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Old 07-14-2005, 11:38 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: U.S.A.
Posts: 250

I have the itch to buy another car. I have noticed that there a number of 420sels for sale in my area in my price range (under $3,000) with mileage in the 120,000 to 200,000 range. What is the general opinion here on these? One in particular is a 1986 with 127,000 miles on it for $2,400 that the owner says will need a "valve job" soon. I assume this means valve seals. I have owned a number of mercedes and do most of my own work. Should I consider buying one of these?

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Old 07-14-2005, 12:16 PM
Posts: n/a
deephate --

my dad bought our 1988 420sel 11 years ago and he gave it to me 2 years ago. we've put over 140,000 miles on it since 1994 and it has probably been the most inexpensive car we have owned. however, when repairs do come along the are EXPENSIVE. We have been fortunate to not have the common air conditioner problems, but the timing chain did fail at 35,000 miles and the engine had to be completely rebuilt. This was covered by mercedes, but would have otherwise been VERY expensive.

so bottom line - I feel that I have been very lucky with this car and I love it. It looks great, drives well, but at 17 years old I'm starting to see the end of this cars functional life. For example, my car is worth about $3000 probably, but just a few months ago I had to replace the rotors, pads, and tires (~$1000). I just can't justify that many more repairs, especially because my transmission vibrates a bit and it's just not as safe as I would like it.

I say buy it if you want a project and a nice car to drive when you are done. As a daily driver, I wouldn't recommend it if you need very reliable transportation. Be sure to use the search and read as much as you can about these cars and be ready to open up the wallet. Delayed repairs can be costly.

1988 420sel
1988 300e (sold)
1982 300sd (sold)
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Old 07-14-2005, 12:31 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Toronto, CANADA
Posts: 1,193
I loved my 420SEL and it gave me about three good years with no costs other than fluid changes (it was already 12 years old and had almost 200,000 miles on it when I bought it). But after the third year stuff started to go, and not because of any problem that is specific to the car, but because it was old. It started with the shocks (which I was surprised to find out were the originals) and the exhaust system (parts alone were a couple of grand here, not including the cat converter). Secondary air pump came next, some bushings for the front control arms, and then I developed a bit of a shake at idle. I too was told I needed a valve job at the very least, but I had poor compression in number 8 cylinder and given that I had already spent 8 grand on the car that year, I figured I could lease a used one with a Starmark warranty for what I was paying in repairs (got my '95E420) and I ditched it. They still gave me three grand for it against my lease at the MB dealership, not bad considering I only paid about 12 for it (Canadian$).

I really loved that car, and it never let me down. Any of those things that were replaced gave me signs about 3-6 months before they gave out, so I was never left stranded anywhere. The ride was amazing. I would love to get my hands on another one of those. I'm not too mechanically inclined so I had most of the work done at the dealer, but I did do some of the easy stuff and found the car was easy to work on. If you do your stuff its really the parts and the time that will cost you. Don't settle for the first one, there are still plenty of these around, and you never know, spending an extra couple of grand up front on a better kept car may save double or more in the long run.

Good luck.
Jason Priest
1999 E430
1995 E420 - retired
1986 420SEL - retired
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Old 07-14-2005, 02:11 PM
3 MB's and counting!
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Toronto, Canada
Posts: 1,825 just took the words out of my mouth when it comes to my W126 which is in the selling process.

A 1999 W202 Kompressor is on its way.
99 C43
98 S420
99 C230K
01 C240
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Old 07-15-2005, 01:52 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Posts: 63
Don't forget the problem with the timing chain guides. Pull the left valve cover and look at the guide condition. Here's the link:

'89 420 SEL "Moby Dick"
'30 Ford Coupe
'31 Ford Slant Windshield Town Sedan
'33 Ford Pickup
'34 Ford Pickup
'01 Honda Passport
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