Sedans & Coupes

Cars and Bids Bargain of the Week: 1986 W124 Mercedes-Benz 300E

Technology and fancy features may be the hallmarks of luxury cars today, but build quality pre-dates both of them. And when it comes to classic luxury cars, few have the quality reputation that Mercedes-Benz’s cars enjoy. This week’s Cars and Bids bargain buy is one of those lauded models: a 1986 W124 Mercedes-Benz 300E.

The W124 Mercedes-Benz E-Class has luxury and insane durability

Today, the E-Class is a highly-recommended luxury car. But that wouldn’t be possible without the W124, the first Mercedes-Benz to be called an E-Class, Hagerty reports. Though technically, that nameplate didn’t appear until the 1993 facelift.

The W124 Mercedes-Benz is the successor of the W123, which has a legendary reputation for reliability, Petrolicious reports. But the W124 engenders similar levels of praise. Gear Patrol calls the chassis “indestructible,” and The Drive reports it’s fairly common to see examples with over 200,000 miles on their odometers. Classics World reports the “built like a tank” cliché definitely applies here, at least for the pre-facelift models. But we’ll get to that later.

The W124 Mercedes-Benz isn’t just durable, though. It has a very wide bandwidth when it comes to features, innovation, and luxury. Mercedes offered it with a wide variety of engines, including turbodiesel ones. There was also a plethora of body styles available. You could order the W124 as a sedan, a coupe, a limo, a convertible, and a wagon, Carscoops reports.

Despite its somewhat boxy design, the W124 was one of the most aerodynamic cars of its time, Gear Patrol reports. It was also the first Mercedes to offer all-wheel drive, and the wagon models have a soft-close trunk. Plus, it came with an independent rear suspension design later used on the S-Class, Motor Trend reports.

The W124 Mercedes-Benz was also the starting point for some important performance cars. One is the 500E, a 300E with the contemporary S-Class’ V8, suspension, and brakes with some Porsche tweaks, Automobile reports. And the other is the famous AMG Hammer, a 300E that gained first a 5.5-liter and later a 6.0-liter V8, Car and Driver reports. Which, in 1987, could hit a claimed 187 mph.

The 1986 W124 Mercedes-Benz 300E on Cars and Bids has a rare feature

A silver 1986 W124 Mercedes-Benz 300E in the forest
1986 W124 Mercedes-Benz 300E | Cars and Bids

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The 1986 W124 Mercedes-Benz 300E currently listed on Cars and Bids isn’t a Hammer or a 500E. But it does have one notable rare feature: a 5-speed manual transmission. In fact, Cars and Bids reports that the W124 was the first and last E-Class available with a manual.

The front seats and dashboard of a 1986 W124 Mercedes-Benz 300E
1986 W124 Mercedes-Benz 300E front interior | Cars and Bids

This 1986 300E doesn’t have leather upholstery. However, it does have power-operated front seats, power-adjustable mirrors, power windows, and a power-adjustable steering column. The door mirrors are also heated. Plus, this W124 has a sunroof, cruise control, and headlight wipers. And there’s a 3.0-liter fuel-injected inline-6 with 177 hp and 188 lb-ft under the hood.

Cars and Bids notes that this 1986 W124 Mercedes-Benz has been in 2 collisions, but was repaired in both cases. And it was “recently” repainted in the factory color shown. However, despite having 150,200 miles on the clock, it’s in very good condition.

The rear 3/4 view of a silver 1986 W124 Mercedes-Benz 300E in the forest
1986 W124 Mercedes-Benz 300E rear 3/4 | Cars and Bids

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Plus, the paint isn’t the only recent bit of service this car’s current owner has performed. They recently replaced the tires, as well as the front calipers and pads, the rear calipers and rotors, and various suspension and exhaust system components. The current owner also replaced the shift bushings as well as the voltage regulator and under-hood insulation pad. The fuel injection system received a tune-up, too.

What makes it a bargain buy worth considering?

As of this writing, this 1986 W124 Mercedes-Benz 300E is listed on Cars and Bids at $8700 with 3 days left in the auction.

A tan 1987 W124 Mercedes-Benz 300TD wagon
1987 W124 Mercedes-Benz 300TD | Bring a Trailer

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Considering its condition, that’s actually slightly below-average. On Bring a Trailer, W124s typically go for $10,000-$20,000. And the rarity of a manual means this particular car is even more valuable.

Plus, it’s a pre-facelift W124. That means it avoids the wiring harness and water-based-paint corrosion issues that plagued facelifted models, StillRunningStrong reports. And because it’s a six-cylinder W124, it avoids the premature timing chain failure which can affect four-cylinder models.

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With the newly-replaced parts, the only real headache remaining is the head gasket, which can fail after 100,000-150,000 miles. However, using a modern gasket, combined with regular coolant changes, largely makes this a non-issue, BenzWorld reports.

In short, this 1986 300E is a rare, well-maintained durable classic luxury car with plenty of life left in it. And it’s an inexpensive way to get into a vintage Benz.

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