Tank-like build quality and engineering to avoid or withstand assassination attempts are hallmarks of the W124 generation of Benz. The cost that came nearly always was the mandate for an automatic transmission, especially in the more powerful models. Alas, one can have their bombproof cake and eat it too. Find this 1986 Mercedes-Benz 300E 5-Speed for sale in Huntington Beach, CA for $2,000 via craigslist.
Aside from some cracking leather, the interior has stood the test of time as well as the body. There does appear to be a fair amount of recent maintenance which could lead to some cheap operating costs for the next guy.
Matt, a self-proclaimed bottom-feeder of the classic car market, spends half of his time buying cars, half of his time retrieving them, and the remaining third on keeping them on the road.