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My Mercedes Story

by Marshall Mayer last modified Jan 04, 2012 12:05 AM
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I found this group of 4Matic owners, the 4Maniacs, that each have older four-wheel drive Mercedes. They give each other advice and $upport on an informal mailing list (which I voluntarily host). Upon joining the group, they ask that each member to contribute their story. Here's mine.



1993 Mercedes 300TE 4Matic Wagon
Burgundy, Parchment MB Tex interior
Built 9/92, one of 314 of this model imported that year
Bought 12/12/98, 64,552 miles
Current 4/21/04, 167,053 miles

That's me with my beast, on the right. The other beast is a Mercedes Unimog owned by the US Forest Service. Apparently it can go places my 4Matic can't. (Click image to enlarge.)

We had owned a 1974 280, and really had a great time with it—except in winter, which is October through May up here (see below). So when we wanted to trade up from our Subaru wagon, the only car we really looked for was a 4Matic.

We bought this car from the Mercedes dealership (I had them repair all I and an independent Mercedes mechanic could find – water pump, valve gasket seals, new brakes all around, etc.), and it’s been a “pretty good hoss.” It has all of the options on it, except the heated leather seats :-(, CD player/changer (I installed one) and the cell phone. The first and only other owner was a contractor that lived on a ranch near Bozeman, MT at the end of an apparently badly washboarded road, since the main problems I’ve had with the car are all concentrated in the front end – front sway bar bracket broken, replaced sway bar (twice) and bushings, replaced both front struts, replaced front wheel bearings (rear as well), replaced motor mounts, replaced center carrier bearing and mount, replaced left front axle. Also replaced valve guide seals at 73,000 miles (normal, I understand, and the only work I’ve had done on the engine) and the blower motor and regulator (ouch!). The sensors keep giving out: replaced oxygen sensor, need to replace the steering angle sensor. The read door latch motor gave way causing a bunch of oddities in how the pneumatic locking system worked (or didn’t!) and the ignition once seized. The mechanic had to cut the ignition lock assembly from the car using a jeweler’s saw. He’d only seen it happen one other time in his over-twenty-year career. It was in the same week!

So, after 5 1/2 years and 100,000 miles of driving, I have all of the major bugs worked out of the car and am into it about $6,500 in repairs (outside of normal maintenance which I’m religious about). I consider that I bought an AOK car (the original price was right and my mechanic is still fairly inexpensive at $60/hour).

Currently, I’m monitoring the transfer case. There is a leak in there somewhere, but it’s slow and my mechanic is not too concerned. If it goes out, I’ll move to a warmer climate. Other than that, the car is in great shape, only minor body dings. (Sorry, I don’t have any better photos.)

The thing I like most about this car is that even though it’s more than ten years old and squarely in middle age, it still drives and rides better than almost any new car. We live only about 4 blocks from work, so almost all of the driving on this car, our only car, is for long road trips, which we love to do. Lots of ski trips, and trips to Seattle and Iowa for family visits. We rarely look at a weather map to prepare.

Each year in March or April we also do a “lizard on a hot rock” trip. Cabin fever gets to us and we hop in the 4Matic and drive for two straight days until we can be comfortable in shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops. Usually it’s to southern California, Arizona, New Mexico or southwest Texas, but once we drove all the way to the tip of Baja at Cabo San Lucas. We’re going to do the Baha trip again this spring, and hopefully drive the AlCan Highway to Denali next summer. I can’t wait.

That's my partner, Bonnie, trying to clean off some of the road crud as we return from one of our annual "lizard on a hot rock" trips. Welcome to spring in Montana! (Click image to enlarge.)

Barring any major unforeseen repair, we’ll probably drive this car for at least another 100,000 miles. I’m glad to have found fellow 4Maniacs to help me get there.




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