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MB W126 - Any Owners?

Discussion in 'Other German' started by Doody, Jan 24, 2008.

  1. Doody

    Doody F1 Veteran

    Nov 16, 2001
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    Mr. Doody
    Any Mercedes W126 (S class 1979-1991) owners out there? Just looking for some non-rabid (e.g., not on a W126 board) real-world experience and feedback.

    I'm close to pulling the trigger on one of a few 350SDLs. Ultimately it'll be converted into a greasecar. I want to put 200K+ miles on it and just want to make sure I know what I'm getting into :) .

    TIA,
    Doody.
     
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  3. Seth

    Seth Formula 3

    Feb 8, 2004
    1,532
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    my first car was a 1988 300SEL, had it for about 8 years, got it with about 80K miles on it and ran it until the transmission blew at 178K miles. was a great car, good road feel and an amazing highway cruiser. never had the chance to drive a diesel version but the 300SEL was similar performance wise to the diesel and on the highway it would cruise and had decent passing power. great fuel range as well, i think i could get about 450 miles to a tank on a fill up, diesel maybe even more.
    as far as maintenance goes our car was pretty much flawless, the front brakes went at around 150K before they needed replacing, and the transmission was the only other "major" item to fail. tune ups and general maintenance was a bit more $$ than say your average new car but granted some cars are well over 20 years old now and thats a given. the 300 engine was bullet proof

    dunno what year your looking at but there was 3 main changes in the interior over time and to me the first editions interior is terrible and does not hold up in the long run, the second edition is a lot better and the final edition i think only 1990+ models had the W140 S class seats in them (however they hold value very well and may not be available in diesel) also the seats tend to sag in the second edition and i had to "restuff" my seats as they were sagging so much and it was uncomfortable to even sit in them for long periods of time, dealers wont tell you about the restuffing option (as a seat will cost $700+) and restuffing cost about $200 i think

    also you may for want to update the sound system as the stock system isnt that good and only has tape/cassette, also the electronics are often an problem, relays often blew and the AC system (which is automatic in a sense) is another area that is often trouble, my AC system was never really fully functional/100% working all the time and the sensor caused so many problems, cruise control also is prone to failure.

    all in all just remember it is a 20 year old car and needs to be treated like so and it will run perfectly
     
  4. Hoodude

    Hoodude F1 Rookie
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    Doody,
    I have a 89'560sec so my experience w/the big v8 will be somewhat different than yours will be w/ the diesel,,,but i love the way the big benz drives and rides,it is super solid,it rides big...however w/mine there always seems to be something funky electrically going on and I dislike those gremlins lots.
    From what I've read on mb forums iirc the sdl is bulletproof and worshipped in a cult-like manner by those in the know. As you may have learned the 126 was the last of the big mb's worthy of the three pointed star and imho have deteriorated since.They're still a fine auto,just not as fine.

    What will make your car a ''greasecar''? Best wishes for whatever purpose,,,RE
     
  5. Doody

    Doody F1 Veteran

    Nov 16, 2001
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    Mr. Doody
    great info - thanks!

    i'm looking primarily at 1991 350SDL cars with < 150K miles.

    http://www.greasecar.com/

    keep it comin'!!

    doody
     
  6. Seth

    Seth Formula 3

    Feb 8, 2004
    1,532
    Texas
    also at least for me the case has been that the transmission on every W126 i ever drove ALWAYS needs to be warmed up, it will slip and be rather harsh until it is warmed up properly, granted every W126 i drove had over 100K miles but this always seemed to frighten people as they were convinced the transmission was gone, so if you have never drove one wait till it is properly warmed up(at the 80º on the temp gauge) and it will be a different world in driving experience.
     
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  8. Texas Forever

    Texas Forever Four Time F1 World Champ
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    Apr 28, 2003
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    Dood,

    My daily driver is a 1989 420 SEL. It is a great road dog with a lot of room that makes a great airport car. As Seth as mentioned, the transmission becomes the weak link. The 420 appears to be especially prone because it has a heavy kick down switch on the gas pedal, perhaps because it is such a heavy car.

    Like any 20-25 year old car, you probably will need to go through the driving components such as steering box, idler arms, ball joints, bushings, and so on if you want the car to drive the way it should. Various trim pieces will be showing their age, etc, etc, etc.

    However, I would caution against anything less than the 560 motor, and I would be very leery of making any modifications. These are very heavy cars. Even the 420 motor has to work to push it down the road. But when you upgrade to the 560 motor, everything works like it should.

    Gas mileage? Pfff, who worries about stinkin gas mileage! Serioursly, though, you need to do a spreadsheet on this idea of converting one into a greasemobile. My car gets maybe 15 mpg on the open road, and I use premium. However, I have a grand total of, say, $10k into the car including new tires, servicing and so forth. I think that I have put 25k miles on the car (the odometer quit, damn plastic gears.). If I figure 15 mpg @ $3 (which is on the high side for the last two years), I have paid another $5k for gas. So if I was to push the car over a cliff right now, it would have cost me 67 cents a mile. If I figure that I can sell the car for $5k, this drops my per mile cost to 40 cents a mile.

    The problem is that my car is not worth fixing up or restoring. A 1989 420 SEL will never be anything more than just another old car.

    However, a 1991 560 SEC like this Ebay car is another story --

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ABSOLUTELY-SHOWROOM-NEW-CONDITION-560-SEC-ONLY-45K-MILE_W0QQitemZ160193744514QQihZ006QQcategoryZ6332QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

    I could actually see a car like this going up in value over the years. So long story short, if I move out of the 420, I'll be looking to get either a 560 SEC or maybe a 5 series BMW.

    I don't think that you will ever find me in a diesel pusher. :)

    Dale
     
  9. Hoodude

    Hoodude F1 Rookie
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  10. Hoodude

    Hoodude F1 Rookie
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  11. bergxu

    bergxu Formula 3

    Aug 16, 2005
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    See my post in the 560SEC thread.....but I am a present owner of a W126; a 1983 300SD with 317K on the clock and on the original engine and transmission and still going like clockwork. My family has been loyal to MB for as long as I can remember so I grew up with them and man are they wonderful cars. I think its a bit harsh that some say the W126 was the last S-class worthy of bearing the tri-star...the W140 while being hideously expensive to service is a great car (that's the '92-'99 body style). I think MB seriously took a quality dump with the W220....those are s**t.

    I worked at an indie MB shop for about six years in and after college...so I've gathered a lot of knowledge on these cars. I'll say that the biggie to watch out for ONLY on the 350s is connecting rod failure. It was a poor design from the factory so lots of 3.5s have been replaced with factory 'upgraded' engines which have no problems so if you are hell-bent on a 350 have a dealer run a VMI on the car you're looking at to see if its had the engine replaced. The other biggie with that engine (actually all 603 engines) was a poor casting design in the cylinder head and if you overheat those engines you'll most likely warp or crack the head. The original casting had a 14 in the part # and the replacement has a 17 in the part #. Otherwise just make sure the climate control is working properly as they are very time consuming to put right and make sure the tranny has seen 30K services. No valve adjustments are required on the 603 engine as they have hydraulic lifters. Do also be weary of plastic radiator necks snapping off. The updated radiators have an aluminum sleeve in the inlet to prevent this. Good luck and do your homework before you buy! Seems that 350s command high prices but before I'd lay any cash down for an expensive one I'd want to see that it has had the engine replaced.

    Cheers;
    Aaron
    '82 GTSi
     
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  13. Doody

    Doody F1 Veteran

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    thanks everyone - great stuff aaron!

    my research and due dilly continues...

    doody.
     
  14. Hoodude

    Hoodude F1 Rookie
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    #11 Hoodude, Jan 27, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2017
  15. vteqe

    vteqe Formula Junior

    Mar 5, 2005
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    Sandy
    I owned a 1986 300SDL until I purchased a 1995 350SDL Diesel. The 1986 was a great car. I love the 126 body shape. Same body as the '91. When I purchased the 1995, the 126's engine and transmission was in great shape with 150,000 miles but the body suffered from major rust, the foam in the seats was shot and the roof stopped working. My 95 probably has the engine you are looking for in the 1991. Comparing the 2 cars, the 1986 was faster and gave better milage. I believe that the 1991 is not galvanized as the newer cars are. My 1995 car yields about 33 mpg at 65 mph. The '95 has had no real engine/transmission issues so far at 48,000 miles nor did my 1986. Muffler, pads, Windshield whipper controls and battery replacements for both cars. One thing both cars suffer from is the return fuel hoses connecting the injectors loosen up and leak. Presently I am using Tygon tubing and the hoses have been holdng. Very minor but annoying. I love Mercedes Diesels.
     

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