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.