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1project2many 08-10-2013 03:48 AM

My latest 300SD (long)
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Ok, so I've owned two OM617 cars. A W126, then a W116. Both were practice cars, purchased for under $900 total (not each). For that price I got to slow each car's inevitable trip to the junkyard. I liked them and decided to get another, but nice. Reading people describe how to "buy" a car in another thread prompted me to post this.

Any car used in the winter here, and many that are not, rust out. Moisture and humidity are very prevalent in the northeast. Rain is acidic, soil is always damp, and in the winter high concentrations of calcium chloride and "road salt" leave the cars with white powder everywhere. These factors take a serious toll on a car. Vehicles that are driven through several winters start to rust, salt will build up in places where it can't be washed out, and your car will seem to dissolve before your eyes.

If you buy a rusted northeast car and you want to fix it, you've got some work ahead of you. They rust in the trunk, the floors, subframe connections, around the shock towers, in fenders... everywhere. Paint and body supplies aren't cheap either. Trying to fix the body on a $1500 30 yr old car could easily cost 2-3 times the purchase price, regardless of how well it runs or how nice the interior is. And, there's a good chance rust will show up again within a couple of years.

So knowing what it takes to make a car truly rust free, I figured anything that cost me less than $3000 and qualifies as "rust free" is worth the money. I have friends in Colorado and was considering a trip out there to buy a car to bring back. I'd already started setting money aside when I saw an ad for a former Texas car here for $2800. I said "Probably worth it, but I don't have the money saved up yet" and let it go. But the ad kept getting re-posted and over several weeks the price slowly dropped. When it got to $1800 I decided to take a look.

I had $1800. If the car was rust free it was worth the money. If the car ran and drove with no major mechanical issues I would buy it. I had planned to tell the buyer the truth: "The car's worth what you're asking. I can tell that you want to sell it because you keep lowering the price. Money's tight for me. Would you take $1600?" That's it. The extent of negotiating. Why? Because I'd be a fool to walk away from a car that could give me years of "rust free" service over a couple of hundred dollars difference in price. Engines can be replaced. Transmissions can be replaced. But body work... that's expensive and time consuming, even to do it incorrectly.

When I arrived the owner met me in the driveway and proceeded to tell me the car was going to be gone by the end of the week. If I didn't buy it then it was going to be donated to charity per his wife. He lowered his own asking price to $1500. We headed out to look at the car.

I looked underneath. No rust. I opened the doors. No rust. I tapped the floors. No rust. I opened the trunk. No rust in the floor or fenderwells but rust under the filler between rear window and seat. Maybe a sign the window gasket leaks and possible that there's some damage in the pinchweld. I didn't say a word. I noticed the car had been gray/blue, like my first W126, but had been painted gold or beige, then repainted a slightly brighter shade of blue. Both repaints weren't OEM quality but they were good as "20 footers." Didn't mention a thing. The car had window tint and the RR window was peeling. I'd probably have to remove the tinting. Didn't mention it though. The car also had chrome wheels which were peeling. (Please, don't ever have aluminum chrome plated). They looked a bit ugly so I'd probably replace them. Didn't say anything about that, either.

I opened the hood. No rust, and the engine was clean with no leaks. The injectors looked fairly recent. Rubber fuel supply and return lines looked new. The original cadmium and zinc coating was visible on the bolts, brackets, and linkages. The corners of the cowl were relatively clean, not packed with leaves and dirt. The wiring was in great shape. The A/C compressor and receiver dryer looked fairly recent and the lines had R134A fittings. New A/C parts on a 30 year old car? Definitely a good chance it was Texas sourced.

The owner is telling me all about the car... working to make the sale. Tells me the driver's window doesn't work. Local garage got it working but it stopped. "He just wants to be up-front and honest." Tells me his son was driving it daily before it was parked. Tells me he wanted to restore it but he'd recently inherited a newer Benz and couldn't keep both. Tells me the car spent most of it's life in Florida, then moved to Texas. Says it came up here with someone in the National Guard. Tells me he's had people looking at it for weeks but they keep nit-picking it to death. Mentions someone that drove down from Maine and started complaining like he was trying to take delivery on a new car. Says he told the guy to go home and buy a new car. I mentioned that any rust free car in New England is worth $3000 and complaining doesn't make the car better. I told him I wasn't there to pick the car apart. I was there to evaluate it against his asking price.

Engine was cold so I fired it up. It started right away and ran better than many of the 5 cyl diesels I've noticed. There was no significant smoke which I thought was great for a 278k mile car. Idle speed was turned up too much so I suspected a problem but the road test indicated otherwise. The owner told me it shifted funny but it wasn't any different than the last two I'd had so I didn't worry. No steering issues, no clunks on bumps, no brake pulls. Owner is still trying to make the sale. He's telling me they tried to use it in the winter but it's not good on snow so they didn't drive it much. He's telling me he's had some work done including a new ignition cylinder, fuel lines, and a starter. He's telling me how great the car is. So I told him I could tell he loved the car but he could stop selling it. It had sold itself. He'd put an honest description in the ad and it was priced better than fairly.

So, where does this lead? I bought the car for $1500. The clues were there that he might have dropped more, but I wasn't there to gamble. I had no intention of letting this one go over a few hundred dollars difference. I wanted a car that I could begin using right away and could enjoy for years. I found it.

The seller didn't ask for a deposit and offered to Fed-Ex the bill of sale before I'd actually paid him, so I could get it registered and save an extra trip down. I asked how long before he needed it picked up "Whenever you get to it. Take a couple of weeks if you need it." He didn't have to do that but I believe it's partly because of my "no nonsense" approach. I earned his trust and in return he went above and beyond to help me out. I drove the car home two days later and I've driven it daily since then.

After the road test he handed me a folder of receipts that detailed over $3800 worth of work in the last year. New upper and lower oil pan, new "heavy duty" starter, drained and cleaned the fuel tank and replaced the outlet screen, new fuel lines front to rear, new brakes front and rear, new snow tires, regular oil changes with synthetic oil. I checked the A/C last Friday and found someone had failed to replace an O-ring when the compressor was replaced. Also, the low side Schraeder valve was leaking. Fixed both issues and charged it up and surprise, the automatic climate control works perfectly.

I did not beat up the owner. I did not pick the car apart. I did not strong arm anyone. I picked a car that appeared to be worth the asking price and went to look at it. I found a car that appeared to be worth more than the asking price and agreed to buy it. You may think luck was involved, and maybe it was, but I use this strategy most of the time and most of the time I end up with all that I paid for and more.

Mölyapina 08-10-2013 10:53 AM

Wow. Nice. Maybe I should come up to NH at some point to see the car :).

bigblue 08-10-2013 08:12 PM

Great find!
I loved my 126 and hearing stories like that. I recently was the was the lucky buyer of a 99 w210 turbodiesel from florida with a similar story (low asking price, motivated seller but irritated by people trying to beat him up). I rushed over there, offered not to negotiate if it was what he said and we were both happy it was friendy, brief and no-nonsense. If you work on your car it's so nice having something that isn't half rotted away. As you know, a clean 126/617 is a great engineered, simple all around car that will last a very long time with just a little regular attention

1project2many 08-11-2013 10:32 PM


I rushed over there, offered not to negotiate if it was what he said and we were both happy it was friendy, brief and no-nonsense.
Nice to know there are others who appreciate this type of transaction.


As you know, a clean 126/617 is a great engineered, simple all around car that will last a very long time with just a little regular attention
It's amazing how well they hold up with little to no attention. But this one should do well for many years.


Wow. Nice. Maybe I should come up to NH at some point to see the car
Jooseppi, you are welcome to come up and see the car anytime. But don't expect to see it driving in the winter. I can't imagine sacrificing another one to the Gods of Rust and Road Salt.

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