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1988 300 SEL
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RE: Have you tested your water temp sensor

I have a cold start problem that sounds similar to yours. The engine will absolutely not start without giving it some gas with the pedal. Even then it won't normally start on the first try. After it does start I have to keep feeding it to keep it running. Then the idle smooths out and drops to ~750 rpm instead of the 1000 range it should be in during 30F outside weather.

On the Fastlane forum I found that the water temp sensor can go bad.

http://catalog.eautopartscatalog.com/mercedesshop/sophio/wizard.jsp?partner=mercedesshop&clientid=mercedesshop&baseurl=http://catalog.mercedesshop.com/&cookieid=1GK0TQCS51GL027VXE&year=1988&make=MB&model=300-SEL-006&category=C&part=Water+Temp.+Sensor&appEngines=-12-093916

When I went to inspect mine this afternoon, I found that one of the terminal pieces was actually broken off!! No wonder it starts so horribly but purrs like a kitten once started. As I understand it, the temp sensor only interacts with the fuel injection system at startup, after that it patiently waits for the next start.
 
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