Shown Then Stowed: 1969 Mercedes 300SEL

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When we think of barn finds, it’s easy to envision a car being put on blocks for a restoration that never happened. But this 1969 Mercedes 300SEL sedan here on eBay is actually a strange case of a nice, driver quality restoration being sidelined for a mere transmission leak and left to disintegrate mechanically until just recently. Bidding is up to $5,100 and the car is located in Virginia. 

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Here it is uncovered, revealing a decent but not great repaint and fortunately, dry storage. The seller claims that the Mercedes received extensive mechanical work before being offered in trade for a newer model Benz, but that the car was barely used in the years after the swap. The Mercedes specialist Star Motors handled the mechanical work which included a new water pump, ignition components and plug wires along with adjustments to the injection pump and choke thermostat.

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The desirable Rial Bundt alloy wheels were also added at this time. Work continued to the insides, which included restoration of the wood trim on the door panels, glove box and ash tray.  As you can see by this photo, storage has not been kind: the air suspension has deflated, the battery is dead and the fuel system needs flushing. The seller will not allow potential buyers to attempt to start the car and also conveyed that removal will be tricky due to the location of the outbuilding the Mercedes is stored in.

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Here’s the real shocker: the 300SEL was driven to a car show just before it was parked for 10 years, and it certainly looks to be a nice 5-footer (this is the “before” picture). How can you let a running, driving classic like this Mercedes just fall apart while awaiting a simple fix? The seller said he planned to send it back to Star Motors for the repair, but given the choice between using a local shop and keeping it on the road versus sending it to a specialist nearly eight hours away, I’d choose the former. Do you think the story adds up?

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Comments

  1. jaygryph

    Sure it adds up, I’ve had my 69 Galaxie on blocks in storage for 9 years because it needed valve guide seals and the shop doing the repairs skipped town with my parts. I picked up another car, put that to the side, and 9 years got behind me. It’s super easy to lose track of time on projects, particularly if you’re waiting on money to do them.

  2. Chebby

    Nice Benz in a great color.

    In the ‘before’ pics it looks to be sitting very high: does the suspension have a setting for that, for snow or off-road, or is the system automatic? I’ve certainly seen 6.3s bottomed out from sitting, but never raised up like that.

    Also another pic shows it without the chrome fender trim, so was that before the
    re-paint?

    • Dave Wright

      Yes…..there is an over ride that you can raise the ride height. This one is too high. Otherwise it works automatically. Most came with chrome fender well trim. It should also be there.

  3. Horse Radish

    Sorry, Dave, incorrect on the fender trim.
    ALL came without the trim.
    It was a (cheap, and mostly U.S.) dealer add on and got a lot of popularity.
    NOT a genuine Mercedes part(s)

    • Dave Wright

      I owned 2 in Germany and 2 here in the states. Only one did not have the trim. One of the German cars, my first one, had always been chaufer driven, was a one owner car and was only 5 years old. It was one of the ways we could tell it was a 6.3 from a distance. The Germans liked to take the trunk badges off so no one was shure what the car was. The stance of the air suspension was a clue but many had 3.5 engines as well.

  4. Horse Radish

    I guess the ‘official E-bay photos’ are of the car in current, non-running condition, while the four or five outside shots embedded in the description are of some 10 years ago.
    Quite confusing, if you ask me…..

  5. Audifan

    In order to get the car out of the barn it MUST be raised. If the systems holds air, it can be inflated with a compressor by attaching to hose directly to the “air tank” in the front of the car. If not, It needs to be jacked up and blocks put on the suspension to keep it up. Maybe the factory blocks are still somewhere in the trunk, if not, some wood pieces can do the job.

    Rust will be a major concern on any classic MBZ and I also would get rid of these ugly aftermarket chrome fender trims immediately. They hide rust really well.

    Hopefully the big M100 engine is in good shape. Parts and a potential rebuild will be very expensive.

    The color combo of this car is quite unusual, green (268) with black leather, most green ones had tan leather. I had one in this color with green leather.

    • Dave Wright

      You are wrong, it will come out just fine without being raised. I am doing my 4th one of these cars right now and do have the block set but they roll and move without them even being deflated. They don’t steer much without them but otherwise……..When living in Germany decades ago, I owned many Mercedes. My buddies all liked to talk about how much they rusted but they were comparing 25 year old Meercedes to 5 year old every thing else……..I saw many 3 year old Fiats and Citroens that were banned from the road by German inspectors because of rust.

      • audifan

        If you say so, I must be wrong and you are “wright”.
        Never mind the ripped-off muffler and other damage to the undercarriage.

      • Dave Wright

        I have never heard that before……………

  6. Chris A.

    The Mercedes “Q” ship. Top of the MB line except for the 600, but lots of complex systems to check and rebuild along with the body work. Audifan is well informed as to actually trying to move the car. These are an iceberg. Buying it is just the tip, the underneath cost of repairing and renovating along with maintenance and premium gas make it a very expensive hobby car, even for an enthusiast. But I’d have it over a Rolls Royce, this is luxury with performance. Love the videos of these racing.

  7. Chris A.

    This should be a candidate for a tribute car replica of the MB “Rote Sau” red pig AMG 300 SEL 6.3 that took 2nd at the Belgian Spa 24 hour race and is now in a Finland museum. The original is truly an intimidating car with just under 600 hp from a bored out and heavily modified 6.3 engine.

    • Dave Wright

      I saw a film of that car while at the Mercedes Factory last fall…….incredible. All done without computers, variable cam timing, or electronic fuel management. Those Germans are a pretty clever group.

  8. John

    While I’m truly no expert on such things as moving a deflated 300SEL, I can tell you that you will do many thousands of dollars in damage to the underside of a 600 Pullman by moving it while it’s deflated. I watched a tow truck pull one out of a neighbor’s garage. I suspect that driver still pays an extra premium on his insurance.

  9. Jeff

    A 6.3 with an oil leak? What kind of oil? The answer may be good enough to stuff it away. Regardless of the source, it will cost a small fortune to correct it.

  10. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    You HAVE to inflate the bags before moving, otherwise the damage would be expensive. My 6.9 was the same car with later engine, we had to inflate. Pulling on a level surface only less concerned but out of that container no way.

    Concerned more with the condition of that suspension.

    I don’t remember that color being original back then

    • audifan

      Color is code 268 blaugruen but it was only called green in English. I had a 67 300 SEL in this color.

  11. Dave Wright

    Ross, We pulled my 1973 out of a field last year where it has been for several years with a wrecker and a winch, we loaded it onto a roll back and loaded it onto my trailer. We jacked it up when we got it home and put the blocks in before unloading it at the shop but mostly because it would bottom on the trailer ramps. We have the car started and running, there is no damage nothing drags we also moved the one I bought at a long beach customs sale in a similar way 20 years ago. It had to be towed out of the yard that way because of rules against working on vehicles in the storage yard. We towed it maby 1/4 a mile to a gate where we waited for a roll back to pick it up. That car was sold a few years later to the editor of Car and Driver. There was no damage.

    • Ross W. Lovell

      Greetings All,

      Dave, I believe I might have an idea why the different outcomes.

      Leaking Bags!!!!!

      Normally if the bags are good, I’d agree with you. Being these cars are somewhat older, it’s not uncommon to find these with the bags empty and sitting below the factory minimum. A leaking bag will pressurize and if a small leak, not usually a big deal. If the car has a bigger leak and/or the bag has failed, you’ll have the issues myself and another poster detailed.

      • Audifan

        The air bellows are either good or bad. They don’t leak. The three suspension valves are usually the problem. There are two in the front and one in the rear.
        They still can be bought from MBZ for approx. US $ 1.000.– a piece. There is a good company in Germany remanufacturing them for about $ 300.– a piece.
        The car will stay up for MONTHS if there are no leaks.

  12. That Guy

    I’ve owned two of these. One of my more exciting automotive moments happened when a rear airbag burst just as I was pulling out of a driveway. It sounded like a bomb went off, and suddenly the car was on the ground. Fortunately I was still barely moving so there wasn’t any significant damage except a slightly flattened exhaust tip. But the car was definitely dragging, and the tow truck driver and the repair shop both had a lot of trouble moving it around because the air suspension couldn’t be inflated.

    New airbags aren’t terribly expensive, though everything else that’s 6.3-specific is. These cars are massively fun to drive, and are still really quick even by 2016 standards. In 1969 almost nothing could touch them except a big-block muscle car, and then only in a straight line. A 6.3 would out-drag even a contemporary Ferrari or Lamborghini over a 1/4-mile.

  13. Chris A.

    Assume you buy this car and want to make sure the air suspension is reliable. What is the current cost to rebuild a MB 300 SEL 6.3 air suspension? Or is this an example of “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it”. A driver condition of this is on my bucket list of “must have” cars.

  14. Dave Wright

    Just because it is down does not mean it is broken. It needs to be started and allowed to rise and even then defects may not show up for a while. The parts and service have come down over the years. Some of the Mercedes restrictions on the OE manufacturers have expired allowing them to sell direct and the Internet has helped.

    • Ross W. Lovell

      Greetings All,

      Dave, I’m just saying that normally the car has a level it attains when it is shut off. If there is a leak in the system it drops lower. Most times, the car’s system can overcome the leak once started, bad ones, less able.

      With regards to bellows that don’t leak, if it holds air, it will eventually leak, even a tank. Replaced bad ones before, not the controls/valves.

      Great car, though. Liked my 300SE fintail better, love the 8’s power but prefer the 6’s ease to work on when needed.

      • Dave Wright

        My 1965 300SE was one of the greatest cars I ever owned. One of the 6 cars I shipped home when leaving Europe. They were a 1959 220S coupe that had been owned by a war criminal, the 65 300SE, 1965 Maserati Mistral, 1962 300SEL 6.3, 1968 Porsche 911L and a 1976 Chrysler Lebaron.

  15. Chris A.

    So filling the suspension air tank directly off a compressor will at least give you some indication of problems without starting the engine?

    • Dave Wright

      I suppose it would but the bigger more common problems are in the adjusting valves. I think I did have an air line go bad one time.

  16. Brad Menke

    Greeting fellas!

    I was surprised to see my recent listing of MY 1969 6.3 on this page. It was an accidental discovery during my Google search to verify whether or not extracting the car out of the barn before attempting to block the car would be a huge problem.

    The “story” about sidelining the car for the trans leak is 100% genuine. As a former m100.org member, those who were around between 2002 and 2006 will remember me and the stories about this car. I already owned a Tobacco Brown 1970 6.3 VIN# 3724 that was a much more complete restoration and always took 1st place in the foreign categories of the local car shows. Even in the 15 years I owned #3724, I only had perfect weather etc opportunities to put 1,500 miles on that car!

    I had little need or desire to drive the 1969 with it’s transmission oil mist spraying out under the chassis under acceleration – especially with a much more desirable and driver-ready 6.3 in the main garage.

    I realize that this thread is already a week old, but I will come back and check this forum if there are any questions. I will also link this page to my eBay auction.

    I had sold the car for $14,100 to a buyer in Berlin, who failed to close the deal because he had underestimated his ability to coordinate the extraction and shipping / importation of a non-running car back to Germany before placing the high bid.

    As a result, I will be relisting the car again.

    It is VIN #1181 and although first registered as a 1969 model year is likely a late 1968 with the higher compression 9:1 engine. It is definitely worthy of consideration.

    Personal circumstances have lead me to have to accept that the window of opportunity for continuing to own, maintain, and drive 6.3’s anymore again in my lifetime has passed. I sold the 1970 about 2 months ago to a buyer who shipped the running car back to Germany.

    He looked at the 1969 in the shed that I was yet unprepared to sell and said that as a long-time owner of several 6.3’s, he saw no unusual difficulty to recovering the car from the barn for transport.

    • Dave Wright

      Hello Brad…….you have great taste in cars. I just received my Mercedes classic center newsletter, they have a 1971 for 225,000.

  17. Brad Menke

    Thanks Dave.
    I only wish I had the time, money, and health to keep and really enjoy them.

    The auction on this one just went back up moments ago and I included a diagram of the lot on which the car is located in order to avoid folks ‘buying’ the car and only then realizing (despite the clear info in the description) that it is not just a simple attach-a-cable-and-winch-it-onto-a-transport AFTER the fact.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/191897488885?forcerRptr=true&item=191897488885&viewitem=

  18. L.M.K. Member

    Looks like it sold again at a better # .

  19. Brad Menke

    Actually, no. The first auction ended with a buyer in Berlin with a $14,100 top bid. The problem was, as I had warned (in German) at the bottom of my auction page, without someone able to coordinate the extraction and shipment locally, he had overestimated his ability to arrange it all remotely from Germany.

    The current auction ended today with the bid at $10,101.56. ;D)

  20. L.M.K. Member

    Congratulations on the sale….

  21. Brad Menke

    So, for all the doubters, the buyer’s driver maneuvered a roll-back into position ahead of the shed, raised the car with a floor jack, installed wood blocks into the suspension and out she came! Total time about 2-1/2 hours!

    Much easier than anticipated. Lou is a real pro!

  22. Brad Menke

    On it’s way out into the daylight for the first time in over a decade…

  23. Brad Menke

    All loaded and secured! Ready to hit the highway!

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