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  #1  
Old 06-26-2019, 03:17 PM
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Tormented - do I want a 107?

Hello forum members,

First timer here... and possible MB first timer too. I'm tormented by a 280sl I stumbled upon recently -- a manual -- that I lost out on while I hemmed and hawed. Now I've got the bug.

I'm asking to pick your brains. I've read various forums about the 380 vs the 280, and I know there are those who would say I shouldn't look at anything earlier than a mid-90's 300sl. Simply put, I love the lines of a mid-70's 107.

About me: I want a daily driver, I don't need a turbo boost. And somehow I have the impression I want a straight 6, not a v8 car. I should add this important qualifier: I don't do any major mechanical myself but I can read and follow a manual.

Can I ask your thoughts? Will I be happy with a 280? Will I be happy with an automatic?

Last edited by ToeDipper; 06-26-2019 at 03:30 PM.
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  #2  
Old 06-26-2019, 03:43 PM
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Just my own 2Ę after owning a Euro-Market 107 for over 20 years: If you rely on a mechanic to work on your car, stick with a US model. The 280s will be Euro market or "Grey" imports. Service information and parts procurement can be difficult at times.

The Automatic is fine if you have it tuned properly. If they're wrong, they're just a DOG. Be aware of the timing chain issues with the early 380s, the US market cars had a single-row chain that wore prematurely and can be expensive to maintain or upgrade to the double-row chain. If you want a 380, hold out for one with a double-row chain and proof that the guides and oilers have been done recently.

If you want a well-documented and more DIY-friendly V8 car, look for a 560SL. Depending on how heavy your foot is, fuel economy can be similar to the 280.

Just ramblings from someone with a love/hate relationship with the 107!
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  #3  
Old 06-26-2019, 04:24 PM
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To answer your original question.... YES! You and everyone else wants an R107.

I had a 560SL for years and would still have it if it had not been totalled in a freak accident. IRT 280SL vs. 380SL vs. 560SL, although I had a 560SL, I really lusted after a 280SL. The DOHC six has always been one of my favorite engines. IRT to the 380SL, '84 and '85 had the dual row chains. All 560SL have the same and have all the latest tech and features of the '80s Mercedes Benz. The 560SL cost an unbelievable $62 to $65 k in the 80s and can be had now for less than $10k.

If you have the entry fee, go for it. You will not be sorry.

The SL is a classic design and will still look impressive after a lifetime.
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  #4  
Old 06-26-2019, 04:50 PM
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I'm going to push some tough love onto mate, so don't take this the wrong way.

Devil's advocate: No, I don't think you should get one.

The reason why was your statement here:
Quote:
Originally Posted by ToeDipper View Post
I don't do any major mechanical myself but I can read and follow a manual.
Manual schmanual. That's no good. Have you looked at the manual? To even get a good baseline, you'll need to poke around the engine in ways that will make things become pretty big and "mechanical". Especially when it comes to troubleshooting components like the fuel system, vacuum leaks, idle issues, and more. Take a look for yourself: https://www.startekinfo.com/StarTek/outside/11883/?requestedDocId=11883

Now this all changes IF and only IF you have tons of disposable income that you don't mind throwing away.

Why? Because these are very very needy cars.

"But Beast, I'll just go and buy a low mileage one instead!"

Ah contraire my friend. Low miles on these cars don't mean anything anymore because age has now done the most damage. Rubber components will need to be replaced, hoses get old, air leaks get in, and these engines (all of them) get very very cranky when they aren't driven often.

Most likely, any car you purchase will have had some idiot mess with the air metering screw attempting to hide the aforementioned issues above. This will not fix anything and will aggravate the problems even worse, putting extra strain on other components requiring even more fixes!

Even cars that come with mountains of receipts done at the dealer mean absolutely nothing. I'm living proof that dealers can do very shoddy work. I had to teardown the top end intake on my 380SL to remedy a fix done by a dealer here in SoCal about 8 years ago by again some grease monkey who didn't read the manual and use some sealant where he wasn't supposed to.

You can avoid this by purchasing a better cared for car that a forum member here or on Benzworld has owned and loved for years. You might avoid the fix it monster, but you will one day run into some issue that might take more troubleshooting know how that a mechanic these days won't know how to do.

So you have a problem and don't like the idea of feeding a smoke machine in to find where the air leak is or don't fancy the idea of disconnecting fuel lines to do pressure tests on the various systems.

What will most likely happen is if you aren't 100% proficient in the systems that are on your r107, a mechanic will throw parts at the problem at your expense. If you're wealthy and don't care, then have at it. If not, you will see a car you spent $8-10k on balloon into a $20k car.

Ironically, these aren't complicated cars. The way of troubleshooting and maintaining them has gone out of style and thusly leaves the average mechanic up the creek unless you can find a good one. I've had better luck on slots in a casino in that regard.

But, even if my warnings haven't swayed you, here is what I will tell you to look for:

All R107s prior to 1985 are affected by a defect in the subframes. If this hasn't been remedied with the gusset reinforcements, it isn't a matter of if the crack will occur, but when it will occur. Look at some of the pictures around of what that failure looks like. It's a catastrophic problem that you don't want to have happen when driving! Post 1986 models have been fixed and won't have this issue.

Prior to 1976/77 (check I don't know), engines have the DJet injection system. It's a very efficient early style fuel rail system. However, it relies on 70s technology and can be a mess to short correctly. I don't have experience on this so good luck.

R107s made after 1986 start slowly including various computer diagnostics into the works which can be helpful in determining faults. 1988 and 1989 MYs have a rudimentary blinking code system that can be used to determine issues.

1977+ cars to 1985 have the KJet injection system. It's simpler, but is very sensitive to air leaks that will need to be hunted down and fixed if you want a properly in tuned vehicle.

Avoid any cars that haven't had the following (or budget for the expense).

1. Cars that have not had the subframe fix done.
2. 380SLs that haven't had the double chain timing rough conversion (84-85 came from factory with the dual timing chain).
3. Ask the owner what the fuel economy is on the highway. Obscenely low numbers (15 and below) are indicative of engine issues.
4. Cars that have the evil automatic climate servo (ACCII). Google around for what this looks like. Easily identified by the panel https://image.isu.pub/180411232051-c3bac3660dd22e9eee51ca01ddd69586/jpg/page_1_thumb_large.jpg


Not trying to be a negative nancy, just trying to paint you the full picture of what you're getting into.

Hope this helps!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yak View Post
Going back to the original post: "Can you get the vac to blow instead?" No. Vacuums are low pressure so they by nature "suck" and nature abhors them.
1984 380SL
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  #5  
Old 06-26-2019, 06:02 PM
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Here is my chance to pitch a R129 , specifically the 97 SL320.

If you can work on a 97 C280, E320 or S320 , you can work on the SL 320 because the inline 6 and transmission are the same between the 4 cars. Last year for the M104 inline 6 ( in the US ), has full electronic throttle not the troublesome half mechanical / half electronic of earlier cars, first year for the 722.6 electronic shift auto trans , last year for a metal key.

Power is adequate though muted below 3,000 RPM due to the cars 4,100 lb heft but it will pull mountain passes at 70+ without running out of breath.

I just happened to luck into my 97 without knowing it was the best / last 320 year. Many _think_ they need a V8 / V12 in these cars so prices are much lower as a result. My 124,000 mile Sport ( AMG trim ) example was $ 6,000 in 2011 and I put another $ 2,500 ish in parts getting it to my standards of reliability. At 135,000 It needs a head gasket due to an external coolant leak and I'm going to rebuild the transmission because it is due.

With any R129, the top hydraulic cylinders are _going_ to need rebuilt due to leaks. I leave the hard top on at all times so that isn't a concern for me. Either top can be manually operated so no loss if you don't change very often.
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  #6  
Old 06-27-2019, 08:03 AM
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I suggested an r129 for my brother in law, and honestly, I kind of regret it. The r129 cars are amazing machines, but Iím just waiting for the top seals to dump hydraulic fluid all over my sister in law or nieces dress while on their way to some formal event.

The biodegradable wiring is said to not be an issue for most 1990ís years, but Iíve seen enough first hand, and heard of issues seen in the late 1990ís that itís just not worth it to me.

560sl, yeah, those are the ones with the biggest number in their name, biggest 227 hp motor (but nothing compared to r129 m119 322 or even the v12), but Iíve got some stones to throw eek though Iíve never owned one besides two parts cars. Crank position sensors and computers tell the system when to spark. Mechanic land. Whoís going to try and figure out those blink codes? Has anyone here really done it? I believe people have, but seriously, what percentage? Shade tree mechanic work is better done on older simpler cars, not ones with computers (IMO). So... 1985 and earlier for me. My favorites? R/C107 forever (unless some miracle comes along and I can grab a w113). And here are my tops, all Euro preferred by me:

- 185 hp m110 4 or 5 speed. The automatic is nice and peppy and balanced, and the power exceeds a lot of the US 4.5 motors, not the torque, but honestly the torque in a US 4.5 is a fail due to the lack of the anti-squat/anti-dive rear end. So you hit the gas and your on a rocking horse with that torquey heavy iron v8.

- 5.0 (euro). This is going to be a 500sl or 450slc 5.0 or 500slc. 240hp, and the anti-squat rear end. 1985 and earlier, and they should be simpler than a 560sl with all the important benefits EXCEPT: the subframe update and bigger 560sl front brakes (which make fitting wheels harder BTW, options are limited for 560sl to wheels with pretty small lips).

- donít forget the euro 4.5 is near 220 HP, pretty close to the 560sl, and has anti-squat rear end.

- and ~200hp euro 380sl (not euro 380slc) have the anti-squat rear end too, and that rear end really makes you feel like the power is moving you forward instead of rocking the whole car back.

Can you tell Iím a fan of the anti-squat rear end? If you want one in a US Spec car, youíll have to get a 560sl (or retro fit one as Iíd like to try in my 280sl).


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  #7  
Old 06-27-2019, 06:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fonzi View Post
I suggested an r129 for my brother in law, and honestly, I kind of regret it. The r129 cars are amazing machines, but Iím just waiting for the top seals to dump hydraulic fluid all over my sister in law or nieces dress while on their way to some formal event.
The top seals are only a leak point if the top / roll bar is being actuated. I pulled the fuse from the pump relay on my car long ago.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fonzi View Post
The biodegradable wiring is said to not be an issue for most 1990ís years, but Iíve seen enough first hand, and heard of issues seen in the late 1990ís that itís just not worth it to me.
I have a 97 SL320 / 97 C280 and a 97 E320 parts car + a couple of 97 M104 engines all have great wiring harnesses. Any reports of late 90's having bio wiring are likely from those that consider any electrical fault a " short " and any coolant / overheating issue a head gasket.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fonzi View Post
560sl, yeah, those are the ones with the biggest number in their name, biggest 227 hp motor (but nothing compared to r129 m119 322 or even the v12), but Iíve got some stones to throw eek though Iíve never owned one besides two parts cars.
The M104 SL320 makes the same power but is ~ 500 LB heavier.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fonzi View Post
Crank position sensors and computers tell the system when to spark. Mechanic land. Whoís going to try and figure out those blink codes? Has anyone here really done it? I believe people have, but seriously, what percentage? Shade tree mechanic work is better done on older simpler cars, not ones with computers (IMO). So... 1985 and earlier for me.
1997 OBD2 brings forth lots of real time data not blink codes making diagnosis very easy. Besides, I'm pretty sure with the proper scan tool one can get data from a blink code car. ( I never tried it so can't say for sure )

Try diagnosing ABS on these 85 era cars as they don't have a self diagnostic system according to past posts.
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  #8  
Old 06-27-2019, 08:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 97 SL320 View Post
1997 OBD2 brings forth lots of real time data not blink codes making diagnosis very easy. Besides, I'm pretty sure with the proper scan tool one can get data from a blink code car. ( I never tried it so can't say for sure )

Try diagnosing ABS on these 85 era cars as they don't have a self diagnostic system according to past posts.
I too used to be really intimidated by modern car electronics. I self taught everything on a 300D.

I owned a late model Saab (mentioned in another thread). The car was a meh car and I didn't particularly car for it though.

But I did have a scan tool and damn that was mighty useful in diagnosing issues. Really, working on the 380SL is a really different mindset to the Saab.

It was a similar transition between when I first started in IT to when I left it. Lots of cool, deep knowledge for how stuff worked, and then everything became plug,play, wipe, re-image for everything. Better, but losses the appreciation for understanding how the systems really work.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yak View Post
Going back to the original post: "Can you get the vac to blow instead?" No. Vacuums are low pressure so they by nature "suck" and nature abhors them.
1984 380SL
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  #9  
Old 06-27-2019, 09:12 PM
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Tormented -- but hopeful

First of all, thanks all of you who replied. I appreciate the time you took. I can see that the 107 has its fans, and I'm in good company. That being said...

"Beast," I have to offer sincere appreciation for throwing some well-needed sand on my fire. You told me about some real problems I hadn't read about, and made me pause long enough to consider how much spare cash I can pour into my local mechanic's pockets. The truth is: not too much. So my worst-case scenario is that I drop it all having the sub-frame gusseted (or welded, then gusseted). First engine issue to come along and I'm left with a very beautiful and very large paperweight, at least for awhile. BTW, I have to give you props for your avatar picture too.

"SL320" I appreciate the plug. I hadn't seriously considered the model but I happened to see one in town today, with soft-top. It looked awfully good and the longer I looked at it, the more I could see myself enjoying it as a functional car and not a weekend toy. Also appreciate that its fuel consumption is more forgiving.

I'm in my 50s, and I will continue to look longingly when I see a 107 go by... but I'm also going to start looking for an SL320. Are there other preferred years (besides the touted '97), and are there particular problems I should watch out for when shopping? I'll keep an eye on the forum, of course, but it's more likely that I can afford one that hasn't been a forum member's baby.

Thanks again,

Adam
Portland, Oregon
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  #10  
Old 06-27-2019, 09:23 PM
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I'd like to prevail on you once more. If I'm shopping for a R129 (or for an R107 for that matter), what are your thoughts on acceptable mileage?
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  #11  
Old 06-27-2019, 11:10 PM
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If you can get a copy of the STAR magazine (a publication of the Mercedes Benz Club of America) or possibly an on line copy they often have articles about the pros and cons of different classic Mercedes cars. Well worth the time and effort to do the research. I would think acceptable mileage is anything less than 200K.
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  #12  
Old 06-28-2019, 12:58 AM
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I wouldn't discourage you from DIYing. You can make these cars very affordable doing your own work. Tools are a one time investment and the positive feels you get from a successful DIY are worth the price.

On an r107, mileage is mostly irrelevant. Look for evidence of work done because of the age issues.

On the r129, lower mileage is the name of the game. Bwhitmore's sub 200k number is good.

Anything over the 30 year mark and mileage isn't a good indicator of part quality.
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Old 06-28-2019, 03:16 PM
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Tormented -- but hopeful

Okay, thanks for the recommendations. If I take the plunge, you can be sure you'll be seeing me on the forums, probably begging support as I learn my way. And hopefully without a big "facepalm" moment.
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  #14  
Old 06-28-2019, 04:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ToeDipper View Post
Okay, thanks for the recommendations. If I take the plunge, you can be sure you'll be seeing me on the forums, probably begging support as I learn my way. And hopefully without a big "facepalm" moment.
We call it an asylum for a reason!

I've got way too much money in my 380sl. I've stopped counting and call the spending, "Return on Smiles|
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yak View Post
Going back to the original post: "Can you get the vac to blow instead?" No. Vacuums are low pressure so they by nature "suck" and nature abhors them.
1984 380SL
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  #15  
Old 06-28-2019, 06:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ToeDipper View Post

"Beast," I have to offer sincere appreciation for throwing some well-needed sand on my fire. You told me about some real problems I hadn't read about, and made me pause long enough to consider how much spare cash I can pour into my local mechanic's pockets.
Don't blame a mechanic that is working on a complicated / old / needy car, it isn't their fault. Good work isn't cheap, a competent general shop is going to take longer to fix a car they normally don't service and a specialist shop is going to want to be compensated for their uncommon knowledge.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ToeDipper View Post
"SL320" I appreciate the plug. I hadn't seriously considered the model but I happened to see one in town today, with soft-top. It looked awfully good and the longer I looked at it, the more I could see myself enjoying it as a functional car and not a weekend toy. Also appreciate that its fuel consumption is more forgiving.
I leave the hard top on my SL at all times and only drive in summer months. The car looks better with hard top on or top down.

Mine is the AMG Sport, these got AMG monoblock wheels , Xenon headlights, front and rear bumpers + side skirts. It also has wood steering wheel and shift knob. Basically someone took the extra $ from a V8 car and applied half of that to the Sport package. The car is finished in 702 Smoke Silver ( gold tint ) with black interior. The Sport looks like the one in the first vid below except for color and wheels.

From what I recall I was getting 20 MPG in mixed driving ( EPA says 18 city / 24 highway )


Have a look at these vids.

~~~
For The Love Of The R129 SL Mercedes-Benz - With Movie Clips - YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsGymnfwzYU

~~~
Mercedes Benz SL600 V12 drive and review (R129) - YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhX0Y2wQfqo

~~~
The " road test " guy whines about a lot of stuff like "fake plastic wood " that is actually hand finished veneer. 3:46 is an acceleration test, it makes nice sounds when leaned on. ( the car not the guy )

MERCEDES SL 320 1997 Review/Road Test/Test Drive - YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYslcukNdSo

[QUOTE=ToeDipper;3933950]
I'm in my 50s, and I will continue to look longingly when I see a 107 go by...

. . On a dark desert highway. . . Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes Benz. . . . ( cue red R107 )

Quote:
Originally Posted by ToeDipper View Post
but I'm also going to start looking for an SL320. Are there other preferred years (besides the touted '97), and are there particular problems I should watch out for when shopping? I'll keep an eye on the forum, of course, but it's more likely that I can afford one that hasn't been a forum member's baby.

Thanks again,

Adam
Portland, Oregon
1996 would be the 2nd choice as this is the first year for the updated interior but lacks the electronic shift trans / full electronic throttle. 96 back to 93? has a somewhat fussy half mechanical, half electronic throttle. Be sure to stay away from 90 to 92 ish cars ( or some R107 ) as they have CIS injection that is big $$ to repair. Also, early to 94 ish cars had wiring insulation that would fall apart due to engine heat. Volvo and Jaguar had this problem too as early as 1982 ish.

Keep in mind that any older car is going to need updating so allow for that. Adjusted for inflation, the $ 6,000 + 2,500 parts ( no labor as I do all of my own work ) would be what someone paid in sales tax when they bought it in 1997 for about $ 85,000 . . . Be sure to keep that in mind as these cars are an incredible value even with some repairs.

For the most part, the 97 SL320 is the same as a 97 C280 or 97 E320 when it comes to servicing or buying parts like brakes / engine / trans. The only somewhat $ stuff is body / interior parts but there are lots of stuff on E bay for now.

I change parts when they get to end of anticipated service life rather than waiting for a random breakdown. This " wait until it breaks " is what frustrates people that buy older cars " the car is always breaking down " says the spouse. . .

As mentioned before I disabled the hydraulic top system due to potential leaks , had to pry into the console lid due to a failed automatic lock and unplugged the alarm / remote keyless entry because the alarm would not disarm.

The sun visor mounts work loose then break the plastic trim. There really are not any huge issues with these cars other than you really need a good scan tool to test the various computers through out the car. On a 97 you must use the 38 pin underhood connector not the generic OBD2 port in the car.

I have a Snap-On " Red Brick " scanner with the Mercedes cartridge and a Star clone.
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