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Old 09-17-2001, 03:09 PM
Brent Mills
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1989-1991 300SE....Recommendations, concerns, issues???

I am considering the purchase of a 1989-1991 300SE. What things should I be aware of and look for in my search? Would I be better to go with an 420 series and why (besides the obvious power differences)?

Thanks for your help.

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Old 09-17-2001, 05:12 PM
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Pro 420 SEL: Rear seat legroom, slightly better ride due to longer wheelbase, greater engine displacement makes holding speed on long hills easier.

Pro 300 SE: Feels a little more portable around town, slightly easier to park, better gas mileage, much simpler engine architecture.

VERDICT: If you live in the mountains, and / or cart around adults in the back seat on a regular basis, 420 SEL, but you pay a little more for your thrills. Otherwise 300 SE.

I'm assuming the passenger-side airbag was around in '89. If not, you may want to stick with '90-'91's.
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Old 09-17-2001, 07:46 PM
Brent Mills
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Thanks Paul. I think the 300SE would be the best choice for Sherrie and I. She's getting into selling houses, and I figured this would be a very nice car for clients, and provide a great ride for evenings out on the town.

Seems like the SE's are a little harder to find than the 420-560's though, so I might have to search for a while.

Are the 6cyl. engines pretty good? Should we expect more or less longevity than the v8's given proper up keep?
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Old 09-19-2001, 12:47 PM
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Engine Durability

A tough one to answer, given that you are looking at 10+ year-old cars. The quality of previous maintenance and the driving styles of previous owners are more at issue than design idiosyncrasies. However, I would be more comfortable with a 420 SEL or 560 SEL if I knew that the timing chain and timing chain guide rails were changed recently (or if the price of the car was adjusted to allow for the cost of replacement of these parts). These (V8) models have a long timing chain that runs a relatively convoluted path. A worn chain will be loose and could either jump a few teeth on the camshaft drive gears, or slap against the plastic guide rails (which become brittle with age), break the rail and jam a piece of plastic between the chain and other components, breaking the chain. Either event will cause engine valves to open at the wrong time and crash against the pistons. Expensive. While the timing chain on the 300 SE's inline six cylinder should also be replaced as a preventative measure, said chain has a much shorter and less convoluted run and is PROBABLY more durable and cheaper to replace. Dirty oil wears these chains out prematurely.

I'm not trying to frighten you off the V8's, but to give you a heads-up that for either vehicle, a good preventative maintenance regimen, while by no means cheap, is much more economical than doing nothing and waiting for a breakdown.

Last edited by PaulC; 09-20-2001 at 10:38 AM.
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Old 09-19-2001, 11:45 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Queens, NYC
Posts: 158
I'd try to find a 420/560SEL, I've had a few and could never live with a 300SE/SEL. I've been shopping for another 126 for at least 6 months and I don't really see much savings in purchasing a 300SE/SEL rather than a 420SEL or 560SEL, so what's the point? Gas savings?? Maybe when the cars were newer, the V8's commanded a more noticable premium.

Also, I'm pretty sure 300SEL's are rare, most of the 300's produced were 300SE's (I think).
2003 S500 Black/Charcoal
1990 560SEL 61k Arctic White/Grey

1988 420SEL Black/Palomino Sold @ 85k
1987 420SEL Midnight Blue/Grey
1986 420SEL Diamond Blue/Grey
1983 380SEL Champagne/Palomino
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