1986 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 420 SEL 4.2, 8 cylinder from North America


Great ride - Classy Car


Add freon

Replaced tire rod

Passenger power head rest not working.

General Comments:

1986 Mercedes 42OSEL.

I brought my 1986 Mercedes 420 SEL on EBay last week. It was good looking and very clean. I believe it has been refurbished recently. My sister (a car insurance adjuster) showed me where 2 panels had been replaced (OEM) but still said it’s a keeper.

It has 98,000 miles on it and drives like new, and yes almost smells new. It’s gold with dark brown interior. It’s my first Merc., I’ve always wanted a 420/560 SEL 89-91. When I was young this is what “Doctors” drove. (The M.D. kind of doctors) But this 86’ just looked so nice I had to buy it. I’ve driven, and still drive Buicks for the last 12yrs. (LeSabre/Park Ave.)

That said – I love this 420 SEL. I got it inspected and had $1,400 in repairs done (Tire rod replaced, add Freon, and some other small mechanical things). The car rode great even before the repairs. It is slow to get moving, but once it is moving it flies smoothly.

Press on the gas and it moves right then and there. I hardly feel the gears shift. Passing is no problem, even enjoyable. Passengers don’t even notice the car is changing speed.

The cabin is so quiet. Not hearing typical traffic sounds and road noise is nice.

The inside feels regal, boxy, and safe. I feel protected from the outside world.

Even the glass windows seem different, thicker, and clearer.

It is a 20 year old car, but still has safety feature of newer cars (Driver/passenger side airbags, ABS, automatic door locking, outside temperature reading, gas economy gauge, power driver and passenger seats). It is a head turner. People ask about it, look in to see who is driving. Even when you pull next to a Merc. 180,280, E320 etc. people look over like “now that’s a real Mercedes”.

I’ve researched and watched these models for 2 years. I would definitely recommend buying as a second or third car. Don’t pay more than say $8,900 for a 91’. Buy from someone you know or a dealer. No private party would get rid of these cars just because. They have either put money in it and it still needs work or there is something expensive wrong. Maybe you will still buy it, but pay less, you’ll need the savings for repairs. At least a dealer will go through the trouble of making the car road worthy. (I drove mine from the dealer in Missouri to Maryland 900 miles without a test drive around the block).

Price in very good condition = $4,500-$8,900 for 86’-91’

Last thing – Gas. All this talk of gas - @ $3.20/gal., +/- $60 to fill (from near empty). I used 2.5 tanks Missouri to Maryland 890 miles. = 356 miles/tank. 23.8 gal. tank = 14.95 miles/gal. So drive on weekends, long distances, and special occasions and ENJOY.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 3rd August, 2006

4th Aug 2008, 20:46

I just drove my 1987 420 SEL 220 miles on 10.1 gallons.76mph cruise control.

30th Oct 2008, 01:52

Regarding poor gas mileage: If you find yourself getting 14/15 mpg on a long distance trip, you are either averaging about 120 mph or experiencing a problem with your engine.

Assuming you have no glowing "check engine" light pestering you, and your tires are holding proper air pressure, I would suggest you perform a leak down test on the engine, check the spark plugs, rotor cap (s) and timing. 'Cus something's not right here. Maybe your gas tank/fuel line has a slight leak?

1986 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 420 SEL 4.2L from North America


The last of the Camelot years, a well built, precise German machine


Weird alternator behavior, but what are you going to do?

I recently had the entire exhaust redone, and got rid of the "after burners" that lie before the tail pipe. It's amazing- better MPG and horsepower; no hesitation when accelerating from a stop.

The sunroof is a bit sticky, I liked the older version without the tilt function.

A lot of the wiring gets fried after a while, so blower motor switches for the A/C and heat may stop working. It's a simple box by the fuses that you pry open and rewire.

General Comments:

Best car I've ever had. My first Benz was the 500 SE European model, which was gorgeous, and still is because I can't get rid of such a well built automobile.

The 420 is a smaller engine, but longer car, about 6" compared to the SE model. It's very elegant, and has a presence about it that is almost regal. It truly is a stately automobile, and performs better than most new cars.

I recently drove from Denver to San Diego, non-stop at speeds above 100 mph, and still averaged a remarkable 30 mpg on the highway. It's unbelievable, and cheap to insure.

It's a tank. I'd love to play chicken with a Honda and see what happens!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 5th July, 2006

11th Nov 2007, 11:13

A 420sel that gets 30mpg--impossible!!!I have a 86 sel and 18mpg is tops.

13th Nov 2007, 23:34

I have a 86 420SEL 93000 I have a shimmy over 60 MPH doesn't go away new tires balanced etc Ideas? Pppkkk6@aol.

21st Dec 2007, 20:53

I would like to pass on a couple of comments to my fellow MB owners and would be owners.

To Pppkkk6@aol: he has shimmy problems with his '86 420 SEL even after tire balance. He might think about replacing the steering damper; part price will be less than a $100 bill, labor $40. or so. It will correct the little shimmy problem I think.

I have a 91 300 SEL that would start easily in cool weather, but would then immediately start running roughly and would die if the motor was accelerated. The radio was also not working, and the "ABS" light was on. We removed all fuses, cleaned their contact points well and installed all new fuses. The above problems were corrected.

I have owned used Mercedes cars since 1967 when my first was a $300. 1959 220s sedan. I am not a wealthy man, but with a little bit of courage I have been able to enjoy driving and owning the best in automobiles.

I was a small used car dealer for 17 years specializing in Mercedes, Jaguar, and BMW cars. Of these three brands, I always thought the Mercedes were best by a large margin.

Mercedes seats are generally not very comfortable to me and their lack of cup holders are disappointing. I have an S600 sedan now that has no cup holders and it tees me off.

I still love the older Mercedes, especially those cars such as the '91 S class and older models which are not as gimmicky as the current models tend to be.

I have moved about Texas over the years and as soon as I was settled, I would seek out a good, knowledgeable independent mechanic that wasn't afraid to work on a Mercedes. I have had good, reasonable work done in this way for many years. The Mercedes are not hard to work on, but the mechanic should be sharp and have the confidence to try the repairs.

I have also had some of my cars worked on by the Mercedes dealers when a unique problem came up that was likely to be over my independent mechanics head. In nearly all cases I was satisfied by the dealer's work even though I knew the labor charges were going too be higher than I would have liked. In most cases the increased confidence that I had in the repair generally offset the extra cost of repair in my case.

I think it is easy to some repairs on the older cars yourself. I recently had problems with the "soft door closers" on a S420. I went to a MB online forum and read some good articles on the problem, went out and fixed my own car. There are many MB owners out there that are really experts on Mercedes and willing to help out a new MB owner. The internet forums make it possible for an average income owner to own a Mercedes.

Even though I do little of my own repairs these days and send most of my work out to my independent mechanic, I research the price of parts he says he needs by using the internet. In some cases, I advise my mechanic on parts suppliers that provide the parts at a good price; (I rarely buy from the Mercedes dealer). He still marks the part up as normal; this makes him happy and makes me happy as well.

Many parts are to be had from O'Reilly's; I try them first.

I believe many people are intimidated by the thought of owning a Mercedes; the cars are legendary and their reputation for excellence puts them off. They want a Mercedes, but don't know where to start. They worry about parts prices and labor costs. (My mechanic charges me $65.00 per hour on a Mercedes or Chevrolet pickup; so there is less to worry here than some people think). They worry about parts availability because they have always owned domestic brands.

Some people will not buy a MB (even though they can afford the car) because they fear their family, friends, or church members will think they are trying to "put on the dog".

It is my opinion that the older Mercedes are affordable to most people provided extensive homework is done before the purchase is done. Driving the car they want several times will give them a better idea of whether the car is what they want. Mercedes cars don't feel like the American cars in their way of driving, seating, air conditioning and ride. If the buyer has been driving a Lincoln or Buick, he will probably be disappointed with the Mercedes' first impression.

I believe that an older Mercedes purchase should be done only after several drives and a good bit of online research and discussion with other Mercedes owners.

Even though there are many good brands of cars out there these days that give good service, there are some people like me that want some special: a Mercedes. For these people I say go get it: just do your homework well before hand so the experience will be a good and satisfying one.

I've been fortunate to have owned many of these cars and have always felt that the cost of ownership was justified by the pride I took in owning and driving the cars.

21st May 2012, 09:28

Absolutely right on. He described the situation perfectly. Any one who has even a little mechanical ability can drive a wonderful car for minimal expense. I have been driving them for about 15 years. I own 2 S420's, 1 S320, 1 190E, and one 420 SEL.

Out of them all, the 420 SEL is the best one for several reasons. The S models are TOO gimmicky, and there is always something that doesn't work. Awesome cars, but a pain in the butt.

The SEL's are relatively simple, fixable, and dependable. My 1989 model has been re-painted, re-transmissioned, etc. It has 135,000 miles on it. Once you get all the trivial stuff fixed, they go forever.

One of the S420's has 240,000 miles on it, and is beautiful and perfect. Drives like a dream.

The 190E, four cylinder, is a wonderful machine, once you get the repairs done, but a bit too small for me. Great engine. Read the MB history on this car. It is amazing.

Having gotten all these cars repaired and cleaned up, they are all good for hundreds of thousands of miles.