1986 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 420 SEL from North America - Comments

22nd Dec 2002, 08:41

I own a 1987 420 SEL. Without a doubt the best car I have ever had. 306M Kilometers, nearly 200,000 miles. Still drives for hours in 40 Celsius plus temperatures at 80 to 100 MPH. Comfortable and quiet. Would never be satisfied with another car after it.

12th Apr 2004, 17:48

I purchased an '86 420SEL Mercedes last month and in 40 plus years of driving, I have never been so proud of a vehicle.

Folks I know are amazed at it's striking appearance and even strangers seem to notice this grand classic as they walk by. Of course it drives like a dream on wheels as well. I call it my "grand old lady".

Even though this was a one owner local trade with a good service history, it does have 188,000 on it so there was one minor bug to report. It blew out the fuse, mainly for the radio, twice before I took it back to the dealer with a 30 day warranty and they fixed the short. Meanwhile, I'll treat this car better than any I have owned. Denny.

7th Jul 2004, 22:16

In spring of 2003 I purchased for my son two 1987 420SEL. One was in mint condition, but the transmission needed to be rebuilt which I got done at C$2k. The idling is a common problem with this model and from my experience, is because of age. At 150K km it was time to check the timing chain and guides. The latter got replaced. During the process, the intake manifold was lifted and the rubber/plastic connectors/seals (I'm sure this not the right terms) between the two halves were hard and leaking allowing more air than the controls allowed. Injectors were also replaced. Thereafter, the engine idled smoothly at 680-750 approximately. Age causes the seals to harden and fail. Joe.

3rd Oct 2004, 02:02

I come From Dubai, U.A.E. I bought My 1989 420 SEL a year Back, I'm restoring it to its showroom condition now, new paint job, rubber for the doors and the trunk, new leather interior and for those huge seats, and new rims and tires, it's a beautiful car, very luxurious, mine looks so good now because the color I chose is Metallic Black and I got the windows tinted (100%). Its My baby girl... the only problem I'm facing right now is that the windows get stuck always... that's it, my car is beautiful, if you think of buying a 420 SEL you should get one from here because they are really cheap. If you are interested in buying a Mercedes you should also try the 1989 560 SEL, And the 560 SEC, The SEC is the fastest thing You'll Ever Drive... it's an airplane with no wings...

17th May 2006, 15:09

I own a 1986 420 SEL and it was a great car at first. so far I have replaced 3 rotrs and all brake pads. the windows get stuck and lights stay on even when the car is turned completely off. it has had two or three previous owners and has over 218,000 miles. the odometer stopped at about 217,900+ miles. and he shakes at 60mph when getting on the interstate and such. he needs a new muffler, but I'm cheap and keep fixing it alternatively. I love my car, but feel it is about time to retire it to my yard for driving on special occasions only. Tabitha- Benton, Arkansas, USA

30th Jan 2007, 17:50

It is a great car. Still running after 175K miles. Other few minor annoying things, it is very reliable car.

5th Feb 2007, 23:25

I went to take a look at an 86 420SEL yesterday. I'll be buying it today, even though it does not work. It has 175,000 miles on it. The car is solid, the interior isn't bad. Problem right now is starting the car and seeing it work. When the ignition is turned on, one device in the engine starts making a cranking noise. Even when jumped, the fan belt would roll slightly and then stop. Would anyone know what the problem might be? Camshaft problem?

27th Apr 2007, 16:17

I bought a 1986 420SEL a month or two ago for $5995.00.

I was hesitant about buying a used car. However, I always wanted a Mercedes and I heard that the new ones are not nearly as reliable or well-built as the earlier models.

The moment I saw it, I knew I would buy it. What a deal!! The car had only two owners, the last owner being a mercedes mechanic. The car looks and drives like new (except for the the mushy driver seat--which I find comfortable.) I am sure I will keep this car for a long time as it is "barely broken in with only 114,000 miles.

8th May 2007, 18:41

Just purchased a 1986 MB 420 SLE. Love the car, it looked really bad when picked it up, but after 10 hours of back breaking cleaning job, the car looks like brand new.

Can't believe how good the car looks, and how much was neglected by its second owner of the past 2 years.

The car has some poor idling, and when you step on the gas, tons of black smoke comes out of the muffler. If you're easy on the gas pedal, the smoke goes away and car runs smoothly. I decided today to take it to the dealer and have them look at it.

Purchased the car for 2K and once again, it doesn't even have a scratch or bump on it. Inside and everything else is like brand new.

Figured that even if I spend a few thousand on it, it is still a beautiful car, and better than anything that I could have purchased for that amount of money.

Does anyone have has any idea regarding the black smoke???

17th May 2007, 13:45

It seems to me that you must have a very quiet running 3 litre diesel in that gal.

24th May 2007, 14:22

I have an 89 420 SEL with 161K miles. I had it for six years / 65K miles.

The problem is rough idle and poor power at take off. It is an intermittent problem - occurring more often lately. I will try the idle stabilizer valve and look at replacing the injectors.

For complaints of vibrations over 60 mph, you need to get what's called an "on-car" wheel balance. That way the whole wheel and brake disc is part of the balance, not just the wheel. This was reccomended by MBZ soon after the SEL came out and it works very well. It is hard to find a tire shop that offers on car balancing, but they exist.

24th May 2007, 16:07

Just got our 1986 420 Mercedes from being fixed. When my wife took the car over to the Mercedes dealer here in Clearwater they told her that the car needed a new fuel distributor for starts. Then there might be other problems with fuel injectors and so on... Then new tie rods and tires. All together about 5K... She had the car towed to a shop owned by a German guy in Tarpon Springs, Fl. and he laughed when he she showed him the bill. One week later the car runss like a top and the grand total was $600. By the way, there was NOTHING wrong with the tie rods or the tires..

4th Jun 2007, 21:25

I am a 33 year old 2nd owner of a 86 420 SEL, and I have maintained all my vehicles from a BMW 530i to a 82 Cavalier.

I have always found fuel injection a little perplexing, as most of my experience is with 80s full-sized GMs. When I received the Benz, it idled rough and and shook like mad over 100km/h. A quick change of the old cheap tires fixed the vibration...

Now for the rough idle. First I changed the plugs, it helped a bit, then the fuel filter, it didn't change a thing. So I changed the air filter, oil, cleaned cap & rotor, still no change. I just couldn't figure it out. So I took the whole air intake assembly apart to discover that the hose to the thermactor (smog pump) was loose, and the 2 hoses going to the valve covers were clogged with old brown oil so air could not vacate the heads. There was also a clogged mini vac line connected to the passenger side valve-cover hose, I blasted it with carb cleaner and blasted where the driver's valve cover hose meets the block and cleaned throttle-body... No difference, so I drove to work angry and covered in oil, filled up at ESSO with midgrade because I figured it no longer deserved the Sunoco 94. Well guess what? The car starts driving like new!! I have to listen hard now to hear it running. The final cleaning is what the car needed. My God, this is a great car, the new Mercs look like Mazdas, who wants to pay 80k for a car like that.

If you decide to buy one of these cars, you have to realize that because of the part quality, that these things still have original wires and rotors. You should budget $1000 to replace all these things, my Benz dealer is the cheapest place for parts here in Ottawa. With good rubber, suspension, and a good running engine, you will feel like the King of the road. Yes, you should use Premium fuel as it does make a big difference, and the owner's manual is stern in its warning on this issue. Oh, use 20W50 in the summer, and run Lucas fuel injector cleaner.

As for that hesitation at start up that so many get... this won't fix it at all. This car is a great buy and I recommend it to anyone. When buying one, take the time to replace all the little things, as the previous owner may have been a fool.

Jake (Photojournalist)

www.jakewright.ca