The Mercedes Benz W126 series were manufactured from 1979 to 1991 and are now considered modern classics. You can buy good examples from classic car dealers, but what's it like buying one privately - such as off Ebay ? Well, after spending over a month trawling through listings and viewing cars, here's my experience
1. First generation cars (1979-1985) are far more rust prone and so good examples don't appear often. Bodywork repairs are expensive if you want original panels and a proper job done - I've been quoted 1,500 pounds for two front wings! Walk away from rusty, scratched, or dented W126 examples if you care about cosmetics - it's almost always going to cost more than the car to repair!
2. The helpful people at the Mercedes Benz Club and the Benzworld forums recommend changing the timing chain, tensioner, and guide rails at 100k miles on the V8 engines (380, 420, 500, 560). The guide rails on the W126 are plastic - if it fails then you've got yourself a pretty expensive repair job. Always ask the seller if they've been changed every 100k miles - if not, expect a discount!
3. Most of the electronics run on rubber vacuum lines. These can go brittle and leak with age, causing headaches with all parts of the car, especially central locking. The lines themselves are only about 3 to 5 pounds per meter, so ask the seller if they've been replaced recently.
4. There can be hidden rust under the rear parcel shelf, especially on SEC's (coupe version) - eventually it'll rust through and rot just below the rear window. A full repair job involves taking out the window and replacing the window gasket - very expensive!
5. These cars have a lots of fluids and filters, depending on the model these could include:- engine oil, oil filter, air filter, hydraulic suspension oil, power steering fluid, power steering filter, automatic transmission oil, automatic transmission filter, rear differential oil, active carbon filter, brake fluid. A well maintained example should have these changed regularly.
6. All W126 aircon systems will originally run on R12. This is no longer available in the UK, so you cannot re-gas the aircon anymore! Always ask the owner whether it's been converted over to R134a.
7. It goes without saying, but look for evidence of regular servicing and repair bills. These are old cars - 2 or 3 years without a full service is usually enough to cause a lot of parts to fail, with repair bills more than the car is worth.
8. Tire choice is actually a fair indicator of whether you're looking at a no expense spared example or not. Michelin's, Goodyear, Dunlop, and Yokohama can be considered premium tires for a W126. If the car's running on cheap stuff, then there's a good chance the car's using cheap consumables as well... e.g. cheap engine oil, cheap filters, etc
I hope people find these pointers useful. Good luck!
Mercedes Benz W126 Series 280, 300, 380, 420, 500, 560
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30 October 2010
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