CL500 - is it worth restoring?

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NigelCL

Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2020
Messages
57
Location
Warrington
Car
CL500
Hello everyone. About 12 months ago, I got hold of a 2001 cl500. Most of the cars functions worked fine when I first got it, with a couple of exceptions, suspension (hydraulic) and a mysterious power drain on the battery.
All started well and I was steadily going through the car, fixing any issues I found. However, unfortunately, I had to put the car aside for the last 6 months or so due to personal issues. I recently started to pick up where I left off, but more and more issues are coming to light. The pneumatic pump is now not working. It just clicks several times then blows the 20a fuse under the rear seat. This didn’t happen 6 months ago. Also the heater matrix appears to be leaking into the front foot wells now too causing mould on the interior. The lamp holders in the headlight housings won’t stay in place. Indicator bulb passenger side, sidelight on drivers side. The problem seems to be the headlight units as a pose to the lamp holders.
To cut a very long list short, I was hoping to ask advice of anyone who has done any of the work stated above. More to the tune of whether or not it’s worth persevering with, or whether I should scrap the car, and look for a better example.
Thank you for reading,
Nigel.
 
Nigel.

Any fault or faults can be fixed. It's a matter of what your long term aim is, do you want to take time to bring the car back to a state where you can use it regularly and have the time, patience, funds and desire to do that?
 
Nigel.

Any fault or faults can be fixed. It's a matter of what your long term aim is, do you want to take time to bring the car back to a state where you can use it regularly and have the time, patience, funds and desire to do that?
I would love the car to be back in her original state, or as near as possible. Time, patience and money are all there, I just feel I’m lacking in knowledge and confidence to tackle all the work required. I intend to get the car to a MB specialist for the suspension at least.
I guess what I was asking for was advice as to whether it’s worth persevering with this particular car. I always dreamed of owning a Mercedes V8 coupe from a young age. So when one came along by chance, I jumped at the opportunity. However, there are so many components which have already been badly repaired. For example - a lot of the electrical elements were changed in the past. Ecu’s, ignition barrel and wires spliced etc because the engine stopped running. I have since discovered that the cause of the failure was corrosion on the connection pins, not the components themselves. Just about every removable piece of trim has been damaged during previous attempts to work on the car, and then glued/cable tied back together.
The car doesn’t stand me at too much yet. I say yet because I feel that to get it to the standard and quality I expect to achieve, would need to replace probably 50% of the car or more. The engine and gearbox are still strong, bodywork is ok, it’s literally everything else that will require attention at some point in the near future.
I was hoping to gauge opinions as to whether to keep this car as a doner vehicle and seek out a better example, or keep persevering. At 20 years old, good quality parts are not so easy to get hold of. Most being in a similar condition to what I already have or worse. It’s frightening what some people will sell as ‘good quality spares’ these days.
I love these cars, I always have. And I’m prepared to put in the time, effort and money to achieve my dream.
I really don’t want to sound defeatist. I just can’t help thinking that there are better examples out there to start with. If anyone has already undertaken such a project, which route is the most viable? Could I end up having to pay more for the parts required, than I would for a better car?
I particularly wanted an older car because it is my intention to keep it as a second car. Strictly for personal use, weekend drives out etc. So being older, tax and insurance were much cheaper than for a more modern equivalent. And I’ve always had a soft spot for a good classic car. And in my own personal opinion, you can’t get much better than a top of the range Mercedes, regardless of its age.
 
'How long is a piece of string ?' is the trite rhetorical question than one normally gets in answered to this type of question, and it's one only you can answer.

Just how bad do you want to do this ? It's highly unlikely that you will get your money back and you will never get your time spent on it back. These things are in the main a labour of love. You already know what a complex machine this is and it's 20 years old with signs of previous (not so good) repairs.

The fact that you feel you need to take the car to a specialist for the suspension is already setting off alarm bells, unless you have a big budget even jobs like that should be on your DIY list. The heater matrix alone will be a major job.

Is the body 100% rust free ? The list is endless.
 
From your description of this car I would be looking to sell it to try to recoup any costs and look for a better cared for example.

The electrical issues alone will probably give you a huge and expensive problem to fix properly and interior and trim parts aren't cheap.

These are very complex cars and as dome amateurs have already "worked" on it then the issues you have described may only be the start of your problems.
 
I've seen some really clean well maintained CL500's sell for less than £5k, albeit private sales, so you might want to balance that against what you intend to spend. Unless you really enjoy doing projects, and are not concerned with the cost( and you have the room) I'd do a patient search for a really good one and keep the one you have as a donor. Mint ones are getting harder to find as you might expect, but do turn up.
 
The main question is, what would you replace it with? If you fancy something different then sell as is. If you plan to buy another CL I would keep it.
Reason I say that is you will loose out on this one, pay more for a better one and end could quite easily end up in the same position again in a year or two as these complicated old beasts get older.
Suspension pumps etc, are not exactly an unheard of problem, getting it sorted and having a warranty on new or rebuilt parts is a nice feeling.
CL's do not like being left to their own devices and chances are none of them have been used a great deal over the covid era. It's when you wake them up and start using them again things start showing up.
 
'How long is a piece of string ?' is the trite rhetorical question than one normally gets in answered to this type of question, and it's one only you can answer.

Just how bad do you want to do this ? It's highly unlikely that you will get your money back and you will never get your time spent on it back. These things are in the main a labour of love. You already know what a complex machine this is and it's 20 years old with signs of previous (not so good) repairs.

The fact that you feel you need to take the car to a specialist for the suspension is already setting off alarm bells, unless you have a big budget even jobs like that should be on your DIY list. The heater matrix alone will be a major job.

Is the body 100% rust free ? The list is endless.
Thanks for the reply. Owning a car like this has been a lifelong dream. I completely understand what you mean regarding it being a labour of love. And yes, I do enjoy the feeling you get from accomplishing such tasks. I’ve been an engineer for 30 years, so problem solving is in my blood.
I’ve looked into buying a MB code reader to assist with the repairs, and read so many stories of people doing the same and making more of a mess by deleting things they shouldn’t. Computers really aren’t my forte. The combination of hydraulics and sensors on the suspension is completely new to me. I’ve read that it holds incredible amounts of pressure. So that was my initial reason to ask a specialists advice. More so I don’t hurt myself - again!! The knowledge of someone who knows these systems is invaluable to me. I’ve also looked into replacing the original suspension with coilovers. But again, I feel I would need some help with the car’s electrical systems that control this. I figured paying for a couple of hours of knowledge could offset many hours of head scratching and unnecessary spending.
A labour of love indeed. But in an ideal world, I’d like to enjoy driving it as well as working on it.
 
A good start is an icarSoft MB2 , quite cheap and used units are available , you can't do much 'damage' with is as the untrained can with the higher end stuff . And if later on you find it's not up to the job it will be easy to sell on. Manuals (WIS) are available online from various sources.

With 30 years of engineering experience the brakes and suspension system should hold no fear for you and plenty info on line and on this forum. The electrical stuff is of course another story.
 
My opinion, all CL's are risky and you could easily jump out the frying pan into the fire no matter how nice it is or seems when you buy it.
If you are capable fix what you can and get a good indy to do what isn't practical at home.
Water in the boot is a good place to start with the pump and power drain.
Make sure the battery is strong before condeming any electrics.
I love mine but you have to be fully aware these are all time bombs now so be prepared for the occasional big bill.
Once all sorted keep on top of the ABC with 20k fluid and filter. Goid luck!
 
From your description of this car I would be looking to sell it to try to recoup any costs and look for a better cared for example.

The electrical issues alone will probably give you a huge and expensive problem to fix properly and interior and trim parts aren't cheap.

These are very complex cars and as dome amateurs have already "worked" on it then the issues you have described may only be the start of your problems.
There is a Mercedes breakers not too far from where I live. And to be fair, what they’re offering to buy the car for to break into parts, would almost cover what I’ve put into it so far.
I do know that if I do fix the problems, I will do it properly, with some level of confidence that it won’t need doing again in the near future. So I know that ultimately, if I persist, I will eventually end up with a fully functioning, reliable vehicle in original condition as possible. But that is my dilemma, I could spends a couple of years or more attaining my dream, or potentially buy a new set of problems. If I can get what I consider the difficult jobs out of the way, I’ll happily spend my time going through the rest of car, repairing and restoring as I go.
 
A good start is an icarSoft MB2 , quite cheap and used units are available , you can't do much 'damage' with is as the untrained can with the higher end stuff . And if later on you find it's not up to the job it will be easy to sell on. Manuals (WIS) are available online from various sources.

With 30 years of engineering experience the brakes and suspension system should hold no fear for you and plenty info on line and on this forum. The electrical stuff is of course another story.
It was the MB2 unit I was looking at. It’s reassuring to hear that I someone like myself, with a very limited knowledge of computers, can use them. It is my understanding that this unit will not be much help with regards to the suspension. It will read the fault codes, but it’s not capable of performing the various tests, like rodeo mode for example.
In your opinion, are electrical issues persistent once they’ve set in? Or are most of them fixable?
 
What’s your budget for a newer one if you scrap this one buddy ?
Probably about £10k. Age isn’t really important. I’ve always believed that you get what you pay for, and I’d happily buy an older car in the right condition just a much as going for a new one. And where better to find one than in the company of fellow enthusiasts who also take great care of their cars.
 
My opinion, all CL's are risky and you could easily jump out the frying pan into the fire no matter how nice it is or seems when you buy it.
If you are capable fix what you can and get a good indy to do what isn't practical at home.
Water in the boot is a good place to start with the pump and power drain.
Make sure the battery is strong before condeming any electrics.
I love mine but you have to be fully aware these are all time bombs now so be prepared for the occasional big bill.
Once all sorted keep on top of the ABC with 20k fluid and filter. Goid luck!
Good advice, thank you. I’ve always loved the look of the CL’s, they have such a presence on the road. And driving it definitely gives me a sense of pride. And the noise of the engine is all the incentive I need to persevere. But at some point, common sense and practicality has to come into play.
 
The main question is, what would you replace it with? If you fancy something different then sell as is. If you plan to buy another CL I would keep it.
Reason I say that is you will loose out on this one, pay more for a better one and end could quite easily end up in the same position again in a year or two as these complicated old beasts get older.
Suspension pumps etc, are not exactly an unheard of problem, getting it sorted and having a warranty on new or rebuilt parts is a nice feeling.
CL's do not like being left to their own devices and chances are none of them have been used a great deal over the covid era. It's when you wake them up and start using them again things start showing up.
I don’t mind losing money so much, as it’s already giving me so much enjoyment. And as a doner car, it’s only really good for mechanicals, body panels.
And yes you’re right, another car could bring the same set of problems. I’m really on the fence with this one. Sure, the CL is a great looking car. But then, so are so many other Mercedes coupes. And now I’ve had a coupe, I feel I’m more drawn to big engine than the body style.
 
£10k !!! Cripes, that's a fortune for this era of car. (Although I personally haven't owned that specific model car, I do know a couple of people who run them today and who love them as modern classic second cars.)

Buying carefully, you'll be able to pick up a 2003 CL500 for just over £5k in near immaculate condition, with only a few minor points that need fettling. (Don't even think about an AMG because you'll entire an entirely different world of repairs and maintenance.)

£8k would even buy you a later model C216 CL500 from 2007, with some small change for repairs and maintenance, although I think you don't want to go that "modern."

"With all due respect" to your car, and having not seen it, it's probably not worth more than £2k as it stands. (see the car below) You could easily pour all your £10k into repairs and renovations but, at the end of the day, it still won't be worth more than £4k because it's the earlier C215 with the lower output engine.

So I'd advise finding another excellent 2003 onwards C215 CL500 and looking after that.

As a bit of desk research, look at an auction site like Historics, to see what kind of cars have been sold there over the last five years, noting their condition, mileage and service histories.

Ref 84 2002 Mercedes CL500

82822094de6e4db8df87ba1b7039742aff1d409c.jpg
 
Probably about £10k. Age isn’t really important. I’ve always believed that you get what you pay for, and I’d happily buy an older car in the right condition just a much as going for a new one. And where better to find one than in the company of fellow enthusiasts who also take great care of their cars.
I don’t want to be the burster of bubbles , but I fear that a 2001 ABC equipped CL is going to be truly shocking money pit . That’s even if you have a fully equipped double garage to take on all work .
I was talking to an MB Indy who was actually thinking of not working on them any more because as he said , people buy a car for £2-3k and some of the bills exceed this cost . Now that’s ok if someone has deep pockets or fully understands what they are buying cheap , if they don’t it’s tough explaining to customers .
My vote get the newest best cared CL you can for 10k , ideally that has had all the struts and pump replaced already .
(Sorry and good luck either way )
 
'How long is a piece of string ?' is the trite rhetorical question than one normally gets in answered to this type of question, and it's one only you can answer.

Just how bad do you want to do this ? It's highly unlikely that you will get your money back and you will never get your time spent on it back. These things are in the main a labour of love. You already know what a complex machine this is and it's 20 years old with signs of previous (not so good) repairs.

The fact that you feel you need to take the car to a specialist for the suspension is already setting off alarm bells, unless you have a big budget even jobs like that should be on your DIY list. The heater matrix alone will be a major job.

Is the body 100% rust free ? The list is endless.
I’ve not had much luck in researching changing the heater matrix so far. I’m assuming it will require taking the dash out.
And the main reason for using a specialist with the suspension is to save it from being off the road for a prolonged period of time. Given enough time, I’m sure I could fix it on my own. But I’d prefer to pay someone to reduce the time it’s off the road so I can enjoy it more. And also have some degree of confidence that it’s performing as it should.
 
I’ve not had much luck in researching changing the heater matrix so far. I’m assuming it will require taking the dash out.
And the main reason for using a specialist with the suspension is to save it from being off the road for a prolonged period of time. Given enough time, I’m sure I could fix it on my own. But I’d prefer to pay someone to reduce the time it’s off the road so I can enjoy it more. And also have some degree of confidence that it’s performing as it should.
Oh , sorry . I did not realise the car was in regular use. 👍
 

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