Somebody once said that a gambler was someone who made their living out of hope. Somebody else said that it was fine to eat your betting money but never to bet your eating money.
A fateful day in the Grantham registry office many, many long years ago put paid to any gambling aspirations Shed might once have had. Nowadays he believes that the safest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your pocket, but even an old scrooge like him would be tempted to expose 150 tenners to the light in exchange for this Mercedes S320.
Those of you blessed with functioning short-term memories will remember that we had one of these W220 S Classes in here just three months ago. That one was a 320 CDI diesel, however, so Shed feels no guilt about bringing you this petrol-fuelled 320.
Merc sounds exactly like murk, and you could easily find yourself in some of that after buying a W220. As Shed pointed out back in June, W220 corrosion was motoring's equivalent of Covid-19. It could pop up practically anywhere - wings, wheel arches, boot lids, any visible panel really, and that was before you started to worry about all the hidden stuff like suspension mountings. Once the contagion had started, like Mrs Shed on the rampage it was difficult to stop.
Other areas of concern were blocked plenum chamber drains, leaky Airmatics, failing Active Body Control pumps (where fitted) and pretty much anything through which electricity was supposed to pass. That was a problem because the W220 was packed to the gills with tech, with no fewer than 340 patents registered. Unfortunately the complexity could mean one step forward, two steps back. Stuff like fibre-optic wiring sounded great until you torched it by jump-starting your W220.
One of the big car magazines commented that the W220 set a high bar and sometimes tripped over it, but surely it's still worth a gamble at this sort of money? After all, that £1,490 S320 CDI from 2005 (the last year of W220 production) passed its last MOT in January with no comment from the tester, exactly as it had for the previous two years, and there are surely few better ways of getting about than in a fully- or even partially-functioning S-Class of pretty much any era.
Admittedly, this week's S320 isn't a direct comparison to that '05 320 CDI not just in terms of its motive power but also in terms of its age. It was built in 2001, past the worst of M-B's Rust Period brought on by the cost-paring antics of Jürgen 'Mr Shareholder Value' Schrempp but perhaps not far enough away from it to keep you off the tranquillisers. Weighing in at 1.8 tonnes the 320 had a 221hp V6 that would glide you through the 0-62mph run in eight seconds and sit happily at its 149mph maximum for as long as there was petrol in the tank.
Shed thinks this model might have the 5G automatic, which should mean less bother than was occasionally the case with the later 7G box. It is priced more or less identically to the diesel at £1,495 despite having covered 38,000 more miles than it. This week's car failed its test in 2017 for rotten rear suspension and again in 2020 for more back-end body rot. Glass half-full types will argue that both of these have been fixed now so structural rust might not be a worry going forward. The new owner will find the truth about that soon enough as the next MOT test is due in November.
If you're unlucky, there's good news in the ad where the vendors are promising a full ticket and a three-month warranty. Better yet, by the end of the ad they've generously upgraded that warranty to 12 months, which if you can make it stick is surely too good a deal to miss on a 20-year-old S-Class. Could it be the motoring experience of a lifetime? There's only one way to find out. As somebody else said, the greatest risk in life is in not taking one.
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