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Old 10-27-2002, 02:48 PM
96C220's Avatar
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Join Date: May 2001
Location: Hamilton, NJ
Posts: 367
Question Purchase advice needed

Grettings all....

I am considering the purchase of a second MB.

The particular car in question is a 1989 420SEL

The car has been owned by a family friend since day one. They have a stack of service receipts that could fill a 3 ring binder.

The exterior of the car is an 8.5 / 10 - Paint is good and still shines. There is a tiny scrape on the front bumper (apparently happened when it was in a parking lot several years ago).

The Interior of the car shows some wear - the leather has no rips or tears, no significant cracking, but looks somewhat faded and feels rough (I doubt it was conditioned much, but the car was garage kept, so it is in 6/10 shape) - With dilligent application of conditioner, the leather should be at least serviceable, but its way beyond the point of looking new. The rear seat is in a lot better shape than the front seats, but that is to be expected.

The center console wood and the retracting cover over the center console, also wood have seen better days, and are cracked and splintered. It's all there, and I'm wondering if it even can be refinished, but it looks beat up now.
There are no dash cracks, and the carpets are clean.

The car has a new trans, new alternator, starter, brakes, as well as a fairly new set of matched Michelin MXV4's.

Car also had a kenwood cd player and 10 disc cd changer in the trunk.

A/C is cold. The car drives well and feels decently tight. Didnt have as much power as I expected - but it's a really heavy car.
Now the bad stuff:

#1 - passenger side rear power window.

It works, goes down ok, but struggles to go up, and basically stops about two inches from closed. They have gotten it to close, and basically advise dont open it, unless you repair it.

#2 - Passenger side front power seat

Some of the adjustements work intermittently. Specifically the raising / lowering of the back. Seat stays in place, and is generally comfortable, just doesnt like to come back up if you lower the back.

#3 High mileage - 242,000 miles - Mostly highway and driven easily, but still present. I'm wondering if its just too many miles, and the car is a time bomb. Can I expect any reasonable level of reliability at these miles? Or am I just going to keep adding to the stack of repair invoices.

The mechanics who inspected the car said that it was in good shape, and had no apparent problems.... except the two aforementioned things. They said it was ok to buy, but I dont want a car with a greatly uncertain near future.

This car will be a temporary solution for me, I am planning on keeping it for 12-18 months at most, at which point I should be in a position to get a much newer car.

Asking price (which is not really subject to negotation, because they have been offered this much for it in trade) is $4000. Its basically a take it or leave it situation.

I would appreciate your thoughts on the matter,

George - new e-mail is

96 C220 - 109k miles
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Old 10-27-2002, 09:10 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Evansville, Indiana
Posts: 8,150
Four grand is about right. After all, nearly everything that usually goes wrong has been fixed already!

For a year or so you can live with the window that won't work and the seat that is slow -- unless someone is adjusting the seat all the time, what's the problem? Pull the console switch for the rear window so it won't get rolled down.

The seat fix may just be a need for lubrication, and the rear window is probably just a need for adjustment, but the motor could be shot, and that gets expensive. Cheap if you can find a U-pull-it salvage yard, though.

The only other thing I would recommend is that you have another shop check the timing chain. Since the owners maintained it, this shouldn't be a problem, check and see when they had it replaced last. This is the real Achilles Heel on this car -- single row timing chain wears out too fast, snaps one of the guides off, and eats the valves. $4000 min. repair bill. Cure is to check stretch all the time and replace when needed.

Nice car for the bucks! A bit underpowered, but nice.

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 10-27-2002, 10:04 PM
Registered User
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Florida
Posts: 1,105
As a point of interest, if the passenger seat either works fine or not at all(when you hit the switch it works great or not at all), then it is the switch. They sell for about $45 for my SD w/out memory, might be more for this car, so figure double at $90(probably way high). You do have to remove the door pannel to fix it though. Also, you can probably find a used wood piece(if you can't, i can give you a number which has them used and will ship) for around $90. As far as the rear window regulator, if your lucky it might only be a $12 dollar slide peice, but it sounds more serious. That could be the most expensive fix, if you actually want to fix it. I hear leatherique makes a great recondition system for leather that you describe, and i beleive can be had for around $65 for the cleaner/conditioner package, and has been said to work miracles(no first hand experiance yet, i want to try it though). All of the problems seem very minor to me, and easy to fix. Sorry i can't help on the engine, but i have read before the bottom ends are very strong, but at that mileage it could be due for a valve job(going off of what i've read on this forum). All the existing problems seem like minor annoyances to me.
83 300SD.......sold
96 integra SE....sold
99 a4 quattro....sold
2001 IS300.......sold
2002 330i.........current.
2004 highlander limited....current.
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Old 10-28-2002, 12:37 AM
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: oregon
Posts: 2,013
I paid $4000 for 86 Euro 500SE with Euro 420 engine ,then put another $1500 in tires, brakes, belts, hose , timing chain and rails plus some front end work.I did all the work except alinement myself.Engine burns no oil and has mucho power especialy in the upper RPM's range. The car is an absolute pleasure to drive and is not slow by any strecth of the imagination .

I would think haveing a new transmission that even if you had to have engine work or put a short or long block in it some where down the road that 4K is a good price for an 89.The 420's all have double row timing chains that needs to be checked and changed if strech exceeds specs if rails are worn and at recommended milage.Even though the 126's had a long run there are fewer of this wonderfull model every year, it will be interesting to see if you trade it after a year or so....
William Rogers.......
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