Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Prussian Update: My 560 SL Arrived!

Well sorta At least the little die cast doppelganger remains mine. I did feel that it was time for an update/story about my quest and a lot of what I’ve discovered didn’t surprise me. The rules for not getting burned when buying classic cars are essentially the same for a 1989 Mercedes as they are for a 1969 Camaro.
And of course the best advice I got was from Toad. Advice that I’d already taken to heart but it’s never a bad thing to hear it again. “Spend the few hundred bucks necessary to have a qualified, respected Mercedes expert check out these cars.”  Couple that advice with an incredibly thorough and thoughtful website tutorial and I’ve avoided heartache thus far. Heartache avoidance also means to-date, no Mercedes SL.
Only car nuts will want to spend much time at this Mercedes SL tutorial site but let me tell you, it’s sobering and instructive to go through every slide and learn about direct and collateral evidence to support the condition of any SL that might be on deck for purchase. Here are a few examples…
 "Very important body tag w/vehicle ID number affixed. This is the left fender (front) tag. New panels never had tags. No body number on 88/89 560SLs means a replacement fender and a tip to look for further evidence of collision repair. The tags should be on both fenders.” 
“Data tag on core support adjacent to hood latch provided paint code, in this case 568 (Signal Red) as well as vehicle type 107048(560SL) as well as 1 (export) and 2 (automatic transmission). Missing data tag a definite no-no. Philips head screws were always body color. This plate has not been disturbed.”
 “Check where the valve cover meets the aluminum cylinder head for oil residue, a very common situation on any V-8 Mercedes-Benz. Leaking valve covers run oil onto adjacent hot exhaust manifolds causing burning oil stink to be inhaled into driver’s compartment via the cowl vent!”
 “No AC flow through center dash vents signals potential extremely expensive vacuum motor repair/replacement. Contributing parts are buried in heater box.”
 And there are a couple of nuances involved in my SL selection criteria. I choose not to afford ownership of two cars. I live a pseudo-urban life and I don’t do any kind of absurd two-hour commute to work like many around here do. I can walk to my office…when I even decide to go there. My driving is mostly in-town jaunts with perhaps a hundred mile round trip weekend sortie here and there. I don’t pile excessive miles on a personal car when driving to client meetings. That’s what Avis and reimbursable expenses are for. So my SL will be a “modified daily driver” of sorts.
 The idea of having an SL and a frugal little Honda or something like that to perform LFG transport duties doesn’t make sense. I don’t want to buy an SL creampuff and rarely drive it while puttering down the GW Parkway in a Toyota that sports a bumper sticker announcing that “My other car is a 560SL”. I just don’t need two cars.
Besides, one of the things I’ve learned is that these cars need to be driven. You can find 1989 560’s all day long with “only thirty thousand miles on it…driven four months each year and only to the club.” And chances are, at thirty thousand miles, it’s had no service other than a few oil changes. Which means every seal; gasket or other perishable component has degraded. Add $7,500.00 to your budget because that’s what you are going to spend year-one on what I call “the perishables.” My first year surprise update/repair/replace budget is $5,000.00. I add that to the total deal regardless of how well vetted my 560SL candidate might be.
So as of July, I’ve not found the right car that makes it through my budget/condition matrix unscathed. And that’s ok because I don’t want to make a mistake amidst procuring my dream car. I realize that once I own an SL, there are gonna be costs—lots of them, involved in keeping it in shape. Old house-old car…there’s always something to be done to-for-about them.
My trusty little Saab remains in fairly good service and I’ll continue to enjoy it till it either dies thus forcing my car-buying hand or I find the right car. If I don’t find my 560SL dream before the weather gets cold, it might become a 2012 objective.

Onward. In a Saab.

ADG, II

17 comments:

LPC said...

You see, all that caution to the winds, clothes on the porch, focus be damned stuff completely disappears in the face of a car purchase.

ADG said...

LPC...Don't you know it Prunella! The fiscal sequelae associated with the 560 endeavor makes my porch antics look like charity work. Which now that my memory returns--was.

Main Line Sportsman said...

560 is one of my favorites!

Flo said...

Wouldn't it be grand if the listings on their "sister site" had been completely vetted according to the points on the tutorial? Dare one dream?

Charity work, oh God. On your part, or hers?

ADG said...

Flo...indeed. And if budget wasn't an issue, I'd have already taken a chance on one of the better versions I've seen. I'm just trying to avoid the proverbial..."you are gonna need to put 10k in it before you can go over and pick up LFG for the first time"...

Regarding "charity-work"...on night number-two...it was mutual. Even though SHE caused the chair cane heave-hoe thang to occur. Night one...I was the Salvation Army man-child-beast.

Dave said...

I had one of those for quite a few years before I sold it to get a convertible with a back seat (kids!). At the time I sold it (2004) it still did so well on emissions testing that it would blow a zero (particulates) on several of the tests. It was a fun, solid, incredibly well-built car. Good luck in finding the right one! It will last as long as you want to keep it if you take good care of it.

NCJack said...

Bubba, for just $1K and dinner, I'll drive up and whomp you with a tire tool. Less expense, less pain, won't hurt nearly as long, and you're less likely to bore people with the story.

But then, there's no logic to car fever...I'm a homeowner with an Audi TT convertible, even a couple gallons of paint have to be delivered, cuz it won't fit in the go-kart

ilovelimegreen said...

All the cool guys I went to college with drove SAABs. Stick with a SAAB and don't get a Mercedes.
(Sent back to google hell...but I think I figured out the why.)

ABMarcy3 said...

I'm in a classic car myself, although the competitor to the SL, an XJS. have you considered one of those?

Main Line Sportsman said...

BTW...if you are really serious...see my guy Jay Winsor at J&J Motors in Bryn mawr PA....if he cannot find the right SL at the right price...no one can...seriously. We'll discuus next boozing session.

Anonymous said...

ADG,

I have a 71 280sl and went through all of the data codes, matching numbers, etc to ensure the right purchase. But I did it after the purchase and was more lucky than smart as they all matched. Great car but not as good a daily driver as the w107 you are looking to buy.

Enjoy the process of finding the right car-the journey is as much fun as the catch!

ADG said...

Anon280sl...Thanks. If I had the garage space and the $$$ to have a weekend or project car, I'd love to have a 280.

MainLiner...Thanks. That's a great endorsement. And as you know in this kind of endeavor, an important one.

ABMarcy3...I know the XJS well. The gal who "kicked me to the curb" drove one.

LimeGreener....I love Saabs. But they are going out of business...next Thursday, at 430pm.

NCJackTT...But the TT is fun...no?

Dave...you've captured many of the reasons that the car intrigues me.

Summer is a Verb said...

That very last one pic'd, the navy one, swoooon. Btw, saw a pristine, chocolate brown, antique Benz convertable pulling into Teeters as i was pulling out here at the beach this past weekend. The older, full sized sedan kind. Almost drove into the ditch with my rubber neckin'. Had to be one of the most beautiful beasts I'd ever seen in up close and personal. Ohhh Baaaabeeee...XXOO

Reggie Darling said...

I rue the day I sold my triple mint condition 1967 250-SL, bought it at 40 sold it 50. It had a midnight blue exterior, dove gray leather interior, original sisal floor mats, and a Blaupunkt radio that could only find "oldies" stations (I'm not kidding). She was great on a temperate summer's afternoon drive in the country, purring down the parkway. But she also cost me $3-5k a year in maintenance, which in one year wound up amortising at $500 a ride. So now I drive a far more sensible E350 sedan as my "fun" car, just like my father did when I thought he was a stuffy old fart. Ah, well. Life ain't so bad--I could be driving a Kia, now, couldn't I?

CeceliaMc said...

"with an Audi TT convertible,"


Sweet!

Patsy said...

We had a fabulous 1985 300TD wagon forever. We would still have it, if the damn sunroof didn't leak like a sieve.

Main Line Sportsman said...

Jay Winsor is my hunting buddy,known him for 20 years..I was best man at his weeding...he races vintage Porsches(he stores one of 'em in one of my garages) and has a Turner...can rebuild and restore anything and is widely known and respected in Porsche and Benz insider circles...that's why he can find you the right one and why he's a guy you can trust...

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