By on September 11, 2013

09 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMost of the time, I don’t photograph junkyard-dwelling Mercedes-Benzes unless they’re coupes, SLs, or really old, but today’s W115 sedan was just so complete that I had to shoot it.
02 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinA car like this just isn’t worth enough to warrant restoration, especially when the interior smells like a genetically-engineered mildew experiment gone terribly awry (it takes a serious strain of mildew to thrive in Denver’s single-digit humidity).
16 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s not very rusty, although the wheelwells probably have a bit of an oxidation party going on.
05 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWith just 103 horses from the 2.2-liter four-cylinder, this fairly substantial car wasn’t going to be quick.
06 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinEspecially once the York air conditioning kicked in.
08 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinStill, these cars were built when Mercedes-Benz obliterated all comers in the build-quality competition, and they deserve our respect.

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56 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220...”


  • avatar
    jmo

    4-cyl and roll up windows for a base price in 1973 of $7,166. In today’s money $37,701.55.

    In comparison an entry level Cadillac Calais was $6,038 and the middle of the range Deville was $6,500.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      Putting it that way, and using your figures for Cadillac as the final sticker price, it seems not a good deal. When I sold MB’s as a kid, you could buy a new 1968 S-Class (280SE sedan, SOHC six cylinder with fuel injection) with automatic, MB Tex (nice vinyl upholstery like the 220 above), power windows and locks, AC, Becker AMFM stereo radio for $6700, about $500 less than a Sedan DeVille with typical options.

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        The dollar plummeted relative to the Deutschmark between 1968 and 1973, though. $6700 in 1968 got you DM26000; in 1973, the same $6700 would only get you DM17750.

        Or in other words, assuming the German price stayed constant, the $6700 S-class from 1968 would have cost you $9811 in 1973.

    • 0 avatar
      kkt

      Yeah, but I still see some early 1970s Mercedes on the road as daily drivers. How many early 1970s Cadillacs do you see still in daily use?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’m curious what part of the world are you in?

        They only 70s models I see around Western PA are restored. Someone in the building next to be has a beautiful mid 70s BMW 2002 they drive on sunny days.

        • 0 avatar
          snakebit

          ’28’,
          That would be the west coast, and you’d even see a handful of ’70s Cads, mostly LA, SF, Seattle, and to a lessor extent Portland. In eastern PA and my current home, not so common.

        • 0 avatar

          I’ve lived in FL for 10 years now but lived in western PA for 25. I’d say a real ‘daily driver’ can’t survive the winters there for too many years–Caddy or Merc. But here in FL I do see many w123’s and occasionally the 115’s. I almost never see any Detroit Iron pre-1987. And in a region of the world (SWFL) where there are more Caddys per any other car…it’s significant to note the lack of old ones. Maybe they all get shipped to other states after 20 years of service. Or maybe your average buyer of German cars just keeps their Euro-machine longer. I do know this: in our local “Al’s No Bull U-Pick-N-Pull I’ve seen 70’s Benzes but never a Lincoln / Caddy / Chrysler that vintage.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        how many people still want to pay to feed those 472/500/425 c.i. engines?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Right, but back then, you were paying for quality, and as Murilee says, M-B “obliterated all comers in the build-quality competition.” He wasn’t kidding. M-B cars of the era were RIDICULOUSLY over-engineered and over-built, and made with real craftsmanship, and that all costs money.

      We had a chance to make a direct comparison in the mid-’70s. My dad had bought a ’75 Coupe de Ville that was delivered to him with a bent frame. This, combined with the overboosted pinkie steering, made for fascinating highway driving – that thing wandered from side to side like Lindsay Lohan after a bender. As it turns out, the frame was bent when the car was being taken off the truck. The dealer knew it, and refused to fix it. Dad wrote to Cadillac and they basically gave him an oh-so-polite middle finger.

      So it was time for the Caddy to go. We shopped a Mercedes dealer, and found a slightly used ’75 450SE. Even a silly 12-year-old boy like me could see the difference in quality. For me, it was the doors. On the Caddy, stuff would rattle around after you closed the doors; the 450’s doors closed in an effortless, solid thunk. Back in the day, the car mags used to use phrases like “the doors sound like a bank vault closing,” and this was not hyperbole. I used to open and close the back doors just to hear the sound. All the switchgear felt like I imagined the controls of a 747 would feel. And the highway driving experience was just sublime – fast, and quiet, but responsive – like your own personal G4.

      The kicker? We visited the service department, and found a guy in a white lab coat listening to an engine with a stethoscope. Sold!

      Mom named it “Heinrich,” which was completely appropriate. We had the car for 12 years and would have had it longer had it not been so damn expensive to fix.

      Back in the day, cars like that 450 were ridiculously, over-the-top superior to pretty much anything you could compare it with. Caddies and Lincolns of the era weren’t even remotely competitive.

      The downfall came with Lexus – after that, Mercedes had to build its volume cars to a price, and it shows.
      These days, you see that kind of superiority in their top-end products, but not so much in the bread-and-butter cars like this one (which would be equivalent to a base C-class today).

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    I forget which model of the 200 series my father purchased new; he enjoyed driving it but sold it once the decision was made to move to a neighbor island in ’78. The question of where to obtain quality service received unpalatable answers, ranging from shipping it back to O’ahu each time to trusting the local tinker to do a good job.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Back in the 80s, growing up in Germany I had a neighbor that dealt in buying and selling Mercedes (usually new ones to folks in the states where he more or less sold his position on the waiting line). He had, for the longest time, a slate gray 220. While painfully slow, there was a sense of solidity and an air of engineering completeness that simply is missing from cars today. The doors closed with a solid “thunk” and every switch and lever worked with precision. Slow as it was, I loved that car. There was a certain elegance to it…a far cry from the Mercedes we know today.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The grille would look handsome on my wall.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yeah, but you’d have to drop real money for a new hood ornament. I seem to recall those cost $200 back in the day.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        It wasn’t that they were that valuable, the earlier ones, like the one on my ’62 220, were easy to steal, and extras weren’t kept in stock. You basically had to order the replacement from the factory. That might be especially true for the ’70s models that were changed so they weren’t so easy to steal, and tended to get broken off at the stem like this one seems to be.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Has to be one of the most simple, best rear end designs on a car since 1950. And that MB emblem on the back was crooked for a LONG time before somebody took it off.

  • avatar
    Garak

    103 horses? My MB had 60. THAT was slow.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    A good friend of mine bought a six cylinder model (not sure, think it is a ’74) in Germany and then after driving it there shipped it back to his home in New Zealand. He is still driving it. It has been well-maintained. He tells me he still has the factory original clutch after some 560,000 km.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I think this is as anachronistic as the mile high junk yard where you bought your car. You could really confuse things with a date/time legend on the picture. These things aren’t supposed to get junked.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Compared to a 50-some hp 220D, that carb’d 220 was a rocketship.

  • avatar
    millmech

    Is it possible to get a non-pried-open trunk lid in Denver?

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      It would have been pretty easy in this case, because like several German cars, it has a lock that can be changed to unlock position so that you need only push that chrome button to release the latch. But pick your excuse: the car came in locked with no keys, it was already unlocked but the yard rat or customer didn’t know this and went ahead with his universal tool i.e. crowbar, thinking???,’Da, I’ll get this motha to open’, pretty sad if someone came later to pull the lid, and found the damage. Sometimes, it does seem that junkyards only are in the scrap metal biz,recycling parts is secondary, and the only reason people were able to pull separate parts is the luck of beating the crusher.

      • 0 avatar
        Crabspirits

        Most yards disable the trunk latch or lock. Usually, this is performed by a yard worker in the quickest way possible, while prepping the car. This is presumably so somebody doesn’t inadvertently (or purposefully) get locked inside, or hide parts for later.

        The benz probably put up a struggle. Maybe the employee didn’t understand how to open it? Either way, “big Bertha” came out of the toolbox.

  • avatar
    Marko

    Fun fact: those “golf tee” door lock knobs were used in every generation of E-Class through the W211. (Good thing they interchange, since they break quite often.)

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Interestingly, the ones in my ’76 never broke in the 13 years I owned it (’00-’13).

      Maybe they’re more fragile these days?

      (On the main post, those headlight surrounds are in amazing shape for a ’73. Do they not gravel the roads around Denver?

      And what butchery happened to the fog lights? I’m not surprised they’re gone, but … there are what look like torch cuts or something around the mounts. Or maybe it’s just rust from where the reinforcements ate through paint…?)

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Some guy near where I go to community college seems to have a 280 of similar vintage…dunno where the hell he found an immaculate 70s Benz in brine-tastic PA, but he found it.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Estate sale. When I was in my early 20s a gentlemen at the club I worked at picked up an immaculate ’77 280 coupe from an estate for at the time $4K, which was a steal at 24K original miles.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        It did appear out of nowhere, so an estate sale or other form of auction seems like a sensible explanation.

        Especially since vintage Benzes and BMWs don’t show up often at all, for sale or not.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Believe it or not with rare exception (i.e. Benz SL) people don’t want them. For starters they have chrome and you can see out of them, not to mention they are lacking a touchscreen, thirty airbags, and 30 inch wheels. Heck they might require *gasp* regular maintenance too.

          In all seriousness though vintage Euro iron can be challenging for the DIY, not to mention parts can be difficult to acquire. But if you keep looking you might run across something very nice for cheap. even in this inflated economy. Get to know the online communities too, I can’t speak for Mercedes, but vintage Volvo and BMW have a healthy online presence and a decent aftermarket.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Believe it or not, 240s, 740s/760s and 940s/960s rarely show up for sale around here…

          • 0 avatar

            This is the problem I ran into my Pug 505 with. Great car, easy to work on. 502,000 now in under the belt. Parts are often times made of unobtanioum, sure once in a while you find a guy that knows a guy and the part you need just happened to fall off a truck 4000 miles away. But yeah no vintage presence like Volvo or BMW. Mercedes I have found it is more price, than availability.

            Pug is free to good home at the moment. Just like many Mercedes of the era are now in some areas of the country.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @NoGoYo

            If you seriously are looking for a RWD Volvo in PA I may be able to help you as my mechanic occasionally deals in them. I believe he had an ’84 244 but that may have sold. He also had two nice 850 wagons although those aren’t quite as rock solid from a design standpoint.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Michael Peerson

            A Pug? You are both awesome and brave at the same time.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            That and vintage car buffs ignore them because most old Benz’s have four doors, really the same goes for any classic though, you can’t own a vintage car AND have friends apparently.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Can it be? Bumpers! Classy styling! Build Quality! Good Engineering!

    Absolutely none of those words befit a modern Mercedes, they’ve gone from Rolex’s to expensive Ipods.

    I never did understand how old Mercedes like this end up in the junkyard as well built as they were, well save for the diesel models were I’m sure were great but they’re often killed by too much fast food.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Disagree – a lot of that old Mercedes DNA is still there in the top of the line models. It’s the middle and lower part that has suffered. This car would be equivalent to a base C-class today, and those just don’t have the quality mojo anymore.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    Not trying to be a hater, but I guess I never understood the romanticism over Benzes of decades past. Yeah, they may have been reliable and built like tanks, but then, so are John Deere tractors.

    And as for looks, while they’re attractive enough, the design makes them look slow, heavy and ponderous. I guess you could say there’s some truth in design there, because it seems like that’s what they actually were. Contrast that with BMWs of decades past, which were not only attractive but sleek and sporty to boot. A 2002 looks like it wants to go 100 on the autobahn. A Benz looks like it wants to squat in some old man’s driveway. Maybe I’ve always found the designs too front-heavy, with those bumpers, lights and hulking grills.

    To each their own though. Obviously they were good cars.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      You mean you don’t look like John Deere tractors? The immensely rugged simplicity always brings a smile to this mechanically-oriented guy’s face.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      I think you statement sums up the facts.Picking late 1960’s examples of both the DeVille and the S-Class Mercedes, they were both put together very well, and it’s hard to say which one was made better, it all depends on what you were looking for in a luxury car. You might prefer the superior handling of the MB, but at slower speeds, the quick ratio power steering of Cadillac was a pleasant surprise to anyone who expected it would be like just another Olds or Buick.

      As for appearing slow, maybe it just looks that way when parked,to you. To those who regularly drove them on the highway, we thought a little differently about that. During the late 1960’s, the S-Class models, most of which were six cylinders then, were just fine at speed. And always in the back of a Mercedes drivers mind in the late 1960’s was the knowledge that the then-current fastest production sedan you could buy was an S-Class model (the 300SEL 6.3, a long wheelbase S-Class sedan with the MB 600 limousine motor). So, ‘slow-looking’ and and old persons car wasn’t on our minds.

      Kudos for bringing up the BMW 2002. I and a couple of my friends owned those in college, but when I worked in the MB dealer, the only ’02’ model you could buy was the 1600 coupe. Though not as fast as a 2002 model, you could tell that it was also a well-made car, then for about the same money as a base V8 Mustang($2700).

      Again, choosing the late 1960’s, it was a high point for both MB and Cadillac.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Interesting (s)wipers – that laid back look…

    Rover P5B with small Buick V8 should have knocked the sales socks off. Guess a slipper bath from Solihull wasn’t good enough.

  • avatar
    craiger

    When I was in high school around 1980 my friend’s father had one of these in his garage, in immaculate condition. He never drove it, as far as I know. We used to sit in it, from time to time. I still remember marveling at the solidity, the craftsmanship, the tactile feedback of the switches and knobs. This was a significant episode in the early beginnings of my love affair with German cars.

    This junkyard find makes me sad.

  • avatar
    ClayT

    We had a ’65 220 B model back in the ’70’s. Straight 6 and four on the tree.
    Made many a ‘Vegas run in it. Cruise at 80-90 all day long.
    Great drive-in movie car. Huge trunk* for smuggling in your friends. Rear seat sat higher than the fronts so back seat passengers weren’t looking through the heads in the front seats.
    German engineering…
    Back then, your typical wind up window took four or five cranks for the glass to go top to bottom.
    The Mercedes was less than two (effortless) turns.
    Wing windows operated by turning a small round knob. No more hand prints on the wing windows.
    ‘Golf tee’ door locks. The driver door had a feature that prohibited it from being locked while it was open. Made it very difficult to lock the keys in. All the other doors would lock when open, and stayed locked when the door was closed. Use the key to lock the driver door, or open the back door and lock the front from there…

    *One year, we discovered “Santa” was using the trunk to store Christmas presents.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    These cars tend to leak profusely after the windshield and backlight grommets dry up , then the floor pans rust away quickly even here in So. Cal. .

    The W114 & 115 chassis are stodgy and fairly slow but , they handle the twisty bits with aplomb , once you get them up to speed .

    I too don’t cotton to the styling , more’s the pity as a couple years ago I stumbled upon a 114 250CE Coupe , I wasn’t askeert of the Bosch D-Jetronic F.I. as I’ve been working on it for decades now .

    Not sure if passing on it was a good or a bad thing even now .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Back in the days these had a cachet that is non-existant among today’s Benzes , even the top of the line ones . Recall a co-workers butter-yellow 220 sedan , may well have been the same year , when I was living in San Antonio in the eighties . At the time it was a ten year old car , albeit well kept up . Other co-workers , usually driving two year old loaded Cutlass Supremes would ooh-and -ah over this Benz – back then in the pre-lease era, before the vast difference in wealth inequality Benzes of any era simply weren’t seen as much and this lady’s 10 year old Benz was seen as a symbol of her exalted status . She was married to an older, allegedly wealthy guy who drove a 5-year old El Dorado in the same butter yellow color . In today’s consumerist brand-concious world that innocence is lost and the typical M-B or Bentley or whatever is just not a big deal to anyone .

  • avatar
    -Nate

    A select few of us here , rather like the GM ‘ Saginaw Squish ‘ power steering option .

    it’s on my old Shop Truck and it works just fine .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Andy D

    This is basically the Mercedes equivalent of the BMW 528e. I have 2 of them for daily drivers. Parts are available. Internet support is huge. Cars are easy to work on once you grok the engineering

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    I had a 220D with Euro-specs I bought taxfree at Schiphol Int’l airport while I was stationed in Germany ’72-’80. Mine was Green and had the Leatherette seats and interior in Camel. Rugged, dependable and reliable as all hell.

    My mom and dad used it to tour all over Europe for two years while they were staying with their relatives in Europe or with me at Heidelberg.

    The 200/200D were popular as taxicabs and other livery in Europe while the 220/220D appealed more to the business owners and managers.

    For me it was a trouble-free vehicle for all the time I owned it. I sold it to a young AF Captain for more than I paid for it. And he was as happy as a clam even though he couldn’t take it back to the States with him because it was a Euro-spec vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      HDC,

      Can you fill a youngster in on how you could buy cars tax free at an airport?

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Derek, there were several different avenues open to buying cars tax-free while in Europe, or visiting as Tourists in Europe.

        The way I did it was to contact a Mercedes-Benz Dealer near Heidelberg where I was residing with the US military and ask for their tax-free purchase program. But they had the BX concessions for the Big Three there as well for the military and Diplomatic personnel, if they wanted a Big Three Yank Tank.

        I had to present some identification at the M-B dealer, military ID card and PCS orders which they all copied and then picked the vehicle I wanted from prepositioned Euro-spec stock at Schiphol.

        The procedure was similar for US-specced vehicles except you had to wait for them to get built. We could either pre-pay the whole amount to the dealer or pay with a certified check upon pickup at Schiphol. The closing costs were minimal, IIRC $500-American sealed that deal.

        Since the car was primarily for my dad’s use while he and my mom were visiting Europe, he chose the latter.

        The reason we chose Schiphol over Ramstein, Frankfurt or Munich was because my folks were flying in to Schiphol from JFK and I would be there to meet them, take them back to Heidelberg with me and get them acclimated to Europe. Schiphol had an entire complex set up for tax-free sales at that time.

        There were many other similar programs to buy tax-free at that time. Volvo had them, VW had them, BMW had them and lots of Americans would fly to Germany, pick up their new car, drive it around Europe for up to six months with the Oval Customs Plates, and then ship them back home to the US through Rotterdam, Antwerp or Bremen.

        My mom’s brother picked up a brand new Porsche 912 that way, as a German-American Tourist, drove it around Europe for a month or more and then booked passage for him and his new Porsche from Bremen to Hoboken.

        While I was in Nam in 1967, I ordered a 1968 Mercury Monterey (tax-free and at a substantial discount off MSRP) through the BX for delivery upon my return to the States, in Huntington Beach, CA, where my parents lived at that time. Uneventful. It was there waiting for me although I was still waiting for the check from Chase Manhattan Bank to arrive there through the Saigon Branch. I had the PO in hand and the Chase loan approval and that was all it took to take delivery.

        I had a buddy stationed in the Netherlands with the US Air Force and he bought several motorcycles and cars tax-free while he was there over a period of eight years. One of his BMW bikes was wrecked when parked in a hit-and-run incident and when he sold it to a Dutch National who owned a BMW dealership, the Dutch National paid the 4000-guilder customs duties on it, rebuilt it, and sold it to someone else.

        Volvo even had a program where they picked up the buyers on a Cruise Ship, floated them to Gotheburg, took them to the Volvo factory where they took delivery of their new Volvo and then ferried them back to mainland Europe. Lots of GIs did that too.

        But it wasn’t just GIs. Anyone who went over there as a tourist could do the same. And lots of people did.

        I don’t know if those tax-free tourist programs are still in existence today because I have been out of the game since I retired from the Air Force in 1985 and opened up an entirely new chapter in my life after that.

  • avatar
    Defender90

    Aww a “Strich Acht” (/8) as my German mates called them! Haven’t seen one for years, nostalgie.
    Those things were unstoppable a friend was living in an ex taxi 240d with inter galactic mileage after his life went to pieces and he never maintained it, it leaked so much that it needed topping up with every fluid known to man each morning, needed to be push started and huge rust holes in the floor but: IT WOULD NOT DIE. Zombie car.
    The build quality was just legendary although the Germans reckoned the rot set in, literally, with this model, as Benz started using inferior quality recycled steel as opposed to the virgin steel they had previousely, hence they rusted more than they should. Something about carbon content apparently, (East German vehicles were also rust prone due to the poor composition of the crap steel I was told).

  • avatar
    MercedesMan

    I have a soft spot for these because my grandfather had the same model in white but with the same interior as shown above. His lasted to well somewhere in 250k then he sold it. I still see a white benz around where he lives from time to time.


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