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Discussion Starter #1
I've been reading through posts regarding 380sl issues for the last few days as I try to decide if I should buy a 1981 380sl.

The bad: It has 197,000 miles and I have no history of the vehicle maintenance. It runs rough and the heater servo leaks coolant thus needing to be replaced. Probably runs rough due to vacuum issues? It also needs front pads. Oh, and the dash is cracked.

The good: Interior is sharp, new soft top last year, paint is great (except for three dime sized spots of bubbled paint, rust underneath), allegedly always garaged, good tires, undercarriage looks good, the engine compartment is clean, no oil residue on engine or drive train, it drives well minus the rough running business.

The great: It's only $2000. The guy who bought it and shipped it to my area just wants to get his money back after finding out the car needs work. He brought it from CT, apparently from a friend of a terminally ill guy who just wanted it moved. I'm hoping to get more information about the former owner and hopefully the history of the vehicle, but I'm wondering if I should just run screaming from this one even though it looks nice simply because of the high mileage. Of course, could be that everything's been rebuilt.

Any thoughts or suggestions from anyone?

I'm talking with the mechanic tomorrow (Monday) where the car is at. Hopefully I can post some pictures and give you more information tomorrow. One thing I plan to do while there is check that timing chain as I found in one of the posts.
Mercedes-Benz - Timing Chain Inspection 380 V8 Engines

Just throwing it out there for now, thanks for any help or advice you can give me!
 

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Always Remembered RIP
1979 280sl 4 sp w/ac 1957 MGA 1998 volvo xc/70 2004 F150
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I would not be afraid of the mileage. Do the basics; oil clean, tranny fluid the same, anti freeze clean and not green? Take an awl and poke around the floors etc. How do the cap and wires look (if new sombody been trying to get it to run right with no sucess). Chances are with that mileage the chain already has been changed at the least.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Back from the Mechanic and...

I talked with the mechanic this morning. He feels the car could be in ok shape with the following addressed: Heater servo replaced and a new exhaust. Apparently the O2 sensor light is on, after replacing this sensor and noting the multiple patches between the manifold, cat, and muffler, he says this is the reason for rough idle and light being on. Also I found out names of the two former owners, although so far the internerd has shed little light on them. I did find the previous owner on spacebook, but I can't go there from work as its a banned site. I'll try to contact him this eve. Not sure what to do here...
 

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One of the BW Old Guard/R129, W204 Moderator
1997 SL500- 40th Anniversary
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7,166 Posts
...Not sure what to do here...
I asked earlier if you were prepared to spend $4-5000 to make it right... Are you?

Climate Control Servo--------------- $400-1000*
Exhaust---------------------------- 800-1000
timing chain, tensioner and guides--- 800-1000
brakes----------------------------- 250-500
Suspension Rubber------------------ 500-800
Tierods, centerlink, idler arm, ------- 500-800
Shocks----------------------------- 300-500
Rust and respray-------------------- 500-5000
Dash ------------------------------- 100-2000
Climate control vacuum pods/rebuild-- 200-1500

It could go on and on...

The great: It's only $2000.
This is the scariest part... "...There's nothing more expensive than a cheap Mercedes..."

Good luck in what you decide...

*assuming labor included, not DIY.
 

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1979 280SL, 1984 280SL
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Don't be in a hurry.
Dave is quite right.

There is ALWAYS another one. As Pete said, check the floors, and everywhere else for rust. If you see three spots, thats the tip of the 'berg. I saw my local indie the other day at the gas station. He was fueling up a Signal Red 450SL that realy looked sharp- Clean, Nardi wheel, etc. When I commented on how nice it looked, he just rolled his eyes. The customer had recently purchased for $8k, then found the floors, etc were gone. Repairs, all unseen, totaled $7k. Don't buy rust!
 

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1978 450SL (RIP); 2007 Impala 9C3 (Police); 2010 Ford Edge
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Based on what you said, I might consider it for around $1500. The miles are a bit high, but as I've said before, it depends what you want the vehicle for, and what it takes to make it safe and roadworthy.

Do you NEED the climate control servo on a convertible? In my area...probably not, 90 degree days are numbered around here.

Do you NEED to replace the suspensions rubber...well, if its safe the way it is then not right now. Sure you will want to, but you may be able to "defer" that maintenance a shade longer.

But still, at $1-2K, you should at least be able to register it and drive it (safely) after spending no more than another $1K.

FWIW, I heard a rule of thumb from a friend about buying cars: there are 3 'majors' when it comes to looking at a used car 1)interior, 2)exterior and 3)engine/suspension. You really need to have 2 out of the 3 'good' for it to be considered. (That assumes you can work on the last).

Anyway, good luck. You might find some the big maintenance already done.
 

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1972 280CE
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4,211 Posts
I asked earlier if you were prepared to spend $4-5000 to make it right... Are you?

Climate Control Servo--------------- $400-1000*
Exhaust---------------------------- 800-1000
timing chain, tensioner and guides--- 800-1000
brakes----------------------------- 250-500
Suspension Rubber------------------ 500-800
Tierods, centerlink, idler arm, ------- 500-800
Shocks----------------------------- 300-500
Rust and respray-------------------- 500-5000
Dash ------------------------------- 100-2000
Climate control vacuum pods/rebuild-- 200-1500

It could go on and on...



This is the scariest part... "...There's nothing more expensive than a cheap Mercedes..."

Good luck in what you decide...

*assuming labor included, not DIY.
Wow, it's a good thing that I saw this after I bought my cars, or else i'd be driving a civic.
 

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1981 300SD, 1976 300D
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Assuming the timing chain has been updated to the dual-row type, the main reason I'd adivse against an '81 is that damn servo. '82-85 380sl doesn't have that. The MB climate control setup from later doesn't work perfectly forever, but it's a good bit more reliable, easier to fix than the Chrysler setup on the '81.

You'll get no guff from me about buying a cheap 380SL. Best way to get into a first R107- the thirst of 450SLs is nothing to sneeze at, they have the servo climate control too (except for early ones) and you don't want a 560SL priced like a 380- it will be very tired.

I paid $2200 for an '84 with Euro lights, Centras, cold AC, working cruise control, and nice interior. Granted, it has chalky paint on the rear deck and the cam needed to be replaced on the left side of the motor (oil starved tubes) but it ran well apart from the cam ticking noise and is a great 10 footer. Only 135K miles, too.

Not trying to gloat about my car, just illustrating that they are out there for the picking!
 

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1975 450SL
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2,440 Posts
There is a modern replacement for the servo available from an outfit called Unwired Tools. There have been good reports on them from people on this board. Last I heard, it cost around $600.00, but it was easy to install as a DIY job, with excellent 'tech support' from the manufacturer.

It is an upgrade / replacement for the notoriously failure prone ACCII system that is reputedly very reliable.

The manufacturer shows it in place on a 300D, but it is said to work on a wide variety of models, including the 107.



UnwiredTools, LLC.


http://www.unwiredtools.com/manuals/ACCII Manual Rev J7.pdf


I have no connection with these people, and my climate control system pre-dates this, so I have no first-hand knowlege about this. I'm only tossing out a suggestion that may be of use to you.

Good luck,
Scott
 

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1978 280slc
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3,203 Posts
On my toyota pickmeup with a 22re it has a single roller timing chain and I looked into converting to double row time chain and the parts were pretty expensive to do the conversion. You'd need 2 cam sprockets, a time cover, tensioner, rails, and chain from a later model 380. You might be able to find the cam sprockets used but you have to inspect them for wear as a worn sprocket can turn a new chain into an old chain quickly. I'm just saying I don't know if it is worth converting but hell if I know.

There are cheap rust free mercedes all over the Bay Area. I'm not saying they wouldn't need an inspection and servicing but why people would spend months on rust repair and thousands of dollars while they could have avoided the hassle for the cost of shipping is beyond me. If cali is too far look to the south and southwest. These cars do rust pretty bad.
 
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