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Old 05-09-2003, 07:25 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 7
Smile Bought 1988 300SEL-- your opinion please!

My 1985 280 SE has about 250k miles and the suspension is getting pretty rough and has some body rust and paint peel-off. Besides, it's a gray market car. I was searching for a similar car but is a US-model so its' easy to find parts and mechanic shops.

I came across a pretty good deal this week. I bought a local 1988 300 SEL with 134k miles. It has excellent body and very decent interior. There is no rust. The paint is almost like new. There is only one crack in the leather interior. According the original sticker, it's pearl grey exterior and blue interior. The car has three prior owners. It comes with the maintenance records since new. Most of maintenance was done in MB dealer.

Here are lists of thing I notice:

-- There are some oil droplets in the garage floor (about two quarter size with overnight parking). The leak comes from the front pretty obvious. It may come from other too. I searched this forum. It sounds like I need to reseal the time chain cover if I want to get rid of the leaks.

-- The transmission fluid is little brown darkish instead of pink. I don't have a record of the fluid and filter change. Itís definitely due for that.

-- The transmission doesn't shift as smooth as it should from 2nd gear to 3rd. When I drive to 20 miles, the engine reaches about 2500 RPM and I can feel the hesitation and then it shift to 3rd gear. I hope the filter and fluid change will make it better.

-- The left outside mirror comes off. The previous owner ran it over his mail box. The new mirror is about $300. I guess I can just tape it up for now.

-- I usually need to crank 2 or 3 seconds to start the engine. And there is little bit of noisy. I haven't figured out where it comes from yet. I don't know if a tune-up can help.

-- The power antenna doesn't go down.

These are all the problems I find so far. I have the records until 2001. I don't have a whole lot of records for last two years. The previous owner will dig out more and mail to me. I browsed through the records, the prior owner(s) have replaced water pump, alternator, O2 sensor, ball joint, strut, bearing, spark plugs (several times), fuel filter, belt, blower motor, brake pads and et al. The tires are a year new. In the next several weeks, I will probably have oil/filter change, transmission fluid and filer change, brake fluid change, new spark plugs, maybe new distributor cap and rotor and wire set, and new fuel filter. Anything else you like to recommend?

BTW, I pay $3,500 and I am in Columbus OH. What do you think about the deal? Your opinions and suggestion are welcome.


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Old 05-09-2003, 08:20 PM
Rod Rod is offline
Registered User
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Sunset, Louisiana
Posts: 76
1988 body is best, take it to a MB service for opinion

1998 Land Rover Range Rover 66K Miles
1988 300SE Totaled in 1998, hit by drunk driver, but we walked away OK
1989 420SEL 140,000, just warming up. Total by 18 wheel gas truck rear ended, but refused to lose another MB. Had it repaired cost $10,000+ Great Car again SOLD it for a 2003 C320 to save on gas
1991 2500 Suburban 454, 130,000, Best truck in the world. SOLD it out right.
1952 8N Tractor 1,000,000-/+
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Old 05-09-2003, 08:35 PM
sixto's Avatar
smoke gets in your eyes
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: SF Bay Area
Posts: 20,123
If there are no records of a valve job or head gasket replacement, keep an eye out for oil consumption.

91 300SE
87 300SDL
83 300SD
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Old 05-09-2003, 09:16 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Miami, FL
Posts: 645
Sounds pretty good, really. I would do al that you mentioned, and then check a junkyard for a mirror. It should be pretty obvious what condition a mirror is in, and they won't charge you more than $40 or so, I would imagine,

Open he hood and check for sparks at night. The odds are that a new set of spark plug wires would help with the starting

Good luck.

Check E bay for leather products like leatherique, and check out Thomaspin's site for fixing dfferent things.
Semibodacious Transmogrifications a Specialty

1990 300D 2.5 Turbo sedan 171K (Rudolf)
1985 300D Turbo TD Wagon 219K (Remuda)

"Time flies like and arrow, yet fruit flies like a banana"
---Marx (Groucho)
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Old 05-09-2003, 10:24 PM
This space for sale
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 3,338
Hey Eric.. I have the exact same car and also live in Columbus, Ohio! I like my car.. paid $5000.. but didn't really have to do much repairs. Runs smooth.. goes through maintenance, etc.
$3500 sounds good.
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Old 05-09-2003, 10:30 PM
terminator's Avatar
Registered User
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: NC
Posts: 119
Great car, you will enjoy that Mercedes for years to come. I had one just like that, same color and year. I now have a 1989 300SEL. The M103 is a solid, simple engine, I have seen many with 300k +.


02 C240W 15K
89 300SEL 165K
83 300TD 191K
86 560SEL (SOLD)
88 300SEL (SOLD)
83 380SL (SOLD)
84 300SD (SOLD)
95 E320A (SOLD)
82 240D (SOLD)
83 240D (SOLD)

90 300D 511k
95 C280 133k
14 BMW 528i
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Old 05-09-2003, 10:51 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 563
I've got 145k on mine and the fuel injectors are flaky. It seems to run fine when I've got fuel injector cleaner in the tank, but has a rough idle (in drive) if I don't. I've ordered a new set of injectors et al. and should be replacing them next week.

Lots of threads on rough idles for the M103. I think that's actually a bonus. It seems like there are so many more M103 postings than any other type of engine. Lots of good information out there.
Mike Heath
1988 560SL Black/Palomino
1988 300SEL Black Pearl/Burgandy
1984 500SEC Anthracite Grey/Palomino
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Old 05-09-2003, 11:03 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Long Island, New York
Posts: 79
Good luck with the car eric2003. You will find an abundance of W126 aficionados on this board. Some will consider it the best MB made. Indeed, many service advisors at MB that I've spoken to believe that to be the case.

Anyhow, don't forget about the coolant and here's an often overlooked item, the power steering fluid. May as well.
2004 E320 Wagon
1989 300SE
1998 Range Rover 4.0 SE
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Old 05-10-2003, 02:40 AM
Registered User
Join Date: Dec 2001
Posts: 571
Don't know about the '88, but I love mine.
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Old 05-12-2003, 12:22 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 7
Thanks for all your feedbacks and comments. I will get the car cleaned up and maybe post a picture to the forum.

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