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Cheap Grey Market: 1984 Mercedes 500SEC

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Anyone who chases European cars knows that finding one with its higher compression motor, more attractive bumpers and powerful H4 lighting still intact is sometimes an excercise in restraint, as it’s possible to throw rational thought out the window at the prospect of owning such a car. This 1984 Mercedes 500SEC here on eBay is a tough one for me, as it’s already a desirable car in its standard U.S. configuration, but the grey market bits and low price push it over the top into the potential purchase category. Even then, it still may be too much to take on – what do you think? 

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This 500SEC supposedly runs and drives, though the seller admits the automatic transmission can be slow to respond. The power steering line has also been severed, so this stately Benz is saddled with manual steering at the moment. Some might say this makes the driving experience more authentic, but it’s unfitting for a classic coupe like this 500SEC. It will need a new paint job and to lose those whitewall tires ASAP.

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The Euro market cars should make around 231 b.h.p. in the 500 (the later 560 churned out a bit more), which is more than enough to move this big coupe to 60 in less than 10 seconds. Of  course, expensive cars when new like this Mercedes came with lots of pricey systems that will likely all require attention, from ABS modules to complex HVAC units. Fortunately, this one sports uncracked glass H4 headlights, standard on Euro models.

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The price of $1,800 or best offer seems more than reasonable for this project-grade Mercedes, especially if it’s rust-free. I see no obvious evidence of corrosion, but it’s definitely a question worth asking. The rear quarter window seals can fail, which will allow water into the trunk as well as rust the metal directly below the window. I’m tempted by this European-model variant of Mercedes’ W126 coupe – what about you?


  1. Horse Radish

    There are more cars in better shape than customers for these believe it or not. All that crazy price gouging by the oil companies at the pump has finally taken the toll what 30 years of environmentalists were not able to, everybody wants an economy car.

    no interior photos on this one, I assume everything is fried.
    Mercedes started making cars last less long beginning with these…..all plastic, imitation leather melting cracking etc. worse if you did not get tinting….

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    • Rob

      The Euro 500SEC is actually quite a desirable car to many. These usually go well over 3-500k miles with proper care. They were built largely by hand, with lots of care. The users of plastic actually began in 1972 on the 107s, and 1973 for the 116s, done to improve safety. Generally, Mercedes plastic of this vintage ages well, unless some hack got in there and started breaking it. These have no imitation leather to peel or crack, just vinyl on door panel tops, dash, and console really that may crack over time (the dash is guaranteed it). Seats are wool or leather. They are GREAT cars, and of the line of the last really good Mercedes.

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  2. alan

    It will be a lot cheaper to buy one not needing a restoration that could be $20 to 30k. It is a nice touch that some prior owner was so concerned about body dings that they riveted on the cheapest set of aftermarket moldings on the car only to proceed to neglect everything else. Now at $1400 Buy it now. Only a $1000 more than it is worth.

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  3. Chebby

    Flat black, Penta wheels, and Mexican blankets on the seats.

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  4. Bobsmyuncle

    The only experience I had with failed power steering was NOTHING like manual steering. That said it wasn’t a Mercedes.

    I can’t tell if the write up is insinuating that people disconnect the power steering of these cars or just in general. Regardless that’s a thing?!

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  5. james hall

    I messed about with a few of these years ago.
    and yea the failed power steering issue will certainly give you muscles and is nothing like a manual steering set up..

    the slow responding gearbox normally wants the filter in the bottom of the box cleaned out and fresh fluid if that doesnt solve it I hope the new owner has deep pockets. ( we converted one to manual years ago using parts from a w124 )

    when there running right and looking good there a nice big car to drive if you can feed them.

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  6. CoventryCat

    It’s no different than a Jaguar of the same vintage and price – a money pit, and it’ll never be close in value to whatever you put into it. Of course, if I was 17 and wanted to spend my wages from Burger World for a first car, this would probably be it. Or a Jag. How else to you learn those crucial life lessons to teach your own kids later?

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    • Bobsmyuncle

      Lessons they’ll ignore until they’ve made the mistake themselves LOL.

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  7. doug6423

    Water in the trunk is from the seal on the back glass failing, not the quarter glass. That’s why on both the sedan and coupe the window gets milky and separates.

    This car has been butchered on and underneath the repaint it’s probably pretty ugly. The interior is shot. This would make a great parts car!

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  8. Bobsmyuncle

    The factory MBTex from the 60s is great, in fact most prefer it over leather so I’m surprised by the “fake leather” comments. Did MBTex get replaced over the years by subpar material?

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    • RayT Member

      I remember riding in a number of M-B taxis in Europe during the 1990s and early ’00s that had MB-Tex. The stuff was indestructible! I would have expected to see those cars wearing perfect seat coverings when they went off to the crusher….

      The 500-series coupes were nifty cars. I drove a few, in standard and AMG form, when they were new and loved them. Fast, smooth, comfortable and beautifully built. Of course I didn’t have to perform — or pay for — maintenance on any of them!

      Nice toys for a wealthy owner.

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    I hope you have a large equity line of credit on your house, as you will need every bit of it. Buy one done already if you desire one of these.

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  10. Bruce Best

    I have owned the sedan and have worked on a number of these. Generally if you purchase Mercedes parts you will only have to do it once in your life time. The fuel pump and fuel distributor are a weak point, as is the valves which between 80 and 100K need to be done. The interiors are very expensive to get right but the bodies with the exceptions of the front fenders are very rust resistant. Fun drives kind of the best combination of a luxury car and sports car even with it’s size.

    Do it right and spend the money you will have a car that has a commanding feel both inside and outside that is better made then anything 10 years or more newer.

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  11. Claus Graf

    Keep the white wall tires. I believe they are making a comeback! (At least in my house, I mount the tires with the white letters towards the outside.)

    Save the Benz!

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  12. Peter R

    I’ve owned a number of these cars in 380SEL, 380SEC and 560SEL and 560SEC models. When everything is well serviced they are great cars to own. I’m currently looking to buy an SEC but this one appears to be a money pit. As always the best advice is to buy the best one you can afford. Low mileage ones (under 100k) with service history can be bought for $10k or less. Much cheaper than this one even in the short run.

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