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Old 12-05-2008, 01:04 AM
Registered User
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: South Dakota
Posts: 310
85 380 SE Plusses, minuses??

Need to know the good and the bad--(if any) on this model since I am contemplating one for sale.

Will, of course, run and drive it for any obvious signs of disappointment ---beyond the rust.



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Old 12-05-2008, 07:45 PM
vwnate1's Avatar
Diesel Dandy
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Sunny So. Cal. !
Posts: 5,559
Post W-126 Chassis S Klasse

It's a stormer if it's in good shape and you're going to LOVE it in spite of being a HUGE boat .

Some will tell you that 380's have cam chain failure issues but not the later model ones like you're looking at .

If it has over 200.00 miles , either get a receipt for new cam chains and tensioners or take $1,500.00 off the price unless it's like a $1,000.00 car .

Those charity auction places a LOADED with these fine cars and they're always cheap , especially if there's any cosmetic damage or bad paint .

I prefer the Diesels but then , I like the W-123 chassis cars better too so who knows , if you like it and it passes the " Oil Cap Test " and runs fine , no blue smoke upon startup nor full throttle acelleration , BUY IT
1982 240D stripper 380,000 miles
1984 300CD KEEPER ! 481,XXX miles
1984 Euro 300TD Fully optioned SWMBO's
1974 350SLC 4 speed SOLD & missed
Kooky Kommie Ural Motocycles (3)
BMW Moto R60/6 Barn Find, 8,000miles
1959 VW #113 DeLuxe Beetle, 36hp engine, stock
Junk, Rust, Arthritis, Crushed Spine,Broken Neck, Back & arm, lots of screws, pins & plates .
Memories, Peace Of Mind
facts & reality don't change because you can't handle them
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Old 12-06-2008, 01:01 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: South Dakota
Posts: 310
Thanks for the note re the 380. I have a few other numbers (230 to 450) and I may now know a little bit about the breed since my initiation with 300CD in '92, but I was curious about this local one for somewhat less than 1000, but I can't recall the miles. I didn't think they were over 125M. Body has rust issues & older owner says it ran OK. I like the slanted rear window & the later 126 style. Might be the basis for some reclaimation work and turn into a driver. ( After the cleanup of the 6.9) Smaller v8 should offer a better mileage number but I don't know these things. Typical window issues that I can deal with but I really will look into the motor & trans. for issues---$$$s. Think the interior is OK. That's a plus.

Thanks, again.

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Old 12-06-2008, 01:45 AM
86560SEL's Avatar
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: east Tennessee (southeast USA)
Posts: 3,015
As a previous owner of a 1985 380SE (from 2006-2007), they are excellent cars. Mine had nearly 280K when I sold it. Transmission was original and still shifted like new. It had NO leaks, but I think the engine was getting "tired". I needed injector seals, I think one of the cams was worn, but it still ran great and everything still worked on it!

Like the above poster said, the main thing is to make sure the timing chain, guides, rails and tensioner have all been replaced. This car has the dual chain, which is much better than the 1983 and older 3.8L which has a single chain, but on the 84-85 3.8L, its not the chain thats the issue, but the guides and rails wear out and replacement is critical. If not, get a quote for replacement in your area, then haggle price if necessary. Also, check floors and undercarriage for rust, especially if you live up north. I live in the south and my car was 100% rust free, but I had water getting in the rear floor and trunk because of a bad antenna seal. No rust developed though, as I caught it early and a $3.00 seal stopped the problem. Also check around the rear window for leaks. Also check HVAC controls, windows, locks, etc.

Overall, highly recommended.

Good luck!
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Old 03-08-2009, 11:15 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: South Dakota
Posts: 310
Thanks for the help. Like most of us, we need a little assurance of what we are looking at. older diesels are no problem for me since they are pretty much bullit proof but the later gas models are still a mystery for me.

This one is non-negociable at 1,000.00 and the left side doors have surface rust bubbling along. i'm not worried about that as much as the the mechanicals. Want to know that I am not buying into a deep pit.

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Old 03-09-2009, 08:13 PM
Phoenix, AZ
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 16
Yes I agree with the others. I had to learn about the giude rails the hard way but had I posted here when I first got my 85 380SE would have saved alot of time and $ Mine has 180, 000mi and had all the tell tale signs
of iminent catastrophy. so the first thing I would do is replace the 3 upper guide rails ---if they have even a little brownish color to them replace them. Other than that mine is perfect. I just purchased for my wife a C220 '95 very clean runs perfect and she wants my 380SE (not gonna happen)

Don Tarrow
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Old 03-09-2009, 08:47 PM
86560SEL's Avatar
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: east Tennessee (southeast USA)
Posts: 3,015
To add to my above reply from last year....

I had a 1985 380SE with 276K miles with the original drivetrain. Engine still ran well (occasional stalling on turns, which the MB tech said was leaking injectors), but was starting to get a knock (worn out camshaft)... the original transmission still shifted perfectly, except it would slam into reverse. I also think my timing chain tensioner/guides and rails, etc were wearing out big time. Save for the dash, the interior was still like new and everything worked perfectly. I sold it to a local guy for $650. He was going to paint it and install new timing chain and parts.

I will never forget - one big issue with that car was "scrunching" door panels. The guy that bought it even commented on it. At the time, I did not know that placing velcro strips on the bottoms of the door panels would eliminate it. Oh well. Strange, the car did not have any squeaks or rattles though.
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Old 03-09-2009, 08:56 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Downey, SoCal
Posts: 1,188
If I were you, I would try to find a post-facelift model. (86+) Or better yet an 89+. There are lots of little refinements that aren't immediately noticeable. I wish I would have gotten the newer model over my 87...but oh well.

Current cars:
2000 ML55 AMG, 174k miles
2003 C240 T-Modell, 202k miles
1995 S320, 207k Miles
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