I’ve dreamt about the Mercedes-Benz O309D as an RV before, and today’s underwent a full conversion from a postal van to camper van in the ’70s. It has some distinct pros and cons: On the plus side, it looks amazing in baby blue, is way cooler than a normal RV, and has the venerable Benz OM617 diesel found in the 300D, so parts are aplenty. On the other hand, it’s almost 50 years old with a 40 year-old RV conversion – meaning there’s plenty of work ahead – and the non-turbo diesel inline-5 has to use its ~80hp to haul a massive van up to its 50mph common-sense limit. My calculus adds it up to an overall positive because it runs, has a ton of potential, and putting in a fraction of what some people spend on RVs would make this a killer home away from home.
Here’s a new one to add to my growing list of possible vehicles for when I forsake this overly-busy life and decide to strike out on the open road indefinitely. Someone in Alaska has apparently already done it in this car, but was of the (proper) mindset that big repair bills would were just part of keeping it in great running order. That doesn’t mean beautiful – this proto-Sprinter O309D has a few blemishes and some needs – but the right care has been to taken to keep it ready for what I see it as made for: living in and covering tons of miles. It won’t get there fast with a terminal velocity of 65 mph, but it returns an alleged 24 mpg on average from the 3.8l turbodiesel 4-cylinder, which is insane for a vehicle of this size. With Westfalias commanding insane multiples of $10k, this is priced right for someone to start/make/restart a life in.