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ArthurDaley

Original Poster:

19 posts

40 months

[news] 
Friday 4th May 2012 quote quote all
I'm contemplating an early 90's E-class estate to cart myself to various sporting events over the summer (most in this country but one in the south of France) with a budget in the region of £1500. Bar the reputation for tank-like construction and reliability, I don't know much about them and would appreciate any advice or suggestions from those with experience. Am I asking for trouble or can reliable shed-territory motoring be had?

r129sl

3,661 posts

86 months

[news] 
Friday 4th May 2012 quote quote all
First, they're great. They are very well-designed for the job of carrying people and possessions in style, safety and comfort, over distance great and small, around town or over challenging roads at speed if necessary. They also have a cult following: drivers of 124 estates wave at each other.

Second, they're all old now. The youngest (1995) is 17 years old. The eldest (1986) is over quarter of a century.

Third, they are very popular.

Fourth, they are extremely well-built.

Add together these three things and you may find your budget does not get you very far. The biggest problem for you, paradoxically, is 4. Because they are so well-built, they take a hell of a lot of abuse. They get run into the ground. Many have been used as glorified builder's vans. Combine their robustness with their age and you will find a lot of cars have a big backlog of outstanding maintenance. Sure, they have had the oil and filter changed every 9,000miles and, sure, there is a MOT certificate for everyone of the last 20 years, but the shocks, spheres and rubber bushings may all be well past their best.

Your budget will get you a serviceable petrol-powered car. There's a range of engines but the big difference is whether it has six cylinders (smooth, fast, thirsty) or four cylinders (less smooth, less fast, less thirsty but also possibly less money). A six will give 20 to 25mpg. A four will give 24 to 29mpg. You might get more out of either on that long 85mph run to the south of France.

These are the things you need to be on the look out for, most serious first:

(1) Rough running motor: this indicates a bad wiring harness. Most will have been replaced by now. It's a good sign if the history shows a new one at anytime since manufacture.

(2) Bouncy rear suspension: this indicates bad rear spheres.

(3) Wandering at the rear: this indicates worn rear suspension bushes.

(4) Oil leaks and/or oil and water mixing: this indicates a bad cylinder head gasket.

(5) Uncomfortable seat. If you're driving all the way to the souuth of France, you don't want a car that has had a fat man at the wheel for 250,000miles.

(6) Leaking sunroof: this indicates rusted up sunroof drains and it will drip on you.

(7) Rust. It looks bad but it's not the end of the world. All of the cars in your budget will have rust nibbling at the front wheelarches, perhaps the rears and possibly the tailgate.

Others with greater expertise than me will no doubt chime in and correct me where I am wrong. For me, the giveaway sign of a good car is originality (orange indicators on a pre-1993 car, no silly wheels, no silly grilles) and tyres (good quality matching tyres tell you the owner has cared for it).

chazola

370 posts

40 months

[news] 
Friday 4th May 2012 quote quote all
...basically what he said. But I've never had another 124 estate driver wave at me, maybe because I'm too big and beardy! But yeah, you'll be most likely looking at a petrol, as the diesels are rarer, have very few of the engine problems/complexity of the petrols and do go on forever, and command a price premium. I bought a diesel estate in 2004 and it's still my main car at 222k.

It is possible to get a low-ish mileage, good condition petrol for your budget, but it'll have to be from somewhere like ebay or a private sale- traders have cottoned on to the popularity of these cars and bumped the prices up for decent (and fairly average) cars accordingly. There was a nice E280 estate near me that went for £1100, I've bought a good E280 for £900 before...

The 6-cylinder petrol engines are all nice and are quite thirsty, the later 24v versions less so than the earlier 12v. I get 33-40mpg in my diesel depending how and where I'm driving it. I haven't driven any of the four pots, as I like the smoothness of a in-line 6. The 6-pot 24v petrols are known for head gasket and wiring harness problems.

Service history is a must with these cars, they are extremely well built but complex too for their age in certain areas, and you can suddenly find yourself with a big bill for something- like r129 said they'll get abused 'cause they'll run even with something broken. I do all my own mechanicals unless it's something that needs to go on a lift, and parts aren't that expensive.

Like r129 said avoid anything that's been 'boyed up'- i.e. big star on the front grille, wrong wheels, dubious interior.

I think the only other area r129 hasn't mentioned are the jacking points- these are covered by little plastic flaps which just pop off- they tend to rust under here and if the jack holes are rusted then there'll be plenty more rust covered by the plastic sills.

Plenty of info here:

http://w124.co.uk/info.html

Edited by chazola on Friday 4th May 18:58

ArthurDaley

Original Poster:

19 posts

40 months

[news] 
Friday 4th May 2012 quote quote all
Cheers for taking the time to write such a thorough reply. Love the tip about avoiding one with evidence of overweight ownership! This has caught my eye if I can get the chap to budge on price: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/150808697249?_trksid=p51...

If I end up taking the plunge I'll let you know how I get on.

All the best, Jon

W124Bob

931 posts

58 months

[news] 
Saturday 5th May 2012 quote quote all
Pretty sure the wiring harness issue is post facelift cars,I believe the US insisted on somesort of new wire covering which turned out to be biodegradable!
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ClassicMercs

1,319 posts

64 months

[news] 
Monday 7th May 2012 quote quote all
wavey

The numbers are starting to fall rapidly - in daily use. We are on holiday for two weeks and a daily challenge is to 124 spot - sad I know - and a wavey.

A couple of years ago you could count on an S124 a day. Now we are happy with any 124. Mind you - Speyside is all RangeRover - although one new G Wagen was a delight.

Wild Rumpus

279 posts

57 months

[news] 
Tuesday 8th May 2012 quote quote all
I bought a full history W124 E320 estate will full history, 134k miles and all the options 4 years ago. I ran it for 1 year and my repair bills totalled £3500. It was a great car to drive but don't expect bullet proof reliability on a 16 year old (minimum) car!

r129sl

3,661 posts

86 months

[news] 
Tuesday 8th May 2012 quote quote all
That accords with my experience but I am quite fanatical about my cars being perfect. My 320 TE cost me about £2-3k a year in maintenance, repair and tyres. I did about 15,000 miles a year in it. The problem is the backlog maintenance. Very few owners bother to replace the rear sub-frame bushes, the rear suspension links, the rear spheres, the front shocks, the front lower control arms, wheel bearings, engine mounts and so on and on. Mine had settled down into very cheap motoring, though. I think int he last year it cost less than £1,000. And then my dear wife finished it off.

SuperHangOn

2,421 posts

36 months

[news] 
Tuesday 8th May 2012 quote quote all
r129sl said:
That accords with my experience but I am quite fanatical about my cars being perfect. My 320 TE cost me about £2-3k a year in maintenance, repair and tyres. I did about 15,000 miles a year in it.
This is why I would avoid the facelift 280/320's. The earlier cars have the bulletproof 4spd autobox, no dodgy wiring harness and are generally better built. I could have rebuilt my diesel for one year of your maintenance, it was such a simple car.

ClassicMercs said:
wavey
The numbers are starting to fall rapidly - in daily use.
Most have been exported, not all paid for unfortunately.


Wild Rumpus

279 posts

57 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th May 2012 quote quote all
SuperHangOn said:
r129sl said:
That accords with my experience but I am quite fanatical about my cars being perfect. My 320 TE cost me about £2-3k a year in maintenance, repair and tyres. I did about 15,000 miles a year in it.
This is why I would avoid the facelift 280/320's. The earlier cars have the bulletproof 4spd autobox, no dodgy wiring harness and are generally better built. I could have rebuilt my diesel for one year of your maintenance, it was such a simple car.

ClassicMercs said:
wavey
The numbers are starting to fall rapidly - in daily use.
Most have been exported, not all paid for unfortunately.
Yep, the bulk of my cost was replacing the wiring loom and rebuilding the 5 speed auto box!

mickyveloce

620 posts

119 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th May 2012 quote quote all
M104 wiring looms will degrade , however they can be re-wired pretty cheaply . It`s obviously a labour intensive job , but at the end of the day , its just wire and insulation .
My C36 was done last year for under £200 .
Feel free to contact me for details of my chap in North Yorkshire who does this type of thing !

volks al

4,052 posts

97 months

[news] 
Thursday 10th May 2012 quote quote all
Still regret selling my 96 e300d est with AC for £850 last yr. yeah mileage was high but I was a solid cool car. Think it's exported now.

JimmyJam

1,612 posts

102 months

[news] 
Saturday 12th May 2012 quote quote all
Had my '93 280TE for a year now and absolutely love it, it is so smooth and comfortable. I can't see we'll ever sell it.
Only niggle is the condensation over the winter which gets pretty severe and also kicks off mould in the fold down rear seats. Heating is pretty pathetic as is the windscreen wiper

Edited by JimmyJam on Saturday 12th May 21:58

r129sl

3,661 posts

86 months

[news] 
Sunday 13th May 2012 quote quote all
JimmyJam said:
Had my '93 280TE for a year now and absolutely love it, it is so smooth and comfortable. I can't see we'll ever sell it.
Only niggle is the condensation over the winter which gets pretty severe and also kicks off mould in the fold down rear seats. Heating is pretty pathetic as is the windscreen wiper

Edited by JimmyJam on Saturday 12th May 21:58
It is possibly leaking at either the sunroof drains or the rear side windows. The heating problem may be a bad duo valve.

SuperHangOn

2,421 posts

36 months

[news] 
Sunday 13th May 2012 quote quote all
And the wiper mech needs some spray grease!

bolide

373 posts

137 months

[news] 
Wednesday 16th May 2012 quote quote all
If the car steams up after you start it there will be lots of water inside it. I use a dehumidifier to dry the car out & then go looking for leaks. They are usually from the heater drain assembly under the windscreen, sunroof drains, a/c drains, rear window leaks and holes in the floor in the rear underfloor storage

The heating should be fantastic - if it's not you may have pump or duovalve problem

A good one will be great to drive and not expensive to run. Most of the faults you will come across will be down to lack of maintenance rather than anything else

Nick Froome

Edited by bolide on Wednesday 16th May 20:28

loudlashadjuster

1,116 posts

67 months

[news] 
Friday 18th May 2012 quote quote all
Had a semi-facelift 1993 300TD for a few years, great car, highly recommended.

In 2009 it sold in seconds on Ebay for not hugely less than I paid for it despite 290k miles and a disintegrating front wing (only had one replaced due to a knock, never got round to the other one).

I got bushings, prop joint, engine mounts etc. replaced which made a big difference to smoothness, and a new grille, aerial motor and window motor made it look and work (almost - outside temp gauge never worked!) as it did when it was new, offside front wing excepted.

The sills on mine were beginning to concern me a bit (lot of gunk under the flaps like another poster mentioned, no real signs of real structural rusting but you never know), but the interior and oily bits felt like they could take another 300k miles.

Probably had to budget £1k a year for maintenance, it gave about 30mpg. Had no qualms taking it to Europe on holidays, it felt really at home on the autobahn. In fact, few cars I've been in are as comfortable at 80mph, especially when considering the weedy (120-130bhp) engine.


bolide

373 posts

137 months

[news] 
Friday 18th May 2012 quote quote all
The old 250 / 300TD models are great, and the engines bullet-proof, but the later E300 Diesels with the multivalve 606 engine are much nicer to drive. They still feel like a car from another era but the Multivalves have a lot more snap

I don't agree with the argument to favour the early cars over late ones. The later E280 and E320 petrol engines are a lot more economical than the 300TE. The E220 engine is a little rough & gravelly but it's a willing thing. To my surprise an E200 is as good as an E220 and definitely has a smoother engine

Overall the later cars feel more modern and the cloth interiors are nicer though a bit less hard-wearing. Yes, a new wiring loom is in the future of all cars with a M104 engine (E280 & E320), but so are new tyres, suspension spheres, back boxes, etc. You'll only have to replace it once. Post-93 cars all had twin airbags - though you'll find the occasional 93 car without the passenger bag

The 5-speed box was an option on all six-cylinder petrol cars from 1991 so predates the facelift

Buy a 1996 car and you'll have 7 seats, probably remote locking, a/c and sunroof, etc

Nick Froome

r129sl

3,661 posts

86 months

[news] 
Friday 18th May 2012 quote quote all
bolide said:
Yes, a new wiring loom is in the future of all cars with a M104 engine (E280 & E320)
Probably in the past by now.

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