Home » Here’s What Happens When A Classic Car Stops Running Mid-Auction

Here’s What Happens When A Classic Car Stops Running Mid-Auction

Gg Mercedes Sl Ts
ADVERTISEMENT

Selling a car on Cragslist has its risks, but so does selling a car through an online auction. While the biggest fears usually surround a low winning bid on a no reserve listing or the possibility of the winning bidder backing out, it turns out there’s another rather obvious ways things can go wrong. What happens if the car you’re selling breaks while the auction’s running and you can’t get it going again before the auction ends?

Let’s take a look at our specimen: a 1972 Mercedes-Benz 450SL. It was listed on Bring A Trailer last week, and looked mighty tempting as a cruiser. While not originally a yellow car, it’s rocking a fabulously dreamy shade of the color, and the Palomino leather interior provides some great ’70s contrast. It even has a hardtop, as all old SLs should.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Admittedly, it’s not in perfect shape. There are cracks in the dash, a few dents in the coachwork, and a crack in the windscreen, but the underbody’s remarkably clean, and a few cosmetic imperfections make a car easier to genuinely drive. Street parking? No problem. Taking a gander at the seller’s brief video of the car cruising around, it looks like an absolute vibe.

1972 Mercedes Benz 450sl Img 9681 43280 Scaled Copy

It was all looking decent until Sunday, May 5. That’s when all bids were reset, the word “Project” was added to the listing title, and Bring A Trailer posted this comment on the listing:

ADVERTISEMENT

Hello all,

We’ve been in touch with @Luvhail, who has updated us that the car does not currently run. We have updated the listing accordingly and revised the car as a project. In order to make this fair for everyone, we have agreed with the seller to extend the auction one more day and remove the bids of @sabbaghianm, @bbay51, @jtvap, @jsbutter, @Airstream87, @Skagen100, @shanesauto, @RoadRacer1. This effectively resets the auction and allows bidding to be set according to the revised description. The auction will now close on May 7th.

We appreciate everyone’s understanding, and thank you to the @seller for being transparent and agreeing that the right thing to do here was to reset the auction and allow the high bidder to win with a full understanding of the current condition.

Due to the non-running nature of the car, the automatic shipping calculator has been disabled; however, custom shipping quotes are still available via this link: https://bringatrailer.com/shipping/

-BaT

Oh no. The 450SL had reportedly decided to stop being functional transportation right in the middle of an auction, and the reaction was something along the lines of “fuck it, we ball.” The problem? Unknown. According to a comment posted by the seller shortly after Bring A Trailer’s comment went live, “the battery levels seemed to be a-ok from that reading but still no luck with it turning over. (It sure was trying though!).” A no-crank condition could be any number of things, from a bad starter solenoid all the way up to a locked-up engine. At the eleventh hour, this SL became a true gamble.

1972 Mercedes Benz 450sl Img 9242 44389 Scaled Copy

While the seller claims to have placed various roadside calls, none were successful, and that really affects this Benz’s current market value. Even though it looks to be in fair cosmetic shape for its age, non-running is non-running, and lots of people just don’t want to take on a project they’ll immediately have to sink dollars and time into. Unusually, the seller seems to be taking this incident in stride, having commented that the situation is:

just two regular people who bought a classic car and can’t manage the maintenance anymore and would like to see it go to someone who can : )

That’s the way it goes sometimes. Cars can be a whole lot of work, and even though the dream of cruising around in a classic Mercedes is shared by many, it takes a dedicated sort of person to pump money into one of these cars. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean a car will only fetch scrap value.

1972 Mercedes Benz 450sl Img 9190 84353 Copy

ADVERTISEMENT

Indeed, slowly but surely, bids started pouring in. In the first day of the reboot, this auction breached the four-figure barrier, eventually climbing to a wild $6,100. While on the cheap end for an early, small-bumper car, it’s still a fair amount of money for a non-running vehicle, especially one that won’t crank. Well-sold and potentially well-bought too, depending on what’s wrong. I guess the buyer will have to bring an actual trailer, huh?

(Photo credits: Bring A Trailer)

Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.

Relatedbar

Got a hot tip? Send it to us here. Or check out the stories on our homepage.

ADVERTISEMENT
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
60 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Luxrage
Luxrage
14 days ago

I once had an ’89 Nissan Maxima listed for sale for $1500, interior was immaculate but the car was certainly a beater. Had been driving it as a summer project and was done with it, so I put it online. A teenager and his adult friend came to look at it and for some reason the car would not stay running without putting the accelerator nearly to the floor. I puttered it around the neighborhood and the teenager was so smitten by it he gave me full ask, even after his friend looked at him like he was insane. Some people are willing to put up with a project I guess!

Edit: Found one picture of it: https://imgur.com/qpOGC9G

Last edited 14 days ago by Luxrage
Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
14 days ago

I managed to take a gamble and come out ahead on a nice looking, but non-running 1980 LTD at a farm auction in 1993. Apparently the owner had just replaced the battery and spent an additional princely sum of over $100 (so like $4k or whatever in today’s greenbacks) to get it tuned up the week before, but it wouldn’t fire when they went to start it up. Also, one of the tires had went flat, so that wasn’t helping. Of course the obvious reason for crank/no-start condition was the bone-chilling 35 degrees below-zero windchill.

Bidding started at $40 and soared in five dollar increments all the way to my winning bid of $70. I came back a few days later after the weather had improved, changed the tire, and the car fired right up. It was nice, but nothing special – a 3-box brick that looked like a stick of butter. Drove it for about a year and sold it for $600. The original owner was still giving me shit about “stealing” it whenever I would run into him around town.

TheDrunkenWrench
TheDrunkenWrench
14 days ago

I love my w126, but it’s diesel. I’d run far and fast from any K-jetronic injection system, which I assume this 450 is equipped with.

WR250R
WR250R
14 days ago

I’ve been in a few uncomfortable situations selling. Most recently was a mower I had acquired cheap. Serviced it all up, fixed the weak spark issue, fixed the leaking carb, sharpened blades, and mowed with it half the summer. Half the summer and it ran perfect every time. Guy from marketplace comes to buy it and it won’t start. Crank but no fire. I figured it out but boy was I embarrassed

Ben
Ben
14 days ago
Reply to  WR250R

I figured it out but boy was I embarrassed

Well don’t keep us in suspense! What was wrong?! 😛

WR250R
WR250R
14 days ago
Reply to  Ben

Ground issue! A wire from the motor was contacting the frame and not allowing spark. Kinda glad it happened when it did instead of for the guy the day after

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
14 days ago

My S1 Elise was a bit temperamental to start: you had to key on, then wait for the fuel pump to hum for a couple of seconds, then crank it. If you didn’t wait it wouldn’t fire. I’d had the car for so long that it was an unconscious habit for me.

I had to explain this to the new owner while he was trying to drive it on to his trailer. He was not happy, but he was also a dealer and flipped the car for a 3k profit a few weeks later, so I’ve stopped feeling bad about it.

Scoutdude
Scoutdude
14 days ago

Having been a mechanic for many years I’d say that it is a very good chance that “it won’t turn over but tries really hard” really means a crank no start, not a no crank situation.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
15 days ago

Ran when sold…

Marathag
Marathag
15 days ago

Never buy someones project, and double that on it not cranking, unless the price is really right.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
15 days ago

That’s too much when you can get a late 560SL in fair condition for $10-12K.

LTDScott
LTDScott
15 days ago

Is this a 1977 Mercedes 450SL for *twenty-four thousand dollars*? That’s too fucking high!

https://youtu.be/zqHZWdFVyyQ?si=nWcpB4t19kEsWkNY&t=73

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
15 days ago
Reply to  LTDScott

Wow, that may be the most hyper specific reference anyone has ever remembered in the history of the internet.

LTDScott
LTDScott
15 days ago

It’s one of my favorite movies, so my brain immediately went there when I read about a 450SL being too expensive.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
15 days ago
Reply to  LTDScott

Amazing.

Hot Stuff
Hot Stuff
14 days ago
Reply to  LTDScott

“Come on down and put the sqeeeeeze on us!”

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
15 days ago
Reply to  LTDScott

holy shit, I didn’t know about this movie before now but you bet your sweet bippy I’m looking it up right *fucking* now! That looks amazing

I should plonk on the Big Trouble Little China bluray while I’m at it. Haven’t seen that in too damn long.

LTDScott
LTDScott
14 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Highly underrated

DadBod
DadBod
14 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

“I was born ready.”
Seeing Big Trouble in Little China was a seminal experience of my pubescence. I had a little Kurt Russel obsession after Escape from New York and The Thing, he’s the coolest guy on Earth.

SirRaoulDuke
SirRaoulDuke
14 days ago
Reply to  LTDScott

“You want the solution to inflation?”

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
14 days ago

That was 10 years ago – when you could get a 560SL with around 70-80K miles on it for @ $15-18K

Now you can’t get a 560SL in similar condition for under $25K anymore.

Last edited 14 days ago by Urban Runabout
LTDScott
LTDScott
15 days ago

Reminds me of when I was selling my ’85 Lincoln Mark VII back around 1999 or 2000. This was before any of the online platforms for selling cars existed at all, so I actually had to call and pay for an ad in the print version of the Autotrader (which I dearly miss) and wait for a week for it to appear.

The day before the ad was to debut I noticed a significant coolant leak from the engine. Long story short, the actual head of one of the cylinder head bolts (the exposed ones near the exhaust ports, not the bolts under the valve cover) somehow broke off and the coolant was gushing past the remainder of the head bolt. I’ve never seen that before or since.

I had to field calls from prospective buyers and tell them the bad news. I wasn’t willing or able to fix the broken bolt so I actually ended up selling the car as-is on eBay, albeit at a much lower price. A tow truck picked it up the day after the auction ended.

Clear_prop
Clear_prop
15 days ago

My gf and I were drivers for one of the Monterey car week auctions a few years back. In line to drive across the stage, the Mercedes she was driving wouldn’t restart. They had to push it across, and all the way back to parking lot. It failed to sell, but it was an early lot and many of them weren’t selling.

One of the cars I drove was an AC Cobra. It drove on the stage just fine, but wouldn’t restart to drive off. They said give it some gas, so I did, and ROARED to life. A big V8 at wide open throttle is just a bit loud for an enclosed space. 🙂

Totally not a robot
Totally not a robot
14 days ago
Reply to  Clear_prop

Tell me more about this auction car driver gig. How does one apply for such a sick job?

Clear_prop
Clear_prop
14 days ago

You have to know the right people. The auction I drove at mostly had people from the local Porsche club and their vetted friends driving. I only drove that one year since the next years my friend was displaying his car so I didn’t have someone to vet met.

Curtis Loew
Curtis Loew
15 days ago

I’ve seen this happen many times in person at Barrett-Jackson and Mecum. They just tow it up to the block push it across and don’t make any announcement. Buyer beware, the auctioneers have no liability.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
15 days ago

One year at the Greenwich Concours, an immaculate Fiat Dino Spider drove up to the gate, and then died before getting on the lawn. It had to be pushed into its display position, ineligible for any prizes (and eventually left the same way) and I genuinely felt the owner’s pain.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
15 days ago

With engines, the level of awfulness runs something like:
Turn the key and nothing at all happens.
Turn the key and it clicks.
Turn the key and it cranks but doesn’t start.
Starts, but there’s a little bit of smoke.
Start but there’s weird clicking, thumping or rattling noises.
Glitter Oil.

My aversion to buying a pre-computerized car ( carbs or mechanical fuel injection and a distributer) climbs from “not a problem” to “assume engine replacement” as I go down the list.

For computerized ECU cars, “intermittent fault” renders them worthless in my mind.

Evan M
Evan M
15 days ago

Nice to see a BaT auction that might actually require a trailer!

But yeah… nightmare scenario, but not an unusual one. I have a friend who drove their classic Alfa into the garage, went to start it the next day and had no spark. That was six months and many experts ago. No idea what happened to it.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
15 days ago

BAT =

Bring

A

Tow truck

(In this unfortunate scenario anyway) ヽ(●゚´Д`゚●)ノ゚

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
15 days ago

Oh man. Last year, I bought a non-running 1949 Ford 8N tractor for $1000. I rebuilt the carb, replaced the radiator and redid the wiring and ignition system. I had it running great. Carb all tuned up and it would start without hesitation at -10 °C. I made a deal to sell it for $2600 delivered, which is fair for a running example. I drove it onto the trailer, took it about 2 hours, unloaded it just fine. Little did I know, the battery’s final start was to take it off the trailer. It was old, but not giving me trouble, so i didn’t bother replacing it. I ended up taking $200 off the sale price as he would have to buy a new battery. He did confirm that it fired right up with the replacement battery.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
15 days ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

Nice Ford 8Ns are only $2000?
Love a good 8N. There is something so pure about them.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
15 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

They are absolutely fit for purpose.
I once did a wheelie on an 8n Golden Jubalee—and that is not the purpose they are fit for

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
15 days ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

It was scary easy to do a wheelie on a two cylinder John Deere that we had.
It had so many ways to kill you if you were’nt paying attention.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
14 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

Oh man, I also have a 2 cylinder john Deere. I don’t really have a use for it, I just love the look and the sound of it. I can’t bring myself to sell the old gal.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
14 days ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

I always enjoyed pointing out that Ferrari stole their gated shifter from John Deere.

That sound.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
14 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

Hahaha yes. I do love those gated shifters. The gate piece itself is about 30 lbs of cast iron.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
14 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

For a decent running model, about $2000-2500 is typical. For a complete restoration with paint and good tires, they can get up to $5000. I replaced my 8n because i needed to run a big rototiller which required live pto and hydraulics and a slower first gear.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
15 days ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

If this rolls over to Wrenching Wednesday nbd, but can you tell me what it meant to rebuild the carb? I believe my 1998 Mazda Protege had a distributor instead of individual coil packs, but in my mind carburation is the era just before that, and not well understood to me.

I tried tuning the carb on a Craftsman weedeater, which was such a hateful pile of shit I gave it away to the eventual chagrin of the recipient.

I know that’s two-stroke and not entirely applicable, but I’m trying to live my professional life personally, as a software tester and product owner. A lot of times, asking the “dumb” questions does a lot for what everyone else was too embarrassed to ask.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
14 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

It is just about the easiest carb rebuild ever. The kit comes with 2 gaskets, a new needle and seat, throttle rod and seals. There are like 4 screws for the whole job. Youtube has some good videos of course.

Once you have the carb all set, you bolt it on and connect the throttle rod and fuel line. There are 2 screws that you turn to adjust the fuel mix. One small one for the idle and one larger one for the main jet. You turn them out about 2 turns each and start the tractor. It should run ok. Once the engine is warmed up, you set the throttle to idle and turn the idle screw either left or right, if the rpms go up, keep turning that direction. If they go down, turn the other direction. Eventually, you find the maximum and adjust the throttle stop to your desired rpm. To set the main jet, rev it up and open the screw until the exhaust turns black (indicating you are too rich). Then turn it back until it clears up and runs well. If you are doing light work, you can turn the main jet down a little to save fuel at the expense of a little power.

Steve Balistreri
Steve Balistreri
15 days ago

Had something similar happen when I sold my old 69 MG Midget. Being a vintage british ride it was a little tempermental and needed the right touch to get it started. The guy arrived and we drove it around. He loved the car so we signed the papers and he gave me the cash. He got in the car to drive home and it didn’t start! He must’ve flooded the carb or something but there were a tense few minutes and worried looks from his wife before the car eventually started and he drove off. Thankfully I never heard from him again.

Marques Dean
Marques Dean
15 days ago

Anything goes when you’re dealing with “The Prince of Darkness” a.k.a. Lucas electronics! lol

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
15 days ago

If you’re not prepared to deal with shit like that, go buy a Miata instead!

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
15 days ago

First thing, before placing any bids, is to lay a socket on the crank pulley and see if it turns.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
15 days ago

It sounds like an old Benz is making sure the new owner knows what to expect with an old Benz. It’s super cool and I get the appeal, but I would definitely be the wrong kind of owner for it.

Hiram McDaniel
Hiram McDaniel
15 days ago

I sold a Series 100 Toyota Landcruiser on Cars&Bids. 225K, but rust free and running perfect. Winner came down from Ohio to pick it up, about a 6 hour drive. Checked it out in my driveway, loved it, money and title changed hands. He drove away.

Less than 5 minutes later he called me and asked “what is the ticking sound?” No idea, come back, let’s check it out. Yep, that is a loudass ticking sound coming from driver side of motor. Was 100% not there before.

I wound up giving him his cash back, and he went home without a Landcruiser. Had it towed to a shop, and they scoped cylinder #1. Dropped a valve seat. Almost unheard of in that engine, and that was the moment it decided to happen.

I can’t think of anything he could have done in those 5 minutes to do this, and the shop (a Toyota independent shop) could not either.

DadBod
DadBod
15 days ago
Reply to  Hiram McDaniel

Did you kick a puppy that morning or something? Goddamn that’s bad luck.

Hiram McDaniel
Hiram McDaniel
14 days ago
Reply to  DadBod

It was a remarkable moment of bad luck. $5k for a replacement cylinder head and all the associated work. I know the Toyota reputation, but I owned that Landcruiser for about two years, and it was costly AF. I easily spent over $10K in repairs in the about 20,000 miles I put on it.

DadBod
DadBod
14 days ago
Reply to  Hiram McDaniel

Not to mention the 8mpg! I had a lifted 4×4 1995 T100 that was fun and all, but it had as many problems as any other car. The build quality was great compared to a 90s GM or Ford truck, but reliability wasn’t much better with a broken heater core, broken axles, dead AC, vacuum lines galore, electrical issues, the list goes on…

Last edited 14 days ago by DadBod
Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
15 days ago

“I guess the buyer will have to bring an actual trailer, huh?”

Instructions unclear. Installed a trailer hitch on my BaT purchase:

https://bringatrailer.com/2010/06/25/bat-success-story-1982-mg-metro-hauler/

MEK
MEK
15 days ago

I’m not really up on older Mercedes in general but I was always under the impression that the 450 series of the SL was generally considered less desirable as its less reliable than others. Anyone know if that is correct?

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
15 days ago
Reply to  MEK

You are correct.

The “super reliable” timing chains on all these M116 V8’s were single row and had lots of failures associated with them. This was fixed with all 1984 and up versions of the engine which changed to dual row chains. Mercedes fixed a lot of these to keep people happy, and I’m not 100% sure but I think the single row chain engines can be updated to the dual chain setup… but I might be wrong.

Also the early years of these SLs had the catalytic converters located under the hood, leading to lots of heat under there and heat-soak related starting issues with the engine. Which could have been what happened to this specific car (?)

MEK
MEK
15 days ago

See, this is why I come here. Esoteric knowledge in every article.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
14 days ago

You are referring to the aluminum 3.8L engines with their timing chain issues – not the cast iron 4.5L, which were dead reliable (with the minor exception of the 2 years of under-hood catalytic converter issues you mentioned – 1974 & 75) Prior to that, there were no cats, and afterward, they were located downstream under the car.

Those cat issues only related to difficulty with hot starts – Not cold starts.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
14 days ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

Ah yes, you are correct. So the M116 engine basically went good-bad-good (?)

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
14 days ago

The M116 was the small displacement V8.
It went from the cast iron 3.5L to the aluminum 3.8L to the aluminum 4.2L

The M117 was the larger displacement V8.
It went from the cast iron 4.5L to the aluminum 5.0L, then the aluminum 5.5L

So in the R107 in the US – the engine went from the 4.5L M117 to the 3.8L M116, then to the 5.5L M117.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
15 days ago
Reply to  MEK

The ones you want are 1988-1989, the last 2 years of production, where they had sorted out the timing chain guide issues and came with the big boi engines. It’s a heavy little car and you want to go big or go home.

A late model SL is a fabulous car and well worth owning.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
14 days ago

The 5.6L engines were introduced in 1986 – along with a bunch of other updates, including airbags in the steering wheel, updated suspension components, etc – making the 1986-89 560SL more desirable.

The other ones you want are the 1972 350/450SL (depending on how it’s badged – they all had 4.5L engines) with its small bumpers and simple build – and the 1978-79 SL, which had most things sorted out.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
15 days ago

Here’s hoping this has gone to someone who will ship it off to the nice folks at Monceau in Belgium for a restoration/EV conversion.

Marathag
Marathag
15 days ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

LS Swap to annoy the purists

60
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x