More Unicorn, Please – 1982 Mercedes 280S

It’s cliched, but there’s really nothing like the feeling of an older Mercedes from the time they were engineered to be heirloom cars, passed to the next generation and treasured like an old painting or piece of furniture. When they were in production, they were panned for having rather boring, if safe, handling, and for having rather unpleasant manual gearboxes. Speaking of gearboxes, if you thought a manually shifted Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon wasn’t enough of a unicorn, how about a W126 Mercedes S-class with carbureted engine and a 4-speed manual transmission? Check out this 1982 Mercedes 280S for sale for $1500 in Auburn, CA.

1982 Mercedes 280S right front

This from-above 3/4 shot is a great angle that more sellers should use – it looks like something out of a brochure, if brochures had cars with faded paint the patina acquired from 33 years of gentle aging. The seller describes the model as a grey market 280S, which in 1982 meant it had the (in)famous dual overhead cam M110 six breathing through a Solex or Pierburg carburetor. The car is said to run and drive, and have functioning air conditioning. The grey MBTex interior is said to be good, and as a California car since new, it has no rust. Fortunately, the slim European bumpers and better headlights were not lost to the grey market conversion.

1982 Mercedes 280S left rear

On a plateless car, you’ll want to be doubly sure it’s got the appropriate stickers under the hood or in the door jamb. There is a lien on the title, and the story goes the car was purchased from a storage auction and the current owner never received any paperwork. A lost title application should resolve that issue, but a trip to the DMV with the seller is probably in order. Sadly, we don’t get a money shot of the W126 interior with a manual shifter, so here’s a shot from another car. The 156hp powertrain will do 0-60 in a stately 11 seconds, and go on to a top speed of 200km/h. After suffering through the DMV for the paperwork, what would you do with this low-spec unicorn?

1982 Mercedes 280S interior


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9 Responses to “More Unicorn, Please – 1982 Mercedes 280S”

  1. Tirefriar Says:

    I call BS on the lost paperwork. Bill of sale is a hand filled out form that may get the registration started but good luck in completing the process. No explanation of what work is needed either. The seller probably tried for a year to get it registered but obviously had no luck.

  2. JimmyinTEXAS Says:

    With a lien on the title that shows up when Texas does a VIN check for a lost title, I’m not a 100% certain but enough so to bet a medium denomination US currency bill, you won’t get a clean Texas title. If The seller has contacted the lien holder he should mention how much the lien is… I might reach out to the seller and ask some questions and if it happens to be for sale when I get back from Saudi I might make a trip to Auburn.

  3. steve in podunk Says:

    yup,, no title=no deal; ya’ can’t register a story.

  4. jimmyrk3 Says:

    I emailed the seller last night after commenting and ask if he knew who the lien holder is and how much it is. No response as of yet..

    • Tirefriar Says:

      Jimmy, in California lien paperwork does not mean that you have to pay the full lien amount. It’s whatever the sales price you agree upon with the seller. If you are taking this car out of state, you should be more concerned if your stare will accept the lien paperwork because with lien sales the title is missing – as in this case. GLWP

      • jimmyrk3 Says:

        Thanks Tirefriar,
        I thought it was like someone took a loan using the vehicle for collateral. I guess even if I bought the car for 1500 bucks and had a few bucks in shipping, if I couldn’t register it I wold still have a pretty good parts car…Dang, that car is just to nice to part out.

      • jimmyrk3 Says:

        I got a response from the seller as follows…

        I am the lienholder and there are no additional liens on the car.
        Thank you-

        So if the Bill-of-sale paper work doesn’t say lien on it then hopefully some other state won’t have a fit… But wait, when a VIN check is run and shows up in someone else name(not Daniel) then bang no title for me.
        Oh well I guess I won’t be buying this one. If I were in CA I might buy it and part it out….

  5. Chris Keen Says:

    So I’m far from being experienced with this, but if there’s no title, don’t you just do a lost title form with the DMV? At that point, they search the VIN, you find out if there are any claims on the car, and if not, you’re free to register it? I’m not saying it’s as easy as registering a car with a clear title, but if the seller is willing to go to DMV with you, it can still be done, right?

    • Tirefriar Says:

      Chris, I just reread the ad and there’s no mention of the car ever being registered in California. It just says it was imported into California. Further, the car was in storage and then in the seller’s possession for several more years. It may not even be in the CA DMV system.

      In order to apply for a California title, VIN would need to be verified. During verification, appropriate federal and CARB need to be present. If they are not, the DMV will not continue with an application for title. If the stickers are present and VIN is verified then application for title can proceed. However, you can have a California titled car but not a California registered car.

      Of course, there are ways of operating this vehicle in California- dealer plates or registering it in another state, I believe Vermont is pretty relaxed with its registration rules, and then operating the car with out of state tags….

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