1989 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL - Our Shed

By: Guy Allen - Words & Photos

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Another accidental purchase has the Ed baffled but happy

If you tripped over the editorial in issue 434, back in December last year, you might have clocked the fact that muggins has added yet another vehicle to fleet. To be exact, a 1989 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL. It’s all the fault of resident wheeler-dealer Uncle Phil. I had no intention of buying a car, but he made me an offer I couldn’t understand and all of a sudden I found myself attempting to find more room in an already bulging shed.

Just for the record, that’s now car number six (after the Kingswood, a couple of Bimmers, the VK wagon and the Soarer), plus the work Chev C10. I’m thinking of knocking over the house so we have space for a bigger garage.

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The story with the Benz is, for the last two decades, it has lived its entire life in a garage with very little exercise, other than its regular run to the local workshop for a service. That workshop – Maccora Motor Industries in sunny Airport West (Melb) – did a top-end and transmission rebuild on the car. Along the way, it also seems to have been treated to an interior refit.

For whatever reason, the existing owner decided it was time to go and I picked it up for a song – well under $10k – because these things just aren’t in demand.

| 2019 Market Review: Mercedes-Benz sedan/coupe 1955-1986

mercedes-benz-road-trip-4.jpgMajestic from almost all angles

Cosmetically it’s very good. A couple of paint chips missing and that’s about it. There are one or two minor electrical issues, such as the tacho not working, and I’ll get to them eventually.

A more pressing issue was it was running a little rough, suffering classic symptoms of an under-used car. So we changed the fuel filters, dumped a load of injector cleaner down its gullet and took it for a decent drive. That was Melbourne to Cooma (for the local car club’s big annual car show), Canberra and back, about 1400km. Sure enough, it started running a whole lot better after a few hundred kays and was singing by the time we’d returned home.

| 2019 Market Review: Mercedes-Benz 300-560 sedan/coupe 1987-2006

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This is a seriously big car, dwarfing anything else in the shed. It’s 5.16 metres long, with a stretched wheelbase (hence the SEL designation) that allows a huge amount of legroom in the rear. You can have a six-foot-plus driver and the same size passenger right behind with no fuss.

The 3.0lt six is adequate rather than awe-inspiring and was the base engine for this series. It claims 132kW and a top speed of 205km/h. In the real world, it gets along just fine.

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Without question it’s the most comfortable highway car I’ve ever owned. That would be down to the long wheelbase, the luxo suspension and a cabin that’s better upholstered than the average lounge room.

People tend to be terrified of old Benzes on the basis that they cost a fortune to maintain. My experience with a few of them over recent years (C-class W202s and now this S-class W126) says otherwise. Generally, these eighties to nineties era models are very solidly built and respond well to simple regular maintenance. They can occasionally bite you on the wallet, and that’s when you have to decide whether to walk away.

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In the meantime we’re having a ball with the thing and it’s become our go-to solution for a long trip.

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