Was last week’s 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 too much of a project for you? Yeah, I don’t blame you either. That was a little too far gone for most pallets. However, today we have a much less intensive project.
This is a 1979 Mercedes-Benz 300TD. The legendary wagon that will never fail unless you let it sit for years and the fuel turns to mush. If you thought that was really specific, then you are right. For as good as this car looks in the photos, it supposedly does not run and hasn’t been started in two years. You might be saying how does that happen, but the Bentley Bentayga in the background probably helps to explains it. Still, this car looks really good and is claimed to have just a little over 46,000 miles. Is it worth the gamble?
What if I told you that Mercedes-Benz made a W123 slower and less powerful than the 240D? Thankfully it was never sold in the US, but the 200D does exist. It came in at 54 horsepower and 83 lb-ft of torque, which is impressive that the engineers thought this was adequate for the year 1977. My whole thing is that I don’t care if cars are slow, I care if cars are dangerously slow. When you get stuck on hills, that’s not fun. When the car doesn’t have enough power to merge into oncoming traffic, that is a problem for everyone. So a Sunday evening drive out in the country, sure. Any kind of commuting or highway? Not a chance.
This example up for sale Oklahoma City now only checks in with the impressive 54 horsepower and 83 lb-ft of torque, but also has the steering wheel on the right side. An odd ball to say the least.
Long live the W123, may it ride forever. It probably will too, if not for one eternal enemy that we’ll get into in a moment. There seems to be no mechanical limit to these machines as long as a reasonable amount of effort is put into regular maintenance and repairs. A few weeks ago we saw a 1979 300TD with over 782,000 miles sell for nearly $10,000, and that probably wasn’t even nearing the end of it’s life.
Today, we have the trust 240D with the OM616 paired with the basic 4-speed manual gearbox. There is no much to go wrong with this, except maybe the clock turns fast than you are able to accelerate. This example is finished in English Red, which is more like bring orange, but none the less a great color. The catch? Well, I wish it was easier to fix.
When I really sit and the think about it, the W123 Mercedes-Benz chassis is not the most beautiful thing ever to roll out of Stuttgart. Especially considering they were producing some of the most beautifully styled coupes only a few years prior and basically every year since the start of the company up until this point. The W123 was total functionality, and did its best to look good as an afterthought. See one randomly parked among today’s blobs of cars? Sure, you can call it handsome. It’s making the best of what cards were dealt. The big bumpers are there to take a 5-mph impact. The squared-off taillights with a wavy design? Mercedes-Benz consulted a team of optometrists to study which taillight design is easier to be seen by the eyes in the dark and wet. Those taillights are what went on the car. The list goes on and on. Mercedes built a car with the intention to last forever and it sure is doing a good job so far.
This 1982 300CD up for sale in Los Angeles can be one of those “forever” cars. Enough miles to not think one second about not driving it in fear of devaluing the car, but not so many that its ready for taxi duty in the Middle East. The condition is bordering on outstanding, and the price? Well, its not cheap, but thankfully not too crazy.
As I get older and my head gains an alarming amount of grey hairs, my patience and desire for “projects” is growing thin. I have no problem working on cars, but my time seems to be sucked up by other things that aren’t getting covered in diesel fuel when changing a pre-filter. This is leads me away from saying things like “Oh, this car on Craigslist only needs $2,900 in parts and 10 hours of labor. I can swing that”. Instead, I’m finding myself just clicking the back button and not even considering cars that aren’t nearly turn-key.
Thankfully there are a handful of older cars out there that are still turn-key and need very little. This 1979 Mercedes-Benz 300CD up for sale in Oregon might just be one of those. It certainly looks like a time capsule both inside and out, as well as the most important area, under the hood. I wish this one wasn’t 3,000 miles away.
Here is a real odd ball. This is a European-spec 1978 Mercedes-Benz 240 for with some really interesting modifications. The early W123 looks to be fitted with some kind of aftermarket bumpers and side skirts, European hubcaps from a W126 S-Class, a bunch of painted black trim, and probably the worst placement for a third brake light I’ve ever seen. It supposedly has just 51,000 miles and is even fitted with Michelin XWX, a tire that if fitted to a W123 can often double the value of the entire car. I have a whole lot of questions, and it looks not like many answers.
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.
It has been some time since I’ve looked at the world’s most favorite wagon, the W123 Mercedes-Benz 300TD. We’ve been at the point with them for a while where unless it is an absolute heap, they are all worth saving or at least maintaining to the point of usable service. Sadly, some of the S123s ended up being used as work horses or straight up beater cars that took them to the point of no return. Today’s car, a 1983 in New Jersey, is one of those cars. Cosmetically, this one is pretty far gone and thanks to an odometer that stopped working who knows how many moons ago, mechanically it is a bit of a question mark as well. Question is, if it is cheap enough, is it worth it?
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.
Update 9/26/18: This 240D sold for $7,000.
The W123 Mercedes-Benz 240D is a car that does everything for me. I rotate my 1983 4-speed manual car as one of my daily drivers and despite its many flaws, I appreciate how satisfying it is. When I am driving home from work at night alone on the highway, it is true bliss. Everything is in the right spot, nothing is rattling or shaking, everything fits perfectly, it returns just over 30 mpg and all of that makes you realize why it is considered one of the best cars ever produced. It isn’t all gravy though, because on days when I’m heading to work in traffic and it’s 86 degrees outside, I’m driving it like a maniac just to not get ran over by a tractor tailor because I don’t have enough power to merge on the highway. Then when I do arrive at work, all my coworkers ask me why I look like I just wrestled a bear. Nope, just driving my 240D. I suppose it is not the cars fault because you do need to be a certain kind of crazy to still be daily driving one of these. The newest 240D is now 35 years-old and is well into classic territory and should be treated as such. But no, not me, I’ll suffer for the sake of good ergonomics and forgoing something called a ”car payment.”
This of course leads me to today’s car, a 1982 240D up for bid in Annapolis, Maryland. This car is painted in the rare Mango Green and checks with a just under 62,000 miles which is pretty unheard of when it comes to 240Ds. As you might have guessed, it is extremely clean and shows very little wear at all. What kind of price might it bring? I’m curious to find out.