1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E 3.2 AMG

1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E 3.2 AMG

One of the first cars to be produced following the official merger between AMG and Mercedes-Benz was the 190E AMG 3.2. These cars came with an aggressive bodykit, giving the W201 a wedge-shaped profile reminiscent of the infamous W124 Hammer, and an enlarged version of the M103 six cylinder motor, bored out to 3.2 liters to produce about 234 hp. Only around 200 of these were made, so the chances of finding one today are slim. However, for a time AMG continued to offer an à la carte menu of upgrades for Mercedes customers to choose from. As a result, a number of W201s were specified with an idiosyncratic mixture of AMG styling and performance parts. This 190E for example, for sale near Stuttgart in Germany, combines an almost bone stock exterior with an AMG-modified motor, making for the ultimate sleeper.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E AMG 3.2 on Mobile.de

1985 Mercedes-Benz 500SEC

1985 Mercedes-Benz 500SEC

When I brought home a nautical blue W126 last month, I was pretty chuffed to find a car in such an attractive and unusual color. But ever since then, I’ve been seeing nautical blue Benzes pop up left, right and center. I hadn’t really noticed them before, but it turns out that color code 929 it isn’t as rare as I first thought. Still, it is gorgeous, and looks just as nice on the C126 coupe as it does on my W126 sedan. This particular car was spotted by fellow contributor Andrew H. It’s a Euro-spec 500SEC, powered by a version of the 5.0 liter M117 motor unsaddled by US emissions restrictions. That means it should be good for about 250 hp, give or take. Performance won’t be blistering – the SEC is more of a grand tourer than a sports car – but that motor is definitely more potent than the one offered in the US-spec 500 from the same period.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Mercedes-Benz 500SEC on eBay

1991 Opel Lotus Omega

1991 Opel Lotus Omega

The first generation Omega was a mid-sized luxury car offered in Europe by Opel, the German subsidiary of GM, between 1986 and 1993. Sold in Britain under the Vauxhall marque and rebadged as the Carlton, my friend’s dad had a mid spec model when I was growing up. I always thought of it as a poor-man’s BMW 5-series. And I don’t mean that in a bad way: it was actually a pretty admirable car, offering luxury features to the masses like ABS, an on-board computer and a dazzling (at the time) LCD instrument display. I suspect most people by now have forgotten all about them. But there is one very special edition of the Omega/Carlton that enthusiasts of my age could never forget, the one breathed on by Lotus. The British sports car manufacturer took the hottest version of the car, the 3000 GSi, enlarged the 3.0 liter 24v motor to 3.6 liters, added two Garratt T25 turbo chargers, a six speed manual gearbox taken from a Corvette and an aggressive bodykit. The result was a menacing and breathtakingly quick uber sedan, with 377 hp on tap and a top speed of 177 MPH.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Opel Lotus Omega on mobile.de

1993 Mercedes-Benz 500E

1993 Mercedes-Benz 500E

As followers of my posts will know, I love cars that conceal their heightened performance behind austere exterior styling. The 500E is a particular favorite of mine. Around 1,500 of these were imported to the US between 1991 and 1994. Based on the W124 chassis E-class, the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” was the product of a joint venture between Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. The chassis would pass back and forth between the two manufacturers as it was assembled: the car got beefier brakes from the SL, upgraded suspension, a wider track and a glorious 5.0 liter V8 motor. A 0-60 MPH sprint time of about 5.5 seconds, top speed of 160 MPH and total power output of around 322 hp might not sound all that impressive now. But those were very respectable numbers for the time, especially for such a large sedan. By the mid-2000s, the 500E had become somewhat overlooked, passed over by many in favor of the BMW M5. But in the last five years there has been a resurgence of interest in these cars. Values have begun to climb as a result.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 Mercedes-Benz 500E on eBay

1991 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC

1991 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC

The C126, the coupe based on the W126 S-class, is a firm favorite around here. And for good reason: the lines penned by famed designer Bruno Sacco have aged very well, and these cars still command great road presence even today. With the C126, you get the stately good looks and bank-vault build quality of an S-class, but repackaged into a slinky, pillarless bodyshape. Collectors might want to park their money in ultra low mileage examples. But I think these cars deserve to be driven and enjoyed – they’re wonderful grand tourers, ideal for covering vast distances while keeping the passengers inside cosseted in safety, comfort and style.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC on eBay

1979 Mercedes-Benz 280S

1979 Mercedes-Benz 280S

Produced between 1972 and 1980, the W116 was the first car from Mercedes to officially bear the name “S-class.” Representing the pinnacle of luxury, safety and German engineering in the period, American customers could choose from several gasoline-powered V8s: a 3.5 liter unit in the 350SE/L, a 4.5 liter unit in the 450 SE/L and a gargantuan 6.9 liter unit in the infamous, high performance 6.9 SEL. But in Europe, the car was also available in base spec as the 280S, powered by a carbureted (rather than fuel injected) version of the M110 2.8 liter straight six.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1979 Mercedes-Benz 280S on UK eBay

1991 Mercedes-Benz 500SL

1991 Mercedes-Benz 500SL

The R129, produced between 1989 and 2002, is a bit of an odd duck. It’s too old for those in the market for a roadster with modern levels of power and convenience. But it’s not yet old enough (or rare enough) to be of interest to collectors or vintage aficionados. The upshot is that a nice example can be had for relatively little money and it might well appreciate in value over the coming decade, following R107 values through the roof. The 600SL was the halo car of the lineup, with a monster of a V12 under the hood. But the 500SL – powered by a 5.0 liter V8 that developed a perfectly usable 320 hp – is where real value for money can be found. Perhaps not as sporting as one would hope, these SLs nonetheless continue in a long line of high quality boulevard cruisers known for their high precision engineering, longevity and classic good looks.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Mercedes-Benz 500SL on eBay

1980 Mercedes-Benz 230TE

1980 Mercedes-Benz 230TE

For many, the W123 remains the definitive Mercedes-Benz. With an iconic silhouette, invincible build quality and well-deserved reputation for durability, these cars can still be spotted on the road today, serving as daily drivers and usable classics. In fact, there’s a mint condition 300D in smoke silver that I see driven around my neighborhood on a regular basis. Looking like it just rolled out of a showroom, the owner is a young professional who I would guess is in his mid-thirties. Now that is a man with good taste. The estate bodyshape adds a useful amount of cargo space in the rear, making it the perfect choice for a stylish trip to the beach (or the lumber yard). To the uninitiated, they might just look like old wagons, but prices for mint examples can quickly reach into the high teens.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1980 Mercedes-Benz 230TE on North Jersey Craigslist

1991 BMW M5

1991 BMW M5

The E28 M5 that Carter wrote up the other day was a nice piece of kit. But the E34 remains my favorite version of the M-powered 5-series. Sure, it was heavier than it’s predecessor. But even with the additional heft, the dynamic chassis and dialled-in suspension setup meant it was still a spritely, potent car. It was also subtle, distinguished from lower models only by a few, discreet M-badges, restyled lower valances and unique alloys. That’s no bad thing. Super sedans should be understated, in my view, and the conservatively styled E34 was handsome then and remains so now. That understated exterior conceals a glorious, screaming 3.6 liter inline six, replete with six individual throttle bodies, a motor that was good for just over 300 hp when new.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW M5 on eBay

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.…