1975 450 SEL Questions (please help)

I'm looking at purchasing a 1975 450 SEL from a party in my town. It has 95k original miles and looks to be very well maintained. I have a couople of questions regarding my findings on the vehicle though and
was hoping that some of you kind folks could help me out. 1) The dash lights don't come on with the headlights. Neither do any of the other instrument lights. I'm not sure if it is a fuse or what, and it was way too cold and dark to go looking at the time. The blinker indicator under the speedometer does come on, so that leads me to believe that it may be just a fuse. The owner is going to check on it, but I was wondering if you guys might have any input. 2) When I put the car into Drive, it took a good push of the accelerator to get it moving. Very sluggish. To be fair, it was about 20 degrees outside, but the engine had warmed up to 175. During the test drive, as the transmission warmed up, it became more senistive to accelerator input. 3) We couldn't figure out the heater! There are four sliders and it seemed like no matter which way we set them, cold air would blow. There are also 2 knobs, and we had the top knob set on defrost and the bottom knob, I think was AC only, but I wasn't sure.
This SEEMS like a good car at a great price, but I don't want to get involved with it if it's already got serious problems. Your input would be appreciated. Thanks, Tommy
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Why do want this 29 year old car? It's a gas hog, has only a 3 speed automatic and will be quite expensive to maintain and repair. The price better be below $2,000 despite its relatively low miles. Now to your questions.
The instrument lights are controlled by a dimmer whose knob is just below the instruments. (There are two small similar knobs, dimmer and trip odometer reset.)
Optimistic assessment is old dirty transmission fluid, change fluid, including draining the torque converter and replace the transmission filter. Pessimistic assessment you already know but at 95 K miles I'd be optimistic.
Probably the heater's control valve is kaput. Knobs are fan speed and A/C temp.
This is a 116 chassis, well regarded but prone to rust. Don't buy it if the car is rusted.
You should also know that this V-8 has mechanical valve adjustments, not self adjusting hydraulic valves. That means that someone, you or a mechanic, will be adjusting its 16 valves every 15 or 20 K miles.
Finally, never buy a car at night when you can't see it.
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This is all terrific advice. Are you a Mercedes mechanic, T.G.? And if so, where are you located?
Larry W. 99 S420

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No way a professional mechanic. I'm retired but do a bit of maintenance on my cars - so long as I can look down on it. No lying on the floor looking up at the job. Too old for that.
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The price of the car is $1400. I wouldn't buy the car after only looking at it at night. This just happened to be the first chance I had to look at it. I'm going back tomorrow to look at it in the daylight, I think. As for the reason to purchase it, it just happened to be the cheapest car in the local classifieds, and after reading about them here, it seemed like it may be a good car. I'm a VERY poor guy who is an older student (nursing), husband and father of 2 as well as a full time worker. I just can't afford to buy new. This doesn't mean that I want to buy a car that I can't afford to maintain, I'm just kind of gathering information and trying to make an informed decision. Your input is much appreciated! You seem very knowledgable in this area. I tried the dimmer knob also and no luck, btw. The transmission was my biggest concern. I wasn't aware of the "gas-hog" part. That could make it somewhat more prohibitive. Particularly since I put a LOT of miles on my car every week (I live 35 miles away from my school and job). Thanks! Tommy

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Tommy,
Don't buy this car. The reason it's the cheapest car in the classifieds is its poor fuel economy (economy, what a misnomer) and high repair cost when, not if, it breaks.
So you'd drive it 350 miles / week , minimum, at 12 mpg is 29 gal / week or $45 / week for gasoline. Then there are the repairs which with any car seem to come in bunches. If you don't have a "Repair Reserve" of about $2,000 ready cash then this car is not for you for that's what a couple of not so major repairs could cost unless you can DIY.
If you want to buy a Mercedes look for a 1983 - 1985 300D Turbodiesel. It's an efficient size, has 24 mpg fuel economy, a durable engine with a 250K useful life and is a comfortable car to drive. A 300SD is the large body version of the same power train. These can be bought in good condition for $2,500 to $3,500. Don't buy a "cheap" Mercedes that's been neglected and run down for that will be a much more expensive car to keep on the road than a good but "expensive" car of the same year and type.
If this is too much $$ then buy a standard American sedan from a retiree or widow. Retirement communities may be good "hunting grounds" for such cars because many owners have given up driving but don't know how to easily sell their car.
Whatever you choose, remember, the more standard it is the cheaper it will be to run and fix.
Tom
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Your advice has been duly noted and is much appreciated. I will be searching for one of the other models you mentioned. I will contact the seller tomorrow to let them know that I am no longer interested. Your frank response may have saved me a major headache! Thanks, Tommy

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