Classified Find: 1981 Mercedes-Benz 500SEL AMG

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Of all of the European tuning houses, there is probably none more famous than AMG. The company has been weaving its magic on Mercedes-Benz products since the 1960s, and some of their offerings have become the most desirable in today’s market. This 1981 Mercedes 500SEL is one such car, and it was a grey import that arrived on American soil in 1985. It led a sheltered life until a few years ago but has had a rough time recently. It appears to be complete, but it will require someone pretty dedicated if it is to be returned to its former glory. The current owner has decided to part with it and floats the idea of it ending its days as a parts car. Take a look and see what you think, because it would have to rate as one of the cheapest AMGs on the market today. Located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, you will find this classic listed for sale here on Barn Finds Classifieds. The asking price has been set at an incredible $2,250.

Ouch! That’s gotta hurt! When the Mercedes’ original importer brought the car into America, he treated it with a great deal of TLC. The subsequent owner wasn’t so caring, and it received this accident damage at some point. It appears to be mostly cosmetic, and repairing it should not be difficult. One significant positive point is that most of the AMG body additions seem to be present and should be able to be restored. There are a couple of pieces that are missing, but sourcing these items from Europe is possible. There is no evidence of visible rust, so panel repairs would seem to be confined to this minor accident damage. The Charcoal Grey paint is showing some significant deterioration, and a repaint will be on the cards. This is not an overwhelming prospect and would be no more challenging than performing the same task on any classic car. AMG offered a variety of different wheel combinations to prospective buyers, and the original owner chose to equip this one with 16″ BBS 3-piece wheels. The front right wheel has some scuffing on the bead, but the wheels look like they could be restored. The fact that the tires have remained inflated suggests that the seals between the pieces remain intact.

The AMG catalog became more complex with each passing year, and buyers could choose everything from mild to wild when it came to their classic specifications. I can’t see any visible evidence of performance upgrades to this car, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t tweaks hidden below the surface. It would be possible to contact AMG with the VIN, and they could shed some light on this for the new owner. If the drivetrain is unmodified, what resides in the engine bay is a 4,973cc V8 that would have pumped out 237hp in its prime. This is backed by a 4-speed automatic transmission, while power steering and 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS are standard equipment. This is by no means a light car, tipping the scales at 3,649lbs. Even so, this engine would have propelled the AMG through the ¼ mile in around 15.3 seconds. Point it at a German Autobahn, and the car would have topped out at more than 140mph. The engine in this Mercedes was running until recently. A water pump fault has seen it sitting silent. Replacement water pumps cost around $260, and while fitting them can be a fiddly process, it can be tackled in a home workshop. You just need to put aside around 6 hours to do the job properly. There are plenty of online resources that explain the process in some detail, making life a bit easier. One site that I found even goes as far as telling you exactly what tools are required for each step of the process, which means that you would have the chance to be completely organized before you begin to loosen the first bolt.

Between Mercedes-Benz and AMG, buyers faced a multitude of choices when it came to interior trim materials. Many buyers chose leather, although this one is upholstered in cloth. This is now showing a lot of wear and tear, along with plenty of stains. Replacement covers are surprisingly easy to find, and the prices are far better than you might expect. A full set of covers in this material and pattern will cost around $850, but if the buyer isn’t fussed about originality, then luxurious leather can be theirs for just shy of $1,000. The rest of the interior is complete, and apart from a few minor timber pieces that would need to be restored, the rest of it looks like it would respond positively to some deep cleaning. Comfort features abound in this car and include climate-control air conditioning, power windows, cruise control, and a Becker AM/FM radio/cassette player.

Almost every car that receives the AMG treatment emerges as a striking looking classic. Cars like this 1981 500SEL offer a real sense of presence, especially when finished in a color like this one. The seller does suggest that it would make a great parts car, and the AMG body additions and the BBS wheels alone would go close to recouping the asking price if the buyer chooses to go that way. However, I would love to see this car returned to active duty because it isn’t every day that someone has the chance to lay their hands on anything from AMG. If you have a soft spot for European classics, perhaps this one is worth a closer look.

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  1. Jeff LaveryStaff

    Oh MAN. I would love this thing. While distance doesn’t scare me, I’d need for this one to be down the street to justify it. Smoking deal!

    Like 2
  2. alphasudMember

    My daily drive is a 87 560SEL. I originally bought the car for its power train but I fell in love with it and decided to fix it up instead. Absolutely love the way it drives. It’s quite the miss piggy needing lots of ethanol free 91. So that being said I would consider the AMG. It would take a lot to bring this car back and would be nice to find out if engine mods were performed. Last of the true MB cars.

    Like 5
  3. Tom c

    One of my all time favorites, she’s led a rough life but deserves to be brought back to her former glory.

    Like 6
  4. Nick

    Well it looks like a worthy project but by VIN it’s a 1980 500 SEL, with a body kit and wheels in this case. Nothing to suggest it has any AMG connection, the monotone paint aside.

    Like 4
  5. daniel wright

    One caveat here, if there is a water pump failure was it ran without one and over heated?

    Like 3
  6. Matt

    Without any authentication for a direct AMG connection, you’d be better off finding g a solid 560 SEL and hanging whatever AMG goodies you like on it. Very few of the AMG styled Mercedes we see were actually touched by the company. I worked at a race/tuning shop in the late 1980s and the AMG tuning parts were everywhere. We sold a ton of body kits, etc.

    Like 7
  7. Bart church

    $500-$700 parts car is about all this thing is good for. Interior is shot, body is beat up, doesn’t run. Was it run & overheated when the water pump went? Can’t prove the AMG options were in fact AMG. Nope.

    Like 0

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