At $2,000, Could This Euro-Spec Import 1983 Mercedes 380SE Find A Way Into Your Heart?

Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

The ad for today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Mercedes 380SE says it was owned by a proverbial little old lady. Let’s see if its price is enough to get anyone’s granny panties all in a bunch.

Here’s a simple query for you all: how do you “test the water?” If you’re like me you typically dip a toe in the drink, as it’s one of the smallest and most easily retracted body parts at your avail.


Why is it then that when people who are thinking about selling a car “test the waters” the go whole hog and set a price that’s outside of the boundaries of common sense? That’s not testing the waters, that’s a bucket challenge of bad will.

Yesterday’s 1986 Honda Civic Si was undeniably retro-avant-garde but the $4,000 price set by its owner to, yes, “test the water” came up short. Or maybe it was deep? It’s hard to tell. What we can tell is that 66-percent of you felt was definitely too far in the deep end, and the little Si fell in a Crack Pipe loss.

There’s been a lot of talk of late about the spate of great cars that are now 25 years old, and hence eligible for import into the U.S. with a significant reduction in associated hassle. And who doesn’t like a significant reduction in associated hassle?


The thing of it is, there are plenty of even older cars out there that are ripe for the picking. As evidence of that, I present to you this 1983 Mercedes 380SE that was once imported into Canada, but which now could easily make the trek across the border to the south.

Now, it is my assertion that the best kind of grey market cars are those that have some sort of analog officially offered in your country of choice. The W126 model Mercedes was sold in the U.S. and hence parts availability for many critical components on this Euro-spec edition should prove readily available. Hell, you could probably even get brake pads for it from the Pep Boys.


That doesn’t make this private import any less interesting in my book. You still get the tighter European bumpers, the flush and wiper festooned Euro lights, and the far more continental short (115-inch) wheelbase. Plus, when was the last time you saw a W126 sedan over here in Silberdistel Metallic?


That’s a cool color, and the interior also comes color keyed to that outside hue. Another noteworthy feature inside is the upholstery. All the W126 models that Mercedes brought over here came with either leather seating surfaces, or the miraculously long-wearing leatherette known as MBTex. This one has cloth upholstery just like a contemporary Ford LTD or Chevy Caprice. Unlike those cars, this big Benz finishes its interior with real wood and German-efficient ergonomics.


The driver’s seat here has seen better days. It requires a new center section and a rebuild of the outside bolster. Good luck finding matching material for that, however. The issue could easily be solved with a decent set of sheepskin seat covers, which might be the best course of action seeing as there’s little else needed inside here.

The exterior has issues of its own. There are a number of annoying dings and dents on the curbside flank and there’s some minor rust on both the rear arch and the surface of the wheels. Aside from that however, it’s not bad at all.


The ad says that the 117,000-kilometer car has been in storage, but that the 3.8-litre M116 fired right up first time out. This being an ’83, the 155-horsepower V8 should feature the more durable double timing chain drive for its single overhead cams, rather than the earlier problem plagued single row drive. The seller says the four-speed transmission shifts without issue and that it comes with ABS brakes.


He also calls it an “affordable classic” and at $2,000 U.S., that’s a supportable argument. The car is presently in Shawnigan Lake, Vancouver Island, BC which, for those of you who slept through geography, is in Canada. It’s still not all that far from Seattle, Washington, and that’s where the car is advertised. The title is said to be clear, albeit Canadian.


So, for $2,000 you could have a little old lady’s Euro model Mercedes that, while not perfect, should offer up a decent drive for a while at least. These cars have classic Bruno Sacco lines and were the last Sonderklasse sedans to be nearly hand built and without a ton of electronic geegaws to go wrong. This one comes with the added distinction of sporting some unique elements afforded by its being a European model.

What’s your take, could this Euro Benz be worth that $2,000 asking? Or, is this import just not special enough to claim that sort of cash?


You decide!


Seattle, WA Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

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Rob Emslie

Rob Emslie is a contributing writer for Jalopnik. He has too many cars, and not enough time to work on them all.