My company has a corporate office near Philadelphia with a handful of branch offices scattered in the Mid-Atlantic region. So twice a year, the CEO of my company visits the branches to give a ”state of the union” talk to employees. It’s about a five hour trip from Philadelphia to my office outside of Pittsburgh. Now this past spring when he started his speech, he said something that made me shake my head. No, it wasn’t that weren’t getting raises again this year (don’t worry, we didn’t). It was that he was tired from his five hour drive. Now this is a CEO who has a Harvard MBA, who makes decisions that impact thousands people and is compensated in the high six-figures. So I had to explain to my co-workers how crazy it is that our CEO is wasting his time driving instead of you know, working. After I explained to them that he is getting paid roughly $300 an hour to drive here, they got my point. So not only is he wasting 10 hours driving to our office twice a year, but he’s wasting his time driving to our seven other branches. You can see how this adds up. This brings me to today’s featured listing, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van. Specifically, this Sprinter that is setup to be a mobile office for people who make $300 an hour but don’t waste their time sitting on the Pennsylvania Turnpike because one of the tunnels is closed. Just to wrap up the story, I’m not saying our CEO needs a $79,000 Mercedes van to shuttle him around (because we didn’t get those raises, remember?), but at least a Lincoln Town Car so he can at least pretend he’s working in the back of it.
I’ve written up a lot of Mercedes Sprinters, and have been especially excited when I find cool survivors from the old O309/0319 era. This, however, is a new one, a Spanish-built N1300 that served as the smaller counterpart to the full-size 309 vans, and it’s covered just 20k miles in its 37 years. The quality is so spectacular – and flush with ’70s style for better or worse – that it looks like one of those over-the-top VW restomods we’ve seen. The big roof-mounted luggage rack and chrome visor make it look ready to do runs from the airport to the hills in Guatemala (these were primarily used in the South American market) while the interior looks basic but very nice. It even has a little wooden table between the train-style seats doing its best impression of a Westy’s fold out surface. It’s too nice (and barely big enough inside) to convert to a camper and the 85hp from the OM615 diesel four will make highway speeds achievable only on the flats, so this isn’t going to leap to the top of dream adventure vans. Whatever you decide to do with it, you’ll have one of the most interesting looking vans on the road.
Click for details: 1979 Mercedes-Benz N1300 on eBay
Starting with the 2015 model year, Mercedes-Benz started producing the Sprinter van with four-wheel drive for the US market. While the Sprinter has been one of the ideal, cost-is-no-object adventure vans for a while, the relative lack of 4WD left Ford Sportsvans and Syncro Westies as the true kings of the go-anywhere home on wheels class. Well, that’s all fixed now, and you can spend scores of thousands of dollars on a Mercedes-built, diesel-powered, all-wheels-driving box. This particular 2015 model is the specification I’d want – the 144-inch wheelbase is more manageable in the real world compared to the 170, while the High Roof makes standing up a reality and storage options plentiful. This couple bought it to install a wheelchair lift (available for extra money if you want it) for their son and drive to the mountains, but the high-top wasn’t the right fit for them so they’re selling it with just 2k miles on it.
Click for details: 2015 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4WD on eBay
I’ve written plenty about the allure of the Volkswagen unicorns, the Syncro vans and trucks from the T3 generation. Ranging from high $40ks to over $100k(!!!), they are not to be trifled with. But as my brother points out any time I write one up: “Why not just get a Sprinter van?” In my mind they occupy a slightly different echelon, although that last Vanagon proves that there is plenty of overlap in price. Up until now, you could argue that Syncro brought a different level of capability, but Mercedes-Benz has released the Sprinter 4×4 with a 3.0-liter diesel V6. The auto gods are still there, van fans, and have bestowed upon us a modernized, go-anywhere van ready for any adventure.
This example has the high-roof option, a huge boon for vanliving when you’re over 6 feet, but is pretty basic other than that. It provides a great blank canvas, and the cabin looks functional though work-truck austere. Same goes for the exterior with black on black on black on black on black, but the black wheels and flat plastic bumpers look purposeful and perfect for the GoPro generation. I’ve driven an older diesel Sprinter quite a bit for work, and despite being abused and simple, they were surprisingly fun. I can only imagine what a significantly improved diesel engine and 4WD do to the experience. Sure, it may not have the every-option-possible approach of the white Syncro, but the $40k you’d have left over would allow you to take it in just about any direction you could dream up.
Click for details: 2015 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4×4 on eBay
Modern Mercedes Sprinters are some of the most versatile and capable vehicles out there, and we’ve taken a few trips down memory lane to look at the history of Mercedes vans. This example comes from the first generation of Mercedes mid-size van, the 319, which came in a variety of van and truck bodystyles. This Panoramabus comes with the windows up, down, and all-around greenhouse that many lust after in the 21-Window VW Bus, offering as much sunlight as you can handle. It’s been around the block, originally living the US before heading to Holland to become a tour bus for the unfortunately-named Inn at Fawnskin and then transitioning into a camper (though the Fawnskin decals remain). I find it truly astonishing that it’s covered 164k miles given that it shares the meager 1.9-liter inline-4 which powered the diminutive 190SL. It has a very funky look and could be an epic van once restored, but is also being sold for an epic price at nearly $40k.