Junkyard Find: 1975 Mercedes-Benz 240D

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1975 mercedes benz 240d

During the 1970s, if you were sensible and had a fat bankroll, you didn’t buy an Eldorado or Mark IV or even a Toyota Crown. No, you bought a staid, humorless-as-Richard-Wagner Mercedes-Benz W114/W115 sedan, and then you kept it while the pages flew off many decades of calendars. If you were really serious, you got the naturally aspirated four-cylinder diesel, as the original purchaser of this now-retired-at-age-42 San Francisco Bay Area 240D did.

Unlike many elderly cars in California, this one has some nasty body rust. If you live close to the ocean — and by “close” we’re talking a few blocks at most — the salt spray and daily morning fog will cause this kind of top-down rust on outdoor-parked cars. This one isn’t all that bad compared to some examples of Pacific Ocean Body Rot we have seen, but it rendered this car not worthy of restoration.

W114s are so well-built and their original owners so stolid that plenty of them still drive every day, 41 years after the final example rolled off the assembly line. This means they’re not hard to find in wrecking yards nowadays, as they reach the end of their half-million-mile roads. In this series, we have admired this ’71 250C, this ’73 280CE, this ’73 280C, this ’73 280C, this ’73 220, and this ’74 280C (plus this ’70 250 and this ’75 280C that I shot for other publications). Even though most of those are coupes, that’s just because I find the coupes weirder and more interesting; I have walked right by a dozen junked W114 sedans for every coupe I have photographed.

Under the hood, we see 62 clattery, immortal horsepower, courtesy of a 2.4-liter four-cylinder diesel engine. If you’re thinking that 62 horses in a 3,080-pound car sounds miserable, you’re very correct. Chugging down a highway onramp in one of these cars took patience and a thick skin for the insults, upraised middle fingers, and horn-blasts from drivers trapped behind. I took my driver’s-ed classes in a 48 hp 1979 Rabbit Diesel, which was intolerably slow, and that car’s 37-pounds-per-horsepower made it accelerate like a Top Fuel dragster compared to the 240D’s 50-pounds-per-horsepower. This is the price you pay when you shed all frivolity.

In California, some old Mercedes-Benz diesels have been converted to run on vegetable oil by Burning Man types, while ten times that number have been destroyed by nimrods who started the conversion process and then ran out of ability/money/motivation. This car never suffered that depressing fate. We can’t say how many miles it had on the clock when it retired, because the instrument cluster was purchased by a junkyard shopper before I got there.

No matter how many miles you put on an old Benz, though, the MB-Tex seat fabric looks as good as it did when it was brand-new. This leather-influenced plastic isn’t what I would describe as luxurious, but it lasts longer than any other component on the car.

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  • 415s30 415s30 on Apr 21, 2017

    Aww I have a 1983, I would love one in that color wow. Sad

  • 415s30 415s30 on Jan 13, 2018

    Oh nice color too, I have a 300D turbo and I really want an older body, but I do like the I5 turbo.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?