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Old 03-28-2002, 09:39 PM
Snowman's Avatar
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Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Chicago,IL
Posts: 230
Lightbulb Need advice with 500SEL?

Alright guys I need some advice and please be very honest. I made the biggest mistake of getting an old Benz that was not well cared for. I got it for free so I figured that I was on the winning end. BTW it was a family friend who didn't want it anymore, had 2 other benzes.
Anyway so far I have put about $3400 in my 1985 500SEL. This includes many things both mechanical and for the exterior. I failed the emissions test so this is where most of the repairs started. I had the mechanic give a once over on the car and tell me what I needed. Ended up that I needed about $2500 including labor. Well I payed it and failed the test again.
I gave it back to my mechanic who looked over and found that the catalytic converter was hollowed out by the previous owner a long time ago. That was why I kept constantly failing the tests. Well most of the exhaust was welded and I don't think any of it is OEM anymore so I would have to get a full exhaust system. This would be about $1200 he told me.
My question is what should I do? I have put so much money in this car already. It still has things that worry me. There is some rust that has gone through the fender. There are also various rust points on 3 of the doors. The trunk smells musty and looks like it has been rained in. Also the interior is not too pleasant. The leather is ripped and faded on both of the front seats. Some of the wood needs replacing. Also the AC doesn't work. It only blows hot air.
As you can see this car would need more than $1200 to get back to new condition. I know that overall the money I put in the car is worth more than the KBB value but I am wary of donating the car because I already put $3400 in it. (That includes 4 new tires.)
The car has 124000 miles on it. If I do put the money for the new exhaust and cat what other repairs can I expect down the road and how much would they cost?
Your advice and opinions are always appreciated, thanks ahead of time.
1985 500SEL 124k miles
2001 Honda Civic EX

Last edited by Snowman; 03-29-2002 at 12:54 AM.
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Old 03-29-2002, 09:24 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Atlanta Ga
Posts: 281
Sorry to hear about that BUT on the other hand, the car was FREE It depends on how you look at it and what YOU really want to do. If the car runs well you don't neccessarily have to replace the WHOLE exhaust, all you have to do is have another cat installed. I live in Atlanta and Chicago so I can definately relate to the rust issues you may have there but again, this was a free car. I remember getting a "free" car from my mom (72 Grand Prix that's STILL in Chicago) when she was about to buy a new one (not to mention the motor was shot to hell) but me being a high school student just saw it as my first car, period.

I didn't have the $$ to do all of the repairs right then and there but gradually got her back together including rust repairs, interior, etc because I already visioned the finished car before it actually was. Just look at this car as a "project" if you will and if you decide that you'd like to take it on, YOU have to envision where you intend to take this car. There is a plethora of information that this forum's members can provide you as far as parts, advice,etc but the ultimate decision is yours.

If you decide to keep her, I would definately make sure she's running perfectly way before I'd worry about how she looks because ultimately it will be your cruiser. The 126 is one of the most classic Benzes but as you found out, with anything, if its not taken care of, it can be a b-tch! I don't know if you're a do-it-yourself-er, but the engines are one of the most user-friendly as far as engine work you may do yourself. I'd get another cat first (keep it simple for now to pass emmissions), Get your timing chain, guides, etc changed because I'm almost positive the previous owner didn't have this done and that is usually the only problem that can cause engine failure (because the guide rails are plastic and become brittle and can break in time, NOT that the chain fails).

You can then do the regular changes of the plugs (not platinums, but copper) wires, cap, rotor. I know where you can even get replacement fenders for ya if you decide to go that route in the future. Go with some seat covers (such as classy sheep skins) until you can get the seats repaired. I don't know if you had it checked out, but get the whole A/C checked for leaks,etc. (the person who I got one of my 560's from said the A/C was shot and all I've done was add the freon and she's blown ice cold for over a year). What plans if any did you even have for the car? If you were even wanting to sell it, I'm sure that one of my buds at home would buy it from you (but I can gaurantee that you'd be REEALLLY pissed off after you saw the finished product about 6 months later-- just ask the guy I got my 88 560 from!)

Good Luck

1997 E320
1986 560SEL
1983 300SD
1972 220D
1970 250C SOLD
1971 250C SOLD
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Old 03-29-2002, 11:55 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 223
As I understand the numbers, you have $3,400 in the car and are looking at another $1,200 just to pass inspection (tho this might be lessened if you can only do an after-market cat) -- at that point you will be in for $4,600 and still have the a/c [a notable weak point in M-B's of this vintage], rust, interior, trunk leak, timing chain, etc. to deal with -- you can easily get up to another $3,000 (esp if you need to redo the front end suspension) to get everything mechanically OK without tackling the minor rust points. You'll then have an $8,000 17-year old car with 130,00 miles which will still be cosmetically challenged, assuming that you have dealt with all the mechanical issues.

There are likely other items which will come due soon, such as renewal of the radiator (plastic and good for 100,000 miles or so), and a valve job probably will come due in the 150,000 - 170,000 range. While an older Mercedes is a lot of car for the money (they really aren't building them to the old battleship standards any more) and will give good service when other cars have gone to the graveyard, there is a price to be paid at this kind of mileage even if the regular maintenance has been done.

For comparison, I have put over $7,000 into a '88 420SEL (see 126 Lower Control Arm is cracked --) on top of the purchase price for a solid, Southern rust-free grandparent's car with only 75,000 miles. It's now a great car, esp for road use, but I won't get out of it what I've put into it unless I end up keeping it and driving out the investment.

Unless you really want/need the size and S-class features (the long-wheelbase 126 is a great model, but it is a leviathan) and can justify the expenditure, you might be better off cutting your losses, selling the car for what you have in it (or a little more in light of the "free" equity) to someone who's willing to take on the project and then getting a smaller car (like a late 190E or a 300E if you like the old M-B build quailty) in better shape for the $8,000 you'd be spending.
'98 C43 AMG
'88 420SEL
'93 190E Limited Edition (including factory Sportline package)
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Old 03-29-2002, 01:13 PM
Snowman's Avatar
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Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Chicago,IL
Posts: 230
Thanks for the advice guys. I have until May which is when the emissions people want the car to pass the test by. The timing chain was already replaced in the $2500 repair because it was loose a little. I try to be a DIY guy but my surroundings don't really permit me to do such. (I live in the city so I can't really raise the car anywhere).
The reason the mechanic suggested replacing the whole exhaust was that I think none was OEM. The muffler was some universal so he said that it would be better just replacing the whole thing. I was thinking of going with a Timevalve exhaust while I'm at it but am still not sure.
Well I will keep you guys updated if I do decide to sell it or keep it. I have to find out if extended time period to do the repairs from the emissions people.
1985 500SEL 124k miles
2001 Honda Civic EX
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