By on May 20, 2013

Only in Brown. (photo courtesy: automobilesdeluxe.tv)

Damon writes:

Sajeev,

Over the years I have come to appreciate vehicles that are built to last for a long time versus the disposable appliances. I drive a 93 Land Cruiser that fits the former while my wife’s 07 Hyundai Tucson seems to fit the later. It is a fine appliance and has given us no issues over the first 60,000 miles of use but The three years I spent stationed at Fort Drum are taking a toll. The body has a couple rust spots and any work underneath is an adventure thanks to the road salt doing its thing Plus my boys have really taken their toll on the interior.

I am a Warrant Officer in the Army and due to retire in 4 years. So right when I retire the Hyundai will be pushing 10 years old. It has been my experience that appliances start to nickel and dime at this stage plus if the body is already rusting I can’t help but think it will be nearing the end of it’s life at a time I’ll be cutting back financially. The Land Cruiser should be good as I have rebuilt everything other than the trans and transfer case to include a new from the Toyota mothership in Tokyo 1FZ-FE short block and everything rubber under the hood with OEM Toyota components. I am O.C. with the Cruiser and refreshed it as such. I did all the work myself.

My question goes to the Hyundai. Since I will likely be needing a new car at an inconvenient time and I really dislike new appliances combined with the fact I am fairly competent at turning a wrench I have considered another option. I have a nice 90 Miata I’ll be selling when I get back from Afghanistan. I am thinking of taking that money and putting it towards an old school Benz 240 or 300D. I am really drawn to the quality of these things. Plus I’d like to be able to run bio diesel or waste veggie oil as multiple deployments have made me no fan of depending on foreign oil. My plan would be to get one in good shape and drive it myself some for the next 4 years while I get it into top notch shape (This would have the double effect of helping with the fuel bill for the Land Cruiser). Then whenever the Hyundai becomes a pain my oldest son can begin to learn to wrench and take over insurance on it as he’ll be getting to that age and my wife can slide into the Benz (or the Cruiser if she likely has her way) and hopefully I can spend my retirement keeping them tip top rather than paying for another appliance.

So are the W123 Benzes really the be all end all of durability or am I digging a hole in my driveway to dump my money into? And oh yeah, I know someone is going to suggest a Panther. My best friend, whom I believe you know has hauled around a trailer full of band equipment with one for years. (I think I know who you’re talking about. – SM) While they are certainly durable rides I really want to do a diesel and I want old school 911 type durability…something that is built to last indefinitely with proper care and feeding. What say you?

Sajeev Answers:

Old Skool Benzes were the Gold Standard of durability.  Until rubber bits degrade, parts are hard to find/expensive and the talent needed to repair them retires. And yes, you are good with your toolkit, but that doesn’t mean you want to fix the impending issues of a W123 in 2013. Your phrase “proper care and feeding” is true to an extent, but age isn’t a meaningless number. My point: old cars suck.

Let me rephrase: as the owner of multiple old cars and one new truck, I know that old cars suck. And I’m a single dude with plenty of time for my beloved hoopties.  Is your wife aware of this replace-the-Hyundai-with-a-Hooptie plan of yours?

When the time comes, buy your wife something she’d actually want.  If she wants an oil burning W123 that smells like the ass end of a McDonalds, that’s fantastic!  But I’ll assume she’d like something with modern fuel injection, catalytic converters so she doesn’t smell like hydrocarbons, a decent stereo, a cutting edge HVAC system, modern weatherstripping to keep the cold out, ABS brakes, etc.

Enjoy your old hooptie toys, I know I do. But draw the line somewhere: everyone needs a later model vehicle that won’t be plagued with every unfrickin-believable malady you’ve yet to consider.  Everything goes wrong with old cars, you can only have so many of them lying around before your head explodes.

What’s better than a W123? Any 5-15 year old car, even if you and I both hate them for a plethora of valid reasons. I think you and your wife would love an older Lexus LS. They kinda totally rock.

(photo courtesy: autofashionusa.com)

Or a Panther.  Obviously.  Duh.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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129 Comments on “Piston Slap: W123 Love in 2013?...”


  • avatar
    Halftruth

    W123 or not, like Sajeev says, old cars suck. I like to wrench myself but only minimally, not as a part time fleet mechanic. I have heard from more than a few folks that Hyundai/Kias over 5-7 years old don’t seem to hold up all that well. Why not look at something Detroit built? They are more than keeping pace with the competition and are priced competitively.

    I worked with a guy that drank the W123 lemonade and his experience was not pleasant. Head gaskets, electrical problems and rust problems eventually made his a lawn ornament. Nice looking car though..

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I think Sajeev’s LS400 suggestion may be a good compromise of you wanting a ‘quality’ car, and one that will still be reliable in 2013 once you do a bit of maintenance/repairs when you first get it (timing belt, maybe some suspension bushing work, the odd power steering pump).

    Personally, I think your wife would thank you if you simply got a new/lightly used sedan or crossover with a high MPG rating. Priuses are quickly gaining the reputation of the highest quality Toyota since the revered 92-96 Camry.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Didn’t LS400s come with an air suspension? At that age, even a quality system is going to need to be repaired. That has to be a kip or two to replace…

      • 0 avatar
        Japanese Buick

        My DD is a 1998 LS400 with 240k miles that i bought CPO in 2001 with 48k miles, so I can speak to this from experience.

        First, it does not have an sir suspension. It has all the original suspension parts, in fact I just had it inspected by my mechanic and all the suspension is good to go. Original transmission, no end in sight.

        The bottom line is that the drivetrain, suspension, and major systems are bulletproof and will likely outlive me.

        But it’s not all sunshine and roses. Accessories and such are starting to go, starting at 200k miles.

        The problems I am currently living with:
        The automatic climate control doesn’t heat reliably any more. Sometimes it heats, sometimes it blows cold. Turning it on and off multiple times in quick succession usually gets it right for 10 minutes then have to do it again.
        The part of the set of 4 switches on the drivers door that controls the power rear windows is broken and would cost $1k for the parts alone. A junk replacement is nearly as costly, if you can find it, this apparently a common problem in old LS400s
        The valve cover seal is leaking, so after a long drive you can smell burning oil. My mechanic didn’t recommend fixing it given the cost and no serious side effects except the smell
        Half the wires in the rear window defogger don’t work.

        I put up with the above because its a solid, comfortable, reliable car. But I don’t fool myself that a 15 year old luxury car can stay like new.

        • 0 avatar
          WaftableTorque

          Good to know. My 2002 LS430 has been quite reliable, but its not a cheap car to maintain.

          My biggest maintenance expenses were a laser cruise control module in 2008 ($3500), a new windshield in 2008″, 3 sets of all-season and winter tires (2005, 2006, 2010), and a pothole damaged wheel hub in 2013 ($600). I have the air suspension, but it’s been zero maintenance. Almost all the electrical still work.

          The only outstanding issues are I haven’t gotten around to replacing the tilt-away power telescope steering motor, I have a chrome window piece on the rear passenger door that won’t stay down, the attachment bolt on the rear door check popped out and got lost, and both the trunk and hood struts are in need of replacement.

          My biggest expenses are gas (averaging ~15L/100km) and insurance (double the cost over our previous 98 Camry LE). I plan on keeping this car for another 3-5 years, seeing how I’m holding out for a PHEV AWD non-steel EWB flagship. I’m lucky I picked a car that makes that choice easy.

        • 0 avatar
          Japanese Buick

          In the interest of full disclosure, I forgot to mention in my last post that the speedo and tach needles sometimes stick on 0 and need 10-20 minutes of driving to come alive. This is not an uncommon problem either, and has been much discussed on clublexus.com

          And new thus week: the ignition key lock is acting up and I can’t turn the key without a lot of wiggling.

          Point is: the major systems on this car continue to be bulletproof. It’s the accessory systems that get you.

  • avatar
    nine11c2

    I need one car that gets me from work to home and back. A W123 doesn’t do that. I leased a Acura TSX, all black, with the 2.4 and manual six speed. Leather comfort, all day travel, 30+mpg, great handling and good power. I was able to buy it new (leased then bought out to keep the cash in my pocket) and will keep it until pieces fall off. But a better choice than the W123 would be a reasonably exciting Infinity, Lexus or Acura. A 3 year old i or g Lexus, virtually any Acura in the last 10 years, etc. Find something fun and dependable and use that as the Daily driver..

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “virtually any Acura in the last 10 years”

      Really, this includes RL and the glass transmission TLs?

      I would say “virtually any Acura in the last 10 years except RL and 04 and earlier TLs”

      • 0 avatar
        nine11c2

        The problem transmissions were 2000 to 2002. 2005 to 2007 are great cars, particularly if you can find an A-Spec. The latest gen are fine cars, though a bit oddly styled.

        The TSX is a winner but not apprieciated – an Accord reliability with a stick and a Acura interior..

        • 0 avatar
          redmondjp

          From my reading of the Acura forums, there were still transmission issues after 2002. My neighbors just traded in their 2005 Acura (with less than 80K miles on it) and mentioned (before I could even ask) that the transmission was not shifting well.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            Get a CPO Acura RL, then you’ll be guaranteed to never pull up next to yourself at a stoplight. (Seriously, I believe I’ve seen a grand total of ONE RL in traffic in the past 5 years.)

          • 0 avatar
            nine11c2

            I think recent Acura’s no more than normal car. Get a stick no worries…

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            RL from what I understand has an odd drivetrain/transmission setup that’s vulnerable to an occasional replacement.

  • avatar
    BobAsh

    I’m sorry, but I have to disagree, especially with the idea of LS400 being a better choice. While I know that lS400 are marvellous machines, nearly indestructible, splendidly comfortable and quite modern, they are still 20 year old, extremely complicated machines.

    I may be biased by living in Europe, and especially by living in former communist country, bordering with Germany – which means that diesel W123 were ubiquitous here in 1990s, loved for their durability and low running costs, used by cabbied, by people using them for towing stuff and of course as family or “luxury” cars as well.

    This means that a) we great parts availability (and I would find it strange if you didn’t) b) we have lots of people skilled in maintaining these.

    But even if you can’t go and buy any spares for W123 in your local parts store (I can even buy stuff like badges, grilles or replacement metal in most retail chains here in CZ) and don’t have a few dozen of cheap backyard mechanics specialized in these things, I think you should be just fine running one of those.

    The most important is that compared to any modern car, W123 is extremely simple machine. It may be a bit more complicated than a 1970s cheap American cars, but compared to anything new, and compared to the LS400, it’s about as complicated as ox cart.

    And this simplicity is one of the main reasons for them being so utterly reliable. Replacing rubber stuff may be a potential problem, but overall, the thing will run a milion miles before it dies, and after it’s dead, it will run some more.

    I can’t imagine this thing getting unreliable or expensive to maintain.

    But there is, after all, a reason you don’t want it as a daily transport. Even in Europe, 240D is hell of a slow car. And 300D is still pretty slow. In America, where cars are faster in general, 240D will probably be undriveable, with 300D being just a total pain.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Bob,

      The only ‘complicated’ part of the LS400 that I’ve heard of failing is the radio LCD screen (fixed easily with a rebuilt part from ebay), for the most part all of the motorized luxury features stay functioning even at this age, a testament to just how much quality Toyota built into them.

      In terms of comfort and NVH and highway capability the much older and cruder Merc can’t possbily compare to the silky smooth LS.

      Again, personally I’d advise the OP to just get a new Altima/Accord/Civic/etc and call it a day.

      • 0 avatar
        BobAsh

        I would never argue the fact that Lexus is much more advanced and refined car. But a diesel W123 is still fairly primitive machine, even though it’s Mercedes. Lexus may be extremely reliable, but it’s still 20 years old car – and that means that it IS going to brake down. And when the moment comes, it will me infinitely more complicated and expensive than the W123.

        Besides, newest W123s are just a few years older then oldest LS400s.

        And if you are able to live with it’s geological pace and lack of equipment, the W123 is still a pretty fine car to drive.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        This I believe. All the motorized stuff in my Cruiser still works as new. In fairness though it lacks the power seats that are troublesome in most of the 80 series trucks that have them.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Good point about the power of the N/A 240D and 300D. The 240D has a top speed of just over 65 mph and really isn’t happy going over 60. The 300 is a little better. The turbocharged version of the 300 is the ticket for adequate power to cruise at US highway speeds, but, of course, there’s more complication. As for the “modern conveniences” I would say that electronic stability control is required for sane drivers only for SUVs, which are inherently not very roadable vehicles. ABS consistently improves stopping distances only on wet pavement. In snow, ABS is actually a detriment. And you can see any number of videos of modern ABS-equipped vehicles doing pirouettes down an ice-covered hill.

      So, of all those “detriments” I would be concerned only about the need to replace rubber and other soft parts, the cost of any spares and, for the normally aspirated engines, the ability of the car to be a competent freeway car. In the days of the “double-nickel” these cars were adequate. Today, with highway speeds typically 70 or over, they are not.

      Also, it is worth noting that these cars get somewhat over 30 mpg on the highway, using diesel which is about the same price as premium gasoline in many parts of the U.S. You can buy any number of modern sedans that will do that well, or better, using regular gasoline.

  • avatar
    PonchoIndian

    First, thank you for your service. I know a blackhawk pilot currently stationed at drum, and have been there to visit a few times.
    Welcome to the northeast…rust and all.

    Second, the wife will probably want something newer if she is anything like mine. I can’t picture her dealing with a 30 year old Mercedes or a 20 year old Landcruiser…

    Third, I have to laugh a little when people claim a vehicle is bullet proof and made to last forever, yet they claim the have rebuilt or restored it completely. Ummm, if it was built to last forever why did you have to rebuild everything? Kinda like the Panther owners claiming they can get 30mpg on highway trips and their cars are fast and handle well.

    Other than rust issues, I’d be surprised if that Hyundai didn’t last a long time also. Lets face it, it isn’t 1980 anymore. Most everything will go many many miles with some love and care.

    • 0 avatar
      2011TCCE

      You couldn’t be more right about Panthers. I seriously can’t beat 20mpg. In fact, went and test drove an Echo as a used commuter car because of the gas mileage. I rarely believe someone when they claim they beat the EPA numbers in a non economical car on a continuous basis. I might get a little over 20mpg on the highway, but the minute I sit at one stop light, I am back in the teens. And here in Texas, A/C is used 365 days a year.

      For this guy, I think he should buy a CPO or new Yaris 4 door hatch to get great gas mileage, long running dependability, and the ability to have it serviced cheaply. A used Panther would be great and would last forever, but the gas mileage would go against the Benz idea. His wife would be happier in something newer and it would give them both some peace of mind that it won’t break down at any moment.

      • 0 avatar
        Felix Hoenikker

        How fast are you driving the Panther?
        My 97 Crown Vic delivers a consistent 25 mpg at 70 mph. Now, around town is another issue. Probably more like 16 mpg.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        I asked her…she’d rather have the old Benz than the Yaris…so long as I keep it running but she like the LS400 best out of what has been thrown around here.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I can’t beat the city or consistently beat the mixed avgs, but I can get 33+ on a 50+ mile trip out of my Series III 3800, its something like 19/26/30.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I’d like to make a distinction between maintainability and reliability.

      My old Ranger was maintainable, on account of the fact that it was simpler than most farm tractors, and parts were widely available. I bought it with 90k miles.on it, and I personally put another 100k on it, but it needed a lot of parts to get it there. This thing was maintainable, but not particularly reliable.

      My Prius is reliable. You can drive the thing for 150k miles (and counting) without major repairs. The Prius is intimidating to work on, and requires learning a whole new set of electrical skills and a book full of car-specific knowledge. This car is incredibly reliable, and working on it is easier than it looks (if you do your homework), but maintaining it would be a challenge for the average car guy.

      I’m personally happy with either reliable or maintainable. I hope my Sienna will prove to be both reliable and maintainable over the years, at least by my personal standards.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    I have 3 older cars; a 78′, 79′, and 83′. The 78′ Chevy Malibu I drive almost every day to work, run errands in, etc. It’s actually fairly reliable, and a lot cheaper and easier to fix then any Mercedes. Starter? $65 and a hour to put in. Fuel pump? $25 bucks, about 20mins install.

    But, I am also a mechanic, and we also have 3 newer cars ranging from 01′ to 12′. So, that’s kind of cheating, and I got to go with Sajeev to some extent. You can own and drive older cars often, but, you really should have something newer, if nothing else but for trips.

    I wouldn’t go with an old Mercedes. It’s tempting, but the repair costs (mainly parts) are pretty high. Old American cars are far cheaper to keep going on the road. I got my 78′ With only 99k on the Odometer. It’s almost up to 130k now, without any major problems. The A/C doesn’t work, but I can live without it.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Given that there are still many W123 running around (and I had one a few years back), I can’t imagine that the support structure needed to keep one raodworthy doesn’t exist in force enough to make this happen. Beyond the ability to keep it on the road though is what BobAsh said…while I loved the solid feel of driving my 300TD, it was still slllloooowwww compared to just about any other car out there. Keep driveability in mind when making this consideration. A good, solid 10-year old car is more than likely a better bet as far as a DD goes. If you want the W123, make it a weekend project.

    And keep your head down, Chief! Just got back from OEF (Bagram SUCKS!)…

  • avatar
    nine11c2

    I was going to comment on that too – the Land Cruiser is a forever car – its dependable because I rebuilt everything. The parts on the W123 are expensive – there are some pieces in the drivetrain, harmonizers in my recollection, that can cost much and are only availalble from Mercedes. The head to the A/C unit on Porsche 944 was $700 just for part. Going to get more expensive…

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      Rebuilt HVAC heads for 944/928 retail right at $300. If you’re marching down to the Porsche dealer, sure, some parts can get expensive or unobtainable. Meanwhile, it’s almost all out there in the secondary market.

      W123? Same thing. Routine stuff is cheap and easy to come by from Autozone, et al. I’m sure something might get hard to find NOS eventually, but there are soooooo many W123s, that day is far away.

      • 0 avatar
        blowfish

        once a dude and his wife told me that they blew 400 for a heater motor from a merc dealer.
        Is there anything wong? nyet, as long as your plastic let it thru.

        • 0 avatar
          porschespeed

          If you are in a dealer service center for anything beyond warranty work, you have painted the target on yourself.

          And deserve whatever ‘probing’ you get – you asked for it.

          Meanwhile in the real world, that blower motor is under $100, OEM, from several sources.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    In about 15 minutes I’m leaving for work in a 25 year old BMW 528e. So far, it’s been bulletproof in two years of ownership. BUT I’m very handy with a wrench, and it shares Daily status with my ’96 Subaru Legacy Wagon. A bunch of the rubber trim is starting to fail, so I’m starting to get cool whistling on the freeway, the steering box has a tiny ammount of play, and even after a 5 speed swap i still get smoked by every CUV full of kids and soccer balls. i live in SoCal, so the weather is as benign as you could expect.
    I think the W123 could share Daily status with another car, but not by itself.

  • avatar
    greaseyknight

    Old cars suck, compared to new cars that is. From what I have seen it really depends on your mechanical experience/willingness to do the work to the vehicle. And how well the vehicle has been taken care of. Case in point ’83 Toyota pickups . I’ve daily driven 2 of them both with 170k miles, the first was the classic rode hard and put away wet with no maintenance, it never left me stranded, but I was always working on it. The 2nd was the exact opposite, previous owners weren’t OCD about it, but they took care of it. Never gave me a lick of problems, other then a tuneup all I did was replace the front main seal.

  • avatar
    michal1980

    if the land cruiser was built to last forever, why did you replace everything in it?

    People have this emotional connection to some object that is completely irrational.

    Reading in between the lines it seems like the Hyundai is the beater car. Grocery getter, kid hauler, wises daily driver. where as the Toyota is the toy. No wonder it seems to last longer, 1) you take far better care of it, 2) less rough use.

    And 4 years from now you want your wife to drive a car made in 1985? 32years old? and daily? There very few gearheads that would enjoy that daily, even far fewer that are wives.

    • 0 avatar
      cwallace

      Your comment reminds me of the carpenter who proudly used the same hammer throughout his career– granted, he had to replace the head that one time, and this is the third handle it has had, but oh, what a trusty hammer!

      An old car is a trade off between the cost that goes into it, and the pleasure you get out of it, and everyone’s balance is different.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Yes, I have an emotional connection…as this is a car forum I doubt I am the only one on here who feels this way. I guess you make a point though as I looked at replacing everything as maintenance. The thing is though that it was built to be able to remove and replace things in a manner that new cars just aren’t in a lot of cases. It is full of grease fittings and components that can be rebuilt trailside which is what I love. I don’t mind pulling and replacing a motor every 250k miles. I do mind things like pulling an intake to replace a thermostat and nonsense like that some of my newer stuff has brought to the table. The Hyundai though is pretty simple but I doubt it will ever get its engine or transmission pulled as I don’t enjoy this on FWD vehicles and the cost to pay someone to do it will be more than the thing will be worth at that point (Hyundai will do it for 5 years and 40k more miles as I got it new). It has been growing on me since I got home though. It is honest and simple by today’s standards. I can appreciate a well made appliance.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    The old cars that suck are 20 year japanese cars. Lexus? ha ha ha .Wait until it blows a trans or you need a fuel system repair.
    OK,my newest car is a 1985 300D W123 with a STT turbo conversion and manual trans. I live in a city and never need to go over 80 KMH but the Old Merc is at home in the traffic and dirt cheap to run. With only 111,750 miles it has years of life left in it. In two years the only expense has been an oil change and set of new front tyres. parts are an email away. There is nothing you cannot get from either mercedes themselves or the many on line parts places.
    Merc parts are cheap because you dont need to buy them often. if you buy a worn example and it costs a lot mone to get right,then you have simply not looked hard enough. Good ones turn up all the time and just at that dealer who takes all the fancy pics of the ones he sells,5 figure asking prices and he gets it too.
    look at this;
    http://drmercedesw123.com/?p=530

  • avatar
    nine11c2

    “Merc parts are cheap because you dont need to buy them often.”..thats as much of a rationalization as the Land Cruiser will last forever, its solid, I redid everything…

    • 0 avatar
      hp

      That caught my eye as well. When the car is special (to the owner), that owner will be bias.

      Old cars do suck. Even if they run well, think of all the safety improvements that have come in the last 30 years. Sure they add weight as some car enthusiast will quickly point out but if anything, it’s your wife’s car. Even if it was yours, would you rather have 6+ airbags on a commute or save the weight equivalent to an extra person? I don’t drive that hard on the way to work to notice the difference…

      Just buy her an accord/camry and call it a day, unless she wants to wrench. That will save you time to play with your land cruiser and she won’t complain when her 30 yr old MB is down.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      No illusions here. It had 250k miles and broke. It was not solid, now it is. In all honesty I could replace it with something far less capable and be OK for daily use. I don’t get it offroad as much as I’d like but it is a blast when I can. I am hoping I get moved out west so I can really enjoy it. Anyway, no, it certainly won’t last forever…it is an early 90’s Toyota so it too will eventually rust I figure even if the mechanicals were immortal.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      What caught my eye is that someone out there has thrown a custom STi turbo on an old Benz, even though they “live in a city and never need to go over 80 KMH”.

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    To the poster, thanks for your service, I hear what YOU want. What does the wife want? I’ll assume she does not care and carry on.

    Do no underestimate modern cars and their safety. Yes they are soul-sucking boring appliances but you know what they are probably getting as safe as a tank. Isn’t that what you want your wife and kids to be driving in? As great as those old W123 are they are still ~25 year old cars with no airbags, no ABS, no stability no nothing that even compact and midsize cars have today. Those old cars just don’t have that. Dare I say it not even panthers have most. So let’s us car guys not lose our common sense heads over dreams of bio diesel running 25 year old MBs.

    Get her what she wants first and foremost and if she does not care get her a safer more reliable modern car.

    By the way, if you want to reduce foreign oil consumption and since you seem to be mechanically inclined why not convert that gas guzzling Land Cruiser to use natural gas from the good ole USA?

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      I would love to do this but there are no refueling stations within 100 miles and to do it legally is complicated if it is a vehicle that was not certified originally by the EPA for CNG. LPG would work too as Toyota sold many of my engines in forklifts that run on propane from the factory. Not so cheap to run as CNG though.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    Got a good laugh out of this – I was gonna say the same thing, but others beat me to it…oh, by the way…do you let your kids trash the interior of the Land Cruiser, too? Didn’t think so.

    One vehicle is the pride and joy of the obsessive-compulsive owner, and the other one is beaten like a rented mule…and is having problems. Imagine that.

    Classic self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    My advice is Don’t Do It for the old Benz. As a general rule, I tell my friends that you do not want to daily drive anything older than 14-15 years.

    At 15 years old, the car may start to have rusting brake and fuel lines, all kinds of oil leaks, weather strip leakage which gets your carpet wet and moldy, wire harness issues, etc.

    If you are a Benz fanatic and want to put up with the time necessary to maintain this car, then drive it. I am sure that your wife will want to sell this car the first time it strands her. Which will probably be very soon after she starts driving it.

    • 0 avatar
      glwillia

      My not-quite-daily driver is a 1994 Mercedes E420, and if you’re going to DD something that old a MB or BMW will work just fine.

    • 0 avatar
      Defender90

      As a quality machine I’d expect the Benz to have non corroding pipework, certainly I can never remember seeing any Benz leaking brake fluid. Or fuel (apart from those that took drunken excursions off road).
      But old school do MB’s have copper brake lines? It’s a good question.

  • avatar
    7402

    This is your wife’s daily driver and you have kids. Buy something she likes–your Land Cruiser is your toy. Happy wife, happy life.

    Avoiding cloth interiors (either vinyl/pleather or real leather) will help the interior last much longer. If she likes the CUV-style vehicles, look at the last generation Ford Escape (hybrids available) and the Subaru Forester in particular. If MPG is really a priority think hard about a Prius. We used one for a week and were impressed all around, and it’s hard to snicker about 50mpg.

    If you’ve only put 60k on that Tuscon in 6 years, your driving is enough below the average of 15k/year that you should bias your search toward youngish used vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      “Happy wife, happy life.”

      Absolutely.

      So, as others said, what does SHE want in HER car? If you can afford it, get it for her. If she’s sastisfied with the Hyundai, let her drive it till it starts to look like operational trouble, then dump it for what whe wants.

    • 0 avatar

      My wife and I purchased an `83 w123 b/c we liked the style and the veggie oil part. Purchased it for $2k. Drove it two years. About 40k mi. Only did tires, battery, alternator, breaks. The R134a conversion it had was anemic in FL weather. Seats were miserable, air / water / vacumme leaks everywhere, trans shiffted hard and engine ran lumpy as hell, woefully underpowered, loose (and expensive) stearing / suspension parts. But I never replaced any of that crap. These cars run poorly longer than most other cars run whatsoever. But…the time comes to replace that stuff. And for me, it came. I sold the car for $1k to a guy who trades bio diesel with a diesel mechanic in exchange for work on his car(s).

      If you are gonna run WVO, don’t bother with the conversions–especially on a 25 year old car. Just run a 50/50 blend of diesel and veggie. Or…do what I did. 40% veggie, 20% waste tranny fluid, and 40% diesel. And old loose engine / pump / injectors works better and delivers more power on this mix. It won’t hurt the car to any serious degree. I lined the trunk with cardboard and dipped 5 gallon buckets into the grease dumpsters. In the garage, I used colanders lined with paper towells or rags and set them over $2 buckets from Walmart.

      Then….I got tired of the mess, fart’n around and driving the wobbly old car….I was facing the inevitable $1000 in parts–not including everything. I bought the best taken-care-of 15 year old fuel sipper I could find for $1700 and never looked back. It’s a pleasure to drive, everything works, nip things in the bud, and I get 35 MPG all day long, foot on the floor. 15 year old cars are just better designed and built too. There’s an element of quality inherent with the era it was designed and built that can’t ever be matched with a 25 year old car.

  • avatar
    slance66

    I understand the desire expressed by the OP, but there are few things I don’t want to give up in the car my wife drives, air bags, anti lock brakes, hell modern disc brakes if it comes to that. It’s tempting to think older was better…it’s a lie. Older was less complex, and so less expensive to repair. But cars are staying on the road longer now than ever before and they handle better, are safer and more efficient.

    If the Hyundai didn’t last, blame the Hyundai. My two 2007 cars here in New England certainly don’t show any rust. I put 10 years on a 2001 Volvo S60 and it was in great condition when I sold it (stainless steel exhaust is a plus). My E90 BMW, about which those on this forum warned me, has been 100% trouble free. Just oil, tires and brake pads. I think that 3L straight six is a peach and will run a long, long time if normally aspirated.

    In short, there are lots of options that are newer, safer and better than an old Benz, and will still last a long time with the OPs level of mechanical attention. In five more years the diesels coming out now will be 5 year old used cars, and relatively affordable.

  • avatar
    Defender90

    I love the W123 too, had three of them but the floors all rusted out like HELL under that thick underseal. It was the first car where MB used recycled steel and many German friends reckon it was where the rot set in (literally!). So, so sad.
    But will your wife love one? They did also come with inline six cylinder petrols which might be a bit less humiliating/infuriating in traffic. Compared to us Europeans you do live in the country of cheap gas after all.
    I hear the mid ’90s E Klasse is also a rock sold machine and might be a good compomise.

    Or there’s that Lexus as advised. (Just not with those rims/tyres in the pic!)
    That sounds a safe bet.
    So long as it doesn’t break of course…

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Is that your D90?

      • 0 avatar
        Defender90

        Yes indeed. It’s a “bitsa” and now has station wagon body with windows in the back – yay modular body work!
        Over time I’ve had all the troublesome parts replaced in favour of “fit and forget” parts – It’s got a Tdi motor, a Discovery transfer box (higher hi range), a Range-Rover rear axle (discs), 2″ lift with Australian dampers and bushes, wide angle propeller shafts, snorkel and breathers, etc etc.
        Now if only I can get the main gear box fixed – one of the 90’s only original components left – turns out the early 5 speed is just a warmed over Rover saloon/sedan box which, after 23 years, 190k miles, one careful owner and five who just didn’t give a fcuk, has decided not to play anymore.

        Yeah I am an enthusiast – how did you guess?

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Consider a 1993-1995 Volvo 940. Parts are plentiful as the engine was in production for decades. There’s a tremendously loyal following for these things and advice and assistance on brickboard.com is worth thousands of dollars. I don’t know if the W123 community has the same support network.

    These cars are built to last and last, so you’d be investing in the vehicular equivalent of a well-loved classic Rolex rather than some $20 quartz-movement Tag Heuer. They’re modern enough to have dual airbags, ABS, and specific side impact protection (you can even retrofit side airbags), and fuel injection but easy enough to work on yourself.

    Rustproofing is good but you would probably want to take active steps to ensure it doesn’t turn to dust.

    Most importantly, they don’t carry the price premium or expense of a W123 Benz (though they do lack the class).

    That being said, if you get an older, quality ride, you’ll probably want something that you know will start every day and won’t strand your wife if your tenured vehicle acts up. If you drop $2k on an old Volvo, add $1000 off the bat to get everything in reasonable shape and factor $1k a year in maintenance (dang cheap for a set of wheels), you’ve got a pretty budget-friendly investment that will last a long time and may leave you with enough to pick up something like a Saturn SL2 as a spare set of wheels.

    TTAC’s own Steve Lang loves these things: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/12/hammer-time-survivalist-edition/

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I have a 240 and there is a community around the 200, 700, and 900 series Volvos. Just be aware they suffer from some of the same age related maladies as the Benz will (rubber, relays, sensors).

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I’ve seen old W123s compared with 240’s, usually the arguements work like this:

        W123 Owner: Volvos suck! My Mercedes feels far more solid and is a better car than your bricks!

        Volvo owner: I’ve always liked the W123s but they tend to rust a little more than Volvos. They’re both good cars though.

        I’ve never meant a snobby Volvo owner, but Mercedes or BMWs on the other hand…

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Btw Ryoku I finally had the 240 taken into the shop for the stalling/non-starting issue. My guy says it was the “flywheel sensor” but from my brief online sleuthing it appears this may also be known as the crankshaft position sensor. I haven’t picked it up yet but supposedly its good to go.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Ah good to hear, I wouldn’t doubt that it was a sensor causing that issue, thanks for getting back to me on that.

            I suggest looking over the other sensors in the car and giving them a cleaning if anymore electrical gremlins show up.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’m going to do the fuel relay because its 13yo and its something I can do in five minutes in the parking lot. Hopefully that’ll do for the “easy stuff”.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    I have to agree with Sajeev on the LS400. Since you know Toyotas any maintenance is going to be no problem.

    If you have the room sell the Miata and get the Benz for yourself.

    I love driving my 76 Spitfire, but only on nice days and occasionally if one of our other cars is temporarily off the road. Daily driver no way!

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    That stock photo of the brown Merc above? That’s beautiful. I wish there were a contemporary car that looked like that. No styling gimmicks, no aerodynamic ubiquity. The current 300 comes close but needs a much lower beltline.

    So, combined with the tank-like solidity, I can see the appeal in tracking down one of these dinosaurs. But for all the reasons mentioned above I would never do it.

  • avatar
    George B

    The most important consideration is what your wife likes.

    Local knowledge is important in your search. I live in a part of the country where road salt isn’t used, the climate is somewhat dry, and most cars just don’t rust. OTOH, a car without air-conditioning is unusable. I wonder if there is an opportunity to buy a locally under-appreciated rust-free dead A/C car car here in Texas and haul it back to New York? Maybe an Impala LTZ or a Buick?

    If I wanted to buy a used luxury car, I’d probably buy an Infiniti G or an Acura TL. Relatively high volume for luxury cars and they borrow heavily from the Nissan and Honda parts bins.

  • avatar
    otter

    Since the OP is going to be retired and is a reasonably handy mechanic, the burden of maintenance on a W123 may not be very great for him. I do think that LS400s of the vintage shown in the photo are terrific cars, and can be a good value proposition. A friend of mine in England needed an inexpensive highway car that was got acceptable mileage, and bought a 100k+ mile one-owner example from a friend of his for 700GBP or so, spent several grand with a specialist having every little thing taken care of (incl. paint touchup, etc.) and now has an immaculate-looking and dead-reliable car for several grand. If the OP’s focus is on ease of maintenance, then I suspect the W123 is a better choice – it’s simpler and probably easier to maintain. If daily-driver suitability (esp. for his wife) is the preference, something like the LS is probably the better bet.

  • avatar
    ckgs

    Also, 1st gen TSX (preferably post 2006 after the MMC). Styling that holds up, fun to drive, rock solid Honda 4 with a timing chain, old school 5AT with the kinks worked out, Acura build quality, and all of the modern safety equipment. I think these will eventually become reliability legends.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    While those old-school diesel w123s will run forever given proper maintenance (which very few in the US get), they are slow and LOUD. A better compromise is a w124. Much more modern, more rust-resistance, airbags and ABS, and they feel like both a modern car AND a proper Mercedes. Fuel economy with the inline six is about the same as with the diesel in the w123. I’ve owned one of each, both great cars but the w124 is worlds better as a daily driver. Cheaper too for a good one. The w123 has it going on in the looks department though. Don’t even THINK about non-turbo w123s, they are too slow and too loud for modern use – mine was a ’79 wagon, it was pretty painful on the highway.

    Perfection would probably be a pair – a w123 coupe for high days and holidays, and a w124 wagon for a daily driver. Then they can sub in for each other too. I did not find MB parts to be particularly expensive, but they DO have a LOT of parts. Everything is readily available though, and the cars are pretty easy to work on.

    • 0 avatar
      genuineleather

      Having owned both as well, I agree. The W124 is far more livable everyday and still looks modern (esp. the facelifted 94-95 models). Not many cars can beat the coupe or wagon in the looks department, IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      glwillia

      I’ve owned both, my current not-quite-daily driver is a 1994 E420. It feels and drives like a modern car for the most part, is comfortable, safe, smooth and quiet. The only real anachronism is the original Becker tape deck and trunk-mounted 6 CD changer. I’m thinking of complementing it with a manual E39 530i though.

      W123s are great cars by the standards of their time, but I don’t think I’d recommend one now–the diesels are too slow and loud, they rust easily, and after driving a W124 it’ll feel like a tractor.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Well this was my plan devised literally during a 4 hour late night discussion in a bunker in Kandahar waiting for the all clear. The Land Cruiser lasting forever is of course, figurative. I probably give it more credit than it deserves as a result of seeing a lot of them full of bullet holes driving around various crapholes. I was simply establishing it is in much better shape than it’s age would suggest and it was designed with servicing components in mind rather than throwing it away. It does get used though. We take it camping regularly so it gets full of mud and dog hair and the lack of the 47 cup holders in modern cars bemoaned by most on here have resulted in several spills. The big reason the interior stays nice though is the fact that it is brown, not tan so it really doesn’t show any dirt. It is not so used as the Hyundai, but either way, it is far from a pampered garage queen. It got all that new stuff as a result of me being too stubborn to dump it after my purchase when stuff started going south rapidly culminating with a knock the week I transferred to Fort Knox (ironic). Live and learn but I really do like it now and would drive it anywhere without reservation.

    The Hyundai is maintained as meticously as the Land Cruiser mechanically. The faults it has are a result of it hauling the kids around more often combined with the light tan cloth (not a huge deal…it has held up just stained), and the time at Fort Drum enduring the winters. Mechanically it is solid and for a new car simple and relatively easy to work on (it is the 4 cylinder with auto). I am as OC with it as the Land Cruiser under the hood though. I would also drive it anywhere though.

    My wife likes the looks of the Benz but she hasn’t driven one and in all honesty she would likely not like it after that and probably less so after she had to fill it up with diesel and smell it on her hands. She has no issue with an older car though so long as it is in good shape and she prefers driving my Land Cruiser to her Hyundai and did so while I was deployed very regularly.

    Having said all that though, the devised in the bunker plan has not come to fruition. I sold the Miata and a motorcycle I had and put the procedes to retiring some debt and a little rust repair on the Hyundai. She will continue to drive it until it no longer suits her needs at which point my oldest son will likely inherit it and regret how he treated the interior. She wants a sedan or wagon vs. another CUV (I married well it seems) when this does happen so I’ll be monitoring the new Mazda 6 reliability closely. I like the first gen LS400 though and knowing her a true garage queen find may tempt her as well. Personally I split the 1.5 mile comute between the cruiser and an old Schwinn depending on the weather and suck up the 12 MPG when we take the Cruiser camping (the Hyundai won’t pull the trailer).

    But one day the Army will move me again and if I actually have to commute again the old W123 will likely find a spot in my driveway (with the hood up on weekends).

    And were I to go with a Panther, a Brick Vic is the only one of the breed that I like, preferably a Cop one with the 351 and most importantly, the horizontal 140 mph speedo. This would not help my gas mileage situation though and does not get the wife’s blessing.

    • 0 avatar
      Defender90

      What Khodes said about the W124, he summed up exactly what I think.
      The E Klasse is MB’s “core business” as it were so they tend to try harder than say my Dad’s C Klasse which as been, overall, a disappointment.

    • 0 avatar

      I came across this thread via idle car daydreaming, it’s been a fun read.

      I bought my first new car last year, a 2014 Mazda6, and plan to keep it forever. It’s gorgeous, rides as good as it looks and suits both my wife and I. Luckily for you, Mazdas have worse resale value than a comparable Toyota or Honda, so pending durability, the 6 may be a great buy for you in a few years.

      It sounds like the Cruiser serves as both the project car and the hobby car, so I wonder if an old merc would overlap too much. They’d serve different purposes, but you’ve only got two hands and a limited number of hours or work on both. If you can swing it though, all the more power to you. It also sounds like you’ve got a really car nut friendly wife. She’s stuck with you through a cramped miata, and an old cruiser. She sounds like a keeper ;)

      Thank you for your service. Pending Passat TDI reliability, that might also be a good choice. Yes, I know I said VW, reliability, and turbo in the same breath. No, the universe didn’t collapse. It’s built in USA, which is great. My buddy is getting stellar mileage with his TDI SE manual, and I sat in it for a long road trip. Great interior, great ergonomics. He’s keeping a long term blog about the car if you’re interested. Just google for “rockyroadblog passat”. Full disclaimer, I also contribute to the blog.

      Whatever you end up doing, please report back! Would love to hear what you end up with. I bet it’ll be an old 911

  • avatar
    facelvega

    I don’t understand how so many people who follow a car blog would recommend a boring-as-porridge japanese luxo barge or some recent off-lease anaesthesia-mobile. Preposterous! The man knows how to wrench and wants a diesel, for goodness’ sake! The problem here is that he’s thinking too conservatively: everyone has a W123, but how many people have, say a PV544? There’s some real durability for you. Okay, yes, no diesel in those, but still. How about a 505 turbodiesel wagon? Way more cargo space than the Tucson, very practical, and no pesky PRV engine irreplaceable cracked heads. Prefer German? Forget the W123 or semi-ordinary 528e, how about an E28 524td, the holy grail of non-sporting “youngtimer” BMW enthusiasts. (Youngtimer is the term auf Deutsch for cars from the 70s and 80s, generated from the false belief that in English we call classic cars “oldtimers”)

    Would a seven year old camry be a practical and sensible choice several light years ahead of any of these? Yes, of course. But having one of those would also mean that a little part of your soul was dead, and against that what are a few thousand dollars and a few years of scraped up knuckles?

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Absolutely brilliantly said!

      I’ve owned two Peugeot 505 wagons – they are absolutely brilliant cars and very much the equal of the Mercedes in every way, and superior in many. They split the difference between the w123 and the w124 in modernity. Sadly the parts situation for them is not good. The 524TD is a lot of fun too. Or to make Sajeev all jealous, track down one of the Lincolns with that same engine in it!

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        Having said all that about practicality and what not, were I to find a Mark VII diesel I would probably buy it.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          You’ll probably find it parked next to a leprechaun and Jimmy Hoffa’s corpse. According to the Internets, only 2300 were made.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lincoln_Continental_Mark_VII

          http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/automobiles/collectibles/few-thrills-with-a-diesel-lincoln.html?_r=0

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I suggest a Volvo 240 for the fact that they’re one of the easier cars to work on, plenty of space and support with parts, and the fanbases are all seemingly eager to help any new Volvo owner out.

    They also have the elegant styling of the W123 without expensive trim bits nor a hood ordament ripe for some graffiti artist to steal, they get reasonable as mileage for their size (30 highway, 25 town).

    Only problem is the newest model you’re looking at would be a ’93 and almost all of them have very high miles on them, if you want better safety and reliability go with a 940.

  • avatar
    jjf

    I’ve lusted after a W123 for years and almost bought one a couple years ago. (Un)Fortunately my sanity ruled, and I ended up getting the last of the W203s (2007). It’s been pretty reliable over the last 2 years, and I still really enjoy it. It should last a good long while since it only has 45K on it now. My wife loves driving it as well. To be honest though I prefer the 80s and 90s benzes, and have done a lot of research on them.

    If you gotta go Benz here are my recommendations:
    Avoid any MB product made between 2000-2006. The merger with Chrysler caused Mercedes to switch part suppliers to the cheapest possible. Cheap parts + complex cars = reliability nightmare. A 1998 E class is a better car than a 2001 E class even though it is the same design. It’s pity because they are beautiful cars.
    Avoid anything built in Alabama (M and R classes). My parents had good luck with a 1999 M class, but I’ve read a lot of horror stories on the web.
    2009+ are the best bets for a newer Benz, and the newer C classes are decent cars. E classes are more problematic, and s classes even more so. Really nice cars though if you can afford the running costs.
    I like a late 90s C class (W202). These are still built somewhat to old school benz durability standards and are more simple than E or S classes. A low mileage example should go for quite awhile.
    If you like Diesel the late 90’s E classes might be a decent bet. These will have more modern safety equipment, but not the 123 solidity.
    A 1995 E class convertible. Most will have been used gently, and will be hold its value very well. These are so stylish and classy that your wife may not mind the running costs and lack of reliability. Be advised though that the running costs will be high. Avoid older older gas e classes as nice as they might be.
    I’d consider a nice diesel 300D, but only if it came with a book of service receipts.

    I would consider a W123, but only as a non daily driver. I still want one, and longingly browse craigslist now and then. There is someone selling a very nice low mileage Euro spec 200D W123, but hasn’t had any bites for the last 2 years. He wants 10 K for it, which is why it isn’t selling. I can’t imagine how slow it must be.

  • avatar
    noxioux

    Why in the world would you get rid of a perfectly good Miata?

    • 0 avatar
      nine11c2

      To regain my manhood?

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      LOL…trust me, it hurt. It was a 90 that I had given the same love to as my Land Cruiser. I got into camping with the family though and military life (moving every few years) with 3 cars and a trailer is a no go. Also in my previous Army life I was a Combat Engineer in a Sapper Company. As such my bones and joints no longer care for the ride or climbing in and out of the Miata.

  • avatar
    albert

    A W123? As a dialy driver? With a diesel engine and than running it on anything else but diesel? That won’t work.
    If you want an old Mercedes, than go for a W124. Lots of reasons to take that one instead of a W123.
    Just don’t take one from the first two years.
    If you take a 300D or a 300E or even a 260E you ‘ll be getting a car that will please you more and is just as easy to maintain.

  • avatar
    andyinatl

    I think the majority of posters here are missing the point. Yes, OP could go buy a Civic/Fit/Corolla/Camcord etc and drive it for next 300K miles relatively trouble free. But he’d be driving a dumb appliance with absolutely no soul. If someone can get satisfaction out of driving something like that, more power to you, but it’s not for everyone. I can relate to the OP because i’m at the point in my life where I decided to cut back on disposable items in my life. Bic pen will do the job, but i do prefer Waterman or Montblanc (either of which i’ll keep for long long time), any old quartz watch will tell more accurate time than a $4-5K swiss watch will, cheap Target shoes will do the job, but i will willingly spend $150-200 on an all leather shoes. I’m not a wealthy man by any means, and i do have a decent job but not a doctor/architect/whatever else earns tons of money. I think you get the picture.

    Regarding the car, i will not own a disposable brand like Honda, Mazda, etc. There’s nothing wrong with those cars and they last a long time, but when manufacturer stops selling internal parts for an engine (like Mazda/Ford doesn’t do rebuild kits for the 3.7 engine) it means it’s disposable. I would much rather buy an older Land Cruiser that at 20 years of age looks in better condition than a brand new family sedan that has paper thin metal and paint that peels off whenever someone stares at it for too long. And it’s not just because he decided to take better care of one car vs the other. Go look at paint on couple year old Honda, and Mercedes/Land Cruiser/BMW/Volvo of same vintage.

    In my case i settled on Volvo as my brand of choice, which gives me the enjoyment of well made vehicle, quiet and luxuriuos ride, quality paint job, reliability and ability to purchase parts for it after it’s well out of production. Good luck to Damon in finding the car he desires (as long as missus approves of course:-)).

    • 0 avatar
      nine11c2

      Another ridiculous argument. First, the W123 as a daily driver doesn’t make sense. As a second car to take out on the weekends, fine.

      Second, paint today with clear coat and such is way better than it was 20, 30 years ago. It barely needs wax. 10 and 15 years ago, if a car stayed out in the sun, the paint literally ozidized and chipped off..Paint and paint booth technology are far better today..

      • 0 avatar
        andyinatl

        Not talking specifically about W123 Benz but the whole robust design/engineering vs disposable econobox. And it’s a bunch of baloney about the paint today being better than it used to. Maybe when it comes to Benz/BMW/Audi group it is, but NOT on econo brands. Look at any couple year old Accord/Camry/Altima that drove on a highway even a little bit. Chips galore. If you so much as touch anything on it it will scratch. It’s not even an argument. There is reason some cars cost so much vs the cheap cars that are designed to take drones from A to B with minimal fuss.

        • 0 avatar
          nine11c2

          Andy, you can say it as much as you want, its not true. Look a a Ford Ranger and it can’t even keep its paint. Chips happen. Cars used to rust. Cars used to come right thru the paint. That doesn’t happen any more..the work is WAY better..

        • 0 avatar
          andyinatl

          I’m not going to argue with you nine11c2. I have had a brand new CX-7, i have friends with Accords, and in my search for cars i’ve come across plenty other similar cars. They all had terrible paint chips, and around the door handles the paint lost its sheen after only couple of years due to nails scratching it. It’s completely different story with MB/Volvos that i came across. Even when MB does get a rare rock chip, it will only chip the top layer. On my CX-7 every chip was down to metal. It was horrible. You can’t possibly with the a straight face say that paint quality of MB and Honda is on the same level. It’s just not true.

          • 0 avatar
            PonchoIndian

            I have to agree with you to an extent. I don’t think current paint on ANY car is as good as it used to be. I blame it on the water based process they use now.

            You can blame it more on the EPA than on the price point. I don’t think you’ll find the paint on a US made BMW or Mercedes any better than on a Honda or Chevy. I’ll even go as far as saying the cars built in Canada have a better more durable paint formula than the ones built in the USA. I can only go by my GM purchased product experience on that one however.

          • 0 avatar
            nine11c2

            I don’t care what you had..in the last 20 years, the technology is far better..http://www.protectall.com/artpaints.aspx

            there are more car washes..I remember the front end of cars in the 60’s and 70’s that had the whole front speckled with chips. Todays cars are way better.

            There are chips from nails because we used to push a button to open a door, now we put our hand into a panel and pull, putting our nails up against the finish.

            You are wrong dude..

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        I used to be a detailer so I have some insight here. Old paint is different. It can be brought back from a lot worse off than you would think if just dull and faded. But it requires more care and upkeep or it gets rough and looks terrible but it can be brought back to presentable in most cases with some compound and elbow grease until you start seeing the primer through the paint. On decent paint jobs that is a lot of buffing. On a Pinto, not as much. Modern clearcoats will generally look decent with little to no care until they don’t. Once you start to lose the clearcoat the paint job is done. You can’t buff out those blisters. If you take care of them from day 1 though I generally prefer the modern stuff.

        Having said that, the whites and silvers from the late 80’s – early 90’s are to be avoided. GM gets the most bashing for this, but I have seen many makes peel off in sheets from this era.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Articles like this always give me a huge internet penis because I own a Cadillac Allante, a Buick Electra, and a ’92 Bonneville. No Toyota Matrix safety net for me.

    I LIVE ON THE WILD SIDE!

    And, I can just about promise that I’d have more trouble wih a ’01 Park Avenue than I do with my Electra.

  • avatar
    JohnnieE

    Hello Damon,

    Firstly, I take my hat off to you for serving your country. I am a Brit, and every so often one of the local regiments stationed nearby can be seen marching through the local towns where I live upon their return to the UK, and I am often taken aback by the brave and selfless service of so many young men and women, some of whom lead these march pasts showing their scars and wounds for all to see.

    I know that you are keen on a Mercedes W123, which in Central Europe is the mainstay of many a taxi driver, as it has the ability to soak up no end of abuse and can, in sheer mileage terms, work it’s way around the world many times over. However, have you instead considered an old Volvo?

    My parents had one of the original T5 Estates (or Station Wagons), which even it’s dotage accelerated like the clappers, and they have only just got rid of it. Unlike you, none of our family are particularly good with a wrench, and our car maintenance skills are very basic. However, it survived my family and all the abuse we could throw at it; and once you had hosed it down, it looked almost as good as the day it had first been bought, so very well had it been screwed together.

    Unlike a Lexus, which whilst also being well screwed together, is also full of electronic gadgets that in time may well begin to go and be quite troublesome for a home mechanic to fit and repair – the Volvo, like the Mercedes, was gadget-lite and mechanically quite simple and pretty robust. I don’t know if it is easy to get a diesel version in the US, but they can be converted to run on LPG in the UK if you wanted to avoid petrol (gasoline), and depending upon availability where you live this might also be an alternative to consider.

    Anyway, I hope the idea of an old Volvo may also give you something to mull over as you look forward to a well earned retirement in a few years time :)

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    Sajeev said it all – ‘or a Panther, duh!’ These are 200 to 300k mile cars even driven hard if given even minimal competent maintenance which you can do yourself.

    If you like the decent handling, but hard riding P71 cop car version, you might Google CM Autowerkz out of central Florida for a reconditioned and repainted version in the $9-14k range – 2004 and later models are a little better.

    The soft-riding Lincoln Town Cars and Mercury Grand Marquis are best in lower mileage, no-rust examples. These can mostly be found in Florida, Texas and other parts of the American South. They make glorious interstate turnpike cars to visit the kids and grandkids. They do wallow a bit, but that can be partly fixed for a few hundred dollars of aftermarket parts and some really good tires.

    Gas mileage will be 16-17 MPG in town and 23-24 MPG on the highway.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Wife’s car…and she doesn’t feel the Panther Love which is strange because she really liked my 91 Caprice.

      • 0 avatar
        jimbob457

        Well, there are over 1,800 Panthers listed for sale in the US – 1998 or newer with less than 45,000 miles on the odometer. Some of the later model Crown Vics and Town Cars are likely flood damaged cars out of Sandy. A few are overpriced Town Cars with plush interiors.

        Again, the great divide is between the P71 cop cars that handle well, but drive a little rough, and soft-sprung Grand Marquis and Town Cars that wallow a bit in their handling – which can be partially alleviated.

        Women can be funny about their cars. When my wife wrecked her ’95 Jag 2 seat convertible, I urged her to buy a late model BMW 328 ragtop in very good condition and painted a Mary Sue baby blue with a white top and leather interior. But nooo.. she said and ended up with a Porsche 911 ragtop with more miles, two less seats and a fairly rough ride – albeit it corners like it is on rails and goes faster than spit on a hot skillet. Now she doesn’t like the Porsche’s ride and rather high maintenance costs and wishes she had bought the Bimmer. Women, you can’t live with ‘em, and you can’t live without ‘em.

        Maybe Panther Love is just a guy thing for men over 60 and under 30. My 28 year old son watched a CM Autowerkz u-tube of one of their rebuilt cop cars burning donuts around a parking lot. He said “cool”. Plus he drove my ’99 Grand Marquis for a month, and he liked it ‘way better’ than my old 2002 Acura 3.2 TL that I passed down to him when he unexpectedly needed a car.

        • 0 avatar
          jimbob457

          Checked on the number of Panthers listed for sale on the internet in the USA out of about 11 million built over 32+ years – it comes to 9,029 as of May 21, 2013. Did not have data on the Middle East, Mexico or the Great White North.

          How common they are these Panthers? You might say common as dirt? But, isn’t this what hot rodding has always been about? Not that you can do much with the Ford modular 4.6 engine to increase power, but as far as daily drivers and fleet cars are concerned it represents a proven alternative, and it is a SOHC design as opposed to inherently low-rev push rod engines.

          Don’t forget oil and gas fracking, and the fact that most mining industries are inherently cyclical (albeit with long 25-30 year cycles). Lower gas prices at the pump are imo. virtually a sure thing over the next year or at most two. Believe me, I am more than just an ‘enthusiast’ is this area. Can you say the names of my old colleagues? “Daniel Yergin” and Phillip Verleger”.

          The car business has become very complex, and imo. division of labor has tended to make it stupid in seeing its situation overall. Henry Ford was a terrific mechanic, hot rodder and engineer. He was also a pretty good businessman. And, when his factory manager toured a local slaughter house and saw the virtues of an assembly line to construct a car (as opposed to deconstructing a cow), Henry saw its virtues in short order (no endless meetings of third rate advocates making their eloquent but sorry ass cases) and the rest is history.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    I owned a ’82 300D, and while it was an awesome car with incredible build quality (almost 30 years with over 240k miles and virtually no signs of wear inside and out), it personified the difference between “durable” and “reliable”. In 7k miles of ownership, I cannot recount how many (expensive) things went wrong. It wasn’t even a result of neglect, as my car came from an affluent home with a sheaf of maintenance records.

    I was much happier with its replacement, a ’95 W124 E320. More modern and sophisticated by a mile, it was far more reliable as well.

  • avatar
    Onus

    Get two old cars or have a backup like public transportation.

    I’m about to do that. I’m daily driving a 23 year old f250 diesel with 350,000. Seems everyday something new breaks and this thing has a long maintenance history when i bought it. It wasn’t neglected.

    I’m going to pickup a Cherokee for cheap. Two old cars can’t both break at the same time right?

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      You’d think that, but having owned a 90 and a 93 with about half a million miles between them I would vouch that you would be wrong. You really have to be pretty much willing to restore them to drive them daily. While it is weird to do that sort of thing on a 20 year old car, the plus is that most of the obscure crap is still available unlike my old 68 Cougar daily driver. But before I took the Cruiser off the road for 2 months to go through it I had days I had to ride the Kawasaki because the Miata had some sort of issue. Admittedly my solution doesn’t work for most as taking the daily driver down that long is not easy but climbing into a truck each morning that I know inside and as intimately as I do is cool. In fact the avatar in the corner of this post is me standing in the engine compartment. It is hard not to be attached to something like that.

      The post however was about something for the wife and the first gen LS400 is probably as old a vehicle I am going to get her in and that will be after the same 2 month ritual my truck got. In a perfect world she’d take my Land Cruiser and I’d build a FJ60 with a benz diesel and have my cake and eat it too. She’d go for it if the current Cruiser got better mileage. We have discussed it. Someone brought up safety though and that got me thinking about all 6000 pounds of Cruiser sitting on those skinny A pillars that give it the visibility I love. Anyway, we’ll make the call based on how much time I have to go through it when the time comes.

      BTW, my irrational desire for the Benz Diesel is also rooted in the fact that my Benz powered Husky Mine Detection Vehicle got me back to the FOB in Baghdad after an EFP put a hole in the block. What can I say, cars inspire emotion in me as they do in most who read this site.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    Panther?
    W123?
    I’ve had both. Panther from 22K to 170K, W123 from 213K to 417K. I followed a regular maintenance schedule on both.

    The W123 had a lower cost per mile by far, handled better and was by far better built.
    I C4C’d the Panther and don’t miss one bit. After the second heater core, which required ripping out the dash, I decided once the core started showing signs of leakage again, it was time to let it go. It did, and I did.

    I don’t have firsthand experience with a LS400, closest thing is my gen2 Avalon which is now my DD–some call it soulless, but its reliability and creature comforts work for me.

    That said, if you want a 123 that badly, consider this:

    The W123 body is prone to rust.

    Old clearcoat looks as bad as new clearcoat when it starts going away.

    Parts are very reasonable, mostly because the big-buck stuff hardly ever goes wrong. Brakes / rotors are cheap, a voltage regulator/ brush assy is about 30 bucks, (no, you almost never need a complete new alternator). If you blow an engine, that’s another matter. One of the bigger problems facing W123 enthusiasts is the quality of replacement parts is beginning to slide. Be careful what you buy and stay away from Chinese knockoffs whenever you can.

    if you really want one, look for the following:
    1) maintenance records
    2) solid color paint. No clearcoat / metallic. That stuff is like iron, the BC / CC is not.
    3) an example where someone else had already replaced weatherstrips, suspension rubber, engine mounts, all the rubber stuff that any 30 year old car will need.
    4) Turbodiesel only. The US spec M110 gasser was choked by smog controls an the mileage was not good. I regularly got 24-25 with a 120 mile daily commute that was 1/2 crawling and 1/2 65 MPH.
    5) Don’t mess with alternate fuels, unless you are ready to put in a 2-tank system. Coking of the rings can result from doing it the cheap way. These diesels need to start and shut down on dino juice.
    6) Expect problems with the climste control. They used that horrible R-4 GM compressor, but there is a guy on peachparts.com sellng a Sanden compressor bracket kit that will eliminate the R4.
    7) Peachparts is loaded with people who are very helpful with diesel 123 cars. Do some homework on their Diesel Discussion board. You will learn a lot about this marque that will guide your decision.
    8) make sure flex disks are in good shape. They are only 150 or so per pair, having one let go can reshape your floor pan and break the tailshaft housing off your transmission.

    I only got rid of mine when the clearcoat went, because putting a 2K paint job on a 1984 car would still net me a car worth–about 2-3K and it still needed A/C repair, carpets and seats. There was just too much deferred stuff to take care of, and it’s not like they are rare, especially on the West Coast. But it was a very reliable ride and served me well for 9 years.

    • 0 avatar
      jimbob457

      OMG. I am a little embarrassed here at being a car enthusiast rather than a real car guy. What you know as a W123 is what I know as a 240D, the classic indestructible German taxi back in the day. There was a time when I shopped for one. I think it will go down in history as the toughest car ever built in any quantity and has the Panther beaten on that score.

      A few points:

      1. number of 240D’s currently for sale in the US is 11 with the lowest mileage 98,000 miles versus 1,894 Panthers with 45,000 miles or less on the odometer.
      2. the Panthers have some up-to-date features the 240D’s lack like air bags and more horsepower, plus pollution control.
      3. the diesel engine rattle in a well used 240D can be really annoying.
      4. not every US mechanic knows how to work on 240D’s, and parts are getting harder to find.
      5. you can get the Panther in a number of different versions – the main choices being good handling, but rough riding P71 cop cars and soft-sprung but wallowy civilian versions. The latter can be unwallowed to a considerable extent with good tires and some aftermarket hotrodder modifications.

      Yes, in an ideal world a W123 would be better and more impressive to all my car-enthusiast friends at the country club. As a humble daily driver, I still have to tout Panther Love on a cost-effective basis.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        Having looked at the Panther WIKI page, I still prefer the early ones and would add a Panther based Continental to the list. Panther + Opera window = win!

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Wait, you cash for clunkered a Panther and no ones angry over it?

      Can’t blame you though, I’d probably demo derby the thing after having to remove the dash again and again.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I’m reading between the lines here, and it looks to me like one of the things the LW and his wife would value from an older car is timeless, elegant design. A W123 has it. A W124 has it. So do most of the Volvos you’ve mentioned. Even the original Lexus LS has it. The Panthers—especially the last ones—do not. (Sorry, Sajeev)

    • 0 avatar
      jimbob457

      An old saying I have heard more than once: “there are two things every young man should do once in his life – own a “classic” used Jaguar and date a stripper.” A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I have to agree there, the Landau roofs don’t help a Panthers “timelessness” either.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Since you’re in the army and probably quite experienced with the thing, how about an ex-military humvee? It ought to be designed to be durable, far more so than any civilian vehicles, I would think. Plus an interior that’s designed to withstand the abuse of combat ought to withstand anything your boys could throw at it. Plus it’ll come handy if apocalypse did arrive during our lifetime! Though perhaps an used civilian one is perhaps a better choice, since the army presumably won’t let it go if it still had a lot of useful life in front of it, so when one’s let go it probably has most of its useful life used up already.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      They are hard to register if you do get em and the Army doesn’t let the ones you would want hit the civilian market…the non up armored ones upgraded with the big motor. Not to mention how uncomfortable they are though I imagine they are roomier without the radio, ammo, and not wearing the 50 pounds of crap.

      As an engineer that did route clearance though, my experience with them is negative. Flat bottom = likely ride home in a flag draped box. I also have hooked many of them belonging to various Iraqi forces when they “broke down” (usually the breakdown was an empty fuel tank). I was always amazed how many Iraqi Soldiers could squeeze in one though. It was crazy…they’d be laying inside with bare feet hanging out the turret and stuff. These were generally Iraqi Police though…The Iraqi Army we dealt with was more professional. Good Times!

      It would be fun as a trail toy though, albeit a huge one.

  • avatar
    nine11c2

    dudes..being from the US..wtf is a Panther? we didn’t get whateer that is here (at least not called that)…

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Panther refers to the platform that spawned the Crown Victoria/Grand Marquis, the Town Car and Continental, to name a few. Introduced late 1978, the platform was used up through late 2011. Did I get that mostly right, Sajeev?)

  • avatar
    SteveMar

    Four years ago, I had this fantasy — buy a used 240D and use it as my daily driver. I found one in relatively good shape from 1983. It ran well for its age, but using it as daily transport in the Upper Midwest ultimately proved to be too inconvenient and costly.

    First, it is slow. Like really, almost dangerously slow, especially with an automatic (which it had). Merging on the highway made me sweat. Going up hills made me sweat. Second, a diesel in Minnesota doesn’t work as a winter driver. I plugged the car in at night, but trying to start the car in 0 degree weather after being parked at work was yet another bit of drama.

    Also, as solid as these are, things do go — and when they do, it costs to fix them. I can do some things, but there are quirks to MBs that you just need to know. And then there were the things that didn’t get fixed — the quirky vacuum system that operated the locks, the a/c (or lack of it), the cruise control that was spotty, the rear driver side door that refused to open, the trunk that decided to lock and unlock. Again, none of this is fatal, but as a daily driver, I couldn’t put up with it.

    I ultimately sold it and found a 1990 Volvo 240 wagon. Still old. Still classic. Still solid. And way cheaper to fix than the MB. My advice, think long and hard about any classic as a daily driver — most times, you need need something reliable and the glow of classic fades to aggravation.

  • avatar
    Toshi

    Series 100 Land Cruiser or LS 430. Or both.

    FWIW I know a guy who had a W124 wagon, also relevant. Swore by it. Now his wife is in a W211, iirc. Couldn’t find a suitable replacement after an accident.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      She likes the 80 better than the 100 series (we have had this discussion) but really wants a car. we both like the LS400…not sure when the 430 started. If the 100 series fit her needs then a first gen Sequoia would fit them better but they are both sort of overkill for what she’s looking for. I floated a 3800 supercharged buick to her…she sank it. Looking more and more like rehabbing an older Lexus is going to be in my future. I can live with that.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I see a huge amount of incorrect W-123 info here ~

    The folks who don’t like a particular vehicle feel free to bash it mercilessly , no facts required . typical haters .

    About 15 years ago , my lady told me she wanted a Mercedes Diesel Sedan

    I’m a German Car Journeyman Mechanic so I asked her ‘ are you _sure_ you want an old car that’s slow, noisy and smelly ? ‘ ~ yes she did so I found her a pristine ’81 240D (four door 4 cylinder 2.4 L) , yes it’s pretty slow but , we still drive it across the desert loaded up with four teenagers and the AC set to ‘ refrigerate’ and that original 1982 R-4 compressor still happily keeps us cold as cucumbers , you do have to do periodic Mtce. to any AC system , most folks don’t and then blame the vehicle .

    It has 300,000 + miles on it and runs like a top because I take reasonable care of it ~ nothing special , I never , _EVER_ put that stupid WVO in it as that kills the engine 90 % of the time .

    If you live in The Rust Belt , _FORGET_ any W-123 ! they’re all rusted out and the nice one you import from Az. or Ca. , will rust away to nothing is a few years .

    We now have THREE W-123’s , not only are they daily drivers , I use my ’84 Diesel Coupe as my rally car and it does just fine , handles well and Mercedes are much safer than many newer cars with air bags as they’re designed to crumple in a collision ~ look OnLine for the old crash test films where they had live people drive them into parked trucks , guard rails and so on at high speeds , no safety equipments , just the seat belts , the cars were destroyed but the drivers walked away .

    More details if you care but first you have to figure out what you need & want .

    All these years later , my Lady still loves her old Mercedes Diesel Sedan and drives it faithfully , everywhere , no drama , no hassles and amazingly cheap & easy repairs .

    Be aware that the MOST EXPENSIVE CAR YOU’LL EVER OWN , will be a “cheap Mercedes” .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Good info…thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      nine11c2

      The technology that Mercedes researched was so important – that they gave it away. So most if not every 2012 car has the offset and crumple ability that the Mercedes had in 1980 plus the things we’ve learned and engineered in the last 30 years.

      1980’s MB’s were good for the day – but don’t compare to a Honda Civic today.

      Lets not let the facts get in the way. Some sample crash test data I could find:

      1990— Mercedes Benz 190E— 4Dr– 3058 (*** ) (*** )
      1980— Mercedes Benz 240D— 4Dr– 3714 (** ) (* )
      1984— Mercedes Benz 300SD– 4Dr– 4270 (*** ) (**** )
      1994-97 Mercedes Benz C220— 4Dr– 3190 (**** ) (**** )

      1982— Honda Accord——— 4Dr– 2635 (*****) (*****)
      1986— Honda Accord——— 4Dr– 3062 ( N/A ) (**** )
      1987— Honda Accord——— 2HB– 2920 (**** ) (*****)
      1991— Honda Accord——— 4Wa– 3160 (**** ) (**** )
      1991— Honda Accord——— 4Dr– 2850 (**** ) (*****)
      1992— Honda Accord——— 4Dr– 2750 (**** ) (**** )
      1993— Honda Accord——— 4Dr– 3060 (**** ) (**** )
      1994-97 Honda Accord——— 4Dr– 2901 (**** ) (*** ) (** ) (*** )
      1979— Honda Civic———- 2Dr– 2166 (* ) (* )
      1980— Honda Civic———- 2HB– 2298 (* ) (* )
      1981— Honda Civic———- 2HB– 2160 (**** ) (*****)
      1981— Honda Civic———- 4HB– 2456 (*** ) (* )
      1984— Honda Civic———- 2Dr– 2311 (*****) (**** )
      1984— Honda Civic———- 4Wa– 2510 (**** ) (*****)
      1988— Honda Civic———- 2HB– 2542 (**** ) (*****)
      1991— Honda Civic———- 4Dr– 2252 (*** ) (**** )
      1993— Honda Civic———- 4Dr– 2348 (*** ) (**** )
      1995— Honda Civic———- 4Dr– 2317 (*** ) (*** )
      1996-97 Honda Civic———- 2Dr– 2313 (**** ) (**** )
      1996-97 Honda Civic———- 4Dr– 2337 (**** ) (*****) (*** ) (*** )

      Above from http://www.safecarguide.com/exp/archive/archive.htm

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    The Swedish insurer Folksam publishes a report of real-world injury data for cars on Swedish roads that – even today – covers cars like Volvo 240s (20 years out of production), W123 Benzos, etc. I can’t find it at the moment but it would be interesting to see how an insurer views the safety of these cars. I do know that 240s and 940s have better than average data than many newer cars.

    HOWEVER – this data naturally includes how these cars are driven and a yob in an Evolution has a far different driving style than a retired farmer in an elderly 240.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    If all you want is a reasonably reliable, easily serviceable car, then why not a Buick with a 3800? There are plenty of low-mileage examples available, and they have modern safety features.

    It’s not completely clear what your goal is in getting the Mercedes. Do you want a luxury car/style in your old car? Or do you just want something reliable to get from point A to point B that’s not a Corolla? It seems more like the former, but that requires a lot more commitment.

    Both the Land Cruiser and the W123/W124 will last a while with proper care and feeding, but you will have to be willing to put the time and money into doing so, as you already know. It sounds like, as with the Land Cruiser, you sort of know what you’re getting into with an old car, and you get that you have to replace a lot of stuff, so you’re better prepared than most people for this.

    The question I see is whether your wife is hip to that too. She has to accept that the car will strand her sometimes and that it will nickle and dime you in other ways.

    It is almost always cheaper to operate a used car than a new car, but it’s probably cheaper to operate a newer used car than an older used car, all else equal.

    (edit: upon refresh, I see your wife has already killed the Buick idea)

  • avatar
    JeremyM3

    I’m going to throw my opinion in here. First off I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer here. Some people are very comfortable daily driving a 30 year old car and others are not. Here is my experience.

    My mother had two Mercedes diesels that she purchased new in the 80s, an 82 240D and an 85 300SD. My grandparents ended up with the cars and the 240D went to my widowed aunt who drive it to 400k miles on the original engine and auto transmission. She stopped driving it when the sunroof would not seal properly one day. The 300SD was driven to 200k and left behind my grandparents house due to my grandmother getting a W140 S500. We donated the 240D and sold the 300SD to a man in Chicago who flew in to pick it up and drive it to Chicago from Houston Tx. These cars left a mark on me. I purchased a 2006 E55 brand new from the dealership. I then searched for over a year to find a 300D because I wanted one as a second car. I found one in California from the original owner. I had my mechanic go through the entire car with a fine tooth comb and fix anything and everything that needed attention. I think we are forgetting these cars are 30+ years old. They were designed in the 70’s. I think I may be coming from a different perspective because I grew up with these cars and I’m very “Comfortable” driving my 300D. I don’t think it is under-powered but you get used to driving them. They really make you a better driver because you learn to anticipate your moves in them. Mine handles very well for a car of its age and weight and the brakes are more then modern for a 30 year old car. I purchased mine to drive as a side car but my E55 sits in the garage more than the 300D. I find myself looking forward to my work commute in it. It is a very “capable” car if you will. The styling is great and I get more compliments on the car then I would really like. Mine does not leak oil, smell or leak water into the cabin. The car was originally equipped with Leather as an option, most know that MB tex is the norm. In 30 years the leather has zero holes and the leather is soft. I know mine was a well kept example but many original owners of these cars REFUSE to get rid of them. I have 140k miles on mine now and I don’t plan on selling it anytime soon. It has zero rust and is original down to the Becker radio and original working antenna. They have some weak points that are well known. Climate Control/ Vacuum issues. Once these are addressed you have a very well built driver. I would not hesitate to drive mine across the country tomorrow. I see many of them on the road here in Houston, some in good shape and most in terrible shape. How often do you see a 30 year old Chevy on the road? These cars are loved by those who appreciate them. I would tell you to go for it, you cannot loose. Just buy one that has been well loved and take a chance. No 30 year old German car is not going to need something but id rather drive a 30 year old 300D then a 2013 Chevy. Then again that’s just my taste.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Mercedes keys

    This is very common on any older lock cylinder but the great part is this : you can take your registration & license into your local M-B Dealer and they’ll order you up a brandy new master Key (fits every lock on the car) for $20 if they’re honest , slightly more if they’re greedy & dishonest .

    The keys are made from the master file , not your old worn out copy .

    Once in a while the lock cylinder proper wears out , they’ll also sell you a new lock cylinder that is coded to match your original keys , this is a bargain at any cost and is fairly simple to install @ home .

    Remember to The Mercedes Classic Center has parts available as the standard list prices, never any gouging , they’ve been very good at getting hard to find color matching interior parts for all my old W-123’s .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Calico Jack

    One of the most brutal parts of car buying is “The road not taken” syndrome. Six months down the road, are you going to feel a little ping of regret every time the car you didn’t buy rolls past you in a parking lot? Buy the car your heart is leaning towards and even if it goes badly, you won’t regret it too much.

    As the current owner of a 1983 M-B 300D and a former owner of a 1988 Volvo 240 GL wagon, here’s my two cents. The fact is the two cars are probably more similar then dissimilar. Both have engines that were in production for a very long time and had the bugs all worked out. The interior and exterior construction of both are absolutely superior craftsmanship. Both have simple, comfortable ergonomics. Neither is a very “sporty” car (which I’m fine with, give me a big cushy cruiser any day of the week), but both could use a little more straight-line power for merging and passing. The Volvo definitely rides more firmly than the Mercedes, and has enormously comfortable seats and a truly absurd amount of interior cargo space in wagon form with the rear seat folded up. The Mercedes W123 has diesel fuel economy, design simplicity that makes DIY a breeze, and the ability to rack up even higher milages than the 240.

    An earlier poster was right, Mercedes-Benz guys can be jackasses about the 240. I don’t know why and I wish they’d quit it, I love them both.
    Someone once described the 240 as “a Swedish Chevy”, which are fightin’ words around my house. If you do have a Mercedes, though, they have just as active and knowledgeable a following as the Volvo does.

    My 30-year-old, daily-driver 300D is perfectly reliable. It’s the only car I own now, and I never feel nervous about it. Sure, I’m steadily replacing rubber components and have most of them done by now, but it’s thirty year old rubber, what do you expect? If you do get one, however, you absolutely should find a model with the 5-cyl turbo engine. It’s slow but adequate, and I’d hate to have it any slower.

    The Panther and the Lexus…I refuse to address the Panther because I don’t think it enters into the running in a conversation about cars with character. I like Lexuses…Lexi…whatever…but I don’t know if I’d buy one. Spectacular reliability of the mechanical systems, but they’re of such complexity you sure won’t be doing your own DIY work on them. Replacing the starter on an early LS400 is a $800-$1000 job involving 6-7 hours of labor because the damn thing’s buried down in the middle of the motor. Stuff like that’s just not my thing. And there was a guy talking earlier about how they wanted a grand for a set of switches…for $1500, you can buy a rebuilt transmission for a W123. MB parts aren’t as bad as some people make them out to be.

    Good luck to you (and take care of that Land Cruiser, those things are cool).

  • avatar
    mountain

    I got out of the Army after eight years and decided I need a reliable vehicle for college. I had been eying diesels for about the last 2 years of my enlistment. I got out and prowled craigslist for the better part of 6 months looking for a 300D. One day I found one 1978 300D Euro model(basic, no power anything and cloth seats) It was old and needed some work but it only had 119K miles on the odo and I bought it in 2012 for 3k. Cherry ride, paint is a 9 (after claybar) and the interior is an 8. Yea its 34 years old and had to spend a few bucks fixing it myself but it seems you are capable of brakes, tie rods and the starter and mostly the rubber parts that oxidize after 15 years. I cant say that the parts are expensive unless you are buying from the dealership Example: $450 for window regulator @MB vs $65 on amazon. The car is in pristine shape and I would drive it cross country in a heartbeat. Sure there are little things here and there but it is a solid car that will last for years. keep your eyes open and buy a good one, not one that needs work. stay under 180k miles if possible and look for cars that kept their clear coat. Anything 34 years old will have issues but the cool thing is these cars are cake to work on and there is sooooooo much info online. Chances are you could find a PM magazine with this car all over it!!!

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I’m still daily driving and rallying my old W123 Diesel Sports Coupe , over 360,000 miles and it’s never left me afoot yet .

    Sadly these cars rust so not so good Down East .

    -Nate


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