Mercedes-Benz Australia price list – July 1991

In 2020 it is easy to forget just how expensive Mercedes-Benz vehicles were in Australia before the increased competition from brands such as Lexus, Audi and the like.    Additionally, Luxury car taxes were much higher in those days.    In real terms, the cars were significantly more expensive.

Below is a Mercedes-Benz Australia price list from July 1991.     There are a couple of interesting things that can be seen from this list.    Firstly, the 190E 1.8 which slotted in below a luxury car tax threshold making it an attractive proposition.

The second is how expensive the high end models were at the time.    I was driving my 560SEL the other day and trying to work out what the extra $50,000 got you on top of a 420SEL.    In the end I came up with the following for 1987:

  • A more powerful engine (180 vs 150KW)
  • Power reclining rear seat as standard
  • Limited slip diff as standard
  • Fanfare horn
  • Cigar lighters in the rear
  • Becker CD player (vs Becker Casette player).

The 420SEL as sold in Australia had most things as standard including self leveling rear suspension, sunroof, leather, alloy wheels, leather steering wheel, power seats and so on.   While in today’s used market the small extra premium to own the 560SEL makes a lot of sense, that $50,000 would have bought you an apartment in Sydney.      One can only presume that most of that $50,000 was pure profit for Mercedes-Benz.

In 1991, you could buy a new large (1100+m2) block of land in Western Sydney (Penrith) for $60,000 or a house and land package for $99,950.   The same house and land would now cost around $1m.

Looking at the tax alone on a 560SEC – it is almost enough to buy a 190E 1.8 pre-tax!    The combined original price of my three W126 cars was over half a million dollars back then and 30 years later they were worth pennies on the dollar.

The other big change since 1991 is that nobody leases a luxury car at 16% anymore.

Comparing to today, the price for a 2020 500SL is $292,500.     An S560L is $309,900.    An E300 is $129,600.    These examples show how much cheaper in real terms the cars are today.    The Mercedes-Benz Australia price list from 1991 is certainly an eye-opener.

ModelList PriceSales TaxRetail PriceLease*
W201www.classicjalopy.com
190E 1.8 (Manual)$49,380.30$11.480.70$60,861.00$1,149
190E 1.8 (Auto)$51,278.00$11,922.00$63,200.00$1,194
190E 2.3 (Manual)$64,665.00$15,035.00$79,700.00$1,505
190E 2.3 (Auto)$66,774.70$15,525.30$82,300.00$1554
W124www.classicjalopy.com
230E$76,673.40$17,826.60$94,500.00$1,784
300D$81,460.40$18,939.60$100,400.00$1,896
300E 2.6$83,164.40$19,335.60$102,500.00$1,936
300E$95,253.70$22,146.30$117,400.00$2,217
300TE$101,014.20$23,485.80$124,500.00$2,351
300E-24$103,367.00$24,033.00$127,400.00$2,406
300CE-24$121,785.10$28,314.90$150,100.00$2,834
W126www.classicjalopy.com
300SE$114,239.20$26,560.80$140,800.00$2,659
300SEL$121,622.60$28,277.40$149,900.00$2,830
420SE$135,253.70$31,446.30$166,700.00$3,147
420SEL$140,608.40$32,691.60$173,300.00$3,272
560SEL$183,042.60$42,557.40$225,600.00$4,260
560SEC$200,486.90$46,613.10$247,100.00$4,666
R129www.classicjalopy.com
500SL$193,427.90$44,972.10$238,400.00$4,501
* Monthly, based on 5 years/50% residual at 16% p.a. interest. Recommended retail cost does not include on road costs.

560SEL further evaluation

After owning the 560SEL for a couple of weeks I’ve had a chance to spent a bit more time looking over the car.   I’ve also had a few more opportunities to drive the car – covering about 150 km over the time.   This is a lot less than I would normally want to do, but with COVID19 lockdowns, I can only drive the car for specific purposes such as driving to the shops to buy food.

First thing to do was to put the car up on the hoist and have a look underneath.   The car was ordered with a sump guard (W126 Undershields) and it is still there.  On a car this old it is not unusual for a forgetful mechanic to forget to re-attach the W126 undershields after work is done.   This was the fate of the front undershields on my 250SE.

W126 Undershields

Looking at the photo above, it is clear that the W126 undershields have done a great job of protecting the sump over the years.  Additionally, the car looked great underneath – no trace of any rust.    The flex discs also looked in good condition.    The kidney mufflers also looked new.

While I was underneath, I noticed one of the shift bushings was missing.   I had one on hand and replaced it.   The car was also missing two exhaust hangers.    I had one on hand so replaced that too.    At some point the rear self leveling suspension had been disconnected.   I wanted to see how this job had been done, and it looked quite neatly.

W126 SLS delete

When removing the SLS, it is also important to change the springs, as the SLS springs are much softer.    I am really torn about this system though.   The car rides more harshly in the rear than it should.   When the SLS is working properly, it gives a really nice ride.   I’ve checked the parts catalogue and the struts are the same as on other 2nd generation W126s.   Here in Australia, all W126’s were delivered with SLS so used parts should not be a problem.    What gives me pause is that the struts (A116 320 45 13) are now NLA from Mercedes and Sachs.     I’m not sure if these are being rebuilt in Australia and for what cost.   I’ve seen some rebuilt units in the USA for eye watering prices.   For now, I have other priorities on the car.

Next task was to look at why the reclining rear seat is not working.    It is a trivial task to remove the seat bottom (two 10mm bolts) to see what is going on.   I first wanted to look at if any debris had fallen jamming the system.    Everything looked clear under the seat.    There is a central motor with two cables that connect to the rails on each side.

W126 reclining rear seat

When I press the buttons on either door I cannot hear the motor at all even with the seat back removed.    I’ve checked the fuse diagram and the seat shares a fuse with the power windows.   This fuse is fine.   I also checked the wiring diagram and there is no reliance on other control units.    Right now my supposition is either the rails are jammed and the motor cannot turn,  there is a problem with the motor, or there is an issue with either the switches or power to the motor or switches.

W126 rear seat motor

My next troubleshooting step is to disconnect the motor from the rails and see if it will run.     Overall I am really happy with this car, it has clearly been looked after and while there are some short term things that need doing, I have a great base to start from.

My new 1987 560SEL

I am now the second owner of a 1987 560SEL.    I wasn’t looking for a new car, but I could not pass by the chance to get my hands on a one owner 560SEL.  Unfortunately, as much as I like my 1986 300SE, that car will be for sale after things get back to normal.   The 300SE will be a good car for somebody as I have spent a lot of time and money getting it right.

The 560SEL was purchased new by a Sydney business owner and was first registered in September of 1987.   While it was primarily a Sydney car, it was ordered and delivered by the dealer in Orange, NSW.   The first owner had business in Orange, Dubbo and other towns so I imagine many of the 323,000km are highway miles.    The previous owner was also kind enough to deliver the car to me, which was much appreciated.

The car was serviced to about 230,000km by Marhsalls in Parramatta and then since then by a local Mercedes specialist.    I have the original logbooks showing all these services.    The original owner even had the original brochure from the time of purchase.

1987 560SEL

I also have an invoice from 2013 when the timing chain, brake rotors and so on were all done at 300,000km.   This is really good as the timing chains are an Achilles heel for these cars.   The only red flag is that there is nothing on the invoice to show that the plastic guides were done.   I am going to contact that mechanic to see if he remembers if they were done at another time, otherwise a valve cover will be coming off to inspect their condition.

I am also informed that the A/C compressor is not that old and that the front suspension was totally rebuilt about 6,000km ago.  Unfortunately a previous mechanic could not get the rear self leveling suspension to work so it has been disconnected.     I am in two minds about just leaving it as is, or fixing it.

Incredibly, the car was produced one month before my 560SEC, which is also 929 Nautical Blue.   The cars were only about 1550 apart on the production line back in 1987.    While my 560SEC has cream leather, this one has grey.

1987 560SEL

The car is not perfect but it is in exceptional condition for the miles it has.  It was always garaged and the paintwork is excellent.   The leather also has very little wear for the use the car has seen.   It was very hard when I took delivery, so my first step today was to clean and start feeding the leather.   It is already responding well to the Zymol leather conditioner.     I will need to repeat the process a few times over the next couple of months.

As we are only supposed to be taking essential trips due to COVID19, I have only driven the car around my local area.   It drives very well and is in overall great condition.   It is very original down to the coveted Becker CD player.   So far the things I have noticed that I will need to pay attention to are:

  • The passengers side electric mirror is not working.    It is stuck in a bad position for me so will need to be fixed.   I have purchased a good used one for the SEC which I will probably use here.   The SEC is stuck in an OK position.
  • The rear set is stuck in the reclined position.   I will have to remove the seat base to inspect the mechanism.
  • The leather is coming off the top of the steering wheel.   Easiest is probably to find a good used unit.
  • The ride height is too high.
  • Needs shifter bushings.
  • Drivers seat is collapsing on one side.   Pretty typical for a W126.
  • The thermostat has failed open and the car is too cool even at 80km/h.
  • The A/C may need a charge.   It is cool without being cold.

Nothing on this list is major, it is all quite do-able.

In the longer term, the alloy wheels could be refinished.     One of the plastic cladding panels on the lower body is the wrong colour.   Most people don’t realize that there are a few different shades depending on the exterior colour.   I also wouldn’t mind a set of coco mats instead of the rubber ones.    As mentioned above, the rear SLS is disconnected.

I have not yet put the car up on the hoist to check underneath.   The data card indicates the car was originally fitted with undershields.  I hope they are still there.   It is promising the car did not leave oil slicks in the 24 hours it was parked.

Overall I am really happy with this 1987 560SEL and I think it will prove to be a great daily drive for me.

1987 560SEL

W126 Klima Relay

A week or so ago, I diagnosed that the likely cause of my non functional A/C in the 300SE was the W126 Klima relay.   The second generation W126 went to a Klima relay to control the A/C compressor.

The W126 Klima relay is more of a control unit than a simple relay.   It has multiple inputs that determine if the A/C compressor should not engage.   These include:

  • During full throttle
  • When the engine is very hot
  • Invalid compressor speed (e.g slipping belt)
  • Not enough coolant in the system

This additional functionality makes these relays more sensitive than the little silver ones used in the previous car.   I also had to change the same relay in my 560SEC.    It is important to note that the V8 relay is different to the one used in the Inline six.

The relay is located next to the fuel pump relay near the fuse box.  It is a simple swap out.

W126 Klima Relay

I bought a KAE relay.   I had previously replaced the relay with a rebuilt unit about two and a half years ago.   As it has already failed, I went with a new one.   The KAE unit is made in Germany so I hope it lasts longer than the rebuilt unit I went with.

With the new relay, the A/C is now cool again in the 300SE.    I may gut the innards of the broken relay so I have an easier way of jumping the ports for troubleshooting if/when I need to.

2400 mile road trip in an eBay 560SEC – Part 3

This is the third and final part of a series on my mad cross country dash in an eBay 560SEC.   Part 1 covers the purchase and initial impressions of the car.   Part 2 covers the drive from California to Missouri.    I picked up my drive in Central Missouri and had about 750 miles to cover on the final day.   On the first two days I had great weather but it started to deteriorate and I had on and off rain for the rest of the trip.   The 560SEC handled it with aplomb but it made the driving more tiring and progress slower.

eBay 560SEC

I didn’t have any time to do sightseeing on this trip, but I did spot the Gateway Arch as I drove through St Louis.    My wit and grimy photo is probably not one you would see on any of the postcards!

560SEC

From St. Louis my route took me through the outskirts of Chicago.  The roads here are pretty bad, with low posted speed limits.   For the most part everyone still drives at 85mph even though the posted limits fall as low as 55.   I’ve done the drive between Chicago and Detroit many times, but this was probably the least pleasant.    The weather was getting worse and I was getting a bit sick of the drive by then.

560SEC

By the time I hit Michigan it was already dark.  The sign announcing Michigan had never been a more welcome sight!   Driving in bad weather at night really showed up the limitations of the sealed beam headlights these cars were saddled with.   I actually stopped and checked my headlights were working as the light output was that bad.   It is really the only criticism I had of the car, and not really its fault as the headlights on models for the rest of the world are more than adequate.

A couple of hours later (about 10-11PM) I finally arrived at my house in Royal Oak, Michigan.   This over 20 year old eBay 560SEC had just done a major cross country drive without any hiccups.  Not bad for a car I purchased for less than $4,000.  My radar detector ensured I didn’t end up with any speeding tickets and my GPS kept me on the right course.    Actually I probably could have done the trip without it as the Interstate Highway system in the USA is extremely well signposted and easy to navigate.     There was not long left on the California plates, so the next day I transferred the car onto Michigan plates.

Two Mercedes Coupes

My next task was to remove all the gold badging and the horrible wheels.   Even with all that ‘bling’ the car still looked good next to my 250SE coupe.    I would later go on to put about 18,000 miles (~29,000km) on the car before I sold it in 2011.   The only major repairs it required were the timing chain and a new A/C compressor.    I was in a hurry to sell the car when I left Michigan so I practically gave it away for only $2800.  I hope the owner has looked after the car.

Years later I look back at this as a great experience I had while living in the USA.   It was a shame I could not stretch the drive out for a couple more days to see more.   The USA is such an easy country to drive long distances in.   I’ve now had 5 second generation W126s, all because of the great experience I had owning this car.

2400 mile road trip in an eBay 560SEC – Part 2

This is part 2 of a description of a road trip I took back in March 2009.   I was living in Michigan and purchased a 1988 560SEC in the LA area.   I had to be out there for work so the plan was to drive the car around for the week to get familiar with it and then drive it back over the weekend.   Part 1 covers the purchase,  initial impressions and preparation for my 560SEC roadtrip.

At about 3pm on friday afternoon I set out on my 560SEC roadtrip.   As I mentioned in the last meeting, I chose the southerly route to avoid some bad weather.    A 560SEC is a great roadtrip car, especially for 35 hours of driving over a weekend.   The car is smooth, fast and comfortable.   On the open road it is efficient enough to not require constant fueling.    I found that the range of the fuel tank was pretty aligned to my need to stop for bathroom breaks!

560SEC roadtrip

The W126 is superior to many modern cars for a long roadtrip.  Modern cars with their big wheels, low profile tyres and hard sports seats are not nearly as optimised for long distance cruising as the SEC with more comfortable seats, regular tyres and the ability to smooth out some of the bumps on the road.    While I didn’t need it on this trip, it also has a full size spare tyre instead of a space saver or repair kit.

The map above shows the route I planned to take.   The plan for day 1 was to get to Arizona before stopping for the night.   I managed to get to Holbrook AZ, which is about 550 miles.   Getting a good mileage under my belt on the first afternoon was important to make the trip viable in a single weekend.    Other than getting out of LA, I did not have any major delays on the first night.

I stayed in a fairly standard roadsize motel – the “Economy Inn”.    It was late at night and I chose something that looked halfway decent off the interstate.    Turns out I made a mistake as the next morning I noticed 100m up the road there was a “Wigwam Motel”   The Wigwam models were built in the 30s and 40s along route 66 and you get to sleep in an individual cabin that is shaped like a Tipi.   It would have been cool to stay in this piece of American history.

560SEC roadtrip

Day two is when I really broke the back of my 560SEC roadtrip, covering over 1,000 miles in the day.   I stopped for lunch in Amarillo Texas after passing the pink highways in Albuquerque.   I was expecting Amarillo to have more of a Texas/Frontier town feel about it, but it felt like any other mid-size american city other than the portion sizes at my lunch stop!

Being disciplined with what I ate and drank was how I was able to cover these distances safely.  No caffeine and no sugary foods.   I drank bottled water and snacked on things like nuts along the way.   Caffeine might keep you awake to a point but the crash will come later.

Along the way, I had a slight problem in the Texas Panhandle.  There was a wreck or breakdown on the interstate that stopped traffic for a while.   It was really hot and I was stuck in the red light of the fuel tank at this time.   In the end a few of us had to drive down a grassy embankment onto a service road to get off the highway and get around the problem.   The 560SEC was able to do this just as easily as the F150s it was surrounded by.

I made good time through Oklahoma, the traffic moved quickly and the roads were good.   I ended up staying somewhere in central Missouri after covering around 1,100 miles.     Again, I stayed in a budget motel along the way.    The 560SEC continued to perform well – no burning of oil or any problems to report.    The car was getting pretty dirty, but holding up well.  The drug dealer wheels were still terrible.

560SEC roadtripTo be concluded in part 3.

2400 mile road trip in an eBay 560SEC – Part 1

I lived in Michigan between 2007-2011.   When I first moved there, I bought a cheap but somewhat rusty 1989 560SEC to be my daily driver.   It was already rusty so I was not worried about driving it in the notorious Michigan snow and salt.   After about 18 months the original 560SEC had been hit a few times in the snow.   It also had a very minor head gasket problem where it would burn coolant only if idling for more than about 10 minutes.     I figured the car was on its last legs.

My plan was to buy a nicer car to drive in the summer and then use the crashed, rusty 560SEC as a winter car until it died.   Little did I know that it would still be soldiering on 2.5 years later when I eventually left Michigan and returned to Australia.   The advantage of another 560SEC was that the original car could also serve as a rolling parts car.

I used to travel a lot back in those days.  About a week before a week long trip to Southern California, I noticed a nice eBay 560SEC.   The car was a 1988 model in 040 Black and a Tan interior.   It was high mileage (182,000 miles / 293,000 km) but looked in excellent condition.   I can’t remember if I spoke to the seller before bidding, but I ended up owning the car for $3,750.  I got the car that cheap because of the high miles but also because it had gaudy drug dealer wheels and gold badges.    These are both easy things to fix.   The car was originally from Palm Desert so most of those miles were highway.

The seller was a dealer out of Orange County who agreed to pick me up from the airport Sunday night.     I had pre-ordered a GPS and a radar detector to be sent to my hotel.    Instead of the company paid for rental car, my plan was to use the eBay 560SEC to get around to all my meetings which would give me a feel of the cars ability to tackle a 2400 mile road trip.    Part of my agenda that week was a drive down to San Diego.  The mix of city and highway driving would be a proper test run.    Even better the car had 3-4 weeks of registration left.    Easily enough to get back to Michigan.

9a9_3

The car performed really well during the week in Southern California.   The A/C compressor was a bit noisy but otherwise OK.    One of the wheels was slightly out of balance and the car tramlined with the horrible aftermarket wheels.   The rear Cigarette lighter also melted my phone charger.  A quick stop at Walmart for a double adaptor for the front and a new one sorted that out.  While I was there I picked up a cassette deck adaptor for the Alpine cassette player!

The car was fitted with the original US headlights which are so dim to be almost unsafe.  Luckily the 1989 car had a set of European units – one of the first swaps I did when I got back.

ebay 560SEC

As I won the car in March of 2009, there was still snow and ice on the northern routes back to Michigan.   The fastest way would have been to go up to through Utah and Colorado on I80.   I didn’t want to risk that route with these wheels and tyres, so I went for the slightly longer southern route.

This route required 35 hours of driving over the weekend.  It was going to take my eBay 560SEC through Northern Arizona, New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and finally Michigan.     It would have been much better to take 3-4 days to do this trip.   Unfortunately I had work commitments on the Monday back in Michigan.  I left Friday afternoon about 3pm for my mad dash across the country.

The story continues in part 2.

ebay 560SEC

W126 A/C no longer cooling

There is an old saying that deaths come in threes.   I’ve not had any deaths in the family, but I had the A/C dead in three cars at the same time.   The easiest was the A/C in my 450SLC that just needed a re-gas.   The W126 A/C has been more problematic.   Just as I got the system in my 560SEC mostly finished, the A/C stopped working on my 300SE.

I took the car in for the gas pressures to be checked and the gas was not below minimum spec.   A tiny bit was added but my mechanic told me he thought it was probably an electrical problem.

Mercedes-Benz USA published a very good Service Manual for the Automatic Climate Control in the W126.    There are often copies on USA eBay and some bad scans are available too.     The relevant section is Testing compressor protective cutout, in the addendum for the 1986-1991 models.    This manual is pretty much a must have if you want to work on your W126 A/C.

W126 A/C Testing

There is a step by step test procedure I used to isolate the problem.

  1. Test low pressure switch on receiver/drier.   Test OK
  2. Testing supply voltage to the control unit (Klima relay).     Test OK.
  3. Testing control voltage for A/C compressor from low pressure switch.   Test OK.
  4. Bypass relay by bridging pins 5 and 7 and check that compressor cuts in.   Test OK.
  5. Test RPM sensor for A/C compressor.    The required value is above 0.3V~  My reading jumped around a bit but was nearly always above that reading.
  6. Test RPM signal (TD).   Test OK.

There is a separate troubleshooting guide for the diesel engines that is different.  It is easy to use the wrong one as the labels are on prior pages.

W126 A/C Troubleshooting Guide

Based on these tests, it looks like I require a new Klima relay for my W126 A/C.   This is rather annoying as I replaced the relay back in December of 2017.   At the time I purchased a rebuilt unit as I figured I would get a rebuilt factory one instead of an aftermarket unit.  I ordered a rebuilt aftermarket unit, so this time I have gone with a new aftermarket unit.

I had hoped to swap the relay with the 560SEC, but the relays are different from the straight six to the V8.

Right now I am driving around with the relay bypassed.   It is rainy and humid and I need the defrost capability, it not the cooling.

More and more parts for Mercedes modern classics are NLA

Mercedes-Benz have justifiably maintained an excellent reputation for making parts available for their older vehicles.   They still do a great job for their ‘halo’ classics like the 300SL gullwing or Pagoda SL.   At the same time, I have noticed a big increase in the number of parts No Longer Available (NLA) for the modern classics.   I define the modern classics as those made from the early 70s to the early 90s.    This includes cars such as the R/C107, W114/115, W116, W123, W124, W126.  There are probably others.

I’m really not sure how that extends to the late 60s models such as the W108/W109.  So far I have not had issues with my W111.   This may be because that car was subject to an extensive restoration in the late 90s.  My other cars are survivors with more parts needs.

I understand minor trim pieces and the like being NLA.  The issue has now extended into core parts that effect either the working of critical systems of the car or even the ability to use it at all.   In this case I am referring to the W126 climate control pods and self-leveling rear suspension parts.    In some cases, these parts can never come back as the tooling has been destroyed.   This is apparently the case with the self-leveling struts – A senseless act of vandalism.  From what I understand it is also the case for some ignition lock tumblers.

NLA

I am going to start maintaining a list on this site of parts I discover as NLA and ideally people who have found an alternative source can comment.  I will update this article with the link once done.  From what I have read, The Mercedes-Benz club of the UK were able to pressure Daimler AG to re-instate the production of a part that would prevent owners from using their cars.   I seem to recall it was for the R129.

As Mercedes used to do a good job of this in the past, the aftermarket parts supply is not as good as it is on some other vehicles.   This situation seems odd as there is increasing interest in these classic vehicles and the profit margins on these parts would appear to be pretty good – the R&D was all paid for decades ago.

Auto Brunch St. Ives March 2020

The 2020 March Auto Brunch event at St Ives Showground was the biggest I have attended.    I was only able to stay for about forty minutes and cars were already leaving when I arrived, but the total numbers were up on last time’s already large attendance.

This month I went in my 450SLC.    I perhaps should have taken the 560SEC as there were three other 560SECs in attendance, including another one in Nautical Blue.     The other Nautical Blue car had much thinner headlight wipers than my car or the white one.   I didn’t get a chance to look at the gold one before it left.    I prefer the thinner ones but am not sure what is correct.   The owner of the blue car had it for many years and it was in lovely condition.    I also saw one of the nicest W201 190Es I have seen in many years.   It was a 190E 2.3 and it had less than 100,000 km on the clock.    There was not as big a Mercedes-Benz showing this time as it was not an official event.   There was a Pagoda and a 190SL though.

Highlights this month included a couple of really nice Renault Caravelles, Since nice Alfa Romeos, Volvo P1800, Minis and more.    There must have been a group from the Triumph club there as there were plenty of Triumphs, especially TR3s.   There were also three E24 BMW 6 series and its predecessor a 3.0 CS.

I was also impressed to see a couple of Lancias and continuing the rally theme two great looking Audio Quattros.   There is normally something interesting and random like a Volvo 1 series wagon that was there this time.

The great weather of the day probably contributed to the excellent turn out of the 2020 March Auto Brunch.    I always enjoy this event.