AAZCD (Forum Supporter)
AAZCD (Forum Supporter) Dork
10/29/20 3:46 p.m.

I'm considering making a new Gambler car instead of fixing my old one. There's been a few low priced Mercedes Benz sedans for sale in my area that have me curious. I have not had a look at one yet and know very little about them.  I'd need to lift it at least a few inches and put a skid plate on it. Would the engine keep running with a snorkel if I ran through deep water? The 3.0 6 looks like a reliable engine.

My first consideration in finding a car is that it has to be one that most people would not expect or attempt to take off road. The next consideration is that it does not have any flaws that will make it impractical to modify . ...and Cheap enough to be disposable.

So does a W124 with 275k miles (1990 for under $1,000) seem right?

Wipers on the headlights are a plus.

MrChaos
MrChaos GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
10/29/20 3:56 p.m.

i believe those are the ones with the disintegrating wiring harnesses 

clutchsmoke
clutchsmoke UltraDork
10/29/20 4:37 p.m.
anishakapoor11 said:

Hello, I would myself like to know about this as I am also confused whether to fix my new Gambler car. Regards, Canoe Paddler

Canoe

TheRyGuy
TheRyGuy New Reader
10/29/20 6:15 p.m.
MrChaos said:

i believe those are the ones with the disintegrating wiring harnesses 

That was only an issue on the 1992-1995 model years with the M104 or M119 engine. The one he referenced is a 1990, using the old KE-Jetronic injection on the M103 engine. I would still have a look at the harness to make sure it didn't have any crumbling insulation. The distributor is up high on the engine, (driven off the front of the camshaft) and if you seal it anyway, water shouldn't be a problem. The KE-Jetronic Fuel injection would probably be OK under a snorkel. As long as you keep water out of the intake tract, I don't see where you'd have a problem. The KE-Jetronic may give you issues if it has sat for a very long time. Be sure to at least change the fuel filter!

As far as the suspension goes, check out the front ball joints. They had a tendency to fail, and they are built into the control arm, so you have to replace the whole lower control arm when they go out. Lifting would exacerbate this issue. The fronts on these are struts with a separate spring. Don't know if spacing the strut up with a tube (where it attaches to the knuckle) is a good idea or not.   If you have the proper spring compressor for these Mercedes, I don't see why you couldn't add a spacer at the top of the spring and get some lift.  Maybe you could pop a different spring in there altogether.  The rear is a 5 link set-up, shocks are separate from the springs. Make sure the rear subframe mounts ahead of the rear wheels and the rear shock mounting points aren't rusted out completely. 

Skid plate would be straight forward to fab up I think. Plenty of mounting options underneath. My guess is the headlight wiper motors are most likely seized up at this point though.

I'd say go for it, these cars are fairly robust, if a bit finicky with aging electronics. 

I also think $1000 is a bit high for a 30 year old German car with unknown maintenance at 275K. They are likely tired of dealing with all the little issues that make it unreliable to be a daily anymore. 

chandler
chandler UltimaDork
10/29/20 7:32 p.m.

You can't go wrong, I've had ten w124 chassis cars and they are the ultimate beaters. 

yupididit
yupididit GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
10/29/20 8:51 p.m.

In reply to TheRyGuy :

M120 engines of the stated time period also suffered from those self eating harness. crying

yupididit
yupididit GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
10/29/20 8:55 p.m.

Have you thought about w123's?

 

 

Or a w126?

AAZCD (Forum Supporter)
AAZCD (Forum Supporter) Dork
10/29/20 9:08 p.m.

In reply to yupididit :

A W123 looks good. When I was stationed in Germany, we used to see the farmers using those like Americans use pick-up trucks. I was just making arrangements to see the 1990 300 E and the seller admitted that he doesn't have a title for it. That particular one is out, but I talked it over with SWMBO and the concept of a beater Mercedes Gambler is a 'go'. I'll be watching for one locally. I'm thinking mid '80s to mid '90s is my range - The early 2000s ones aren't as interesting to me.

Any more recommendations or advice appreciated.

03Panther
03Panther Dork
10/29/20 9:51 p.m.

That's the winner in my book! Well, at least do a smoother job cutting the fenders out...

AAZCD (Forum Supporter)
AAZCD (Forum Supporter) Dork
10/29/20 10:09 p.m.

One of these might be fun: Rough '79 450 SL on Copart

I see some late 90s SLK 230s going for Challenge money occasionally. Should they be avoided?

Tk8398
Tk8398 Reader
10/29/20 11:45 p.m.
AAZCD (Forum Supporter) said:I'm thinking mid '80s to mid '90s is my range - The early 2000s ones aren't as interesting to me.

Any more recommendations or advice appreciated.

Pre-1997 should avoid most of the complicated electronics ($375 keys, electronic controlled transmission, etc).  Most of the ones with the disintegrating wiring will have been fixed or be long gone by now, it was a bad enough issue that a lot of them got fixed under warranty, the rest have likely been scrapped by now. I think a couple inches is about about the most lift you will be able to get, that w126 with the hacked fenders would be dangerous to drive with the amount of stress that would put on the suspension, but something like this with a W123 would for sure be doable.  https://jalopnik.com/how-to-turn-an-old-diesel-mercedes-into-the-ultimate-of-1823830740

 

A w126 will for sure need a skidplate because they have no oil pan protection at all, they actually made factory skidplates for most Mercedes that are impossible to find but can at least give you an idea of how to fabricate one.

AAZCD (Forum Supporter)
AAZCD (Forum Supporter) Dork
10/30/20 8:06 a.m.

In reply to Tk8398 :

From that Jalopnik article, this fabricated bumper/skid plate looks awesome (not as-in beautiful and fitting the aesthetic, but sturdy and functional): 

AAZCD (Forum Supporter)
AAZCD (Forum Supporter) Dork
10/30/20 1:21 p.m.

Ok, this thread may have just become moot. While waiting for the '79 450 SLC to come up at auction, I saw a no-reserve '04 Beetle Cabrio come up at only $500. I bid $600 and won.

I would still love a W123 or W124 ...or W107. I have a tinge of regret, but I have plenty enough cars and projects. I don't even really like New Beetles, but that makes it all the easier to deface them, and abuse them. It would be harder to take a classic Mercedes ruin it for any future restoration.

LanEvo
LanEvo Dork
10/30/20 3:08 p.m.

The W124 is a tank. Can't go wrong.

They're heavy, but they handle surprisingly well. Brake upgrades are easy/cheap bolt-ons. The big mechanical issue with them is relatively weak transmissions (they still last forever...but that's the weak spot of the drivetrain).

They also tend to have HVAC issues. Heater controls stop working and A/C never works well, even when they were brand new. The power windows and door locks are also failure prone. But none of that stuff matters in an off-road beater type of situation.

One more thing is the wheel wells are pretty narrow. They've also got squared-off wheel arches. That combination makes it tricky to fit big wheel/tire packages under the car. But, again, that's not an issue for your use...a Sawzall can fix it.

MrChaos
MrChaos GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
10/30/20 3:11 p.m.
yupididit
yupididit GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
10/30/20 3:39 p.m.

In reply to AAZCD (Forum Supporter) :

Don't feel bad about ruining a w123, w124, or r107 they're like the most common classic Mercedes you can find. Though r107's hit a little price hike a few years ago, they've simmered back down. And none running needing simple fixes are CHEAP. 

Congrats on the new beetle. That's my fav color for those cars.

DjGreggieP
DjGreggieP Reader
10/30/20 4:08 p.m.

 

Buddy and I took one as a rally car, it wasn't road legal when he purchased it and had no key so its a bit 'rigged to work', but loads of fun to thrash. I really should buy this thing from him...

Tk8398
Tk8398 Reader
10/30/20 7:42 p.m.

You can lift a new beetle a decent amount and still drive it, I know someone with a lifted one that has been driving it that way for years (including a trip from CA to the arctic ocean).

 

 

https://www.legendaryfoto.com/Automotive/2016-November-Lifted-New-Beetl/i-d9h8gzP/A

03Panther
03Panther Dork
10/30/20 8:23 p.m.
yupididit said:

In reply to AAZCD (Forum Supporter) :

Don't feel bad about ruining a w123, w124, or r107 they're like the most common classic Mercedes you can find. Though r107's hit a little price hike a few years ago, they've simmered back down. And none running needing simple fixes are CHEAP.

The 78 300SD at my place has enough rust, its not worth much... someone will eventually get it for parts, or it will prolly head to scrap one day. So a butcher job, would actually save it!

yupididit
yupididit GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
10/30/20 10:11 p.m.

In reply to 03Panther :

W116's are harder to come by but aren't worth much. I bought mine for $600 and sold it for so much more lol

03Panther
03Panther Dork
10/30/20 10:16 p.m.

Non rusty 116's bring more than I could afford, but that's not that much, really. I could afford the one my buddy has parked at my place, but cant afford to ever make it nice for my wife, and although I would love the diesel, the mpg really is not good enough to compete with other options.

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
10/31/20 12:39 p.m.

The only question you have to ask is will 31 inch Mickeys fit?

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