1992 Mercedes-Benz 300E

1992 Mercedes-Benz 300E

Someone on the Facebook page recently said I tend to post cars in boring colors like black, silver or gray. They are not wrong. It’s hard to find the models I like in anything else. There are some great exceptions, of course. BMW has some really neat colors available through its Individual program (my favorite is Velvet Blue). But there’s no getting around it; most of my favorite 80s and 90s German cars left the factory with conservative paint jobs. That’s likely no accident. Staid colors are generally well suited to the lines of the cars, especially since the design language of the period was itself quite conservative. Still, I feel under an obligation to find you all some more interesting colors. And this is my opening gambit: a 300E in Crystal Green (256). The W124 can be had for very little money these days, and used as a cheap runaround until it clocks at least half a million miles. Yet it still offers the luxury, solidity and build quality that earned Mercedes its reputation for making some of the best cars in the world.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Mercedes-Benz 300E

1994 BMW 740i

1994 BMW 740i

The E32 7-series is a rare sight on today’s roads. And that’s a shame. These big-body behemoths from Bavaria exemplify a design language that’s now firmly in BMW’s past: menacing yet restrained, large but well proportioned, mixing brawny lines with classic cues like round headlights, angular kidneys and the Hoffmeister kink. On Friday, Carter wrote up a 735i. It was, he admitted, a bit sad, with oversized wheels and a tired look. While the 5-speed manual transmission made it tempting, I’m not sure it was enough to redeem the car, especially given the asking price. A neat alternative would be a clean, late model, bone stock V8 740i, if you can find one. The 4.0 liter M60 engine is relatively stout (apart from the Nikasil problem, which by now is unlikely to be an issue) and, putting out about 282 hp, sufficient to propel the car quite nicely to cruising speeds. While it may not give you the bragging rights associated with the V12 in the 750, it’s generally less of a headache to maintain.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 BMW 740i on eBay

Double Take: Mercedes-Benz 300SE

Double Take: Mercedes-Benz 300SE

I planned to leave the W126 300SE alone for a while since I’ve posted quite a number of these over the last few months. But I couldn’t resist when I noticed not one, but two really nice examples pop up on eBay this week. While these short wheelbase, six cylinder cars are often overlooked in favor of the 420 and 560 SEL, they offer all the class and sophistication of the larger models with somewhat lower running costs, making the 300 a nice entry point for W126 ownership. They certainly don’t have the power of the V8. But on the plus side, the M103 motor is famously stout and will run forever without needing too much work. The only real weak spot is the headgasket, which tends to need replacing every 150k miles or so. I’ve test-driven a few of these recently myself, and I was pleasantly surprised by the driving experience. The 3.0 liter engine provided more shove on the backroads than I was expecting, certainly enough to get the car moving, even if it won’t win any drag races. And out on the highway it cruised effortlessly, which is what these cars are all about.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SE on eBay

1990 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC

1990 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC

Based on a slightly shortened version of the W126 S-class sedan, the SEC coupe was introduced in 1981 and sold until the platform was retired in 1991. Retaining the elegant and stately looks of its limousine cousin, as well as its extraordinarily high levels of build quality and safety, the two-door, pillar-less body shape took all the elements that made the S-class such a great car and repackaged them into something a little more rakish and sexy. It’s no accident that ads for these cars often make reference to Miami Vice: the SEC is associated for many with the cocaine fueled excesses of the 1980s. But look past the wide boy image and you’ll find a grand tourer that is more about driving vast distances while riding a wave of torque than racing between stop lights. As with the sedan, values for these are a bit all over the place these days, with mint examples fetching $20k plus. But what if you’re looking for a budget-friendly entry into the SEC world? This high mileage example for sale in Tuscon, AZ with a few disclosed faults may fit the bill.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC on Benzworld

1985 BMW 735i

1985 BMW 735i

The E23, produced between 1977 and 1987, was the first iteration of the 7-series. It set the standard that BMW has followed, more or less, with each subsequent version of its luxury flagship. Large, comfortable, conservatively styled and packed with the latest technology for the time (ABS brakes, an onboard computer, electric seats and climate control, for example), these autobahn cruisers were for those who had arrived but couldn’t quite afford a Mercedes, or preferred the driving dynamics of a BMW. Sadly, very few have survived the ravishes of time and they’re quite a rare sight on today’s roads. And that’s a shame, because these are truly very handsome and classy cars, sharing a lot of styling cues with the gorgeous E24 6-series, including a sharply raked, shark-nosed front end. So it’s refreshing to come across a low-mileage, nicely kept example like this one.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 BMW 735i

BMW 635CSi Face-off: High mileage US-Spec vs. Low mileage Euro

BMW 635CSi Face-off: High mileage US-Spec vs. Low mileage Euro

With its sharply raked front fascia, long hood and tapering rear end, the E24 6-series is arguably one of the most beautiful BMWs ever made. The grand tourer first arrived in the US in 1977 as the 630, powered by a 3.0 liter M30 engine that produced a not-terribly-impressive 176 hp. While a series of improvements and changes to the lineup would improve things little by little – the 630 was replaced by the 633 in 1978, then the 635 in 1985, and an M6 would arrive in 1987 – the American models would remain saddled with performance-sapping emissions equipment and engines with lower compression ratios than their European counterparts. It wasn’t the end of the world: the E24 was not really about out-and-out performance anyway. Instead, it was for loping across vast stretches of road in comfort and style while conspicuously showing off your wealth. The US-spec 635CSi appeared 1985, bringing with it the 3.4 liter version of the M30 engine and Motronic engine management. Still underpowered in comparison with its European cousin, it was at least significantly torquier than the 633 it replaced. And the performance gap would close almost entirely by 1987 when power output on US-models was bumped to 208 hp. For today’s post, I’ve selected two lovely looking examples of the 635. Both wear Bronzitbeige Metallic paint and come equipped with manual gearboxes. One is a high-milage US-spec example, the other is a low-mileage Euro-spec car with a significant price premium attached.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 BMW 635CSi on Hemmings.com

1991 BMW M5

1991 BMW M5

On Saturday I wrote up a gorgeous example of a 500E, the 90s-era super sedan from Mercedes commonly referred to as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” As cool as the Benz may be, the first car that comes to mind when you utter the phrase is probably the competitor from BMW, the E34 M5. Produced between 1988 and 1995, these were hand built at the M GmbH facility in Garching. To the pliable, balanced but twitchy-at-the-limits chassis they added a glorious 3.6 liter inline six with six individual throttle bodies. The S38 motor, whose ancestry can be traced to the unit found in the famed M1 supercar, puts out about 310 hp in US-market guise and swiftly propels the car to 60 MPH in under 6 seconds. Like the 500E, the M5 differed little from its regular stablemates in outward appearance. In fact, it’s probably even stealthier than the W124. There are no flared wheel arches here and only the subtle M5 badges fore and aft give the game away. That’s no bad thing in my book. The E34 5-series, even in base specification, is a classically styled car whose unfussy design still looks good on the road today.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW M5 on Portland, OR Craigslist

1989 Mercedes-Benz 300SE

1989 Mercedes-Benz 300SE


Time for another of my wistful W126 posts. Although it’s generally seen as less desirable than the V-8 powered 420SEL and the 560SEL, I think the short wheelbase 300SE remains the hidden gem in the W126 lineup (though not for much longer if I keep posting them, I guess.) It’s not quick off the line, but that’s sort of besides the point. These are for cruising along on the interstate at 70MPH in quiet comfort, and a six cylinder model will do that just as well as a V8 while returning slightly better gas mileage (maybe 20MPG on the highway, if babied). There’s nothing quite like the way these feel. When the door shuts with a satisfying thunk like only a 1980s Mercedes door can, and you slide yourself into the helm and stare down the long hood to see the three pointed star at the end, you feel richer than your true bank balance suggests. It’s quite intoxicating.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Mercedes-Benz 300SE on eBay

Feature Listing: 1993 Mercedes-Benz 500E

Feature Listing: 1993 Mercedes-Benz 500E

The term “Q-ship” is an antiquated phrase dating from the WWII era. Originally used to refer to merchant ships carrying concealed weaponry, among car enthusiasts it’s been repurposed to describe fast, brawny, and exotic sedans that hide their performance beneath conservatively styled exteriors. German manufacturers excel at producing these kinds of cars, and while the E28 M5 might have been the OG “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” the 500E may be the more interesting. The product of a collaboration between Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, and based on the confidence-inspiring W124 chassis, it got a 5.0 liter V8 motor making 326 hp, beefier brakes taken from the R129 SL, upgraded suspension, a wider track and Recaro bucket seats. The saga of assembly of these beasts was a heroic undertaking; Porsche had the capacity on its dormant 959 production line, so a deal was struck where bare chassis were loaded at Daimler-Benz in Unterturkheim and shipped across town to Porsche in Zuffenhausen. There, the revised and widened fenders were mated with the R129 500SL 16-inch wheels and brakes. Porsche also installed the all-aluminum V8. Mercedes-Benz then repatriated the partially complete cars to paint them, but Porsche completed finally assembly. Around 10,000 were completed in this back-and-forth manner.

Sold between 1991 and 1994/5, the 500E could make the 0-60 MPH dash in under 6 seconds and topped out at a limited 155 MPH. Those were very respectable numbers for the time, especially given the size of the car. From the outside, the 500E was virtually indistinguishable from an ordinary W124, the flared fenders and slightly lower stance being the only tell-tale signs.

Year: 1993
Model: 500E
Engine: 5.0 liter V8
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Mileage: 66,300 mi
Price: $39,500

1993 Mercedes-Benz 500E, 66,629 Original Miles, 4 Owners From New, Perfect Running Condition

VIN: WDBEA36E4PB886196

This 1993 500E is fantastic example of one of the most important Mercedes Benz models produced and represents an era of collaboration between Mercedes-Benz and Porsche cars that will never be seen again.

2001 BMW 740i Sport 6-speed manual

2001 BMW 740i Sport 6-speed manual

What’s better than an E38 740i? A 740i with the Sport package, which adds 18″ M-Parallel wheels, shadowline trim, sport suspension and seats. And what’s better than a 740i Sport? A 740i Sport with a manual 6-speed gearbox. Wait, what? Yes, you read that right. While these cars were only available from the factory with an automatic, a brave soul with a healthy supply of time, money and genius has converted this 740 to a stick shift by swapping in a transmission from an E39 540i. That should turn this luxo-barge into a bit of a canyon carver.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 BMW 740i Sport on eBay

1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16

1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16

Last week I wrote up a tidy looking 190E 2.3-16, the boxy, 80s DTM-racing inspired version of the W201 from Mercedes that has never really gained the same kind of attention as its obvious competitor, the E30 M3. Perhaps that is changing, as more of these come to market in respectable shape. The general consensus among enthusiasts, however, seems to be that these cars are neither desirable nor fast enough to merit the higher price tags we’re beginning to see. (Once upon a time they were firmly in the sub-$10k category, whereas now sellers seem to want the mid teens and up for non-basket case examples.) But maybe the skeptics will be won over by a an imported 2.5-16 like this one?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 on eBay

1994 BMW 750iL with 19,000 Miles

1994 BMW 750iL with 19,000 Miles

There’s something completely captivating about a time capsule car. It makes you wonder: why didn’t anyone drive it? Where has it been sitting all these years? And it’s especially compelling to find a time capsule example of a model that you don’t see on the roads anymore. The E32 generation 7-series is such a car: very few of these are left, with most having been retired to the junk yard. Unlike Mercedes-Benz cars from the same era, they just weren’t really built to last. Which is a shame: the E32 is a big old bruiser, with classic boxy styling based upon traditional BMW design language, with angular kidneys and four round headlights. The 750iL was the plutocratic range topper, powered by a 5.0 liter, V12 motor.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 BMW 750iL on eBay

1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SE

1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SE

I continue to keep an eye on the W126 market. Mint examples of the V8-powered 560SEL can sell for as much as $20k, though higher mileage examples that are rougher around the edges can be had for just a few grand. The W126 hasn’t yet achieved collector status – there are probably too many of them out there – but they remain an attractive proposition for those who want a luxurious, usable car for not too much money. This version of the S-class perhaps marked a watershed moment in Mercedes-Benz history, being among the last cars built to a standard rather than cost. I’ve written before about my love for the short wheelbase, six cylinder version, the 300SE. Though generally less desirable (and therefore cheaper) than the V8 420s and 560s, occasionally a really nice one pops up for sale with a higher price tag attached.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SE on Raleigh, NC Craigslist

1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16

1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16

The 2.3-16 is more than just a W201 in a fancy bodykit. Developed by Mercedes-Benz to go rallying, it was redeployed in the DTM instead when it became clear that it stood no chance against the Audi Quattro. Powered by a willing four cylinder, 16v motor with a head provided by British racing firm Cosworth, it has nonetheless struggled to move out from underneath the shadow of the E30 M3. While the M3 has now attained legendary status amongst enthusiasts, with eye-watering prices to match, the 190E has rather languished. True, it’s not quite as fun or as fast as the M3 (especially in US specification). It’s not that fast at all, in fact: many modern day, entry level cars will pull away from it quite easily. Still, these 190E Cosworths are great  because they retain all of the admirable qualities of the W201 (a confidence inspiring, over-engineered chassis, indestructible build quality) while dialing up the fun.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 on Atlanta, GA Craigslist

1995 Mercedes-Benz E320

1995 Mercedes-Benz E320

What kind of car should you buy if you’re looking for a reliable, stylish daily driver with German build quality and driving dynamics, but don’t have a huge amount of money to spend? The W124 platform E-class suggests itself as an obvious answer. These are precisely the sort of car for which Mercedes-Benz earned its reputation as a manufacturer of the best cars in the world. Over engineered, reliable, safe and built like tanks, they can be regularly picked up still going strong with hundreds of thousands of miles on the odometer. Which means that if you can score a clean, low mileage example, you can be sure that it has many years of faithful service left ahead of it, if properly maintained. This remarkably clean, well-specified E320 looks to be just such a car.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Mercedes-Benz E320