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  #1  
Old 07-27-2002, 10:12 PM
gvink
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380SL - to buy or not to buy?

Hello,

I'm new to the world of Mercedes (but not to collector cars) and I'm looking at an '82 380SL. Car is being sold by a small dealer who bought it at a wholesale auto auction. It has 155k. Very minor rust here and there, interior quite nice and complete (aftermarket wood Nardi steering wheel is very nice). Car has NOT been cleaned up with a recent respray.

Engine feels very smooth, no shake at idle, almost inaudible (I can tell this ain't no British car!). Only problem I notice is a slow 2-3 shift with the transmission, which I gather could be a cheap fix (fluid and filter), an expensive fix (rebuilt tranny) or maybe a problem I could live with for a long time. Also, A/C doesn't blow cold, but fan and thermostat appear to be working -- I'd probably just convert to R134.

I've been reading on this forum about the dreaded single-row timing chain; I DO NOT KNOW if this has been converted. Can you tell just by pulling a valve cover?

Anyway, price is around $5,600, which seems decent. Comments? I do most of my own car work, when I can.

Thanks for any feedback, and this is an excellent forum. An hour's reading here has given me a pretty good picture of these cars.
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  #2  
Old 08-02-2002, 08:37 PM
Blitzen Bob's Avatar
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380SL, to buy?

Greetings,
With this year 380Sl, it is of paramount importance that you verify that the timing chain has been converted to a double row. The single row chain WILL fail. Not a question of IF, but When.
The cost of the conversion will be about $3500, maybe a little more depending on your shop. Use MB parts. Not after market.
I've known people who have tried to get by with the single row by changing the oil frequently, and changing the chain every 30,000 miles. It didn't help. Chain failed without warning causing a very expensive repair. The conversion is about 1/3 the cost of the repair.
Do not buy a Mercedes without a pre purchace inspection(PPI) done by someone who knows these cars. This PPI should run about $100 to $200. This inspection will find if the timing chain has been converted. It should also find any other major (expensive) repairs that need to be done. If the air conditioning is not working, this could easily run $800 to $1500. This is a VERY complicated climate control system. It may be somethig simple, like the fuses, monovalve,aux. water pump but it may be the compressor and such also. I would resist converting to R134a just yet. I've kept my 380 on R12, and feel it just performs better.
These are great cars, but they can also eat your lunch. Don't ever buy a used one without the PPI. Require the seller to produce all records of maintenance. What are the oil and filter change history? Was all the required maintenance intervals adhered to?

Your best bet is to find the model you like, and then find the very best example of that model that you can afford. These are not easy or cheap cars to restore. Plan on budgeting around $1000 a year for upkeep on this car.

Remember, there is nothing more expensive than a cheap Mercedes.

Bob
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  #3  
Old 08-04-2002, 11:42 AM
sbr
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Bob pretty much covered it. I dump around a $1000.00 per year in my SL. Tranny may improve with a fluid change, but with that many miles I don't know. Make sure the cooling system is in good shape, radiators aren't cheap. Are any service records available? I'd be cautious if there aren't.
Good luck.

sbr
'79 450SL
77,000 miles
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  #4  
Old 08-06-2002, 09:53 PM
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Bob & SBR,
Do you know if this $1,000 a year applies to the 560 as well? I know you don't have the timing chain issue on the 560 and I've heard most problems were worked out by the time the 560 cam along. I know to have the PPI and having records is always advisable...but the 560 is still commanding quite a few dollars. I love the R107 and am trying to decide if an older, less expensive model is the right thing to do...or just wait the 560.

Thanks for your input.
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  #5  
Old 08-06-2002, 10:56 PM
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I don't have an R107, but have read enough posts that I believe owners generally say they put about $1,000 / year in their cars.

I think the fairly high dollar figure is due to several different factors: regular scheduled maintenance and wear and tear, random items needing repair or replacement due to age and miles, replacing parts / trim to upgrade the cosmetic look of the car, etc.

Like me, so many owners of these cars become obsessed with them and enjoy putting time and money into their cars. It's more than a hobby - it's a labor of love.
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2001 E430, Bourdeaux Red, Oyster interior.
79,200 miles.

1973 280SE 4.5, 170,000 miles. 568 Signal Red, Black MB Tex. "The Red Baron".
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  #6  
Old 08-07-2002, 12:54 PM
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I agree with suginami in that the figure may be too high. I have an 83 380 SL and other than regular oil, tune- up and wash, I have no problems. No leaks, no nothing.

Since I do all work, I get by on less than $150.00 a year.

And suginami, you right. We love our cars.
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1983 380 SL
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  #7  
Old 08-07-2002, 07:39 PM
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I do have a 560SL and I wouldn't say that they require less maintenance. The last 107 chassis was made 13 years ago. Any rubber that hasn't already been replaced will need to be within a couple of years.

It all goes down to how the previous owner(s) treated the car. Did they perform regular mainenance? Was the car garaged or covered most of the time? Did he have the car detailed regularly?

I bought my '88 560SL one year ago. I've probably dropped $4-$5k into this last year, the bulk of which was within the first two months. New valve stem seals, new timing chain, guides and tensioner, entirely new front brake system, new softop. Those were the big ticket items. I'd really like to get new seat covers and pads, but that will set me back another $1000+.

Obviously if all of the major mechanics and cosmetics are already taken care of, it shouldn't cost that much per year. My point being that you can't just say $1000 a year. If you have to replace the timing chain and guides, there goes most of your budget for that year. If you need new valve stem seals, you're bound to blow your budget also.

The beauty of it is that the values of the 107 chassis cars aren't really going down anymore.
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1988 560SL Black/Palomino
1988 300SEL Black Pearl/Burgandy
1984 500SEC Anthracite Grey/Palomino
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  #8  
Old 08-07-2002, 07:45 PM
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Quote:
The beauty of it is that the values of the 107 chassis cars aren't really going down anymore.
Exactly, and I think that is the most important point.

Almost everyone obsesses on the cost of maintenance / repairs, but this category of expenses, according to Intellichoice, is one of the smaller costs of ownerships.

The single biggest cost in ownership, which people never even take into consideration, is depreciation.

Other costs, such as insurance and gasoline, usually are greater than the cost of maintenance year after year.
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2001 E430, Bourdeaux Red, Oyster interior.
79,200 miles.

1973 280SE 4.5, 170,000 miles. 568 Signal Red, Black MB Tex. "The Red Baron".
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  #9  
Old 08-22-2002, 11:20 PM
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Lots of good thoughts in the previous posts here.

Shortly after buying my SL I came across this website and while surfing through it I read a post by a guy who was clearly clairvoyant. He listed repairs that one should expect to make and I'm proud to report that I've probably made everyone of them and maybe a couple more. ha! Wish I'd bookmarked that post, but I didn't.

I marvel at those who get by on "minimal" expenses with their SL each year. Though I may be getting to the point where most of the major expenses on the refurbishing of my 500SL have been made. It seems--at least from my experience, and others also--that the 90,000-100,000 mile point is where many major expenses on an SL will occur. My most recent was the replacement of the timing chain and tensioner today, which was slightly over $500.00. ($3,500.00 for the double-chain conversion seems awfully high to me though. My guess would be less than $1,000.00.)

Previous to that: fuel pump, fuel accumulator, idle control valve, idle control unit, front calipers and pads, master cylinder, thermostat, tie rods and drag link, overload protection relay, climate control unit, steering box, and a few other things. All-in-all, about $5,000.00 worth of repairs. Many, but not all, were expected.

But this thing runs like the proverbial "top"! I've never driven anything that ran as smoothly and as effortlessly. Maybe one day I'll get up the courage to "let 'er out to run". So, far about 95 MPH is as fast as I've driven it. There's little doubt in my mind that it will do far more than that.

In fact, my mechanic told me that he took a 500SL out on a back road of one of the Air Force bases here shortly after it was brought into the US. Said he had it up to 155 and "...the two lane road was getting awfully narrow..." and he let up on it.

Bottom line: the SL is a terrific car but, as was mentioned, expect to spend some money on them along the way.
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'85 500SL (Euro) - 186,000 w/a complete restoration and engine rebuild at 154,000
'95 C280 - 174,000
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  #10  
Old 08-23-2002, 11:52 PM
Blitzen Bob's Avatar
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timing chain conversion/ was should I buy?

Don, I'm not really sure where you came up with a figure of less than $1000 to do the double row timing chain coversion.
This is a 107 SL, which means to do the conversion you either have to pull the engine and set it on stands, or drop the front suspension and subframe of the car and work from underneath.
To take the timing chest off, you have to remove the oil pan.
A SL has a one piece oil pan, so there are NO short cuts.
This is a job where you want to use MB parts only.
List on the MB parts is right at $1000. Pro MB labor is $100 per hour for the most part, and book time for this job is 26 to 27 hours for a pro. That's how I came up with $3500 for the conversion.

You *could* just replace the single chain and sprockets for around $1000. In my humble opinion this is a HUGE mistake.
I think it is absolutely necessary to convert the single row timing chain on the 380 engine to a double row. Single rows can snap without warning at any time. Even new chains and sprockets will fail catastrophically and suddenly.
On Sedans, you can leave the engine in place to do the conversion, but it will still run around $2500.
If you hear chain rattle on cold start up, TOW the car to a shop for the conversion so as to save an engine rebuild.

A good DIYer, with knowledge, skills and pro type tools could probably do this conversion in around 40 to 50 hours. But time constraints aside, it's one of those jobs best left to a pro.

There were rumors that MB did a brief factory unannounced recall
on the early 380's if the customer complained about the single row. It's said that MB did SOME of these conversions at no cost, under warranty. Why would they do this if the single row was sufficient? Needless to say, this practice was discontinued after a short amount of time. ($$$$)


Regards, Blitzen
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  #11  
Old 08-24-2002, 09:50 AM
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Blitzen,

The reason I conjectured less than $1,000.00 for the timing chain conversion was I didn't realize the engine had to be pulled in order to do it. Obviously, that changes the equation entirely. I was going off the basis of what was done to mine, adding the new sprockets and putting it back together. And you're definitely correct that it's a job for a professional.

I mainly do oil changes, tire swaps, wash, polish, and wax on mine and not much else. To say I'm mechanically challenged is a bit of an understatement. It's nice to be able to tap into the "knowledge tree" these boards provide.

Thanks for straightening me out.
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'85 500SL (Euro) - 186,000 w/a complete restoration and engine rebuild at 154,000
'95 C280 - 174,000
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