Seeking Known Failure

About the closest thing I've ever experienced to a genuine crystal ball is the experience of people who share the same make and model of car. Chances are, what breaks for them will eventually break for you. "They all do that."

I learned this firsthand through the 10 years I owned a car in Manhattan. My dear friend and neighbor essentially had the identical car. Different color and a few more miles, but the same year, same factory options, same storage conditions, same climate, same driving conditions. Richie was also a good 15 years my senior, so the analogy went beyond cars. In many ways, he was a mentor with sage advice on just about everything. But I digress.
Photo: M-B Archives

The car I shared with my friend in Manhattan was a BMW 3.0CS. This is that familiar pillarless coupe penned by Wilhelm Hoffmeister in the late 60s with coachwork by Karmann. Those cars fail in exactly the same places—rust, stress cracks, etc. 

And fail they most certainly do, primarily in the body. Owners will advise you not to run a hose over the roof for fear of trapping water as it cascades down the car finding hidden pockets to hide along the way.

The A124 Cabriolet is a far more robust car. Now approaching two decades, the E320 Cabriolet has proven itself to be a sturdy and admirably engineered vehicle, but it has been around long enough to demonstrate its share of consistent bugaboos. These include:

  • Wiring harness - The infamous eco-friendly/driver-unfriendly wiring harness on all Mercedes from 1991-1995 known to crumble and cause electrical mayhem. 
  • Head gasket - The M104 motor was known to have head gasket issues 
  • Weak tan leather interiors — black was far more durable
  • Misc interior bits such as the sunvisors

Considering everything, it's an impressively short list. There are other issues that come to mind, but things like hydraulics for the soft top are, in my opinion, not weak points so much as maintenance items. I don't expect those items to last indefinitely.