I currently own 4 Mercedes vehicles, of which the 1987 SDL is one of two diesels (the SDL was a replacement purchase of a 1982 300SD that had 300k on it when sold). I have owned the SDL since 2002. Last week we took it on a 2100 mile road trip that took the odometer over the 400k mark. Fuel consumption was 24mpg over the trip, with much of the driving at speeds of 70 to 80 mph.
It suffered the cracked head problem about 4 years ago, has had the A/C compressor replaced, suspension work as needed, and I have replaced the front seats with new pads and new leather.
Soon it will be repainted as the clear coat is failing.
Were it not for the seeping main front crank seal, which will be replaced soon, the engine would consume no oil between changes. I change the oil on about a 8k to 10k interval, using Mobil-1 15w30 or 10w40 with filter change at 5k miles.
All other fluids and filters get serviced regularly.
This automobile is a great highway cruiser, economical to maintain, highly reliable and becoming very rare.
I think I'll keep mine for another 5 or more years.
I have owned a 1987 300SDL since October of 2009. I can assuredly say that this is the nicest car that I have ever owned. It cruises like a living room sofa, but still handles (albeit with some body roll) better than most cars on the road (try taking that exit ramp at 50+ mph in your little Toyota Corolla...).
It has had its issues, yes, but once you fix them, it is like new again. There are no signs of fatigue in the body, etc. It is not subject to the creaks and groans of an aging American car.
Are there quieter cars out there? Of course. Faster? Yes, but none that possess the overall solid feel, comfort fuel economy (30+ without A/C on the highway), and pride of the big-body W126 Benz.
My wife's 98 E430 is definitely faster, and handles like it is on rails, but I'll take my greaser over hers any day!
There is a feeling that can't be described when driving one of these vehicles. It brings back the days when things were made well "just because". I feel privileged to drive this fine piece of automotive engineering, and marvel at its advanced features. The 4-wheel ABS brakes halt this beast in no time flat without any adverse side affects. The feeling of driving around in a vault also conveys a sense of security as well. I had wanted a Benz diesel for years. I finally purchased one, and I have not regretted it for a minute! (BTW, the odometer just broke 204,000 and it is still going strong!).
I got an owners manual from TMC Publications for 50 bucks. You have to call them.
These were lovely vehicles. One of the best styled cars ever made... somehow M-B integrated their bumpers in the 1980's better than most makes. I would love to own one, but I can't afford even the maintenance. From the people I know who've had them, they are pretty reliable. I've heard nothing but good from actual owners.
The interior was far ahead of its time, and is still being copied.
I live in Waldorf and own a 1986 300 SDL. It has 378K miles. These cars want to be driven daily and on long trips, say 500-800 miles. Make sure you change the oil and filter every 3-4K miles. You can keep the injectors clean by adding a quart of transmission fuel several times a year. These cars sold for $55/56K back then. Seems like I remember seeing on the Internet that MB sold approximately 3,500-5,000 of these cars in both years in the US during 86/87. The 300 SDL was discontinued in 1988 and returned in 1990 and 91 as the 350 SDL. If you search the web for the 350 SDL, you will find that this was the worst diesel ever made by MB. There are people who would pay $15-18K, or even more for your car.