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  #1  
Old 03-10-2006, 05:01 PM
michaeld's Avatar
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Which was Mercedes' finest era?

In terms of quality, durability, reliability, and any other quality you might care to add, which was Mercedes' finest era? When did they make their best cars? If you pick a given model/year/period, what are your reasons?

This might be skewed toward older cars because it is located in the pre-79 portion of the forum. So what about newer Mercedes models? Are the 2000+ models the epitome of Mercedes quality? Why or why not?

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  #2  
Old 03-10-2006, 08:13 PM
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In terms of simplicity, durability, quality of construction and materials, I'd vote for the most of the 1950s models.
For reliability ,performance and handling, along with a high level of build quality (though not as high as the '50s cars) I'd choose one of the four or six cylinder cars of the 1960s, including some of those designed during the '60s, but built up through the early to mid '70s.
In my opinion, many Mercedes introduced to the US during and after the '70s, suffered from Federal DOT and EPA regulations, as well as more plastic and more gadgets as the emphasis changed from quality to luxury.
Or, as someone else on this Forum once put it "they went from building cars for smart people to building cars for rich people!"
And while the newest models are world-class in terms of safety and performance, it's my understanding that reliability continues to be a big problem with Mercedes today.

Happy Motoring, Mark
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Last edited by Mark DiSilvestro; 03-10-2006 at 08:20 PM.
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  #3  
Old 03-10-2006, 11:08 PM
t walgamuth's Avatar
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for road cars

of all that i have expereince with (fintails, 115s, 123, 124, 126) the 123s are the best and easiest to work on especially the 240 with a stick. the 126s are very nice inside the cabin and ride and so forth very well too. but the 603 engines are to fussy. the 115s are pretty great too but not too many amenities.

now for overall greatness including the race cars, hard to choose the thirties or the fifties. mb had extermely dominant cars. the thirties were funded by the nazi propaganda machine and dominated til the outbreak of ww2. then in the fifties they came back with the gullwing sports racers and slrs and then the excellent and dominant w196 driven by moss and fangio. when you have the best car and the best team you can attract the best drivers too!

then the big accident at lemans in 55 ended the mb racing program after 55.

btw, did you know that someone brought a prewar mb f1 racer to indy after the war and tried to qualify? i dont think they did. it was fiendishly complicated. i think it had at least three oil pumps, for example.

fun thing to think about. thanks for asking.

tom w
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  #4  
Old 03-11-2006, 12:02 AM
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Any of the hand built cars. Any of them. All in all I agree 100% with Mark D.'s comments.
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  #5  
Old 03-11-2006, 12:44 PM
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1960's says me..... 110, 111, 113 and 108 - also 114/115's

These were the most sincere cars of all. Economy models dominated the global taxi cab industry. And coachwork of deluxe sedans, coupes and roadsters from this era has never been equalled.

Of course today's cars are mostly 'point and shoot' vehicles that drive themselves. And in this regard I've got no doubt that modern MB's are still the best. And you cannot blame them for 'jelly bean' styling of the basic sedans. It provides a sense of anonymity for the owner. I think this was a problem for Rolls Royce, it got to the point where it became an embarrassment to own one on account of the stigma attached.

And thats a cool thing about 114's especially, they are designed along the same principle of humility.
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Old 03-11-2006, 05:35 PM
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My opinion would be a 1965 220S Fintail with manual on the column,A/C,and a sunroof.Those cars were simple and built like tanks.
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  #7  
Old 03-11-2006, 09:26 PM
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Was there a best car/chassis/era for Mercedes?

There's a very subjective element to this that has to be taken into account: for example, if one values durability, then one is going to claim the diesels; if one values performance, then diesels are out entirely. One's conclusion are only as good as one's value hierarchy.

From my readings, the w107/116/123 cars ended an era. Uhlenhaut and Sacco were designers for all of these. (Uhlenhaut and Bracq designed the 115s). The 80's marked the end of this great designing team.

The 108s and 109s were surely outstanding cars. The problem here is that there are so very very few of them left, and the ones that are left are nightmares in terms of financing maintenance.

Let me introduce a new thought: those 70s cars that are so frequently "dissed" have a LOT to offer for them. Let me speak of the 450 SE/SEL as as my primary example since I know the most about it.

Yes, smog lowered some of the performance specs of all 70s cars. But the 450s got around that by increasing the size of the M116 3.5 to the M117 4.5, adding 30% more torque in the process. My 77 MORE than keeps up with most every car on the road today. Would the small motors of the 50's or even 60's cars (6.3 aside?). And aside from that point, "high performance" racing was NOT the purpose of the vast majority of Benz cars; driver satisfaction was (which is why most Benzes are sedans - not sport coupes). Futhermore, the M116/117 is an incredibly reliable and well-performing engine - smog or no smog - with a number of documented million mile examples. And in addition to that, the 450s came out with marvelous modern features such as zero offset front suspension that is STILL the basis of Mercedes cars today! The 116 cars have so many modern design (body) and engineering (mechanical) features that they are fully at home with today's cars. You certainly can't say that about 50's models. And when it comes to build quality, the 116s don't take 2nd place to anybody (at least, not by more than a hair!). My doors shut with the same ironclad finality and watchmaker precision as the 60's cars.

This paragraph applies to ALL vintage Mercedes cars. One thing that seems clear to me from my readings is that the very production success of the 116s, combined with the fact that today's 4th and 5th owners often don't have the money to maintain them, is leading to the same demise that earlier Benzes have suffered from. These cars go and go - even when poorly maintained - and people of limited means are buying them up and driving them into the ground. Since their parts are so much more expensive than for, say, any American or Japanese car, they don't get the maintenance they need (which cheaper cars w/ cheaper parts ARE getting). This is a sad fact that is destroying so many of the greatest quality cars ever made.

Mark made a distinction between "rich" and "smart" that requires response. First, often times the latter greatly helps one become the former (rock stars and actors aside)! But if you measure intelligence by profession, than "smart" people were still the primary buyers of the 450 SE/SELs. According to the Road & Track owners' survey of Aug 77, doctors were the single largest group (1 in 5 were owned by doctors); engineers and lawyers were also very well represented. Clearly, throughout the 1970's, Mercedes was still making cars for "smart" people.

What I'm saying is this: there is a good case to be made that the 80's (change in design team) led to one letdown in Mercedes quality, and 1995 (the year Mbz reduced their design period from 5 to 3 years) led to another. Now, 80's/90's/00 Benz owners can argue with this, but there is a very solid link between the great cars of the 60's and the Benzes of the 70's. And what is wonderful about the 70's cars - apart from their more modern styling and equipment - is there's a LOT more of them that are still in great condition today. But you'd better buy them now while you still can, before they're flogged.

Here's pic of my old girl:
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Last edited by michaeld; 03-14-2006 at 05:26 AM.
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  #8  
Old 03-11-2006, 09:39 PM
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Remember, the ACC servo unit and the whole system's headaches will be a huge reason most people will decline those 116's. Did the early ones (73-74) have the ACC? I dont think they had cats yet (I remember an early one in the junkyard with no cats anywhere), and I know they still had the D-Jet injection and nearly all of the power of 108/109 4.5's.

A 108 with its spring suspension and a 6 or 8 cyl fuel injected engine will probably give you the least amount of problems. I know some people say the carbs are easier to work on, but I always hear about unbalanced carbs, or leaky carbs, or carbs with warped bases, or some other thing. Personally, I find the EFI systems easier to work on than carbs. And the injected cars have more power too, so that's a plus.

The diesels had very low power, but were extremely efficient for their day in age. And they also are very dependable and long-lasting. Some will say the diesels are far better than the gassers, but it's a personal preference here - power or efficiency. Some of the diesels are dangerous to drive on crowded interstates today, where at 55 or 65 you'd be a rolling roadblock.

Nearly every MB in this era has a fatal problem, but not limited to just MBs of this era - most manufacturers had this same problem: Rust. Hindsight being 20/20, jack points in the rockers that allow salt water in - and the same with drain holes in the trunk - were probably design flaws that didnt help this much. Nor did using tar for silencing road noise, which probably helped take the paint off the body underneath (think about how tar spots on the front of your car can take paint off if left too long). In honestly, all MBs of this era had some flaws but most were engineered amazingly well and nobody's going to be able to agree on one single specific model here. I'll vouch for SWB 108's with a 4.5
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  #9  
Old 03-11-2006, 11:09 PM
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116s, Servos, and Smog

Tomguy,
I saw your well-written post, and thought I'd drop another two cents into the bucket. I promise I won't write another post every time someone bashes the 70's cars. But I think they've gotten a terrible - and undeserved - rap.

You WERE right about the servos. They used to be magnificent when they worked, but then were expensive to replace - and you knew they'd fail again in three years. But now there are better options: an aluminum bodied replacement unit that is much better, and (even better) an electronic upgrade (H version) that cost about $550 and is guaranteed for five years. Great news for 116 owners: the servo issue is finally whooped. If you were staying away from 116s because of the servos, you can come back now. And let me assure you that you can purchase a NICE 116, the electronic upgrade, and a relaxing vacation for less $ than you'll spend on a decent 108.

I'm not sure about the other 116s, but the 450 SE/SEL use the Bosch K-Jetronic all-mechanical fuel injection - a much simpler and more easily servicable unit than the L-Jetronic. These units are bulletproof (as long as you don't actually shoot them!), and I agree with you that it is hard to argue that a carbureted car is superior to a fuel-injected one when the f.i. units of Benz are so magnificent. And of course we are on the same page about diesels and about the subjective nature of "best ever" talk.

You raised a good question with the question of when various smog components were used. I don't know when catalytic converters started being used. I agree that the smog components "dumbed-down" engines, but Mercedes switched to a bigger engine to compensate. Crappier mileage, yes, but not a terrible performance outcome. One thing I know: my 4.5L fuel-injected v-8 will go right by the carbureted 6 cylinder modles from earlier times. You add to that my 3 speed trans and 3.07 rear end, and I keep up with traffic fine, thank you. I don't think someone is justified in knocking the 70's cars because of the smog regs while holding up the 50's cars that were CLEARLY inferior to the 70's cars performance-wise. I agree that the late 60's/pre-73 cars had certain advantages because of the smog regs; but the 70's cars had certain advantages themselves, such as better suspensions. They certainly came from the same, "finest-that-$-can-buy" dedication to quality that the earlier Benzes had.

The suspensions on the 116s are truly amazing (what I love most about my car) - and far ahead of anything that came before them. The hydro-pneumatic units on the 450 SEL 6.9s have had reliability issues, true, but not so the 4.5L models and the other 116s.

You are definitely right that every model has some significant issue after 30 or more years. Part of my argument in my 06:26 pm post is the fact that the 116s have all the advantage of classic MBz construction that characterized the earlier models, and yet are NEWER. I'm arguing that after the 116 era, quality began to drop off. And I'm arguing that 116s and other 70's Benz cars belong in the discussion of "finest cars."
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  #10  
Old 03-12-2006, 09:15 PM
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i love reading these comments/opinions. it would be nice to discuss all these things over some beers. you are all very interesting and have things to say i respect very much and educate me. this is a cool thread.
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  #11  
Old 03-13-2006, 07:11 AM
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Hello,
MBs finest era has to be the 1960s to 80s and the best car to come out of that timeframe is the W116 450SEL. Of course, I mean the ROW(Rest of the World)spec W116 with the *special* rear axle suspension and simple AC-heat controls.
That is my opinion after having driven and been driven in a 450SEL, there was nothing that could touch it when it was introduced in 1972 and having owned a 1979 example for a couple of years, even at 21 years it was still a formidable machine.
The newer designs maybe more efficient etc, but all are built on engineering principles proven to WORK by the W116.
If I can ever afford it again, I would acquire a 450SEL, restore it then just drive it...........
Have a good week.
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  #12  
Old 05-26-2006, 10:52 PM
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W116 and W123 non-US spex, with manual AC and without hydropneumatic suspenssion are the pinacle of an era where everything was just right for Mercedes.
I must agree with the above comments: the best gasser ever 450SEL W116 closely followed by a 280E W123.
On the diesel side, and the one i would think is the best car that mercedes ever made, in spite of being a USA-only spex, the sedan 300D turbo W123.
The cars has no factory flaw, no recall, most of them still run perfect after 20 years. Much better rust protection that any previous car. Chrome, chrome and chrome. A bullet proof engine, that beat all speed record in 1976 (granted, it was in another body, but still) and was the first production turbo engine. Did i mention 30 mpg. and for whoever would argue that it is not a performing car, i would suggest them to try one. 125hp properly tuned is more than enough to take that car to more than 1.5x the legal speed limit anywhere in the USA. and... no chrysler ACC.
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  #13  
Old 05-27-2006, 07:16 AM
t walgamuth's Avatar
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i am not sure what major design flaw michaeld is referring to in the 80s.

the only thing i can think of is the acc. otherwise the cars are pretty much bulletproof.

tom w
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..I also have a 427 Cobra replica with an aluminum chassis.
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  #14  
Old 05-27-2006, 11:09 AM
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It's the 80's

Unfortunately the American market only got the ACC unit which is an expensive affair. Then they got the lame engines with the emissions gear that blunted the performance of the US spec cars to make it worse.

I would have to saw that the Mercedes Benz of the 80's were probably the best of the Era. The 70's cars were rust buckets and the 90's cars became to complex.

Many of the complaints we hear today from American owners don't exist in other regions.
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  #15  
Old 05-28-2006, 12:16 AM
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t walgamuth,
I can't remember for certain, but I looked at the last couple of my posts, and did not see where I said the 80's cars had a "fatal flaw." I noted that Tomguy said that "nearly every MB in this era has a fatal problem," referring to all the years. That said, let me say the following:

I DO know that 80s engines were all aluminum (which saved weight at the expense of creating less durable engines), and that for 2-3 years 80's Benzes used only a single-row timing chain (which was just a very very bad idea!).

The 80's found automakers using much more aluminum and much less steel as a general principle. Steel resists damage better than aluminum, and is also easier to repair (weld, etc). Steel is also much safer than aluminum in an accident. The tradeoff is increased weight and rust (ala Alabassi's post).

I can say this: I love the delicious feeling of safety and security that I get driving my w116. Until the 80's, cars were tanks; after the 80s they weren't.

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