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Rest in peace, Coach
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Okay, I've had a good mixture of German cars and Japanese cars in my family...Having gone through the following vehicles:

Japanese:
'84 Nissan Maxima
'88 Acura Integra LS
'90 Acura Integra RS
'92 Nissan Pathfinder XE
'97 Toyota Camry

German:
'82 Mercedes 300TD
'86 Mercedes 560SEL
'88 Mercedes 190E
'93 Mercedes 300E
'95 BMW 540i
'98 BMW Z3 1.9
'00 BMW 323Ci X2
'01 Volkswagen Beetle

My general impressions? After about 18 years of owning and driving Japanese cars on and off, and having owned each vehicle from when it's new, Japanese cars seems to do one thing EXCEPTIONALLY WELL: Window regulators. On all of our Japanese cars, regardless of how old and how beat up, the WINDOW always goes up and down perfectly throughout the entire life of the car. Another thing, the interior mechanicals all worked flawlessly throught the entire life of the car. Power door lock always worked, all the vents worked, seat railing worked...Nothing that's inside the cabin was broke.

Stuff in the engine compartment and suspension is another matter. The Nissans tend to suffer from small ENGINE related electrical problems, the Maxima had a broken alternator and the Pathfinder had a broken fuel injector. The Acuras suffered through 3 water pumps, one went as early as 60,000 miles. Also, I had to replace the CV boot 3 times within 20,000 miles AND an AC unit. The Toyota Camry constantly had broken coolant hoses and my uncle finally gave up and traded the car in.

The German cars are completely opposite. Except for one Mercedes 500S that was driven to the ground*, every single one had perfect running engine (even the Nikasil based 540i) without ANY suspension or coolant problems. Everything outside of the cabin worked in perfect order (except two minor problems...the Exhaust fell off of my uncle's 560SEL) until the day...Wait, except for the 190E that was traded in for the 300E and my Z3,we STILL have all the German cars in working order. The 300TD was a special joy since it's almost 20 years old now and it's still being employeed by my cousin's friend as a daily drive, in fact it was used as the limosine for his friend's wedding. The stuff inside the car is another matter. All the little problems I've had has always been with stuff like the weather seal, I think one of the Mercedes had a failed AC unit, my Z3 had a torn rag top and the clutch stop snapped off. All but the newer BMWs (323Ci and the Z3) had developed problems with the window.

*Funny thing about the Merc 500S that was driven to the ground. My aunt had gotten an oil change at Jiffy Lube or something and I think what may have happened was the snapped off the drain bolt, oil had all but leaked out and she wasn't aware of the problem...Saw the oil light come on but ignored it, kept driving and eventually the engine just SEIZED UP. But I may never know since they just bought a new Merc 500S to replace that.
 

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The HACK said:


The German cars are completely opposite. Except for one Mercedes 500S that was driven to the ground*,
VW has one of the highest records by model for recalls.. my parents '78 Scirocco was in the shop more than it was on the road.
 

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zeddy
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Hack,

Cars I've owned:

German; '80 Rabbit, '86 Jetta, '71 Super Beetle, '63 Beetle, '78 Sirocco

Japanese; all Accords, a '95, '93, '87 and an '83.

Also, a Mazda RX4 from 1974, and a Datsun (now Nissan) 710.

The Volkswagens had great handling but terrible electrics AND a much publicized engine-head failure on their inline 4's of 1.8 liters. The american made rabbits had flaccid suspensions and cheap interior trim; that's when I switched to Hondas.

The Accords were all excellent in everyway save premature brake and exhaust wear. The '87 had a particularly durable feel (but eventually rusted).

The rotary-engined Mazda burned oil.

The Datsun had the worst positive camber in a front suspension I'd ever seen on any road car (later recalled for that reason).

So far my SA-built 323 seems to encompass the best of all these cars with none of the worst. We'll see......

Ed
 

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Now with Nano
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EdCT said:
Also, a Mazda RX4 from 1974, and a Datsun (now Nissan) 710.

The rotary-engined Mazda burned oil.
hehe... a 74 RX-4 coupe was my first car. I of course re-worked the motor, intake and exhaust. had a sedan (found at the bottom of a lake after a one night drinking binge) and a wagon as well. really fast and I burried the tacho needle past 8K RPM on a daily basis.

all rotaries (not as familiar with the 3rd gen) had oil metering pumps and they injected oil by design, 1 quart in ~1500 miles is normal.

in 74 mazda changed the rotary engine quite a bit but still had issues with the oil control rings. they came out with an improved design in ~75 and took care of the issues. from that point on, the rotaries were fairly reliable. when teh 79 RX-7 came out in 1978, that engine featured "gas nitrited" cast iron housings which kicked up reliability another notch. that motor was essentially unchanged through 1986 when it was significantly updated again. the 79 RX-7 engine was essentially the same as the RX-3SP (hot car) engine plus the gas nitriting.

in the below pic, look at the rotor on the left (which appears to be a 1974-1978 13B). notice the two circular grooves around the ring gear? those are for the inner and outer oil seals. the rotor on the right is just the other side and you can see the same grooves (ring gear is only on one side).



aside from the rotary engine issues, the RX-4 was a pretty solid and reliable car, especially compared to other japanese cars of the day.
 

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lurking
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w/ my previous g2 integra, the manual said to replace water pump at 96K km. 96/1.6= 60K miles! CV boots replaced once but that is due to fact that the integra is a fwd. all but the vw on your list are rwd so they would have such a problem.
 

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Rest in peace, Coach
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
HW said:
w/ my previous g2 integra, the manual said to replace water pump at 96K km. 96/1.6= 60K miles! CV boots replaced once but that is due to fact that the integra is a fwd. all but the vw on your list are rwd so they would have such a problem.
Actually there are CV boots on rear drive vehicles as well. Take a look at your underside coming out of the differentials, there should be a CV boot on each side of the diff.

Perhaps FWDs are more prone to CV boot failures. :dunno:
 

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HACK-

Those late 70s/early 80s 300 series Mercedes (W124?) were pretty incredible. I think those may have been the best cars ever made by anyone. My uncle still has a 1979 300TD-- and I think it still looks very classy, and feels well built. I love the door thunk on those mercs--its one of the most satisfying, solid, precision-mechanical sounds that i've ever experienced on any car. I was thinking about buying one in good condition-- just because i love them so much. I wonder if any car company will produce something of that kind of quality again. I've been in european taxis of that model and vintage that have over 800,000 km on them (i've peeked at the odometer)-- in many cases the interior trim is still quite solidy affixed and the cars just keep chugging along. Absolutely incredible. If they made that car new today, i'd buy it in a second.
 

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King of Rear Clunks
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My family doesn't go through very many cars, but...

77 Subaru GF: Bought used, no probs
81 Datsun 510: water pump replacement and carb rebuild around 95k
82 Datsun King Cab: nothing other than accident damage
92 Mitsubishi Diamante: Failed tranny converter clutch at 60k, engine replaced at 120 due to way high oil consumption (1qt/300mi) and subsequent non-passing of smog (still daily driven)
93 Mitsubishi Diamante: Split seam in exhaust B-pipe, oil leak through valve cover seals, dead alternator at 180k (still daily driven)
94 Mitsubishi Galant: (my previous daily driver) Noisy steering column, 6 dead window regulators, broken timing belt tensioner, new water pump at 80k. Sold as AC compressor was about to fail
95 Mitsubishi Eclipse: no major problems

My 325 is the first German car in my immediate family, and so far it's on track to have fairly few problems.
 

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Rest in peace, Coach
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
robg said:
HACK-

Those late 70s/early 80s 300 series Mercedes (W124?) were pretty incredible. I think those may have been the best cars ever made by anyone. My uncle still has a 1979 300TD-- and I think it still looks very classy, and feels well built. I love the door thunk on those mercs--its one of the most satisfying, solid, precision-mechanical sounds that i've ever experienced on any car. I was thinking about buying one in good condition-- just because i love them so much. I wonder if any car company will produce something of that kind of quality again. I've been in european taxis of that model and vintage that have over 800,000 km on them (i've peeked at the odometer)-- in many cases the interior trim is still quite solidy affixed and the cars just keep chugging along. Absolutely incredible. If they made that car new today, i'd buy it in a second.
You know what's so incredibly amazing about that car? NOTHING EVER BREAKS. Except for a very large scratch left by the garage door on the roof of the car (it was 4:00am, one of his patients had a cardiac arrest) it was in IMPECCABLE condition...No stone chips, engine ran like the first day he bought it, EVERYTHING worked like it should. I used to love riding in that car since it was so ENORMOUS as well...Truly built like a tank.

I wonder if my cousin's friend will let me buy that car back for like $800. :)
 

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King of Rear Clunks
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robg said:

Those late 70s/early 80s 300 series Mercedes (W124?) were pretty incredible. I think those may have been the best cars ever made by anyone.
Those are W123, though W124 (86-95) are pretty solid too.

There are still LOTS of W116 and W126 S-class (especially W126 diesels) and W123 (also mostly diesels) running around here, and most of them are in very good cosmetic shape as well.
 

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fahrer
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John Frankenheimer, in the director's commentary over Ronin,
said that the W116(?) was the image that always appeared in
his mind when he thought of a car - something to the effect
of it was everything you'd think a car should be.

That tidbit stuck with me...
 

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Thanks Kaz-- I never get those Mercedes W numbers right.

THat's the other thing about those cars-- the paint generally still looks impeccable-- even when the car clearly has not been restored and has been a "daily driver". My uncle's 300TD has suffered the indiginities of being kept in Brooklyn, NY and still looks like its no more than 5 years old. And, my uncle is definitely not a "car person". Since I was old enough to care about cars, I always "aspired" to own atleast 1 car like that--meaning a car that you could pretty much keep forever and it would still look and feel solid. Unfortunately, there really aren't any cars that are made like that anymore. I guess the current 5 series might come the closest though.

Hack-

I bet that car is still worth more than $800-- those old Mercs just hold on to their value forever. But, if he is willing to sell it for that price--i'd definitely buy it! :D
 

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The HACK said:


You know what's so incredibly amazing about that car? NOTHING EVER BREAKS. Except for a very large scratch left by the garage door on the roof of the car (it was 4:00am, one of his patients had a cardiac arrest) it was in IMPECCABLE condition...No stone chips, engine ran like the first day he bought it, EVERYTHING worked like it should. I used to love riding in that car since it was so ENORMOUS as well...Truly built like a tank.

I wonder if my cousin's friend will let me buy that car back for like $800. :)
I had one a while back of 79 vintage. Crap brown. What a car! :) In all honesty, it had to have been the most reliable car I have ever owned. It was also a much better diesel vehicle than the Audi I had in the early 80s.
 

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robg said:
Unfortunately, there really aren't any cars that are made like that anymore. I guess the current 5 series might come the closest though.
That's what I thought when I bought a 97 540i. I learned that BMW and V8 engines don't mix. Leaking seals (oil and tranny), blown radiators, batteries that last 1-2 years and fragile suspension bits were pretty standard. Then I learned the auto trannys tend to have a limited lifespan of about 80-120k miles.

My next car will still be a 5-series though, probably a 2005 545i.

--gary
 

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Interesting topic... I won't bring up the Fiat's I drove in the 70's and early 80's.
Had a 94 GTI with bad head @ 3,000 miles.
Switched to GSR's in 96 for my 100 mile a day(RT) commute and never had a single problem with them. I would trade every two years with about 74K on the ODO.
Switched to M Coupe in 2000 and just traded my 99 Miata 10AE on a second 99 Z3 2.8 Coupe. (This car has some bad mojo ... CPO'd with engine oil leak, blown LH front shock strut, no spare tire... and it feels like the clutch is slipping when I pull out in 1st gear.) You win some, lose some when buying used (off-lease). That's New Jersey leased BMW driving mutha's for ya. (hold the flames...)
 

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lurking
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hack: i know they're there for rwd but i would figure that the boots for the fwd are more prone to break since they are probably stressed in turns since steering is combined w/ drive.
 

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Into the dark ages
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i'd have to say German cars were always overengineered. unfortunately i think that isn't the case any more. goes back to my theory that the likes of Lexus/Infiniti/Acura has commoditized the luxury car segment and the only way the German car makers can remain competitive is to 'dumb' down the cars.

this is not terribly different from the computer industry. IBM h/ware from bygone eras were always over engineered beyond belief. now with the likes of Dell, IBM has succumbed to 'dumbing' down the technology just to remain competitive.

and people say competition breeds innovation. bullsh!t. it breeds lowest common denominator, cost reduction.
 

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ChrisTO said:
i'd have to say German cars were always overengineered. unfortunately i think that isn't the case any more. goes back to my theory that the likes of Lexus/Infiniti/Acura has commoditized the luxury car segment and the only way the German car makers can remain competitive is to 'dumb' down the cars.

this is not terribly different from the computer industry. IBM h/ware from bygone eras were always over engineered beyond belief. now with the likes of Dell, IBM has succumbed to 'dumbing' down the technology just to remain competitive.

and people say competition breeds innovation. bullsh!t. it breeds lowest common denominator, cost reduction.
IBM hardware from bygone eras was proprietary and expensive. Do you really want to spend $5,000 on a desktop computer that uses an IBM operating system with special IBM hardware? That's how much my father spent on the first IBM PC. Last week I bought an amazing Dell laptop for $1,500 with all the bells and whistles. It could have easily been a Compaq, IBM, HP or Gateway for that money (but not Apple, which has a $1000 premium to play).

Now, when it comes to luxury cars we're getting Infiniti G35's, Lexus IS 300's and Acura TL's. And they're many thousands of dollars less expensive. When we're switching over to Japanese "comoditized" luxury cars, at 25-35% less money and better reliability, I'll miss the rattles and rude service I get with my BMW about as much as I miss PC-DOS and microchannel controller cards.

But alas, we don't have comodotized luxury cars yet. Wait another 5 years.

--gary
 

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Ironic how you described japanese cars.

I have an Acura Legend...

Both front side windows have deteriorated and now roll up at a snail's speed when it's humid. The driver's side power window has lost it's alignment and does not always seal shut when it is finally all the way up. Sometimes it's so off that when i close it, it is beyond the seals, creates a 1/2 inch gap, and I get loud wind noise as i'm driving.

The lock on my driver's side door was rubbing against the side, so i unscrewed it. Now there is a clicking sound from within the door as im' driving and whenever I lock the doors, the power locks keep trying to lock the door repeatedly about 20 times before it finally stops.

I bet you my BMW won't do those things! I hope :angel:
 

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When we're switching over to Japanese "comoditized" luxury cars, at 25-35% less money and better reliability, I'll miss the rattles and rude service I get with my BMW about as much as I miss PC-DOS and microchannel controller cards.

But alas, we don't have comodotized luxury cars yet. Wait another 5 years.

--gary [/B]
Agree. I won't shed a tear when I can finally trade in my BMW on a Japanese car-- no Japanese manufacturer has quite "cloned" a BMW in all the ways that I would like-- but I know they will soon.

Gary- to be fair, the 5 series you had a bad experience with was a first year model. No German manufacturer is capable of producing anything of remote quality in the first production year. Although I bet Mercedes did back in the days of the W123--I think they used to have 10 year or greater development and testing cycles. NOwadays, its "throw it out and see what sticks". I guess everything is become more like the software industry in that respect.

That being said, I wish there were still some good old German over-engineered vehicles to aspire to. Maybe the VW Phaeton? That thing looks extremely well built and detailed-- and put together in the automotive equivalent of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Haven't seen one in person though. I think that or the new A8 would be my choice if I was looking to buy a luxury car. The 745 is just too cheesy-- yeah it handles well- but that's not all that matters in that segment. The S class is pretty cheesy too.
 
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