuel door. That cup holder mounting is odd too.

The other low mileage SDL is gorgeous, but probably more than I want to spend. It does seem to be well cared for, which is really appealing. :)

I am looking for a car locally in California so I can drive it and inspect it personally. All this feedback about these cars is super helpful. Thanks!

This car is about five hours drive south down in SoCal and has had many parts replaced or rebuilt and it has been repainted with 110,000 miles for $8,500. Seems like it needed a lot of work for a car with not that many miles Thoughts?
Cars for Sale: 1987 Mercedes-Benz 300SDL Sedan in Los Angeles, CA 90025: Sedan Details - 322016164 - AutoTrader.com
 

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1987 Porsche 911 Carrera coupe, 1989 BMW 325i, 2001 BMW R1150GS, [SOLD - 1991 Mercedes Benz 350 SDL]
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Discussion Starter #20
This one is also in SoCal (Orange County) and seems to have potential, but it looks a little worn on the interior and has 235k miles. It would be nice to find one with fewer miles, like under 200k.
1987 MERCEDES 300 SDL Turbo Diesel

Thoughts on an ideal mileage range? The ones with super low miles are expensive and I would think might have issues related to sitting and not being used verses high mileage cars tend to be worn out or need a lot of TLC, which equals $$$$.
 
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