Update 12/23/18: This 300D sold for $14,600.
The 1977–1981 Mercedes-Benz W123 with the naturally-aspirated OM617 5-cylinder doesn’t get enough appreciation in my eyes. Everyone loves the 1982-1985 OM617A, which is the turbocharged version, and rightfully so. Although, if you told me to pick one of the engine solely based on simplicity, I would probably pick the naturally-aspirated version. Yes, it barely has enough power to keep up with modern traffic with 115 lb⋅ft of torque, but no W123 is winning any races in 2018, no matter what the engine. There is a caveat however. In the 1977-1981 W123 with the OM617, you were cursed with the Chrysler automatic climate control system which has the same functionality as a pair of roller skates on a lake. When Mercedes updated the W123 in 1982, they realized their mistake and replaced it with a manual climate control system that, surprise surpise, still works flawlessly some 30 years later. You can’t have it all, I guess.
Today, I have an absolutely pristine 1979 300D up for sale in Poughkeepsie, New York with a hair under 53,000 miles. Painted in Topaz Brown over Parchment MB-Tex, this is one of the finest W123s I’ve come across recently and it has the story to back it up. Judging by the already fast and furious bidding, it is not going to go cheap.
Update 11/20/18: This 300D sold for $13,700.
On Saturday, I will say goodbye to my 1983 240D that I’ve rehabbed and cared for the past two years. It was a classic Craigslist love story of everything looking great in the photos, but after traveling a long distance to go buy it, the car wasn’t nearly as cherry as the photos showed or the seller described. Funny how that happens. Still, I reluctantly took it home after negotiating a whopping $100 off the asking price. The past two years have been fun as it seems like everyone loves the thing, except my passengers who had to be on time somewhere as 67 horsepower is no match for moms in their 300 horsepower minivans and the concept of time in general. I wouldn’t have bought the car if it wasn’t for the Labrador Blue paint and matching hubcaps, and that is probably why it sold to its new owner. I think the W123 chassis is still brilliant and feels so damn good even after 35 years, but it just can’t keep up with the war that is daily traffic. My W116 300SD is a far better car for that, hence why I chose to keep that one even though it isn’t nearly as handsome. Not a knock of the W123, but the W116 S-Class was made to be the best sedan in the world and at the time it was pretty damn close to being that, even compared to the much more expensive cars from Bentley and Rolls-Royce. I’m not the only one who feels that way.
Today’s car, as you might have noticed, also has a pretty great color. This European-spec Pea Green 1979 300D shows just a hair under 25,000 miles on the odometer and should be a pretty mint example. I was super excited to dig into it to see a time-capsule car, but unfortunately, this falls just a little bit short. Let me explain why.
Last week I checked out a cherry 1985 Mercedes-Benz 300CD that was had a few small issues, but I felt was worth the money. Sadly, it looks like the seller cut the auction short so we didn’t find out what the final selling price was. Today, I ran across another 300CD, but this one is a few years older and a little different. This 1979 up for sale in California uses the non-turbo OM617, which is a fine enough engine in itself, doesn’t have any rust and by some kind of miracle, has a functioning air condition. It also has a nice touch with the European headlights and the best part? It has quite the attractive price tag.
The Jetta Diesel wasn’t a big seller in the U.S. early on as oil-burners fell out of favor in the mid-80s. Up through 1987, you had your choice of the 1.6 liter diesels with or without turbochargers, producing 68 and 52 horsepower, respectively. For 1988, both disappeared, yet oddly there was a run of ’89-’90 Jettas that reintroduced the 1.6 ME diesel prior to the launch of the new EcoDiesel model. While the diesel had been able to be selected in higher “GL” trim level earlier, the ’89-’90s were base model only and are fairly rare to find. But today a nice ’89 example has popped up for sale:
Now that it is the middle of August and it could snow next week for all we know, I have to start thinking about my winter vehicle situation. My trusty Land Rover Discovery 1 that I’ve had for the past 12 years probably won’t see the flakes fly because I think some coolant is leaking into the cylinders and that is a problem. Because a Discovery with 180,000 miles that has been in Pennsylvania for the past 12 years is worth roughly the price of a used lawnmower, which I’m sure people on Craigslist will offer up for trade, it isn’t worth pulling the heads and fixing. This of course has led me to shopping for G-Wagens. The sensible decision would be to find a decent Land Cruiser/Lexus LX and never lose a dime on it while being 100% reliable, but the crazy person in me says go find a G-Wagen because that is what I really want at the end of the day.
During my search for the perfect G, I came across this wild example up for sale in Canada. You might notice it is quite a bit longer and has a few more seats. This W460 300GD was cut up and lengthened a massive 32 inches. This added room for another row of seats while still keeping a healthy amount of space in the rear. The fit and finish look great along with basically everything else on this G. But I have to ask, why?
The last time I looked at a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen 6×6 it was not what you probably expected to see. A 2016 G300 CDI 6×6 that was built for military use and was as bare bones as you could possibility get. Today, we have another 2016 G300 CDI 6×6 from the same seller in Austria but as you might have noticed, this one looks a bit different. At first glance I thought this was your regular 6×6 (if you can call a 6×6 ”regular”) judging by the over the top body panels, but then it hit me that Mercedes and AMG never made any civilian 6x6s in diesel form. Add that together with this truck being for a sale at a place that literally builds G-Wagens from the ground up and you have quite the interesting combination going on here.
I’ve been using my 1983 Mercedes-Benz 240D with a 4-speed manual as my primary driver for over year now and really enjoy almost every aspect of it except for one big thing: It is ungodly slow. The North American spec 240Ds were blessed with a conservative 67 horsepower and 97 lb⋅ft of torque when new and after 35 years I’m going to guess it lost a few precious ponies. This results in me using the accelerator pedal as an on-off switch the majority of the time. Don’t get me wrong, around town the car is totally fine. On the highway? I’m traffic’s worst nightmare. If I am at the front of the line at a stoplight and the speed limit on the road is 55 mph, I might as well be hauling a car full of puppies to the pound because that is how people look at me. It takes somewhere in the 15-20 second range to accelerate to 60 mph depending on the grade of the road and Peggy in her minivan on her way to soccer practice has no patience for me. Other than that, everyone loves the car. But what if the 240D was even slower? Say hello to the 240TD.
This German-import 1985 240TD up for bid in Arizona is equipped with everything my 240D has, including the same 4-speed manual gearbox, but with the extra weight of the wagon. You can see where I am going with this. Thankfully, this W123 estate is actually nice enough where you can pick and choose your 0-60 mph battles and not feel bad if you hold someone up for an extra second. Although at the current price, is it worth it?
Since the 1990s, the proliferation of each premium marque’s “special” brands has become dizzying, and for enthusiasts it seems as though they’ve continuously diluted the performance options in favor of profits. From S-Line to AMG to perhaps the biggest offender, BMW’s M division, companies are badge slapping-happy when it comes to sticking a bigger set of wheels, some special trim and maybe, if you’re lucky, a few extra ponies. And on the surface, this 335d would seem to fit that description perfectly. After all, how could you possibly compare the diesel to that sonorous M3’s S65 V8 that cranks out over 400 horsepower and 300 lb.ft of torque with a 8,400 RPM redline? Pull up to a redlight next to one in this 335d, and the snickering owner would undoubtedly be laughing at the ‘M-Sport’ option package you ticked off. Because you’d think there would be absolutely no way that diesel would produce equal power to the M3.
You’d be right. The M57 under the hood of the 335D doesn’t produce as much horsepower as the M3, at least not in stock form. But torque? It produces more. A lot more.
Starting at a leisurely 2,000 rpms, the twin turbochargers augmenting the inline-6 spool up to a mountain of power. In stock form, the 335d cranked out 428 lb.ft of torque. In fact, it’s so much torque that gets used on a regular basis that the first person I met who had one had already consumed a transfer case on his X-Drive model, and he’s not alone. Being a turbocharged model, it was also quite easy and possible to turn up the wick, such as has been done to today’s Feature Listing. The result? The seller claims 410 horsepower, 650 lb.ft of torque, and yet this classy 4-door can still return 35 mpg. Try that in a M3:
Continuing on the wagon theme, today we’re going to take a look at something in a similar vein – but oh, so very different. This 1994 BMW E34 Touring is in many ways the antithesis of yesterday’s S6 clone; it’s an original European model, it’s very bare bones, and it’s a diesel.
The story behind BMW’s foray into diesel power in the U.S. was pretty interesting. BMW had developed the M21 2.4 liter turbocharged inline-6 diesel in the 1970s with fuel prices rising; it finally launched in the early 1980s with the E28 524td. But you probably best know that motor for its appearance in mid-80s American iron; an attempt by Ford to improve the fuel economy of its large executive Lincoln Continental. The marriage didn’t work; although the M21 was a good motor (especially when compared to GM’s diesel!), gas prices were falling and the economy was recovering by the time it finally came to market. But since BMW went through the effort to get the M21 legal for U.S. shores, they brought the 524td over here, too. It was a slow seller in the E28 lineup; equipped only with an automatic, BMW dealers shifted 3,635 of the diesels.
No surprise, then, that when the E34 launched, the diesel didn’t come back with it. Though the U.S. market didn’t see the M21 in the lineup though it soldiered on. The M21 was replaced in 1991 by a new version, the M51. Now displacing 2.5 liters and with an intercooler in “s” version, the 525tds upped the power from the 114 seen in the 524td to 141 and it had 192 lb.ft of torque at only 2,200 rpms. This motor carried BMW’s diesels through the 1990s, and was available in everything from the 3-series to the 7-series.
So it’s a bit of a treat to see the M51 in North America. It’s more of a treat to see it in a Touring, and in great shape, and hooked up to a manual transmission. Yes, the want is strong in this one!
Continuing on the diesel theme from yesterday, let’s take a look at another no spark Volkswagen. Again we have one that flies below the radar but is worth a lot more than you’d expect. The pre-scandal TDis have a serious niche following. While not quite as set-it-and-forget-it as the 1Z, the derivatives – first the AHU, then the later ATD/AXR and other models similar to today’s example, were nonetheless high-mileage warriors. Rated at 100 horsepower and 177 lb. ft of torque, performance wasn’t outstanding – 0-60 took a few ticks over 11 seconds, it’d take a half minute to hit 100 and top speed was limited to 115 mph. But then you weren’t really buying this car for it’s straight line acceleration. What you were buying it for was notable longevity and, of course, fuel mileage. At a time when the standard 2.0 inline-4 struggled to return about 30 mpg at best and the 1.8T was no better, the premium for the TDi gave you 33 mpg city and over 40 on the highway. You could stretch it even farther on a tank if you were careful. Impressive? Well, for the time, it was one of the very few diesel motors you could buy in the U.S. and set the stage for the popularity of the Mk.5 models.
As we saw with the Jetta Wagon, the ‘GLS’ trim moved upscale and included nicer wheels and interior bits. But just like that Jetta, the combination of a 4-door Golf, GLS trim, the turbo diesel motor and a 5-speed manual are quite hard to come by: