Say hello to our new to us '81 Mercedes 380 SL , Fraulein!
Honestly, we weren't really in the market for another car (we have too many for two people to start with) "My car" was an Audi A4 which was super cute and a great car, but with our schedule, I was barely driving it. I hadn't even put 1000 miles on it in a year! We had considered selling it in the past, but always thought we should keep in the event there was an emergency and I needed to drive it. I should also point out that due to some poor financial decisions we made a couple years ago, we had refinanced the Audi's loan and still had two years of payments to make on it. It sucks paying interest on something that is depreciating!
So then in July, my husband's old boss (that he still talks to occasionally) texted him about his friend that was selling a cool old Mercedes. The friend was moving and didn't want to go through the hassle of listing it on multiple sites and dealing with annoying strangers. Because of this he was only asking a fraction of it's value, an amount we could pretty easily put together in cash. We thought that it was almost too good to be true, but the next day we made the 4 hour drive to check it out, and it was even cooler than we thought! It was the perfect car for me to drive occasionally to thrift stores or the post office. We sold the Audi, paid off the loan, and are now completely car debt free.
This car is nearly 40 years old, and the previous owner took great care of it, but it still needed some work here and there. There are a couple rips in the leather, and some chipping paint around the exterior. Luckily there are a lot of websites where you put in your cars make, model, and year and they can find the exact paint you need.
We were pretty surprised that the car had cruise control and power windows - really uncommon for a car from the early 80s! After doing a little research, we found that this car was top of the line in 1981...and quite expensive. The original receipt was still with the car, and the first owner paid the equivalent of $140,000 in todays money with inflation between now and then.
Despite having been taken great care of, the car still needed some work on our end. The AC wasn't working, but luckily hubs fixed that pretty quick. There has been a learning curve owning a car like this and there are some things you should think about before buying a classic car. A few things I have learned so far is:
There are no Airbags
Funny store - after we purchased the car and I was getting insurance for it, one of the questions was how many air bags the car has. Not knowing if it would have side airbags, I asked the previous owner. He said no side airbags...no front ones either. Apparently putting air bags in cars did not become a law in this country until 1998?! Anyway, something to think about if safety is important to you lol.
Little Fixes are common
Pretty common sense, but the older a car is the more likely it will need things changed and replaced more often. This can get expensive, but luckily my husband can fix pretty much anything on a car. Many parts on the car are still from the 80s, so naturally they are worn down and will break eventually. We have already had to replace the original radiator amongst other things.
engineering Is Different
My husband has built a race car from the ground up, so he was pretty confident going into this purchase that he would be able to fix any issues with it. He popped the hood and found a million vacuums and hoses that no car made in the last twenty years has. Despite knowing so much about cars and how to fix them, he still needs to do a lot of research. Speaking of this...
Maintenance Can Cost More
Because the engineering is old and no longer used, it is more difficult finding mechanics that are knowledgeable enough and willing to work on cars this old. Because of this, if you need to bring the car in to a shop you can expect to pay more money. Even to get it through a smog check I have to make sure the location is equipped to test a car that old.
Original = More Value
What we heard from a lot of people is that we should try our best to keep everything on the car as original or from Mercedes as possible. This absolutely helps with the value of the car, especially if we ever plan to sell it ( I hope not!) The previous owner put in a new radio with USB and bluetooth, which is nice but also kind of kills the vintage look of the dash.
Invest In Roadside Assistance
We've already been stranded on the side of the road once...so I highly recommend paying the few extra dollars a month with your car insurance for this peace of mind. Our car still had the original radiator, it cracked and overheated so we were stuck on the side of the road for a bit. Worth it!
Thanks so much or reading and checking out our new ride! If you have any experience or words of wisdom with a classic car, leave it down below!
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- Marie Claire, September 2016