Overall exterior has put up a good fight against the salt and sand used in Midwest winters, but the paint is flaking off to the base coat and the body is rusting in patches and along wheel wells and chrome bumpers. I've seen worse.
The single-loop seat belts constantly fold over and tangle in the pillar, if yanked on. The seat belt's retracting spring broke on the passenger side for this reason.
The foam-padded cloth ceiling has deteriorated and let go, just tucked it back in to the perimeter to keep the black foam bits from flying around the cabin.
Keep a supply of tail&turn light bulbs in the glove compartment, the filaments break easily on rough roads.
No major problems to report for the last two years, at about 74900 miles.
Replaced the water pump and alternator at 64800 miles.
Replaced rusted-out intake manifold gaskets due to coolant leak at 64300 miles.
Heater core exploded while driving to work, antifreeze all over the windshield, replaced it at 62900 miles.
Replaced brake hoses, brake shoes, front calipers at 62000 miles (2005 was an expensive year for upkeep).
New Diehard battery for cold starts in winter, 59200 miles.
Muffler replaced at 58000 and 38800 miles, and catalytic converter and exhaust pipe at 54900 miles - the low clearance of the Merc lends to the undercarriage getting easily roughed up.
Replaced the steel fuel lines with rubber hose and replaced all belts at 52400 miles.
Brake hoses replaced at 42000 miles.
The pull cord for the parking brake release is faulty, never used it.
Change drawer/ashtray console snapped off at the hinges (plastic) when I got it, not a big deal.
Over the 9 years I've owned this car, the major expenses listed (outside normal scheduled maintenance) have totaled about $3,500. Not bad for the initial $500 purchase, and most of the parts repaired or replaced were simply due to the age of the car and general wear.
Seats 5 comfortably, rides like a couch floating down the freeway, at 70Mph+ with any cross-wind causes the car to sway and tug at the wheel like a kite - but that's not surprising given the shoebox-like aerodynamics and "Ride Engineered" suspension.
Parallel parking in the city with this 17.5 ft behemoth is easier than you'd think, but allow enough swing room for the door in parking lots.
The transmission is getting a little long in the tooth, but still hanging in there.
This is a very quiet ride, the engine compartment and exhaust noises are extremely muted on the interior, and external road noise is minimal. It doesn't have the roar that the over-sized 350 engine has, but it's still a satisfyingly solid sound. Solid construction with no irritating squeaks or jittering from any components in the dash or trim. Wind and tire tread noises do increase at freeway speeds. Compared to some modern sedans and wagons I've driven, this thing is a soundproof vacuum chamber!
The AM/FM radio was good for a few years, but the wiring in the dash is faulty (requires a solid thump on the console when it cuts out) and the speakers need to be replaced.
Given the 4000+ Lbs the engine is required to lug around, the average 10-12mpg I get driving around town isn't surprising, especially when I consider that a roughly a quarter of my commute is spent idling at stoplights. Out on the open highway with the cruise control set, headed downhill with a tailwind, I'm lucky to get 18mpg. But that's why it's equipped with a huge 20gal gas tank! As the advertising proclaimed in 1980, "It's got range."
The bench seating is comfortable enough for commuting. The seats aren't very ergonomic, and leaves a bit to be desired for 6-8 hour trips, though. I do appreciate the cloth interior, no scalding in the summer and no freezing in the winter. The vinyl seating wouldn't have held up as well.
The cargo space in the two-door is fairly large, but the back seat is hard to access for large items. The trunk is massive. Fits 14+ paper bags of groceries for a family of four, and your neighbor's, too, with no problem.
Cruise control switches are located on the steering wheel, which is very convenient.
The horn could be louder, and should have been located on the steering wheel, rather than as a push-in stick on the column, but I rarely use it anyway. It's placed off the column so that longer-legged people will hit it with their knee, though.
This model's trim line wasn't factory ordered with all the bells and whistles, so the dashboard is rather plain: standard speedometer, gas gauge and lights for oil, temp, brake, alt, seatbelt, low fuel. There's a cigarette lighter and ashtray in both doors and (there was one) in the front console, if you have cellphones or accessories to plug in with an adapter. There's a miraculous idiot-bell that's saved me from locking the car with the keys in the ignition a couple of times. No tilt-steering, or much power/digital anything, but the original AC compressor still works like a charm, if you don't mind watching the gas gauge drop rapidly.
The original Windsor V8 engine refuses to quit, initial pickup is fairly slow, but stays at cruising speed reliably. Don't plan on passing other drivers on two-lane highways unless the road is completely empty, and get a running start on steep hills. No fuel injection on this model, so you have to press the gas pedal repeatedly before turning over the engine if it's been sitting a while, and needs a little starter spray in the air intake or the engine block heater plugged in for easier starts when the temps drop below -15. In the Midwest, that's a given. No problem jump-starting other cars/trucks at work, the Merc's been utterly reliable in this category.
I'll be sad to see this one go, no extra cash and garage to restore it to the collectible status it deserves, but it's been a good short-range commuter.