Horrible 500SE handl;ing

Hi all,
I bought a 1990 500SE about 6 weeks ago to replace my nice 260E.
The car has 129,000 miles on the clock and seems to have been looked after (main dealer stamps) until about 2 years ago. I viewed the car with a
specialist who helped me to check it out and for its age it seemed to be in pretty good order. It needs some work but mostly minor stuff like a couple of rust bubbles, leather reconditioning, etc.
My biggest gripe about it is the handling, especially at speed. It feels quite vague anyway as there is around 1 inch of play in the steering. Thus has been checked by my local helpful Merc independent, and he adjusted the steering box, replaced the steering damper and the idler arm, which helped somewhat - it didn't feel like a death trap at speed anymore! 1 inch of play is within spec as well.
When travelling at speed on a motorway (freeway), the car seems to be excessively affected by any camber, especially on left hand bends, feeling like it wants to slide off the road or go into an enormous snaking motion! So as a result I am driving it cautiously. The front shocks have been replaced recently with Bilsteins, and all the steering linkages have been checked - no play, no wear apparent in them, and it passed an MoT (safety check) a couple of weeks ago. The new front shock have helped a little by stopping the front end from bouncing about!
I intend to replace the rear shocks as well, though they seem OK. The ride is hard as well at low speeds, with lots of bangs and crashes but my 260E was like this too (and I though Mercedes were meant to be comfortable cars - ha! Not in my experience unless the road is smooth.)
I will get the tracking checked as God only know what it is like but does anyone have any idea about what's up? Driven carefully, it's very nice but I think I should be able to exceed 70MPH with ease in such a car! Or am I just a big coward?!
Oh yes, the tyres are good, Uniroyal rain tyres, right size, right pressure, not excessively worn, no sign of strange wear patterns. My mechanic says there is no wear in the rear control arms or suspension bushes. The car has NOT been involved in a serious accident either.
I guess the answer may lie in the tracking and the steering box being worn. But it would be nice to hear some opinions.
Al, G4VSQ
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Definately get the tracking looked at (usually free) and adjusted (about 15). Most tyre dealers will do this for you.
My car's tracking was knocked out, and at about 85 mph it would start to shudder and make a helicopter-like noise. When I had the tracking re-adjusted the difference was so extreme that when I went out on a (empty) motorway again I found myself doing 105 before I knew it!

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Your car needs a front wheel alignment - caster, camber and front wheel toe-in set to spec.
The work done so far has removed the slop from the linkage and steering box but an alignment will set the wheels in correct relation to each other so the car doesn't oversteer.
Also have all the tires balanced.
If this car has a hydro-pneumatic rear suspension the rear shocks may need to be replaced - these are not standard off the shelf shocks but act as hydraulic helper springs to keep the car level. When their internal membranes break the ride gets very hard.
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Thank you very much. Fortunately, the car doesn't have the hydro-pneumatic rear suspension, so I will replace the rear shock absorbers with some Bilsteins soon.
I have booked the car in to a very good tyre and alignment workshop for a full 4 wheel alignment. Hopefully, this will cure its nasty tendencies.
All the best, -- Al Bolton, G4VSQ http://www.reading-city.net/Vintage_Radios
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Al,
You don't say if the car has factory rims on it. Incorrect wheel offsets on aftermarket rims would cause the sort of behaviours you describe as well.
-Tony

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Hi Tony,
The car has the original wheels and the originally specified size tyres fitted. I don't modify my cars as I reckon MB got it right in the first place!
Thanks anyway, Al
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