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1994 E420, 1985 380SL
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been daily driving a '94 E420 for almost 3 years now and last Thursday I purchased a 1985 380SL Euro.

Here's some info:

-Imported new to California in 1985; has been federalized with smog equipment, and it's all going bye bye.
-Odometer stopped at 86k miles, current mileage unknown. I would guess at least 150k.
-Sat for a number of years, then brought up to decent running conditon again by an MB dealership in 2008.
-PO drove it for the last 5 years and she said she wasn't afraid to drive it anywhere.
-No maintenance records besides one receipt from when the MB dealership got this car from barely running to much improved. Mostly ignition work. Seller mentioned her son doing some work to the ignition system, also a new brake master cylinder.
-Paint and body 7/10, very minor dings, several chips here and there, overall shines good and is a great 20-footer.
-Interior 7/10. Seats very good, door panels good, has a dash cap. Could use various trim pieces and new carpet including in trunk.
-Windows work well, aftermarket radio in-op, climate control in-op.
-Soft top in great condition, came with hard top also in good condition.
-Euro bumpers in straight condition, will need re-chromed someday.
-We put this car on a lift and took a look. Having spent time in California... there is NO RUST on this car!!!


The car is an absolute blast to drive still and everyone turns their head when it goes down the road. Right now the most obvious issues are:

-Runs rough when cold, smooths out quite a bit when at operating temperature but still a little rough.
-Brake pedal is quite firm
-Transmission shifts fairly well out on the road but shifting into reverse and drive are often quite harsh, the RPM will rise a bit and it will "slam" into gear.

My burning question: are these issues commonly traced back to all VACUUM LEAKS? If so my problems may be an easy fix.

Due to the unknown history of this car we're going to play it safe and replace the timing chain guides at the very least if the chain looks good. Although depending on the cost of chain replacement I may just go ahead and have it done. I have to drive this car 100 miles north to get it home so I plan on having this done, and hopefully the above 3 issues fixed. Also things like making sure the entire braking system is safe and things like the coolant system to make sure I'm not going to overheat on the freeway on my drive home.

Will also probably put on a new set of tires for the drive home too, the current set is 10 years old. A blowout on the freeway would be horrible. I went to tire rack and discount tire's website and they are not showing hardly any options for my 14" rims. Are there any alternatives to the original 205/70-14 tires?

I'm very thrilled to have this car. You guys would turn pea green withy envy if you knew what a screamin' deal the seller sold this car to me for. For the price I paid usually it's a rusted, torn up junker. This is a running, driving, very presentable EURO SL in a fantastic color combination too!







 

· Premium Member
2007 CL600, 2003 SL55AMG, 1987 560SEL ECE, 1985 280SL
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1,522 Posts
Great buy! Congrats!

Re: shifting to reverse: it is normal with a 1s delay and a hard shift. But change trans oil and filter anyhow (every 40' miles)

Re: vacuum leaks: spray carb cleaner on all joints and injector seats while car idling and listen to change in rpm

Re: tires: visit michelinclassics.com and check XWX. They are pricey. 10 year old tires are normally within spec if thread is good. No urgency, IMO

Cheers
 

· Outstanding Contributor, Vintage Moderator
450slc5.0cab 280sl5sp 280se4.5 500seAMG +250seStkW108 350sl4spdX3 500secEuro 300sel5spd R+C107galore
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25,246 Posts
I've driven on much older tires.

The front bumper appears to be from a 1972-1973 US 450sl.

The seat backs appear to be 1986-1989, like in a 560sl.

It's great that it's a euro. Euro 3.8 are pretty powerful. The only evidence shown in the pictures of the car being euro that I notice is the rear bumper. Are there any other signs of being a euro?


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· Premium Member
2007 CL600, 2003 SL55AMG, 1987 560SEL ECE, 1985 280SL
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1,522 Posts
You can tell by the sliding lever for center vents. They where not installed on US cars, I believe. I don't think anyone would go through the trouble installing that lever to "make it a Euro".

Of course, a VIN check gives the definitive answer.
 

· Registered
1985 500 SL in Signal Red, 145,000 miles, and rising whenever possible
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335 Posts
slamming into reverse

fixed on mine by new emgine mounts, dampers, and a tranny mount. my milleage about the same as your estimate, so go the whole hog. Mine eases into D or R from N or P now. music to the ears.
If you are doing the top guides, do the chain and tensioner and tensioner slide rail. it's one of those get the t-shirt while you are there jobs.:devil
 

· Outstanding Contributor, Vintage Moderator
450slc5.0cab 280sl5sp 280se4.5 500seAMG +250seStkW108 350sl4spdX3 500secEuro 300sel5spd R+C107galore
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You can tell by the sliding lever for center vents. They where not installed on US cars, I believe. I don't think anyone would go through the trouble installing that lever to "make it a Euro".

Of course, a VIN check gives the definitive answer.


Good catch! I like to see positive signs like this that are very tough to "swap". I often look at the license plate mounts because US models have extra license plate holes in the body. But of course a lack of the codes like 491 (US Model) and 494 (California Model) are definitive. I honestly don't know if/when the VIN conventions would identify a US vs Euro model. I think the Euro/early style VINs are stamped in the radiator supports of even US cars with "newer" style VINs on the doorjamb plate.

I've got a euro 380se w126 and can tell you it is nice and gutsy, more power than a US 4.5 for sure, and lighter too. I think you should run premium in it though (instead of regular like US 3.8).


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· Registered
1994 E420, 1985 380SL
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159 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
It is definitely a euro car, no doubt about it. I didn't know the front bumper was from an early US car but at least it looks good so I'm not going to worry about it anytime soon. It actually makes sense though because this car was in a minor front end accident at one point, there are a few small clues. I believe the seats are original to the car, they sure look like 32 year old MBtex, they look consistent with the rest of the wear on the car. This one was imported in July 1985, so fairly late in the year. I was able to find one 1985 on eBay with the later style seats, and a 1985 on Google images with these seats. Is it possible that some later 85's were built with newer style seats? I'm not noticing any other years with them, just 1985 cars.

Is the coolant level supposed to be at the seam of the tank? It's about halfway below the seam right now. I already bought a jug of distilled water to top it off, I just need to know the correct level.

The tires have a ton of tread and no cracking to speak of, but I don't know... they are 10 years old and they're Chinese Toyo's, and they're definitely leaking air. I found Hankook tires at discount tire for $62 each, they might price match another site for $57 each. I'm expecting them to have some sort of promotion around the 4th of July which is around when I want to have this car ready for the road. Pretty cheap for some peace of mind IMO. I wouldn't want a blow out sending me into the concrete divider on the drive home.
 

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1985 500 SL in Signal Red, 145,000 miles, and rising whenever possible
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335 Posts
right on the money with the coolant level

at or about the seam, cold. Although I'd say top up with coolant, and not water. as for the tyres, up to you. I bought a set of Barums in 2005, and they did 22,000 before the cracks started appearing last year, so off they came. Stored in a dry, gloomy garage when not in use, so age rather than UV showing itself there. in a spirit of optimism, I went for michelin cross climates to replace them. Just for getting out of slippy grass car parks at events, I'm not planning on going up an Alp in winter:devil... although i probably could now.
 

· Registered
1994 E420, 1985 380SL
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159 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Update: Mechanic is doing timing chain, guides, rail, tensioner, as well as cam oiler tubes and valve cover gaskets while he's there. I also asked him to make sure the brakes are working well and to fix the parking brake. He said someone had gotten the front brake lines twisted and they were hitting the control arms.

One other question... From what I understand, a US spec 380SL will run on regular gas, but my Euro 380SL requires premium. Is this correct?
 

· Outstanding Contributor, Vintage Moderator
450slc5.0cab 280sl5sp 280se4.5 500seAMG +250seStkW108 350sl4spdX3 500secEuro 300sel5spd R+C107galore
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Yes. Higher compression euro engines do require premium to prevent preignition. I've got a 1983 380se euro that knocks if you put regular in it. The manual says you can temporarily turn back the timing in the event you can't get better gas, but the loss in power is apparently significant enough to cause the MPG to drop. So you might as well just use premium.
 

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1987 560SL
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2,423 Posts
Update: Mechanic is doing timing chain, guides, rail, tensioner, as well as cam oiler tubes and valve cover gaskets while he's there. I also asked him to make sure the brakes are working well and to fix the parking brake. He said someone had gotten the front brake lines twisted and they were hitting the control arms.
Ummm, you did not mention new cam sprockets in your update list, perhaps add that if not already, as chains and sprockets tend to wear out in tandem even though it might not be easily seen by looking at the sprocket. Cheap minor part are new copper crush washers on the valve cover gasket screws.
 

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1985 280SL (Euro)
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608 Posts
I can thoroughly recommend the Hancook tires. I put a set of Optimo H724 tires on 3 years ago and prefer them to the Michelins they replaced. Here in Canada though, paid a hell of a lot more for them than you're looking at!
 

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1994 E420, 1985 380SL
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159 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
Ummm, you did not mention new cam sprockets in your update list, perhaps add that if not already, as chains and sprockets tend to wear out in tandem even though it might not be easily seen by looking at the sprocket. Cheap minor part are new copper crush washers on the valve cover gasket screws.
Thanks for alerting me. Hopefully he hasn't started the job yet so I can add these to the list. I'll give him a call.

If he's already finished, the cam sprockets will be a DIY job for me. I found these instructions and it seems pretty straight forward. http://www.pelicanparts.com/techart...lacing_the_Timing_Chain_Camshaft_Sprocket.htm
 

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1994 E420, 1985 380SL
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159 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Can I run 215/70R14 tires on this car? I was told it's a common size used in place of the original 205/70R14 size, there seems to be very few choices for the latter. I plan on going to Discount Tire and I have a choice of $50 "good rated" Sentury tires 205/70R14 or Hankook Optimo "better rated" tires 215/70R14 ($65.) If I order the tires by tomorrow I will get $75 back from their 4th of July promotion.
 

· Outstanding Contributor, Vintage Moderator
450slc5.0cab 280sl5sp 280se4.5 500seAMG +250seStkW108 350sl4spdX3 500secEuro 300sel5spd R+C107galore
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Can I run 215/70R14 tires on this car? I was told it's a common size used in place of the original 205/70R14 size, there seems to be very few choices for the latter. I plan on going to Discount Tire and I have a choice of $50 "good rated" Sentury tires 205/70R14 or Hankook Optimo "better rated" tires 215/70R14 ($65.) If I order the tires by tomorrow I will get $75 back from their 4th of July promotion.

Personally, I think the 215 would be fine. The width will not be an issue, but you will be going a little faster than your speedometer says. Check the tire size comparer tools online.
 

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1985 280SL (Euro)
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608 Posts
According to my owners manual my 280SL came with 195-70 -14 and I upgraded to 205 with no problem. The same manual calls for 205 -70 -14 for the 380SL so my guess is you could go up one to 215 without any problems. Can recommend the Hancook optimas.
 

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1994 E420, 1985 380SL
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159 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Update: I picked the car up from the mechanic this past Sunday. He did a fantastic job; it's now running and driving a thousand times better than before. It already had a new timing chain and guides done at one point but it was off timing, no wonder why it was running so poorly. He also had to replace the rocker arms. It runs way way smoother and quieter, the transmission now shifts smoothly and on time, and you no longer have to stand on the brake pedal to get it to stop. He even adjusted the hood so it doesn't catch on the front lip near the windshield, I didn't have to ask.

On Monday morning I showed up to Discount tire an hour early for my appointment and they had me out the door in about 30 minutes (with a shop full of people and cars.) A new set of Hankook Optimo H724's 215-70R14. The ride feels a little tighter and more stable now, and they are nice and quiet on the road. After tax and fees it cost $325 thanks to their 4th of July rebate. I'm glad I didn't put off getting new tires because I took a closer look at the 10 year old Toyo's it had and indeed, they were starting to show slight cracking on the sidewall and in between the tread.

I hit the road at noon and finally headed home with the car. It made the 100 mile trip home at 70 MPH (maybe even a little faster...) without a single issue.

 

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1994 E420, 1985 380SL
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Should I bother with a battery tender while I have the car stored away for the winter? It's a new Bosch battery and I'd hate to kill it. There's no electrical outlet where my car is stored so I have to bring the battery home if I want to keep it on a tender.

I haven't driven the car a ton, just around town running errands a few times, but it always fires right up (surprisingly fast actually) and gets me where I want to go without an issue. I vowed to fix the cigarette lighter and get the horn fully working before I drive it on the road again as I've had two close calls this summer with some extremely stupid people. Once at intersection my light turned green and for some reason I did not immediately want to go and took a second or two before I hit the gas. A big work truck with a trailer full of crap came barreling past me, had I been a second or two earlier I would have been hit. More recently I was cruising on the highway minding my own business when somebody changed lanes without checking their blind spot and nearly rammed right into me. I had to slam on my brakes and skid on my brand new tires, and this person didn't even react at all, they just happily moved over into my lane. I use a dash cam in my W124 everywhere I go and usually the day goes by uneventful, figures.
 
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