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Old 11-16-2009, 02:28 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Houston, Texas
Posts: 1,137
Open letter to Newbie; buying a 1970 280SE Sedan

Read this on the W108 Yahoo Group:

Thought I would share my response for other folks looking for the same answers... I have not posted for a while. My W108 is performing flawlessly. Now I am working on a 1962 Fintail that was left for DEAD that has consumed my time and dragged me away from the computer.

I am considering buying a 1970 280 SE sedan, 68K miles, good condition; Exterior shows some rust bubbling along bottom of rear quarter panels and along chrome trim; Interior is excellent, excepting for a tear in the driver's seat cushion; Seller is asking $6500

What flaws should I be looking for?

Thanks for your response.

I think the mileage is accurate, as the local service shop has indicated so. The same service shop suggested the car to be worth $4500-$5000, which of course is more in line with your comments.

I intend to have a Pre-buyers' Inspection done at the local M-B dealership. If that goes well I will likely offer $4,500 and perhaps come up to $5,000.

Seller states that the car (six-cylinder) gets 20-23 miles per gallon -- does that ring true?

Any other tips?


I would be surprised if the local MB dealership has anyone that knows the W108 vehicle very well to do a pre-purchase inspection. My experience is that the dealers don't want to touch the old cars. How mechanically inclined are you? The mechanics of the 1971 are fairly simple and straightforward.

You mentioned the gas mileage of 20-ish. Are you planning to use this car as a daily driver? I use my W108 many days per month, so it is regularly driven, but not depended on for sole transportation. It may take you a while to make the car reliable. If the car has not been used as a daily driver, a lot of problems arise when it is pressed into real service. What is your goal for the car?

The fuel lines will need to be changed if the rubber is original. You will see cars on eBay regularly that suffered an engine fire. The fuel injector seals probably need to be changed as they often are leaky and cause fires. If the gas tank has never been dropped and cleaned, it will be full of dirt and trash that will fill the fuel filter, fuel pump and cause running problems. Etcetera, etc.

If you don't mind getting dirty and you are fearless about learning to fix things, owning and driving one of these cars can be fun and rewarding. I have been working on my 1973 280SEL 4.5 for about two years. The Internet has been a great source of information and inspiration.

A note about value... $6,500 does seem high to me too, unless the current owner can show you receipts or otherwise demonstrate that the expensive to repair/replace items have been addressed. You could spend $1500 in a month making the car roadworthy. Does the car have electric windows? The regulators often fail and cost $150 for the part plus two hours labor ($145.00 per hour at MB times two?) plus tax and you spent $500 to fix a window. Recovering the front seats can cost between $1,500 to $2,200 (with padding) at a professional shop.

As one who spends time on the Internet seeking knowledge and wisdom, I have read countless stories of $5,000 cars needing double that and more to satisfy the owner. The cars get abandoned or sold again leaving disenchantment and disappointment for the effort. I searched for nearly a year before finding an exceptional car in remarkable condition for $5000.00. I have probably spent $3,000 for parts and hundreds of hours creating "sweat equity" to have a car that would not quickly sell for $8,000.00. However, what does "A" car cost to own?

If you buy a brand new Mercedes for $50,000.00 you can expect depreciation over 3 years to be 50 percent or $25,000.00. My 3 year cost to drive my W108 is surely less than $3,000.00. I can sell my car for $5,000 FAST. The gas mileage is ridiculously low at 12 mpg, but compared to a $1,000 per month car note I am way ahead of the game.

What car can you buy and drive for 3 years for $3,000.00 and have strangers wave and give a thumbs up? Not a 6-year-old KIA.

Best regards,

Houston, Texas

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1962 220Sb ~ The Emerald Bullet
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2001 S600 Daily Driver
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Last edited by JeffreyNMemphis; 11-16-2009 at 03:00 PM.
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Old 11-16-2009, 03:50 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Magee, MS
Posts: 180

I like the way you think. With the right perspective, owning an old car can be fun as well as economical when compared to a new car. I have found that having a sense of humor and a willingness to fix the little bits of aggrivation helps in the enjoyment. Without those an old car can turn into a money pit without the benefits of owning a new money pit.

I don't drive my old/collector cars daily to work, but, I can. A benefit to owning an old/collector car in Mississippi is that I can get "antique" plates which means that I never have to pay for license plates as long as I own the car. And full coverage insurance, with road side assistance, is a bargain on collector cars. Right now it would be cheaper for me to own 4 W108 cars than the 2 modern daily drivers that I currently own.
"If it's in the newspaper it must be true." Dudley Do-Right
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Old 11-16-2009, 05:27 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Houston, Texas
Posts: 1,137
I live six miles from my work place. That is about the amount of travel time necessary to warm up an engine. It probably takes a gallon of gas with the 4.5 liter V8 engine to go to work and back. My other classic driver is a 1985 Porsche 911, which is preferred when I am running late...

Life without a car note is sweet...


1962 220Sb ~ The Emerald Bullet
1957 Ponton 220S

2001 S600 Daily Driver
The Universe is Abundant ~ Life is GOOD!
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