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Old 12-09-2001, 01:21 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 126
Question W124 vs W126 vs BMW

Hello all,

I'm interested in purchasing 2 cars from Germany. The cars must be 15 years old to the month to comply with regulations. So manufactured December 1986 or older, if I purchase now. I can wait a couple of months if needed to get the right cars.

This is where I need your knowledge and experience to help me make a better decision. In the years of 1985 -1986 -1987, which cars after years of ownership have proven to be the most reliable and cost effective models? I'm not sure if I want a W126 since it's so big, so that is why I'm thinking about the W124. ( I own a W201 now and don't want another one). Is there a difference in quality/reliability in these 2 chasis? The cars that I think I want are 300 CE. First I have to find out when the first ones were made. I thought it was 1986 in Europe , but it may be 1987...does anyone know?
The engine in these cars in those years is the 103.983 I believe, and how has this engine held up? How does it compare to the V8 in any of the W126's?
The other thing is that I found some cars that are from 1986 that have less than 100,000km on them. How can one tell if the mileage is original? Are there certain things to look for that are a dead giveaway with mileage on these cars?
The only other thing is what mechanical differences are there between the Euro versus North American cars in those years

Thanks in Advance

What about an e32 735i BMW ? Does that compare to these cars?

Last edited by philipminion; 12-09-2001 at 01:34 PM.
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Old 12-09-2001, 02:59 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Evansville, Indiana
Posts: 8,150
Other than size, the main difference is the rear suspension -- the W126 uses the MB semitrailing control arm rear end, and the W124 uses a multi-link rear end. The W124 is a newer design by about 5 years, but is otherwise very similar. The use the same climate controls, etc.

The 126 sedans are considered by many to be the best MB every built -- very reliable, by and large (350 SD/SDL aside -- engine trouble!), plenty of power, very good ride, a great pleasure to drive. The 124s are lighter and peppier, don't have quite the ride quality, but are otherwise reliable and troublefree, at least as MB's go. High maintenance, but that is a European car thing.

I suppose it depends on what you want -- both are fine. The 126 retains value a bit better, but the large coupes are big relative to the 124 coupes.

1972 220D ?? miles
1988 300E 200,012
1987 300D Turbo killed 9/25/07, 275,000 miles
1985 Volvo 740 GLE Turobodiesel 218,000
1972 280 SE 4.5 165, 000 - It runs!
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Old 12-09-2001, 05:54 PM
Posts: n/a
I had a chance to drive a '94 E320 for a few days down in Texas and liked it. It was peppy, tight (I think car had only 70k miles) and handled well. I thougth it was a bit louder than my 560SEL, but not dramatic. It wasn't as mooshy as my 560 and took the corners better -- (naturally).

The 560 is dead quiet at idle and sometimes I think the motor has died! Besides the annoying rocker arm racket, I don't have many complaints.

Performance wise 0-60 and 1/4 miles are prob similiar (7.5 sec and 15.5 secs respectively), but the bigger W126 isolates you more so you have to watch yourself if you have a lead-foot.

Well, back to wife's dinner party... I got to escape for a few mins.
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Old 12-09-2001, 09:52 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Queens, NYC
Posts: 158
Easiest way to compare/contrast:

W124 - "Fits like a glove" - Handles very well, Sportier
W126 - "King of the Road" - The ultimate highway car, Better ride quality, more room in the rear seat (if its a long wheel base, that is, otherwise its about the same)

Keep in mind, If you buy a 126, you have to be able to get used to driving a very large car. You better test drive one first.

One last note - price seems to be very similar, even though the 126's were considerably more when new.
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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Old 12-10-2001, 12:04 AM
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Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Cremona, Alta, Canada
Posts: 263
126 hands down. Best built, best ride, classiest Benz every built.
82 300SD 110k
91 Caprice SS
92 Jetta TD
97 Cadillac Concours(300hp)
84 Celebrity 4.3L diesel
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Old 12-10-2001, 01:40 AM
Posts: n/a
Smile 124/126/240D!

I've been reading 3 www forums re: MB model before purchasing '88 420 SEL 3 weeks ago. Despite $700 at local European repair shop (timing chain/guides/valve cover gasket,) I can not be HAPPIER with my 420 than ever!

Smoooooth ride.
Quiet (sh!)
Affordable (what's $8,000 for a QUALITY MB machine?)
Strong acceleration.
CLASSY looks!

I've sold realestate for 3 years in a 240D - clients often said, "Nice car - What is it?" and were amazed it was an 18 year old car.

The 420? Well, people think I make a lot of money now!

Older is better, on a cost-basis, IMHO.

Mark Brown, Bellingham, WA
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Old 12-10-2001, 03:42 AM
Johnson Chan
Posts: n/a
Well, I drive like a manic sometimes, and what i like about the 124 is its size and manuverbility.

126 are very good, but if you need to squeeze into tight spaces at high speeds, then its not my choice. Its like giving a sniper a shotgun.

124 are newer designs compare to 126. but a later model 126 has more bugs worked out compared to a earlier 124.

Personally i like those newer or sportier looks. my 124 has clear blinkers, euro lights, s600 grille, etc. that makes it look sportier and more aggressive compared to a 126.

This is a opinionated question and i dont think there is a right answer, it just depends what you like and what your objectives are.

I like only one BMW, thats the 7 series. i just like the looks though. i have heard they are not reliable and have electrical problems. no offense to any bmw owner or afficianado, but in most peoples opinion a bmw is a step below a benz when it comes to class, presistge etc.
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Old 12-10-2001, 09:39 AM
ymsin's Avatar
Driver, Mercedes-Benz
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Malaysia
Posts: 1,645
There are a 1,000 reasons to get a 24, but a 1001 to get a 126 fo the added space.
... Kerry

126 tailed by a 203, 129 leading the pack.
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Old 12-10-2001, 10:41 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 709
if the car has to be an 86 or older...I would personally go with the 124......handles better,more safety options...just a more modern car...and if you have to make repairs I think the 124 will serve you better...and because of the weight you will notice far lesser front end and tire issues....and the 124 is a joy to drive...probably a perfect balance between taunt handling and a smooth ride

1992 300SD 129K
Columbus Ohio
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Old 12-10-2001, 01:58 PM
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smoke gets in your eyes
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: SF Bay Area
Posts: 20,114
Where are you that it makes sense to bring cars in from Germany? If you're in the US or Canada, there are tons of reasonably priced W124s and W126s in good condition. The only reason to import a car is to get options that were rare or unavailable (real power, smaller engine, MT, no ACC, tex or fabric, hubcaps, etc.). I get the impression that it's more difficult to find a car that was babied or has a maintenance pedigree.

Let me know if a 230TE or 250TDt can be imported. Does a 250TDt even exist?

Rich, I have 3 car seats that fit in a 126 that won't fit in a 124. Between me at 5'7" and my wife at 5'3", it should hold us for a while

91 300SE
81 300SD
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Old 12-10-2001, 02:04 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 126
Thanks everyone for all your help. Your imput is very valuable to me and has been a great help . I think I'll have to buy one of each

I think I'll be considering a W124 coupe ( 300 ce) and/or possibly a 560 sel. I know they are 2 different cars but they are priced comparably in the used market and I will be looking for availability and only excellent working examples will be considered.

Does anyone have any comments about the mechanical reliability of both these engines the 103.983 of the 300 ce and the 117.968 of the 560 sel ? I hope there aren't much differences between the Euro and North American versions for the sake of replacement parts.

Thanks again everyone

Last edited by philipminion; 12-10-2001 at 10:08 PM.
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Old 12-10-2001, 02:10 PM
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Have you considered a 560 SEC? Now that's a nice coupe! If I had the space and extra $$, one would be in my garage.

Both engines are reliable. I don't know much about the 6-cyl., the V8s are are great, timing chain should be checked for slack at 100k miles, same with the plastic guide rails which can get brittle.
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Old 12-10-2001, 02:18 PM
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smoke gets in your eyes
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: SF Bay Area
Posts: 20,114
What would concern me is that 103.983 and 117.968 were new 15 years ago. I'd rather have a 90-91 version of either engine. But since the 103 will likely need a valve job and the 117 will likely need a new timing chain train then maybe it's a needless concern.

SEC... now that's the ticket.

91 300SE
81 300SD
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Old 12-10-2001, 02:32 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 126
To sixto

I want to import a car or two for the sake of doing it. Who knows maybe I may do it for more often for fun and turn a small profit out of it. I do agree with the fact if I were importing a model that wasn't available in North America or an Alpina or something rare, then it's a little more understandable.

I do realize that there are tons of w124s and w126s reasonably priced, but the the condition is a topic on its own. I know the money I've spent on my W201 is more than most would, and in the end, it still needs more work and if I want to sell it, I'll only get about 30 % of what I invested into it on a good day. So, I won't sell it for that reason and I'm embarassed to say how much I'm into it for. One thing leads to another and then one day you realize you're in too deep.

The cars that I have found for sale here seem to have rust and many rust related problems. By the way, I'm in Canada. Also, I find that people around here think that a Benz is a car you buy and don't have to maintain, because it is a Benz, you just drive it. That is my experience here. You can see W126s driving around with no shocks because they don't want to but new shocks, etc... Rust caused most of my misery with my W201. Any car that goes through our winters and all the salt must be undercoated annually otherwise be prepared to spend more $$. ( That is my opinion and experience) Anyone who had a great working car that has been pampered doesn't want to sell it anyway.

Also, no offence anyone, but in Germany they have very strict inspections on their cars considering that some of these people drive on the Auto Bahn at speeds in excess of 130 m/h , so the cars have to be in tip top condition, and also I find that people there generaly take better care of their cars. Parts for these cars are also cheaper there, which helps too.

The reason I know this is because I've owned Euro cars that were purchase from Germany before when I lived overseas, so I'm speaking from experience.

Last edited by philipminion; 01-18-2002 at 11:00 PM.
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Old 12-10-2001, 02:48 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 126
To: sixto

I thought that the engine in the W126 the 117.968 was the same from 1986- 1991. Are they different? And I thought the engine in the w124 the 103.983 was the same from 1986- 1992 .
So what differnce is there in the engines from 1986 and 1991 for example?

Thanks in advance
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