i run a number of elderly benzes. 1986 560sel with 250k miles. a 1987 560sec with 80k miles. a 1979 6.9 with 50k miles. an e320cab with 10k miles. and recently added a 1997 s500c with 20k miles.
these cars live in a country county seat in the metropolitan houston area. they are rarely driven in start and stop fashion. they are always driven as fast as possible. driving them this way, i care that they be kept in virtually perfect mechanical condition. i do not stint on maintaining them mechanically as well as cosmetically.
had i not found a good independent mechanic and garage, i would have abandoned the benzes for more disposable vehicles. principally because the benz dealers began to lose interest in maintaining older benzes about 1995. the service directors explained it by saying that his shop was so overwhelmed by the newer models that the older cars just didn't get the attention.
my independent garage gives them attention. i consult on some technical issues where i ask him to do something he has not done before.
the560sec began to run funny over the last six months. sometimes rough idling. sometimes an inexplicable hesitation after cold starting in both drive or reverse. it was as if the car did not want to take the throttle. long and the short of it was tht the service records indicated the the car was still running the o.e. spark plugs, ignition leads, rotor, distributor cap.
a straightahead maintenance proposition. no peculiar electronics. simply the replacement of parts that were 16 years old.
that is what i like about these older cars. and besides, i think they look better than the new ones.
i think that the comments are correct about options available in the european market that are not available here. when i routinely traveled into europe, i marveled at the fact that mbusa forced its us customers to accept options that some percentage of the customers might have preffered to delete.
on the other hand, obviously there is a reliability factor that has been lowered at d-b since the chrysler acquisition. my two w126 cars were state of the art at the time: cruise control, climate control, suitably versatile seat controls, central locking, etc. i have never had a problem with any of these electrical functions.
the vickers power steering pump is a maintenance area that could have been ameliorated.
but by and large, these have been bullet proof vehicles that have caused me no maintenance mysteries.
in the 2 months that i have been driving the s500c, i have concluded that it is a more fragile vehicle. i love the way it runs. its suspension is superior to the w126's. but it has some weaknesses that i consider inexcusable for a vehicle of that original price tag and benz'es desire for excellence vis a vis lexus.
and even though this was a starmarked car, it may never see the dealer.evenfor a starmark problem. i just have no respect for the dealers and their service departments. they are negligent. probably because they are overwhelmed by the servicing of new cars under warranty. that is my friendly theory. it could be that they are just incompetent.
lastly, someone mentioned the current line of benz diesels. boy do i wish i could have one of them to euro specs. i rented a e270cdi in france last year. ran through many mountainous twisty bits. the compression braking and the slap shift tranny made it a great deal of fun. i especially enjoyed outrunning a new maserati whose brakes gave up shortly after he started trying to push me.