No Reserve: 1978 Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL

Is the Mercedes-Benz W116 chassis one of the better values out there for a classic European sedan? Given the typically low sale prices, one could safely assume that yes, these are relative bargains compared to other Mercedes from the same era. The car shown here is a 1978 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL that is offered for sale by an organization that uses vehicle sales to support Rawhide Youth Services which exists to provide support and guidance to struggling youths. The car in question is a bit of a project with a variety of mechanical needs disclosed. Find the Mercedes here on eBay where bidding has reached $1,700 with no reserve.

The W116 of course has a star player, which is that of the 6.9L offering that really opened the door to super sedan offering. The rest of the lineup wasn’t nearly as exciting, with more conventional gasoline and diesel variants the bread-and-butter model most consumers bought. The W116 is hardly a difficult car to find for sale, which has also contributed to its ho-hum price tag. Of course, the good news is that it’s one of the few vintage models from Mercedes that doesn’t cost an arm and leg to buy, but that comes with the caveat that you likely won’t see much of a return on investment when it comes time to sell. This 450SEL presents well in photos but does have some mechanical faults as disclosed in the images of the paperwork.

Now, what I like about this seller is while they don’t provide much in the way of detail in the listing itself, there is a form they scan in which is a record of what their on-site vehicle inspector/mechanic found when reviewing the car. While you’re getting a project car for a low price, most of these vehicles come in by way of donation and therefore usually have some flaws that put them on that path. The Mercedes is noted as having a sticking throttle and a faulty exhaust system, along with backfiring, rough shifting, frayed belts, and a leaking transmission. There are other faults as well like a non-functional HVAC panel, but that’s small potatoes compared to the other needs.

Truthfully, some of those issues can likely be resolved with a proper tune-up, along with replacing ignition components, all belts and hoses, and draining and replacing all fluids. The non-responsive HVAC panel is a common Mercedes fault – the one in my 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth is non-responsive – and some of the other issues, like cruise control that doesn’t cruise and A/C that doesn’t cool are issues you can live with while the running problems are sorted out. The chassis and body seem to be in good shape, and given the abundance of parts cars littering junkyards everywhere, you should be able to find good, used components for reasonable money. Would you take on a needy-but-cheap W116 like this?


  1. alphasud Member

    Sounds Mike most of its issues stem from sitting for an extended time. I think the most important thing for me when purchasing a classic Mercedes is fining one that just has mechanical needs. Anything cosmetic inside and out will cost a lot of money to sort. Whoever buys this car will easily sink several thousand into the car to properly sort I have thought about getting a W116 but there is an even cheaper and more readily available model and that is its successor the W126 of which I have owned and currently own. Would I take a 6.9 if I found one for the right price? Absolutely! Something else to consider if you are thinking of a V8 they are thirsty. That was the reason for me moving on to the W124 300 model which averages about 20mpg over the 15mpg my SEL returned.

  2. Mitch

    There seems nothing that can not be sorted on this car. The 6.9
    is a true gas guzzler – Mercedes stated in their adverts for it
    “tentative driven it needs 16L, normal driven (what is normal?)
    25L and fast driven 35L/100KM Well, gas is and was still an
    expensive resource and such cars will never gain a top price
    or a high demand. Just to compare, a contemporary Mercedes
    lorry of this time (2835 4×2 19L V10 a.e.) uses also about 30
    Litres. But its a 28 ton lorry, not a car. lol

    Here i think most usage of low quality fuel and missing mainte-
    nance caused the listed failures. Many could think this old
    Benz are rock solid, what they are, but they forgot to keep it
    solid, regular maintenance is the key. They just drove it. Its
    follower W126 380 SE have a weight difference of 280 KG
    and fuel savings of 23% if Mercedes’ statements can be
    The hvac panel is the nasty part on this export models whilst
    the regular twin twist handles work trouble-free. Interchange
    ing is not possible. This here is a ‘build your own’ offer.

    • Chunk

      WOW! 35L/100KM works out to 6.7 mpg; 25 is 9.7 mpg.

      For comparison purposes, my 1979 Olds Delta 88 has a supercharged 6.1 liter LS motor that makes 475 horsepower to the wheels, which is about 565 at the crankshaft. I get 10 mpg arsing around in the city, almost 20 on the highway.

  3. Peter K

    Oh my…. I owned a 1977 MB 450 SEL for 17 years. While these cars are reliable they are incredibly expensive to work on. The AC is an easy deal. The AC pump actually comes from GM. NO big deal. The most expensive item on this cars list was the hydro-pneumatic suspension. A total rebuild is $2500 per corner. (ask me how I know) These cars are also prone to body rot and really need to be kept in a warm dry interior place.

    The best thing about this car is cruising down the highway at a comfortable 85-95 mph and have a (you fill in the blank here) roll up behind you and see the passenger pointing at that lil bitty emblem on the trunk of your ride that says 6.9. Yes the telephone poles really do look like a picket fence.Its incredibly comfortable to drive long distances.

    A car mag in the 70’s stated that this car was .25sec slower than a corvette in the 11/4 mile with the ac on and 5 people in it.

    Like 2
  4. Jack Quantrill

    Someone offered a kit to install a GM 350 into these, and the SL/SLC roadster and coupe.

  5. Rixx56 Member

    My ’76 450 SEL is relatively quick but thirsty.
    I wish it had greater value… ugh. Keeping up
    with maintenance gets costly and seemingly
    foolish to own one. Trim pieces for the grill
    and emblems, etc; set ya back quite abit; but
    I’m a cheapskate. Hood ornament came up
    missing twice.

    Like 1

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