Today’s Nice Price or No Dice 380 SL starts on starter fluid, but won’t run on its own gas. That seems like a surmountable problem to a savvy mechanic. Will its price prove equally so?
There were no major mechanical issues — save for some reportedly wonky engine mounts — noted on yesterday’s 1990 Porsche 944 S2 cabriolet. Nonetheless, its presentation was a bit scruffy, and when asking Porsche prices, such as the $13,500 wanted for that 944, it’s best to be something better than a bit scruffy. That fact played out in the voting as you all sent the Porsche plummeting in a 63 percent No Dice loss.
When you stop and think about the whole concept of the automobile and its purpose, you have to realize that the very name — automobile — means something that moves under its own power. That’s what it’s supposed to do.
Today’s 1984 Mercedes-Benz 380 SL does not move under its own power. Does that status exclude it from the class of machinery collectively known as automobiles? I think not. Especially since the issue seems to be temporary.
According to the ad, this Benz suffers from a fuel-related problem that is preventing the engine from running and hence the car from moving. Let’s first diagnose the likely issue to see how tricky it might be to fix it. After that, we’ll take a look at the rest of the car and determine whether it’s worth diving into.
The seller says that this R107’s 3.8 liter V8 engine cranks but won’t run on anything other than starter fluid. As we all know, a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine needs three things in order to fire — fuel, compression, and ignition. Since this engine sputters to life on ether, we can assume that the latter two elements are there. That leaves fuel delivery as the culprit and the seller does claim that the car suffers from what is described in the ad describes as “an ELECTRICAL problem with the fuel line (somewhere between the gas tank and carburetor).
Ok, first off, the engine doesn’t have a carburetor. This model had Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, a rudimentary mechanical/electronic set up with a Lamda sensor to help vary the fuel/air mixture. That’s an old-school fuel injection system that could have any number of issues that are preventing fuel flow, but we need to start looking at the fuel system well before that.
The easiest test of the fuel delivery system is to start at the source. Does the fuel tank have any gas in it? Yeah, that’s a “Duh” question, but that’s where we need to begin. Next up is the fuel pump, is it working? If no, why not? Does it have power? Are the fuses and relays all working as they should? If it has power and is pumping, is the fuel getting to the engine? If so, then it’s down to that injection system and probably pulling and testing the injectors, the fuel distributor, and intake manifold. That leads to something like this. Yikes!
Is this R107 worth all that? Well, other than the whole fulfilling its role as an automobile thing, this 380 SL is described by its seller as being in ‘overall “very good” to “excellent” condition.’
Despite that glowing review, the car’s gray paint does look a bit dull and cloudy. Of course, that could easily be from the car having been left outside in the winter weather. All the trim seems to be intact and the chrome reasonably shiny. The top is un-ripped and has seemingly clear plastic in the windows. The back window, however, is said to be creased from long stints having been folded down. That’s an interesting factor since the ad doesn’t mention the car coming with its standard hardtop, nor is one shown in any of the pictures. The car wears both chrome wheel arch caps and garish chrome wheels with gold logos, neither of which are particularly flattering, but also easy enough to remove.
Inside, the cabin looks to be in fairly decent shape. The MB Tex upholstery looks ok, although the driver’s seat does appear to have lost some of its supporting springs. The wood on the center console is also in poor shape and could stand refinishing or replacement or maybe woodgrain cabinet liner covering.
The seller says that all of the accessories, including the A/C, are working as they should, and calculates out that the car has done less than 4,000 miles a year over the course of its life. There are now 133,000 miles on the clock and the ad says there’s no rust or accident damage anywhere on the car. It also comes with a clean title.
It’s very unlikely that even the most seasoned mechanic would be able to diagnose and fix this Benz’s non-running issue while the car is sitting in the snow in a gas station parking lot. That means a tow or a flatbed to a more accommodating location. Once there, the diagnosis can begin, as can the contemplation of whether or not the car was worth the $3,500 asked for its purchase/tow-away.
What do you think, does this broken Benz with the mystery electrical/fuel issue seem like a deal at that asking? Or, is even $3,500 too much to ask for a car that doesn’t live up to its automobile name?
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