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Old 05-21-2003, 04:14 PM
86560SEL's Avatar
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: east Tennessee (southeast USA)
Posts: 2,989
1983 Mercedes 380SEL info needed

Hello. I have located another Mercedes I am considering, as the local diesel was sold. I have located a 1983 380SEL (large sedan) with 109K in the $2000-$2500 range. Car is in excellent shape except clock and tach are not working. Are the early 80s 3.8 V8s good engines? KBB shows the private party value of this car to only be $1700 in good condition, so even $2K is over KBB book value, as a private party is selling it. What is the maximum I should pay for this car? Any advice appreciated.
1993 Mercedes 400SEL 4dr
2012 Honda Civic LX 4dr
1972 Chevrolet Caprice Kingswood Estate 9-passenger wagon
1973 Pontiac Grand Ville 4-dr hardtop sedan
1988 Mercedes 300SEL (was mine, now mothers)

Last edited by 86560SEL; 05-21-2003 at 05:12 PM.
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Old 05-21-2003, 05:30 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 97
I have an 85 380SE. It's a good car - a little slow off the line - but it rides great on the highway and has all the toys you'll need. The pre-1984 cars had a single-row timing chain that should have changed under warranty to a double-row. If it hasn't been changed, it needs to be or the old one might snap and detonate the engine. If the car has the books, it should indicate. As far as price, you really can't go by the book value. If the car has been maintained and looks good, it could be worth $4000-$5000 as a private party sale. Make sure the a/c works properly.
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Old 05-21-2003, 08:34 PM
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You will rue this day...
Join Date: May 2003
Location: NW Arkansas
Posts: 732
I have a 1983 380 sel...

and I love it. Just dont rip the mufflers off of it on a dirt road, and you will be happy as a clam. Here in NW Arkansas, I paid $3888, and everything worked at the time. It was in pristene condition, as everyone who had owned it had MD or PhD in their name . $2500 is a steal. Go to and price it there. Then go to their antique section. Mine lists for $4-7k regular and $13-17k in their antique section, @ 197k miles.

Things to watch out for:

A/C dying. Mine did, but its an electrical prob, and the compressor is peachy for now (crosses fingers).

Back glass. ALL w126's have a prob with it, where it separates and forms a white cloud between the layers. The rear defrost dies in those areas, and one day the entire glass will shatter when the separation gets bad enough.

Rheostat (light dimmer for guages) kinda gets touchy. Mine will have to be adjusted Juuuuussst right to work correctly when I reset the tripometer.

BTW, dont pay attention to the "slow off the line" stuff. A week after I bought it, I left this 97 Honda Accord 4-door eating my dust and only got halfway through 2nd gear (someone pulled out infront of me. Bastard.) I was only taking it to 4000rpm, instead of its 5500 redline, which is almost recommended depending on what forums you read.

If you dont get it, let the forum know. I might even want it for parts.

Happy Benzing.
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Old 05-21-2003, 08:53 PM
sixto's Avatar
smoke gets in your eyes
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: SF Bay Area
Posts: 18,745
Originally posted by jackmac
The pre-1984 cars had a single-row timing chain that should have changed under warranty to a double-row.
You're probably in for a challenge presenting a dealership with a 20 year old car and suggesting that something that works needs to be replaced under warranty.

91 300SE
87 300SDL
83 300SD
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Old 06-09-2003, 07:33 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2002
Posts: 21
I have a 1983 380 SEL, the timing chain was changed by the PO years ago and he told me that MB will not consider that a warranty job. The deadline for that passed many years ago when MB realized that the single row chain was a mistake. The change to a double row is a modification which involves a lot more than just a new chain. The cost at an independent MB shop is around $2,500 ++ (the parts alone are $1,000).

Scotty P.
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Old 06-10-2003, 09:55 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 97
I didn't mean to lead you to believe that it would still be changed under warranty. It was a warranty item back when the cars were fairly new. Now you're on your own - that's why I suggested making sure it was done years ago.
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