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Old 06-05-2006, 03:04 AM
michaeld's Avatar
German dogs prefer Benzes
Join Date: Oct 2005
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Originally Posted by Dan Rotigel
If your mind is already made up, why ask the question in the first place?

Nobody would argue that the time of highest reliability for benz was anywhere but in the late 60's and early 70's. In the march towards performance (speed, weight, mpg, do-dads) there is no doubt that mercedes has become less reliable-the sheer number of subsystems makes this a statistical argument. At the same time, it is remarkable what sort of performance they have achieved. As it happens, the 0-60 times and top speed of my little 2.3 liter and the 6.9 are apparently identical*. Except my car is doing far more with far less displacement...doing more with less is a facet of performance i think.

You are indeed debating performance, but you just assume its a bad thing because of personal bias. Don't blame benz for taking a design philosophy (performance over reliability) in the 80's, 90's and 00's that you disagree with from personal preference.

A discussion of what is benz's 'best era' should concern to what extent they achieved what they set out to do. Anything else is just an exposure of of bias.
You bring up a number of very good points which demand my response (being directed toward me and all ).

First of all, I need to point out that I am NOT talking about performance; I am discussing what period qualifies as Mercedes' best era. While "best era" undoubtably includes performance, I believe that it must encompass the entire range of the automotive experience: performance, durability, reliability, build quality, quality of materials, fuel economy, safety/crash worthiness, and even more subjective things such as value and loyalty. I'm sure there are other qualities which I am missing.

The truly subjective element is how one ranks these more-or-less objective qualities. How you rate one amongst the others clearly and obviously determines which cars will be better than others, but I don't see how it in any determines which era is the "finest era."

Furthermore, I am only asking a question, and showing a willingness to engage in some debate with the various responders. It's not my forum, naturally, and everyone has an equal right to their own opinion. I very much enjoy posts representing various perspectives. I find that even if I don't agree with someone's contribution, I usually benefit from the reading and interaction. So, yeah, I can have "my mind made up," and still enjoy the heck out of the discussion! You guys are a great bunch who have well-informed beliefs and opinions.

Now, you made a comment - "Nobody would argue that the time of highest reliability for benz was anywhere but in the late 60's and early 70's" - which may or may not be correct. I would be surprised if every Benz owner (even every knowledgable Benz owner) universally agreed with that. What I'm looking to find is good reasons supporting that position. Or reasons arguing against that position. Or even arguments that other eras were better for different reasons! [BTW, I've come to believe that you are right in your claim that 60's and early 70's were the heydey for reliability].

I DON'T have a bias against performance, or believe that performance is a bad thing that should be stopped at all costs! Rather, I don't want to trade 10-20 years off a car's life just to go faster (and why are you in such a flaming hurry, anyway?!). I have a bias against performance for the sake of performance that results in (what I feel is) an unhealthy imbalance of ALL the other qualities.

I wholeheartedly embrace your last comment, "A discussion of what is benz's 'best era' should concern to what extent they achieved what they set out to do. Anything else is just an exposure of of bias." THAT was really what was on my mind when I started this thread. In fact, if you go to another thread I wrote (something like, "Let's talk about engines"), I use very similar language: MBz made different engines for different purposes. And they made the different cars that those engines went in for different purposes. You are so very right: any discussion about which car is best or which era is best depends on which qualities are most important; but I still think it is a discussion worth having.

BUT... I would also have to ask, did MBz really decide to throw reliability and durability out the window and focus solely on performance? Was that (ever) what they set out to do? I have a feeling that any MBz employee who said that would soon be looking for work! I think MBz has ALWAYS sought to claim the mantle of "the car that's built to last." You introduce a very interesting potential discussion as to whether MBz philosophy has changed from what to what, and from when to when).

I have to agree with you: Mercedes-Benz makes the best cars ever TODAY if you are talking soley about performance. 600 horsepower today!!! I can't even imagine that!!! [Interestingly, the US smog regs of the 70's led to this, as engineers were pushed to develop increasingly energy efficient cars that were subsequently able to do more and more with less and less]. But I don't consider it bias to ask where these cars will be in 15 years, when the coming series of multi-thousand $ turns them into increasingly expensive and unjustifiable propositions.

In any event, this thread isn't about me or my opinions - whether I started it or not. Rather, it is about each contributor with each new post, expressing a unique perspective (your own included!!!). And you are 100% correct; the best posts will describe what era each member thinks is best, and why they think it is best. They will tell us what their "biases" (though I prefer the term "perspectives") are and argue from there.

So far, I am enjoying reading every post!

P.S. Dana, I looked at your new pic. I will stand corrected about BMWs and cruiser bikes. That BMW 1200 WAS a cruiser (or at least BMW's intro into the cruiser market). It was a sweet bike. But it was dramatically under-sized in today's terms. Triumph's Rocket III has a 2300cc engine; and all the Japanese makes offer bikes of at least 1800cc. Poor HD - which started the crusier genre - has become "outclassed" in its own category! These Japanese (and Brit, w/ Triumph) cruiser bikes have huge, high torque engines and a LOT of curb weight. The weight - according to the sales folk - is intended to improve the smoothness and steadiness of the ride (lighter bikes are buffeted by wind, passing traffic, etc.).

Love driving my '77 450 SEL!
124,000 miles

Last edited by michaeld; 06-05-2006 at 03:22 AM.
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Old 06-05-2006, 11:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Dan Rotigel
Benz Engineers have traded reliability for performance (speed, lower cost per vehicle, more functions, better mpg) in most design decisions made over the last 30 years. Both are elements of 'quality,' and figure into your definition of 'best.'

The final iteration of reliability vs. performance is the SLR. Repairing carbon fiber is either impossible or ridiculously expensive and the material itself is prone to many problems that steel doesn't have. Performance wise, mercedes are creeping closer to 10/10ths (like the ferrari) at the expense of reliability.

Michael, if your concept of quality is simply what is reliable and comfortable (70's mercedes), you are limiting yourself. And your choices in cars . I rather like the concept of a Ferrari. Can you have a NA output of 100hp per liter? Sure, but the engine eats itself alive and only lasts 50k miles before a complete rebuild. Its a design decision and calling that sort of performance good or bad only shows your own bias.

Please, don't drag out the 6.9 as an argument for performance in the 70's -it doesn't fly. I see a euro-tune 6.9 has 286hp, an output of about 41hp per liter. Rather quaint when compared to the '85 2.3-16v ( 2.3 liters, 185hp) at 80hp/liter or the slr (626hp, 5.5 liters) at 114 hp/liter.

Again, you are putting undue limits on your experience if you value reliability and comfort above all.

dan r.

ps. Perhaps this will act as a koan:
I read a review of a early 70s volvo that said "This thing is built like a tank and will last forever. But who would want to drive a tank forever?"
Dan Rotigel's post kind of illustrates my point about quality cars for smart people vs luxury cars for rich people. Mercedes made their reputation by building high-quality, durable cars that, given decent care, might be expected to 'last forever'. And not all Mercedes owners were, or are, multi-millionaires that can afford to trade reliability for the thrill of maintaining a Ferrari or an SLR.

As for my choice of '50s or '60s Mercedes, I didn't mean to slam the later cars. It's just that, by the mid '70s, Mercedes, as well as most other marques, suffered from the effects of Federal safety and emissions regulations (thermal reactors, lower compression, bigger bumpers), as well as the effects of dollar devaluations that made German cars and other imported goods prohibitively expensive in the US.
And as Mercedes became more 'cutting edge' in terms of safety and chassis engineering, they lost something of the old-world craftsmanship and coachwork. And the simplicity of the older cars also dissappeared as Mercedes added frills and gadgets (ACC, power windows, cruise control) to better compete with American luxury cars. However, until their newer models came out in the mid-80s, (and with the exception of the single-row chain V8) Mercedes still maintained their reputation of making overbuilt, durable cars with the W116, W123 and W126 models.

Happy Motoring, Mark
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Old 06-07-2006, 12:13 AM
michaeld's Avatar
German dogs prefer Benzes
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Location: Palm Springs, CA
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I basically agree with everything you said - to a point. The difference is that I think more highly of the late 70's cars than you do.

There is NO question that engine performance (here I tip my hat to Dan ) suffered in all cars as a result of the US 1970 Clean Air Act. The 1973 oil embargo was another atom bomb for a reeling car industry. The US 5 mph bumpers are clearly less attractive than the Euro bumpers of the same period. And on top of all that, Mercedes-Benz found itself additionally challenged by currency issues that made their cars more expensive relative to US dollars.

And yes, I dare say that Stuttgart was realizing where it's high end "luxury" sales were coming from during this period, and began building features for the wealthier American market segment (power windows, power doorlocks, and the now infamous ACC system).

I agree that all of the above is true.

But I DON'T think that Mercedes-Benz "old world" quality simply ceased to exist in 1974 (nor, apparently, does Mark). Rather, I think one can see the beginnings of a trend that began to "stretch" the elastic nature of that "old world" quality commitment. It got stretched more and more, until (IMHO) it snapped altogether. Over the last decade, fewer and fewer Benzes even bear the label, "Made in Germany."

But in the mid-70's, Stuttgart was still the place where engineers - and not marketers - dictated how cars were made. And I dare say that MBz ALWAYS loved it's hi-tech gadget frills (such as the air suspension on the 300SEL 6.3s).

How do I respond to defend my own claim - given what I've acknowledged about the 70's - that the w116s deserve a LOT more credit than they get?
1) Because MBz desired to maintain a certain level of MBz performance in spite of the smog laws, they increased the volume of the 3.5L engines to create the M117 4.5L. The final product was slightly reduced in hp - due to running a hp-robbing smog pump - but it had more torque. The M117 engine and the 722.0 tranny are virtually industructible. According to the book, Mercedes-Benz: the first hundred years, the post smog engines managed to keep up, saying, "But they were hardly slow: the US 450SE could cruise at 120 mph with 10 mph in reserve, and the traditional 0-60 sprint took about 10 seconds" (p 223). I know that other cars are faster, but that really is more than enough for me.
2) I am personally glad that the compression is higher than the earlier 8:1, because it enables me to run just peachy dandy on 87 octane.
3) I wrote a post on another forum ( titled, "How to make your US 5mph bumper more beautiful than a Euro bumper" after putting my car into reverse and slamming into a concrete pole. I LOVE my 5 mph bumpers. Anything else would not have been adequate to protect my car. As it was (amazingly! there was no damage at ALL). Euro bumper lovers can and will sneer at us poor 5 mph slobs - until a fender bender. Recently a fellow w116 member wrote a post "How to make a Euro bumper uglier than a US 5 mph bumper" following a minor accident. I'll keep my bumper, thank you!
4) I believe that the anti-squat rear end w/ its semi-trailing arm, and the zero offset anti-dive front end wishbone suspension can only be described as massive improvements that have set the stage for modern suspensions and at the same time have performed and endured extremely well.
5) As for the power windows, vacuum doorlocks, and dreaded ACC, what can I do but hang my head in shame? These are the things that go out most in these cars, aren't they? I myself HATE the vacuum locks. I worry over my tempermental ACC. But fortunately, recent aftermarketers have largely freed us of the ACC curse, by providing reasonably-priced alternative systems that have all the marvelous benefits of the ACC without the $$$ headaches. As for cruise control, I LOVE my cruise control!
6) I've seen enough older Benzes to know that - aside from the 600s (which are simply magnificent) - my 77 450SEL doesn't give up a whole lot in terms of build quality OR coachwork. I love my wood and my leather. There's a small bit more wood in some of the older models, but we're talking shades of a degree here. And when I shut the doors, I hear the same bank-vault-door sound that I've heard in 108s.
7) One of the indisputable facts about a comparison between 108s/109s and 116s is that there are a LOT more 116s in good condition, and they are cheaper to buy. Bad for a collector; AWESOME for a buyer/driver.
8) the 70s w116s have the classic look of the previous Benzes, and yet a modern styling that prevents them from looking "old."
9) The K-Jet injection. Carburetion kills cars by sloshing gas (a solvent) over the cylinder walls. And the K-Jet is simpler and more easily serviced than the earlier L-Jet.
10) In claiming one era is "best" for classic cars, I believe we are looking for that era which preserves the best of the old while introducing the best of the new. And I believe the w116s are serious contenders for the title given this parameter.

Let me provide some quotes about my beloved 450SE/SELs.

"Any complaints one has with the concept must be weighted against the overall package and the design intent. Mercedes engineers set out to make precisely the car they designed with virtually no expense spared. You probably think that's what all manufacturers do, but there's many a change between drawing board and release day. the 450SE is a car of little comprimise" ("Mercedes Benz 450SE: sophisticated excellence," Modern Motor, June 1975).

"The w116 structure was the latest development of D-B's patented "rigid passenger cell/deformable extremity" construction... their w116 is a really substantive attack on the problem of automotive safety. I consider the w116 the best combination of active (accident avoiding) and passive (protection in a crash) safety yet devised for a production car" (Mercedes-Benz: the first hundred years, pp 223-224).

"One of the most popular Mercedes of recent years in the US, the 450SEL of 1973-1980 was termed the best sedan in the world" (ibid, 199).

MBz: the first hundred years quotes Road & Track as saying, "For 10/10 driving, a 911 Porsche or a Maserati Bora will corner faster. But in exchange for their ultimate cornering ability one must accept nercous, twitchy behavior at speed on all but the smoothest of surfaces... As a roadgoing sedan the 450 has no equal. It require a rethink of usual driving habits. That dip at the end of the block where all mortal cars bottom? Forget it. That chatter-bump curve where most rear ends break loose? It's gone. That bump you always slow down and brace yourself for? It never happens... the truth will come out, so here it is: The Mercedes 450SE is the best sedan in the world" (ibid, 224)

Continuing right from the above sentence, the book goes on: "And notwithstanding the latest w126 models, there are a good many people who still agree with that assessment. Summarized Graham Robson: "Everything known about safety engineering, and 70 accumulated years of passenger car experience by D-B, went into these S-class sedans. They were so quiet and refined, so roadworthy, so fast and - as experience proved - so very reliable that it was going to be difficult to make dramatic improvements when the time came to replace them" (ibid, 224).

Now a couple quotes re: the engine and tranny of these 70's V8s.

"But beyond these attributes, most of these 1972-1989 V-8-powered SLs have engines that are just about unburstable.
"I've driven a number of early 4.5-liter SLs with 750,000 or more on their engines," said Rugg. "At a million miles they get a little edgy". That may be stretching things just a bit, according to Cunha and Marx. But both agree the iron-block V-8s are exceptionally long-lived. "Around 350,000 before a bottom-end overhaul isn’t unrealistic," said Cunha. "The top end is often good for 180,000-240,000 miles." And from Marx, "I have some customers with at least 300,000 miles on their cars and the engines haven't even needed valve jobs" ("MERCEDES-BENZ 350 / 450 / 380 / 560 SLs: Status-symbol bargains for the not-so rich and famous," by PETER BOHR).

"Despite V8 power this big 'Benz is more a cruiser than a rocketship. Acceleration is languid until 1700-plus kilograms gets fully into stride as this is a car that thrives on wide open spaces and steep climbs... Cars that haven't enjoyed a recent transmission overhaul are likely to be a little sluggish but manual shifting through the unique gate compensates for tardy kickdown and when worked hard the 'Benz auto shows why it was regarded as the best of its time" ("Class Distinction, buyers guide," Unique Cars, Sep 1999).

It's a measure of the W116's strength that, despite it complexity, relatively little goes seriously wrong with it mechanically. That's not to say that it will never break, or that serious problems won't cost big money to fix, but we're not talking XJ12's, or ageing DBS V8s here" ("Guten Price Tag: An S-Class Mercedes is the luxury bargain of the century," Your Classic, March 1994).

Why did I go to all this trouble? Because I'm a long-winded son-of-a-gun, yes . But mainly because 70's cars seem to get no respect at all. And the 70s Benzes deserve respect. They were, and are, outstanding cars. People think of 70's cars and think only of smog regs, detuned engines, and big bumpers. Yeah, the w116s had all those things, but I believe I've shown they are nevertheless magnificent cars in their own right. I'd like classic Benz lovers to look a little deeper than the proverbial slangs against the 1970s and recognize that these are some truly good cars.

BTW, if anyone would like to go to the trouble of compiling quotes from various sources documenting how marvellous their own cars are, PLEASE DO!!! I for one would love to read them!
Love driving my '77 450 SEL!
124,000 miles

Last edited by michaeld; 06-07-2006 at 02:02 AM.
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Old 06-07-2006, 02:08 PM
Rashakor's Avatar
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Amen brother,

You can add to your list the 300SD, that sported the the OM617 diesel turbocharged engines that beat all the speed records in 1976 (granted, that was not a W116 body, it was the C111, but still...), and was the first production scale turbodiesel engine.

Another example of the greatness of the W116 and the 70's so-called decline (?).
Just to mention that turbo compressor spawned the slow rebirth of the diesel as passenger car engine option, and by derivative the great commercial success of the W123 body (if i am correct the largest production run on all MB history, and a product of the 70's).

Now lets mention something more intangible than production cars and let's talk about engineering.
Of the good engineering of MB in the 70's, was the developement of the now-popular hybrids (at that time only in prototype bus fleets), with regenerative breaking, idle stopping and all (they were all manual functions at that time, that must have been quite challenging to drive!).
also MB in 78, i believe, develop the hydrogen Hydride method, which is now the absolute only proposed method for storing hydrogen for fuel cells automotive applications, and upon which are constructed all present prototypes for hydrogen drive vehicles (also in buses in the late 70's).
And one last one... safety.
Most cages and crumbling zones on today cars were inspired by the W116 and W123. The air bag was already an option in 1978 in both models, ABS was close behind.
When you have a car company that has develop technology and put them on production cars and fleet 10-30 years ahead of the competition that period hardly qualifies as a decline. Sounds more to me like the pinnacle.
70's cars are not yet old enough to be classics, yet MB have clearly cars in that period that bridge the modern vehicles with the coach of yesteryears.That makes them superior to the obsolete (technologically speaking) chariots that came before, as well as, superior to the lower (perceived?) quality, electronics-laden, disposable, unserviceable present vehicular gadgetry.
Aquilae non capunt muscas! (Eagles don't hunt flies!)

1979 300SD Black/Black MBtex239000mi
1983 300TD euro-NA. White/Olive Cloth-MBtex 201000mi. Fleet car of the USA embassy in Morocco
1983 240D Labrador Blue/Blue MBtex 161000mi

Last edited by Rashakor; 06-07-2006 at 02:38 PM.
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Old 10-24-2007, 10:29 PM
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Bruno Sacco choses to drive a 560 SEC. I think that says it all.
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Old 10-24-2007, 11:05 PM
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I agree the 190c was a great car....for its time. I had one and drove it about 80k. But I was always tinkering with it. (It had a lot of aluminum in it...door hinges, intake manifold, head, and other things). It had 1900 cc, a one barrel carb and would get 23 mpg on premium and topped out at 90 mph....and weighed 2750#....about the same as the (crap) vega. And the ride and handling were supurb...very similar to the 115s.

But the seventies cars were a lot better built.

And the best is the 123 240d for overall quality, with the 123 300ds a close second. The 126s are pretty great too except those with the (finicky) 603 motor, (sorry 603 lovers).

The chassis on the 124 is wonderful but it lost the ease of working on it that the eighties cars had.

The top performance cars of the mb lineup, the 300sl, and the 300sel had aluminum blocks. Where cost was no object that is how they went. with iron sleeves.

When the metallurgy caught up they started making the aluminum blocked v8s on the more expensive cars, (the 380, 500 and those that followed).

After that I have lost interest as the cars have too many electronic gee gaws and computers to hold my interest.

But building light weight costs money.

Remember what colin Chapman said. To increase performance add lightness.

Tom W
[SIGPIC] Diesel loving autocrossing grandpa Architect. 08 Dodge 3/4 ton with Cummins & six speed; I have had about 35 benzes. I have a 39 Studebaker Coupe Express pickup in which I have had installed a 617 turbo and a five speed manual.[SIGPIC]

..I also have a 427 Cobra replica with an aluminum chassis.
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Old 10-24-2007, 11:32 PM
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I asked myself this very question, a couple years ago when I set out to buy a Mercedes.

There has been quite a bit of informed discussion on this thread concerning the relative merits of various models. But I took a slightly different approach than most here.

Instead of asking what was the best Mercedes built...I asked myself what is the best Mercedes that I can actually find, buy and drive today?

It may be true that several models from the 50's to the 70's had features that make them superior to later models. But a specimen in good driveable condition is all but unobtanium.

So, from a practical perspective, I determined the best Mercedes that I could find, buy and drive was a W126 with an OM617. It combined the best combination of features in a car that was still available in great condition/low miles for a very reasonable price. It also is modern enough to make for a comfortable daily driver or long distance cruiser. I get 30mpg on the highway and my whole family (well, there are only 4 of us) can travel cross-country in comfort.

Do I still lust after an SL500? Yes. Would I like to have a minty Fintail? Sure! But when the rubber hits the road, I will likely be in my '83 300SD!

2009 VW TDI Jetta Sportwagon 172k miles (rear-ended harder than Elton John on 8/4/13. Total loss)

1991 Volvo 240 142k miles (T-boned by a stop sign runner. Total loss)
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Old 10-25-2007, 05:44 AM
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Excellent choice. The only problem is finding a nice one.

Tom W
[SIGPIC] Diesel loving autocrossing grandpa Architect. 08 Dodge 3/4 ton with Cummins & six speed; I have had about 35 benzes. I have a 39 Studebaker Coupe Express pickup in which I have had installed a 617 turbo and a five speed manual.[SIGPIC]

..I also have a 427 Cobra replica with an aluminum chassis.
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Old 10-25-2007, 08:09 AM
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Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 457
Talking The best Mercedes?? A matter of choice

I have had two fintails, which were great cars from the 60's, and also owned a 450SEL -- which was solid, except for the elaborate heat control module in the engine bay. I now have a 420SEL (beautiful car - like new, but for sale as one too many cars), a 92 300CE coupe, a 99 ML320 (and a 95 Corvette with 29K on it.

In the Mercedes group, I think my ML has been exceptional. It has required a minimum of maintenance (window switch module and MAF + normal brake pads, spark plugs etc.) Perhaps it has been exceptional because it started life as a leased car and the original owner had every little thing corrected before I got it. It runs perfectly and strongly, at 76K miles.

My favorite Mercedes has to be the 300CE. Its build quality and 6 cyl engine performance are outstanding. It is an excellent road car, handling at high speed in the 80's or 90's like a sports car, yet provides all the luxury one could want in seating quality and other features. I even like the seat belt presenters, which do work well by the way. So that is my favorite car in the Mercedes clan that I have owned or driven, and I have driven later 90's sedans and some of the recent models. Give me three or four 300CE's and I will be very happy indeed (as long as that spark control module doesn't fail!?)

To each his own .... Ben Carter
Ben Harrison Carter
1999 Mercedes ML320 87K
1992 Mercedes 300CE 89K
1995 Corvette 29K -- Sold Dec 09
1989 Mercedes 420SEL 99K -- (Sold 4/08)
1968 Mercedes 230S (106K) (Sold 9/06))
1976 Mercedes 450SEL 130K (Just sold - 06)
1961 Mercedes 220Sb (sold years ago)

Last edited by blueeagle289; 10-25-2007 at 08:12 AM. Reason: better wording
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Old 10-25-2007, 01:14 PM
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The best mercedes is likely going to be the one you own....

Out of all the Benz cars I've owned since 1974, There are two that stand out in my mind as the most impressive and memorable.

First was the midnight blue/dove grey leather 69 300SEL 6.3 that Dad bought Mom in 1973. I later owned the car for 7 years before passing it to my brother. One word: WOW! There was nothing at the time that could touch that car. Car & Drivel and Rodent Track both went gag-ga over the car, calling it the best sedan in the world.

Second is the black/creme leather 91 560SEL I currently own. The 6.3 still wins the burnout contest, but this car exhibits every attribute I loved about the 6.3. The W126 is one of those rare cars that makes the owner/driver feel "special". It's a twenty eight year old design that still oozes class. There's no doubt the car is a quality item, she still looks like new and no wind noise or rattles. Not sure if I want to declare ALL W126 permutations to be equal, as I also had a 83 300SD that was a nice car, but didn't give me the same feel as this 560SEL. It's the design, the color, the condition, and the magnificent way it drives that will keep it in my garage for a long time to come.

I never warmed up to the crash bumpers on the seventies cars (W116, W114, W115, W107), just ruined the lines, in my opinion. Cars of these series that I own(ed) were always the small bumper version.

All that being said, I've got to vote for the W107(R107) being the most significant car of the postwar decades. What other chassis lasted for over 19 years? (Forget the 600, they were essentially all done by the end of the seventies.) Hollywood made the SL the iconic "rich *****" car of the seventies and eighties. Hart to Hart, Dallas? Nineteen years? Late production run 560SLs are bringing more money than early R129s, and early cars have been on the rise for awhile. The market recognizes this chassis as a high water mark.

14 E250 BlueTEC black. 45k miles
95 E320 Cabriolet Emerald green 66k miles
94 E320 Cabriolet Emerald green 152k miles
85 300TD 4 spd man, euro bumpers and lights, 15" Pentas dark blue 274k miles
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Old 10-25-2007, 04:35 PM
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Another positive point for aluminum is that it distributes heat better than iron. Heat and pressure are what make your car go. Aren't the 4.5's cylinder heads made of aluminum, as well as the intakes/etc? That said, I'm glad my finny has an iron block, it just seems "right" for some reason.

All old cars degrade... even a benz. This basic fact allows any modern car to be more reliable than an older benz of any era. It's like comparing apples to oranges. "Best" in this discussion means best for yourself, not better than others. Why did I buy my fintail? I bought it because it was the most fun I could have while still being practical for 2500 bucks. Would I have considered a w116 or any other later model benz? Of course I would have, but this one just *spoke* to me, the fact that it is reliable and usable are really just fringe benefits to me. I like the fact that people think I'm crazy for driving one. ("Your car has tailfins?!?!") That's right, I AM crazy!

I LIKE working on older cars that break down, heck, I've driven Alfa Romeos regularly... I don't need my benz to be super reliable, but the fact that it is makes it all the more endearing. An Alfa with an iron engine seems like a travesty to me, so I can see why a Benz with an aluminum engine might seem the same to somebody else. To me, 4.5L seems like a ridiculous amount of displacement let alone 6.9L. I'm only going down the street for chrissakes! 2.3L will seem ridiculously underpowered to others, to me it's just right. It should be fairly obvious that a discussion of the "best" is futile, there is no such thing.
1967 230S automatic
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Old 10-25-2007, 06:16 PM
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Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 511
I would also like to say that the 70's cars (and 80's to a lesser extent) were *incredible* when you consider the state of the rest of the automotive industry at the time. You can see it in the reviews posted. It wasn't exactly a good time for mass-produced cars, be they luxury or otherwise, at the time. Think of what british-leyland was putting out at the time, or the ridiculous extent of badge engineering and backwards momentum going on in detroit. (5+ liter engines putting out 120hp?!?! AND getting bad fuel economy?) Not to mention quality control issues. In comparison with the rest of what was available, the interiors of 70's benzes were still tops. In the states anyway, I feel like the 70's were as crucial as the 60's for mercedes because it cemented the fact that they were trustworthy in an era when almost nothing else was in people's minds.
1967 230S automatic
Boston, MA
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Old 10-25-2007, 07:08 PM
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Location: Alexandria, Virginia
Posts: 5,480
I still feel that so far as craftsmanship and quality of materials is concerned, Mercedes best postwar years encompassed the '50s and '60s. By the '70s, safety and emission regulations negatively affected all cars sold in the US, though some of the horsepowrr losses were on paper. At least in the US there was a shift from gross horsepower (often used by carmakers to boost advertised horsepower) to net horsepower - a more realistic rating.
Probably due to a combinatin of safety and cost-cutting, the '70s and '80s also saw much of the chrome and wood replaced by plastic.

While cars like the 300SL, 600 and 6.3 certainly deserve their share of prestige and glamour, I consider the bread & butter Ponton, Fintail, W114/115 and W123 sedans just as important, as these were the models that gave Mercedes their worldwide reputation for durability and reliability. And though cars like the Fintails are considered ancient by many today, and may be more troublesome due to their old age, they still have the major advantage of being very simple compared to nearly all post '70s Mercedes models. Having owned a '60 220S Fintail for several years, with a shabby body, but in decent mechanical condition, I can attest to the high level of refinement that car has, compared to many other early '60s automobiles. Handling, despite the swing-axle (but with modern Pirelli radial tires) was also way ahead of it's time. And with the manual-shift, I have no complaints about the performance of the 'underpowered' 2.2L six.

Happy Motoring, Mark

Last edited by Mark DiSilvestro; 10-25-2007 at 07:21 PM.
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Old 10-25-2007, 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by todds View Post
I would also like to say that the 70's cars (and 80's to a lesser extent) were *incredible* when you consider the state of the rest of the automotive industry at the time.
Disc brakes, fuel injection, child safety locks, independent suspension.

Not quite like any of the many 1970s cars I've owned, both Japanese and American.

Most importantly, much of my car is still original at 256K. I'd not have gotten that out of any American sedans. I know. I had enough of them fall apart all around me pretty much until I gave up on trying to keep them going!

As for the newer Benz, my only experience was in a 2001 E class that my boss loaned me while she was on an extended trip. It was nice and it did everything a high end Euro performance sedan should do, but it just didn't feel quite like my 4.5, which rides and drives like a 70s Mercedes and nothing else.

You could have put an Audi or a BMW badge on the E class and it would have been believable.

I suppose I'm comparing apples to oranges but if I was going to buy something new and modern to replace my fairly new and modern Ford EconoBox, I'd be more inclined towards the Smart Car ForTwo (which I sat in last week).

I just don't see anything about the modern Euro performance sedans that make me lust after them like an early 70s Benz.

The W111s are certainly attractive as well, but I don't find them as aesthetically intriguing as the W108s. Still, if a nice one appeared in my driveway, I'd not send it away.

The W116s are too modern for my taste, even though performance-wise they are no slouches.

What I'd really like to have is a 1972 600 .

Of course I'd need to win the lottery to maintain it!

1972 280 SEL 4.5 "Henrietta" - The Learning Experience
1972 280 SEL 4.5 "Brunhilda" - Pretty Sponge for $100.00 Bills
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Old 10-26-2007, 09:12 PM
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1966 250SE Coupe Owner
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: San Luis Obispo, CA
Posts: 492
For me it's the fintail era from '61 to about '69ish. I'm also a fan of the 50's stuff for sure. Not a big fan of the wide low grille used on the last few years of the w111 coupes and convertibles though. I like the tall hood and proud grill better.

Not a fan of most of the 70's and 80's stuff either. They styling to me is either too dumbed down and they look like saudi taxi, or they are sort of that 70's and 80's styling overkill where there's just too much going on at once. Although I do like a nice clean 300SD or TD wagon, for sure.

For me the 50's and then further in the 60's just shows a design love affair. And when cared for properly, they are fantastic and dependable cars.

With regard to a comment made about how higher compression allows the engine to be able to be run on low octane (87RON) fuel. Just the opposite is true. It is low compression that allows an engine to burn low octane fuels. A high compression engine squeezes the fuel harder, sooner so if the fuel is low octane it will explode sooner causing pinging.

And with regard to the comment made about carburetors splashing fuel down cylinder walls. This doesn't happen. Carburetors atomize fuel and it enters the intake runners as a "fog."

1966 W111 250SEC:
DB268 Blaugrün/electric sunroof/4 on-the-floor/4.5 V-8 rear axle
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