Considering an '82 380SL

I ran across an '82 380SL with 58K miles today. Asking price is $9300.
It seems low-mileage and pictures show the exterior looks great - interior is not so great (leather is cracked, carpet looks old, but
dashboard seems fine).
It's been garaged for 6 years. Owner says master brake cylinder was recently replaced, but front end ball joints have cracked seals and need replacing.
Obviously before I would have it checked out by a reliable mechanic before making such a purchase, but thought I'd seek some opinions online.
From looking at prices of others, this seems like an okay asking price. He's honest enough to admit to the cracked seals, so right now I'm assuming there's nothing else wrong with it.
What sort of things should I look for when I go for a test drive?
Should I be concerned about the timing chain in an '82?
I also found an old article from 1994 in Road and Track which says 3,000 mile servicing can run $200-400. WTF kind of 3000 mile service costs that much? That's a hell of a price to pay for an oil change. I'm having trouble believing that's for real.
I may be able to get some help from a friend on replacing the ball joints and if I can spare myself the labor expense, it wouldn't be too expensive. I'm actually tempted to buy it, fix the ball joints, drive it a bit and put a "For Sale" sign on it and my current car (ask for a profit on the 380SL; more reasonable price for my car) and see what happens.
I'm concerned though that I might be buying a money-pit and red isn't my favorite color for a car (although that might help its resale value).
I just checked blue-book on my current car and it was $9300 - exactly the asking price for the 380SL.
...
And just a couple questions about the hard-top.
How user friendly is it?
Is it a simple process to remove and store? How heavy is it? Is it easy enough for one able-bodied person to lift off? I have visions of struggling with 150 pounds of awkwardly shaped metal and dropping it and horribly scratching the paint and possibly denting the top so it didn't fit right anymore. That would really suck.
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Buying this 26 year old dog would be a dumb move, IMHO.
Why should the ball joints be worn out after only 56K miles? Probably more like 156K.
And the 3.8 engine is a gas hog and anemic - 155 HP for a relatively heavy car. Obsolete technology in today's world.
And don't fool yourself about car values published in some book. Only cash counts. Check www.autotrader.com in your area for comparable cars.
Forget it if an old car like this doesn't knock you out with its appearance for it's just too expensive to put it right.
--

2008 T.G.Lambach. Publication in any form requires prior written
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-->> T.G. Lambach <<-- wrote:

Good point, and although I didn't mention it, that thought had crossed my mind.

Could be. Does the odometer on '82 Mercedes show 5 or 6 digits?
Hopefully, a good mechanic could recognize the difference in 100K miles despite the odometer reading. If it turns out this guy is being dishonest, I'd walk away in a heartbeat and probably key the thing while I did so.

I wouldn't expect it to get the same kind of mileage as my current car does and I might feel differently after a test-drive, but I would expect it to be a bit better at acceleration - it being a Mercedes and having 8 cylinders and all.

Well, actually, that's where I saw it and there were a number of similar cars for a higher asking price. Some of them were even older and all but one or two of them had much higher mileage. The one or two with lower mileage (not anywhere near me) had MUCH higher asking prices.
I suppose I shouldn't pay much attention to the '85s since they have the dual-chain timing belts - I've read that the single chains in pre-'84 models are problematic.

Well, exterior looks pristine, although the interior carpet and seats look as old as it is. I know my car has almost as many miles on it and the leather seats have not cracks at all.
I actually think if I did buy it, I would put a for sale sign on it immediately and ask for 1500 more. I'd also put a for sale sign on my current car and ask what kbb says it's worth.
If the 380SL sold first, so be it - I got to drive it for a bit and turned a small profit. If my current car sold first, that's fine too.
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Just because someone is up-front about cracked seats, that doesn't make them honest. That is like being honest about what color the car is. It is something that a serious buyer will notice immediately upon seeing the car. Being up-front about the fact that the brakes need work is a little closer to honest. In my book being honest is telling you accurately how much oil it burns, or that there is a little bondo around the wheel wells, or that is was in a minor accident, but was repaired.
It's when you are told stuff that you can't tell yourself that it is honesty.
And expecting wonderful acceleration just because it is a mercedes is a little off. Modern Mercedes have great acceleration. But that is something that just crept up in the last fifteen years or so. In the early eighties, Mercedes wasn't making the fastest cars. A car that heavy being motivated by 155 horses makes for a beautiful car that is only as fast as slow econoboxes of today. Somewhere in the 9 to 10 second range to sixty. Sad but true. I don't know what you drive, but if it was made in the last ten years, chances are it will outperform the mercedes in acceleration, cornering, and maybe braking, but probably not. The mercedes will have lots more character though. That is really the only reason to get it.
It is not a super performer. It is not going to make you rich. It is a nice car though. So only get it if you test drive it and fall in love. And if you don't fall in love, don't be an ass and key it.
Bill
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Thanks to you and the others who replied. And I wouldn't really key it even if I did find out the guy was lying about the condition. I might have a few words to say to him if I were sure he was lying, but that's about it.
After having thought about it some more - even before reading the comments here - I've gone from wanting it to thinking I should look longer and harder - besides, I think I mentioned red isn't my favorite color for a car. If I'm going to shell out for an old MB, it should be one I really like and want to keep.
I'll still probably try to schedule a test drive though, just to see what it's like.
BTW, I was a bit reluctant to mention what I do drive last nite, but I suppose it doesn't matter - it's a Chrysler Sebring - it's not real fast or anything, but it's not an econobox either. It is reasonably comfortable though and given that it has almost as many miles as the 380SL I was talking about, the Sebring's leather seats look much better than the 380's.
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Good points. To which I would add, I've seen a lot of people that confuse honesty with reliable information. They buy a used car that turns out a month later to need major work and then they bitch that the seller wasn't honest and sold them a lemon. The seller could be perfectly honest and tell you what he is aware of that is wrong with the car. He might know the ball joints are bad because he was told that when he had an alignment check. That doesn't mean mean there aren't other seious problems with the rest of the car that he doesn't know about. Typically a private seller is not a mechanic, and even if 100% honest, only has very limited knowledge of what might be wrong with a car.
Like TG, I'd wonder why the ball joints are shot and the interior is in not great shape on a car with 58K miles. I have an 1980 300SD with 125K on it and the ball joints are fine, the interior is in great shape, no cracked leather seats, etc.
Even if the car is pretty much OK, if he's selling it for what appears to be a fair price, I don't see the upside in buying it and trying to resell it. If it's a car you really want to keep, and it's the right car at the right price, checked out by a good MB mechanic, etc, then it can be a good thing.
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developer wrote:

Last summer I bought an '81 380 SL w/115,000mi for $6500. Great (almost pristine) shape both in and out, an A/C that even beats PHX heat, and lots of extra goodies. Even get women of a certain age flirt with me over the car. My mechanic told me the drive train and mech thingies were in great shape. This has been borne out, love driving the car everyday, esp now with the top down, and had NOTHING break yet. However, only about 13MPG and acceleration is moderate, not great. If I had to do it again I would go for a 560 SL. Pricing here in PHX is all over the map from $5K to $15K. Frankly yours doesn't sound so great for that price and getting even more for it on resale is iffy. I would look a while longer. Autotrader.com is a great source, that's where I found mine.
The hard top is easy to disengage (learn the two handle jig) but lifting is not easy (unless you have a strong buddy), but I got a suitable elec hoist from Harbor Freight for about $70 on sale. Then it's easy.
Chip
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Don't buy it. The car could have 256,000 miles for I care. That is way too much money for the car. 82 cars only has 5 digita on odometer.
nadaguides.com is where you go to look up prices for classics.
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Should I be concerned about the timing chain in an '82? _____________________________________________________________________ The rule of thumb on replacing the chain and related guide parts is 10 years and/or 100K miles. That being said this MB probably has the single row timing chain...not good. Since you probably would replace the chain and related parts you might as well upgrade it to the double row chain. Regarding the 3K service, $200 to $400 is about what you will pay at an MB dealer...you can get the work done for much less at a good indie MB shop. As far as the hardtop...it takes two men to install and remove the top, unless you have one of those ceiling mounted chain lifts mounted in your garage. If $9300 is the asking price I would offer 5K...or less. The market for these older MBs is pretty soft and you WILL spend $$$ replacing parts. That ball joint job alone is not cheap. And the car is due for a new timing chain and that job alone is around $1K if I remember correctly. I would never buy one of these cars with the idea of making a profit. Buy it, drive it, enjoy it, but don't expect to make any profit. I had a '73 450SL that I drove for 32 years and loved every minute of it. It was a great car.
ran across an '82 380SL with 58K miles today. Asking price is $9300.

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wrote:

The hard top can be removed and put back on with only one person w/o a lift. It is tricky but it can be done. I would say it is about 80#?

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wc98 wrote:

Please tell us how. My '81 380 SL hardtop wasn't especially easy (need to keep it balanced) for one man (of a certain age and bad back) even with a ceiling hoist.
Chip
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