My son Bradley and I are looking for a classic four-door manual as a run-around car for him.

I mentioned this to SCMer Brad Miller, and from his vacation home in Paris he started sending me links of possible choices. One that caught our immediate attention was a 1990 Mercedes 300E-24 with a dogleg 5-speed and period D&W body kit. It had an asking price of about $19,000.

My European enabler was Matti Bohm, an enthusiast and journalist who helped me source European headlights for my Mercedes 250C. He was willing to go inspect the car for me and help arrange the transaction if it passed muster.

Before I could contact SCM’s go-to guy for 1990s Mercedes, Dean Laumbach, for an opinion, I had to get a clear picture of the cost to ship the car from the selling dealer in Göttingen to my door in Portland.

I needed a soup-to-nuts estimate for two options, either shipping to a German port and sending the car ro-ro to the U.S. and then to Portland, or in Germany putting it into a container with another car and then shipping to the U.S., then Portland. I learned that getting a complete list of transport and customs charges was like getting pecked to death by ducks.

In the end, it worked out to about $6,000 no matter which path the car took. Which made this Mercedes a $24k purchase.

According to Matti, German collectors were turning their nose up at this car because of its period body kit. But Bradley and I thought it would make a killer Cars & Coffee or Radwood ride.

Dean, however, was not so enthused. He said from the looks of it the car had been somebody’s project. He spotted some red flags, such as the car not having factory A/C car but a Behr aftermarket unit.

To pay the asking price was just “begging for a public flogging.”

The vision we had was that the car would arrive and be better than expected in every way. Although I didn’t think the price was unreasonable for a good manual 300E, the additional cost of shipping already made it more than I wanted to spend.

Suddenly I felt $30k richer. And saved from the misery of three months of anxious anticipation only to be rewarded by the delivery of a car with unwelcome surprises.

I enjoyed learning about the bits that go into importing a car from Europe and enjoyed even more being held back from the precipice by Dean.

I’ve also developed a friendship with Matti, and look forward to doing business with him at some point in the future. (He was about to make the four-hour trip before we decided to call the whole thing off.)

When looking at cars you have not seen in person, or that are being sold by someone you don’t know and trust, if you assume the worst, you generally will not be let down.

In our old car world, there’s a fool born every minute, and I feel lucky I was saved from being one of them this time.


  1. As I age, I find one question serves me well in many areas, be it buying something, (avoiding) injuring myself in some ill-considered activity, or entering some dubious romantic entanglement. I find some version of “How else did you expect it to come out?” is enough to keep me away from danger. If that isn’t enough, “How are you going to explain this when it goes wrong?” or “Do you realize how much crap you’re going to catch if/ when this doesn’t work?” almost always does the trick.

    So, paying the cost of a decent used car to transport a car ( that might or might not be decent) nearly halfway around the world to find out… How many more Learning Experiences do I need?

    • Bob,

      That note is pure Gospel. Should be imprinted somewhere in our brain as we become more chronologically gifted. Problem is I usually get caught up in all the emotion of the event and don’t come out of the ether in time to make the appropriate decision. Cheers

  2. Keith,
    An incredible story. Thank goodness you had the contacts overseas and a good working relationship with The Mercedes Guru of Gurus, Dean Laumbach. Have cringed over making an overseas transaction of a car that I went head over heels about. A few years ago was looking at a ‘74 BMW 2002 Turbo available through one of SCM’s regular vendors. Got to the 11th hour but just couldn’t pull the trigger. There was this intangible feeling that something was missing, more than peace of mind. Am more of a “touchy-feely” guy who needs to see something in person most of the time before buying. Admittedly, have bought many a new car from faith that it will be exactly as I envision it. In your case for Bradley, Dean’s explanation was the trump(sorry!) card. Sure wish I had befriended folks like him while “growing up” during the acquisition phase of our collection. Would have slept better, spent significantly less $$$$, and probably had fewer headaches to cope with.

  3. My friend is selling a 1990 300CE 5 speed coupe that has been semi restored. He is one of the more knowledgeable W124 mechanics in the country. Car is in Litchfield County, CT.

  4. Keith, I have been working on a 92 300ce that I brought a year ago Thanksgiving. The saying that to good to be true, will means much more now. I found the car by a listing that the friend of the owner placed on-line. It was a 80k garage queen from what I could see. The deal went on for over 2 months as we could never talk to the seller and I would then go off to look for other cars. In the end I was able to have a limited contact with the seller and brought the car. I quickly realized that the expired tags dating 2012 were my ticket to fun times ahead. I love the car and how clean the body and interior are, however even after taking it to a specialized shop out here and my endless hours in front of you tube and in the garage, I still can not get my ASR light off and other small annoyances. Being that the car still has sensors and not an accurate plug, has created the game of what to replace next to get the light off. In the end, I am too looking for that c&c and Radwood type of events for the car as well as something to drive in the rain. Still makes me smile to hear, wow that could be the last real mercedes by on-lookers that I come across when driving it. Keep your eye out, from what I have seen over here the market has soften up a bit from when I found mine. PS it still has the dealer phone and hands free speaker.. Too much

  5. Keith: Back in 2004, I bought a ‘74 Triumph TR6 from a reputable long time dealer in the Midwest (I live on East Coast) without going to check it out. My late wife was not pleased (plus she wanted a Jag). I bought and had the car shipped to me. When it arrived, I took it to my local garage. The guy put it up on the rack and waved me over. I figured my wife was right and I messed up big time. He asked me “do you see any rust?” I said “no” the car was spotless and I felt vindicated and I still have the car.

  6. Vincent McLaughlin

    Maybe get an auto and convert to standard if everything else is great.
    Best to you.