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Discussion Starter #1
I am looking to buy a W126, preferably from 1986-91 and am new to Mercedes. I've alway loved the design and the presence this type of Mercedes has. The only problem is that I am not super well briefed on what to look for when shopping around for one and I'm no mechanic. Low mileage will cost $$ and I'm not looking to spend $20k on a 30+ year old car so I know they will be higher mileage at this point. There aren't many for sale where l live (LA) but from what I can tell there's a few 420SEL's and 380SEL's. Are these desirable models or is the 560SEL the one to aim for? What about the 350SD/SDL? Also, this would be a daily driver. Any thoughts, helpful hints, anything would be great!

Thank you!
 

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1986/1990 W126
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Welcome. Normally, buying on condition is what is recommended by experts. The original MB feel is very hard to get back once lost by poor maintenance or bad quality parts etc. A good W126 of any model is a desirable car.

It's a bit different in America though, its the only place they sold these cars with set packages of options according to engine size. Then there are effects of weather according to where in the US the car lived. Sun baked, or rust, depending.
Then there was the way they hamstrung the motors making some anaemic.

Advanced search on here is your friend. Also a good ppi inspection is definitely the best way.
 

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Are you in Louisiana or Los Angeles ?
Go test drive a few of the most expensive ones for sale , just so you know what a good one should feel like . Then look at ones in your price range and see how close or how much worse they are In comparison . If you aren’t willing to do even that little amount of leg work you’re not ready to buy an old car.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Hi @tusabes,

I am here in Los Angeles. That’s a really good piece of advice that I hadn’t thought of. I do wonder how much of the original driving experience is still viable on these considering their age, even if well kept but I suppose I will have to find out by testing different ones.
 

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1986/1990 W126
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Very durable cars, so you'll find a lower mileage one to be not far from original in feel, I'd say.

Don't be fooled by any pictures by the way. They can look really good until you're close. Might save you wasting too much time on what might look like a bargain.
 

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85 500SEC (Euro), 87 560SEC (now sold)
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Being in L.A. you have the option of test driving a hell of a lot of these cars and I encourage you to do so. You are going to find a LOT of dogs so be patient. Whatever you do, make sure you purchase a car that has really nice and comfortable seats. A bad interior is a no-no. You'll regret it.

Four doors are a lot less expensive than two doors. The question will be, what is your budget? Answer that and the experts here can give you some real options.
 

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Hi @tusabes,

I am here in Los Angeles. That’s a really good piece of advice that I hadn’t thought of. I do wonder how much of the original driving experience is still viable on these considering their age, even if well kept but I suppose I will have to find out by testing different ones.
If you’re In Los Angeles you are In the absolute best place to find a w126 as that is where most of them were sold In The USA and still is where many of the best maintained ones are located . You are in the absolute best area in the world to find a w126
 

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Bear in mind that the 560 gets atrocious gas mileage (and requires premium). The 420 isn't as bad, but not great either. If that's an issue, consider a diesel or a six cylinder gasser instead. You are on the right coast for finding a well preserved one - I'm envious! But it will take time to find the right car. It didn't used to be so hard, but now that mint ones sell for high prices on BaT, every seller seems to "know what they have." Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Welcome. Normally, buying on condition is what is recommended by experts. The original MB feel is very hard to get back once lost by poor maintenance or bad quality parts etc. A good W126 of any model is a desirable car.

It's a bit different in America though, its the only place they sold these cars with set packages of options according to engine size. Then there are effects of weather according to where in the US the car lived. Sun baked, or rust, depending.
Then there was the way they hamstrung the motors making some anaemic.

Advanced search on here is your friend. Also a good ppi inspection is definitely the best way.
That is good advice! I do want to make sure that what I get is in great shape. Obviously there’s going to be a few things that will be quirky after 30 years. Explain what you mean by anemic. Are you referring to the transmission?
 

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1989 300SE 232k miles
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US emissions standards in the 80’s, particularly in California, absolutely destroyed the performance of all cars. The w126, however, you can actually compare to the European models and determine the difference.

And, the cars default to starting in 2nd gear. Which make them super-slow. And performance even into the 90’s was well below today’s standards. A 0 - 60 time under 10 seconds was fast back then. ...watch some motorweek retro reviews on YouTube. It’s pretty funny.

I’m partial to the in-line 6 gasoline motors myself. The performance difference is, for most people, negligible. But much better fuel economy. And they’re basically indestructible.

I’m also not a fan of low mileage. I’ll put my w126 w/235k miles up against my friends’ r129s with <70k miles on them any day, for performance and reliability.

If you don’t repair them yourself, it’s a 30yo car. Expect to pay $$$ for repairs.

That said: Drive a few. You’ll come to find what you like. Buy that. Hang in the forum here. Be happy.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Being in L.A. you have the option of test driving a hell of a lot of these cars and I encourage you to do so. You are going to find a LOT of dogs so be patient. Whatever you do, make sure you purchase a car that has really nice and comfortable seats. A bad interior is a no-no. You'll regret it.

Four doors are a lot less expensive than two doors. The question will be, what is your budget? Answer that and the experts here can give you some real options.
$8-$10k is the general budget I’d be working with. I honestly am not sure if that gets me something solid or just leftovers.
 

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1973 220D, 1988 300SEL, 1991 300TE
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So before you find a candidate find a mechanic - one who knows these cars and pay the $100 - 200? to have them do a detailed inspection. A car with nice exterior and interior (things you can see) and seems to run well might need thousands of $$ in repairs.

But I agree that 8 - 10 you ought to be able to get something nice.

Good Luck
 

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1989 560 SEC - V-8 Kompressor - 95 E320 Estate
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What is difficult an old worn w126 will usually run and drive better than most used cars you will come across. But as mentioned above, driving a really nice one is addictive. That explains why the w126 section of BW is appreciated all over the world. Everyone that appreciates w126 S-class should remember that these cars were between $50-85k in the late 80's early 90's. That amount of money would buy a very nice home in most parts of America. Serious machines designed and produced by the best in the business at that time. Special to say the least. Get the best one you can find and afford as it will be money well spent. Mike
 

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1981 300SD, 1976 300D
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You should be able to get something perfectly nice for 8-10k, as long as you don’t NEED a coupe. I would think a 560SEL is well attainable in good order in that Range, and everything else is going to be cheaper still. What’s important is getting what YOU like. If it’s gotta be black, don’t talk yourself into a smoke silver one. If you always wanted the power reclining back seat, you’d better stick to 560s as lesser ones didn’t have those. Some Of the non-negotiables for me are leather upholstery (Tex is great, but it doesn’t smell right when you open the door) and Euro headlights. I don’t care if the bumpers are US, but the lights have to be Eurospec. Those are important to ME, what are you looking for?
 
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1986/1990 W126
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I love the MBtex. Its so classic MB. Haven't experienced it in a W126 but I know it's out there.

All good advice above. Magicbigdaddy often has nice cars around that you might look at maybe.

Only other thing is although the options packages were 'set' in the US, we have seen the occasional exception - there's a rare individual rear seat option that we've seen in the US on a couple of 420's for example. No idea how on a US spec car.
In the rest of the world, any model could have any option. Or not! Wind down windows exist, believe it or not.

I often think in the states the 300 petrol models are very under appreciated. Hence, a bargain. Lower mileage lovely examples can be had for cheap. Elsewhere where fuel costs are higher, they can cost more.
 

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Your budget easily allows for you to find a nice SEL. The problem will be not accidentally buying a piece of sh*t. Read everything you can in this forum. Not just a few threads. Devour what is here. It will serve you well.
 
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