Evaluating my 1979 280SE

I took the risky move of buying my 1979 280SE sight unseen.   This isn’t something I particularly recommend, but you can get a good sense of a car by looking at detailed photos very carefully.     The thing that attracted me to this car was the condition of the body and interior.  I assumed a couple of mechanical issues in my buy price.    I figure you can always sell a car with a great interior and paintwork.   This is especially the case with a W116, as the model is known as rust prone, a trait it shares with the 107 and /8 models.   As I outlined previously, this car is planned to be an interim car, until the 450SE I hope to buy comes on the market.

1979 280SE

The car arrived this week, and while it had the couple of mechanical issues I expected, I was relived that the interior and body were pretty much as expected.   I was also pleasantly surprised with signs and evidence that the car has been well looked after by its previous owner.   Things like near new brake hoses, recently rebuilt front calipers, a new new Mann air filter, near new fuel pump and filter, diff mount and reconditioned radiator.   The warm up regulator also looked quite clean, so possibly removed and rebuilt at some point.   Plus things like he vacuum lines were all the correct colours and still in excellent condition.   Really the only thing I can see wrong with the interior is the rear parcel shelf.

I put the car up on the hoist and really could not see any rust at all.   Common places like the bottom of the doors, sills, floors etc all seem to be good.   There is some delamination in the rear screen, but the seal is new so that looks like any issues have been addressed.   The seal for the front screen is a bit old and should be done at some point.

1979 280SEThe biggest mechanical issue I noticed was the car was running terribly.   It was almost impossible to start, and ran poorly.   Once it warmed up, it would eventually idle.   It didn’t want to rev when driving.    This will be my most important thing to fix.

The second most severe is the exhaust system.   It has issues in three places.   The rear muffler is a stainless steel system that was installed many years ago.   The rest of the system is original and pretty ragged.   The RHD 280SE has a major weakness in the exhaust system.   On the LHD models, and on the W126, the twin exhaust manifolds join up to dual pipes.   On the RHD car, they join directly below the manifolds into a Y piece and go down as a single pipe before they split again before the centre box.   The M110 head is quite long so over time as it heats and cools, it expands and contracts and cracks the Y piece at the join.    This is an issue with my car.   I also have a couple of small holes in the pipes before the centre box and where the old pipes join up to the new rear stainless section.

I have not yet decided what to do about this.   The best fix would be a new stainless system from the manifolds back.   This would go to dual pipes like the LHD cars and eliminate the Y piece.   It will not be cheap and I may end up loosing money on the car.  It’s generally my preference to do things properly though.

1979 280SE

Next, the steering coupling is worn out.   This is much easier to get to on the six than the v8 cars.   I had this replaced on my 450SLC a couple of years back.   On the SLC the steering box comes out, as there is less room.   It also needs a new height control rod and shift bushings.

There are also a couple of issues I won’t be looking to address.   The A/C is not working and neither is the rear window on the drivers side.

As well as the material condition of my 1979 280SE there is also the service history.   The car comes with quite a lot of it.   The car was first owned by the Consul Commercial of Greece, based in Sydney.   After a couple of years, it was sold to another gentleman, based in Sydney’s Northern Beaches.    After that, it went to a long term owner in Melbourne who owned it from the mid 80s to around 2000.    I have all the stamps in the original log book for the first 200,000km and every receipt (including for wiper blades) for the long term Melbourne owner.   Also with the service history is the data card, original becker manuals and more.

Overall I think this 1979 280SE is a good car that has been looked after.

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