1986 Mercedes-Benz 300SL

1986 Mercedes-Benz 300SL

The R107 arrived in 1971 and remained in production for an extraordinary 18 years, enough time to establish itself as a well-loved symbol of motoring decadence. Today, these roadsters remain usable and admired classics. The 300SL, available in Europe between 1985 and 1989, was never sold in the US. American buyers were therefore deprived of the six cylinder R107 experience, having to choose from a range of V8s instead. A shame, really. In many respects, the bulletproof 3.0 liter engine was a nice match for the chassis. The R107 was always more of a boulevard cruiser rather than a sports car anyway, so the 190 hp offered up by the creamy six cylinder unit is sufficient. With a little less weight up front, these tend to feel a little more agile than the V8-powered models. And aside from some well documented weaknesses (head gaskets, valve guides and stem seals) the M103 is a notoriously reliable motor.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Mercedes-Benz 300SL on eBay

1992 Mercedes-Benz 500E

1992 Mercedes-Benz 500E

The 300k-mile 500E I wrote up last week was a bit of a hot mess. It needed extensive cosmetic work along with who knows what else. But to my surprise, it sold for $7,700. I wish the brave soul who bought it all the luck in the world, whether they restore it to its former glory or use it as a comically powerful beater. The sale price got me thinking: how much would you have to pay for high mileage 500E that wasn’t all torn up? As if on cue, this nice looking example popped up on eBay. The miles are high, but the condition of this Porsche-Mercedes mashup looks great, a testament to the longevity and durability of the W124 platform on which it is based.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Mercedes-Benz 500E on eBay

1995 Mercedes-Benz E300 Diesel

1995 Mercedes-Benz E300 Diesel

Before the W124 bowed out in 1995, the last oil-burning version you could buy was the E300 Diesel. It received the exterior tweaks associated with post-facelift cars of the late W124 era, including a rounder front grille, updated glass headlights and smoked taillights. It also got the OM606 engine under the hood, a 3.0 liter inline six cylinder diesel unit making about 135 hp. Unlike earlier W124 diesels, there was no turbo. But fret not. These were still fast enough (for a diesel), and the OM606 is one of the most rugged engines Mercedes ever made. These cars will cruise effortlessly on the highway while returning 30+ MPG. Perfect for the commuter looking for tank-like build quality, reasonable running costs and a bit of class.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Mercedes-Benz E300 Diesel on eBay

1995 Mercedes-Benz C280

1995 Mercedes-Benz C280

With the exception of the high-performance C36/C43 AMG, the W202 C-class tends to get short shrift around here. That’s probably because for many, the W202 marks the point at which Mercedes began to lose its way. Not only did the taut, angular design language of yesteryear give way to the rounder, less attractive lines of the “jelly bean” era, Mercedes products from the mid 1990s onwards just never seemed as reliable or as well-built as those that came before. I think there’s something to this, but the upshot is that a garden variety C280 can be had for not much money. And while it isn’t quite as tank-like as the venerable W201 it replaced, it can still make for a satisfying commuter. If you squint hard enough, you can even see the design parallels between the two.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Mercedes-Benz C280 on eBay

1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC

1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC

Produced between 1971 and 1981, the C107 was a fixed roof, four seater coupe based on a longer version of the R107 chassis. Badged as an SLC, it was effectively an SL in 2+2 configuration, with a modest amount of room in the back for a couple of (small) adults. The 4.5 liter V8 in the 450 put out a meagre 190 hp, so it wasn’t all that fast. But it was, and remains, a gorgeous and classy cruiser whose looks neatly capture that moment at which the design language of the late 1960s began to give way to that of the 1970s. Even in elongated form, the car retains the timeless good looks of the SL. Those pleated, curtain-looking louvres behind the rear windows? I always thought they simply gave rear passengers a bit of privacy while also letting in some light. But a bit of internet research reveals they have another purpose. They allow for shorter rear windows that can slide downwards into the body without hitting a wheel arch. This means the car can retain a completely pillar-less look. A typically German solution to a problem: practical and elegant at the same time.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC on eBay

Craig finally buys a 300SE, but it’s not all plain sailing …

Craig finally buys a 300SE, but it’s not all plain sailing …

As readers will know, I’ve been on the lookout for a 300SE for a while now. In fact, one of the first cars I wrote up for GCFSB was a 300SE, which should tell you something. After a couple of false starts, I finally have a W126 I can call my own.

I found it on Craigslist while looking for cars to write up for the site. It stood out because it was in exactly the spec I’d been looking for. It was a 1989, a Gen II car with the more modern looking leather seats and updated exterior side cladding. It was in a great color combination, nautical blue over mushroom cream leather. And, unusually for a 1989 six cylinder, it was equipped with a passenger side airbag and upgraded Bose sound system, options that are more commonly found on the V8s. It also had only 116k miles on it, and was priced fairly. Unfortunately, it was located in Austin, TX, while I’m in Washington, DC.

After a lengthy back and forth with the seller, apparently an enthusiast who assured me it was in excellent running condition, I decided to buy it sight unseen and have it shipped to me. After a couple of weeks of delays on the shipping company’s end (I went with the cheapest option, and it showed), the car finally arrived. At first I was thrilled. It looked great.

But my excitement soon turned to disappointment as the hauler tried unload it. The car wouldn’t start. To be more precise, the car would start with a puff of black smoke out the back and die immediately. It did eventually start on the fourth or fifth try. It then ran rough for a minute or two, like it was misfiring, then smoothed out. My heart sank.

We eventually got it off the transporter and I gingerly began driving it, uncertain what the problem was.…

1995 BMW 525i

1995 BMW 525i

I recently sold my E34 525i and replaced it with a W126 300SE. I’ll post a write up on my new car next week. I love it, but let’s just say I learned a few valuable lessons about buying cars sight unseen from the whole episode. As potential buyers came to view my BMW, a funny thing happened. The more I explained my ownership experience while they test drove it, the more I began to wonder why I was selling it. In fact, I concluded, if space and money had allowed, I would have preferred to keep it alongside the Benz. In one year of ownership, I put an unusually high number of miles on it while doing a mega commute. During that time, it never once failed to start or gave me any reason to worry. I replaced some suspension parts that were worn out. But other than that, all I did was drive it and feed it fuel and oil. It was remarkably fun to drive, which I credit to the 5-speed manual gearbox and sweet chassis setup. Sure, it wasn’t terribly powerful or fast, but it was certainly fast enough for me. And it made for a good commuter, getting 28 MPG on the highway. In all, I think the E34 525i is an under-appreciated gem. I’m sad I let it go.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW 525i on eBay

1987 Mercedes-Benz 560SEL with 28k miles

1987 Mercedes-Benz 560SEL with 28k miles

I’ve made no secret of my love for the W126 on these pages. Produced between 1979 and 1991, they date from a period when Mercedes-Benz produced over-engineered cars with an unrivaled reputation for durability and quality. The W126 sat at the top of the range, offering the highest levels of luxury, safety and refinement that money could buy. Whenever I see one on the road today, especially if it’s in nice condition, I immediately think “old money.” Many well-heeled owners, too attached to part with them and wealthy enough to afford the upkeep, simply held on to their cars, replacing parts as necessary. It’s not unusual to see them being driven by their original owners, and buyers usually don’t have to look too hard to find one-owner examples in good condition. With a $20k price tag and only 28k miles on the odometer, this one falls into “collector” territory.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Mercedes-Benz 560SEL

High mileage 1992 Mercedes-Benz 500E project

High mileage 1992 Mercedes-Benz 500E project

The product of a collaboration between Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, the W124 500E was a worthy competitor to the E34 BMW M5. Powered by a 5.0 liter V8 motor generating 322 hp and equipped with beefed-up suspension and brakes, these stealthy Q-cars have languished on the used market until relatively recently. Finally receiving the attention they deserve, over the last decade values have steadily risen, with mint condition examples now commanding $30k price tags. Cars at that end of the market will likely stay tucked away behind closed doors. But what if you want to just drive a 500E, and not worry about every ding or scrape it gets in the parking lot? The courageous and open-minded might want to take a look at this forlorn-looking example. With a bit of attention and light restoration, this could turn out to be a steal. Or a money pit. Only the brave need apply…

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Mercedes-Benz 500E on eBay

2002 BMW M3

2002 BMW M3

My dad’s E46 M3 was by far and away the best car he ever owned (though I guess that’s not saying much, since he mostly owned Fords). It was a convertible and, as a result, the chassis was somewhat compromised – the dash would shake at the slightest provocation from a pothole. Still, it was a great car, mostly because it was such a perfect all-rounder. It was fast, handled like a precision instrument and looked sufficiently aggressive without being too shouty. It was also very practical. If you took it down to the shops to pick up a pint of milk, and resisted the temptation to mash the throttle, it could be a very docile car to drive. But if you did open it up, the sound of that 3.2 liter straight six was pretty incredible. There’s nothing else I’ve heard that’s quite like it. It wasn’t a growl. It was a rasp, a sinister, menacing one. I hope that one day I’ll own one too.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2002 BMW M3 on eBay

1990 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL

1990 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL

Buying a high mileage car can be a bit scary, even if it’s a Mercedes with a reputation for longevity. Odometer readings can have a profound psychological effect on our perception of a car’s health (and worth), making people leery of high mileage cars. But in truth, at a certain stage in a car’s life, maintenance history and upkeep become far more important than any number on the dash. This is particularly true of the W126. A low mileage car that has been sitting is liable to cause you more problems than a high mileage one that has been driven and cared for by a meticulous owner. The upshot is that if you shop around and choose wisely, you can score a bargain on a high mileage car. This 300SEL, for example, has 286k miles on the odometer and a cheap price tag attached. Offered for sale by a knowledgeable and friendly Benzworld contributor, it offers a budget friendly entry point into W126 ownership backed up by plenty of maintenance history.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL on Benzworld

1990 Mercedes-Benz 300CE

1990 Mercedes-Benz 300CE

The 300CE  joined the W124 lineup in 1987. These cars offered the same levels of reliability, passenger comfort and safety as the sedan, but with a shorter body, two doors and no B-pillar. This gave the coupe a much a rakish, sporting look. But there can be no mistaking its provenance: the coupe retains the elegant, taut and brawny good looks of its sedan sibling, and both are unmistakably the work of famed Mercedes stylist Bruno Sacco. Powered initially by the 3.0 liter version of the M103 SOHC engine, in 1990 the CE’s motor was swapped out for the M104 DOHC unit, which increased power output to 217 hp (the engine was revised again in 1993, bumping displacement to 3.2 liters, but power output remained the same).

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Mercedes-Benz 300CE on eBay

1985 Mercedes-Benz 280E

1985 Mercedes-Benz 280E

The W123 is a classic car you can use on a daily basis. Produced between 1976 and 1985, these mid-sized executive sedans set industry leading standards for safety, passenger comfort and reliability during that time. In fact, the W123 was so rugged that Mercedes took it rallying, scoring a surprise win in the notoriously grueling, 30,000 mile, transcontinental London-Sydney Marathon. The W123’s iconic silhouette remains a common sight on today’s roads – no wonder, since they last forever – and when you see one, there’s no mistaking it for anything other than a classic Mercedes. From 1981 onwards you could only buy the W123 as a diesel in America. These cars would get you where you wanted to go, but not very quickly. Which makes this final year, European import gasoline powered car a tempting option.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Mercedes-Benz 280E on eBay

1989 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6 manual

1989 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6 manual

I’m a purist at heart. I like older cars that have survived into the present while remaining practically bone stock and unmodified. But I also realize that there are many different ways to love and appreciate cars, and the stance scene – with its lowered ride heights, deep dish rims and negative camber –  is just another of them. So even though I don’t quite understand it, or find it all that appealing, I respect the craft, and the obsession that goes into creating these cars. This modified 190E caught my eye on the Benzworld classified forum. It’s riding low, but not too low, and while the wheels really don’t quite fit, they are at least very handsome. And with an “Avantgarde” interior taken from a European spec car, the inside on this one’s a bit of a treat too.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6 on Benzworld

1992 BMW 316i Touring

1992 BMW 316i Touring

The US-market never received the touring (wagon) version of the E30 3-series. But these cars are now old enough to import under the 25 year rule, which means you can find a steady trickle of these popping up on eBay for sale over here, and various accounts of enthusiasts’ attempts to bring them over. And no wonder: the E30 estate is a handsome and utilitarian looking car, practical and quite stylish.

The E30 was offered in Europe with a wider range of engines than we received here, so there a variety of different longroof options to choose from.  There were two four cylinder models (a 1.6 liter and a 1.8 liter), two six cylinder models (a 2.0 liter and 2.5 liter, with the latter also being available in “iX,” all wheel drive spec), and a 2.4 liter naturally aspirated diesel inline six. This particular car is a 316i, the entry level model. While the car is currently located in Germany, it’s being advertised on US eBay to tempt American E30 fans with a taste for forbidden fruit.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 BMW 316i Touring on eBay