How do you characterize an engine well-known to propel the automobiles into which it is fitted for hundreds of thousands of trouble-free miles? “Reliable” wouldn’t even remotely do it justice. “Bulletproof” is better, but still falls short. The Mercedes-Benz OM617 five-cylinder diesel is just such an engine, one for which, quite frankly, superlatives fail me. An OM617 lurks beneath the hood of this W116 sedan.
And look; it’s the turbodiesel version! The 300 SD Turbodiesel, which was made exclusively for North America, was available only for 1978, 1979, and 1980.
I was amused to find this one parked outside my nearby Goodwill store. This owner took his W116 thrifting! Could the long-lasting OM617 be the ultimate engine for the penny-pincher?
I gather that this engine was pretty quick, especially among diesels, especially in its day. This W116 300 SD owner puts his car through its paces for all to see. Skip to 1:12 to see the engine in action.
This 300 SD looks to have been well used, with some paint challenges and a well-worn interior–but long may it keep on thrifting!
Impressive. If I ever bought a Mercedes-Benz, my first choice would be a diesel of this vintage.
That tuck-‘n-roll leather interior has held up pretty good for 35 years. Love that classic interior
I sense the beginnings of a new feature: Thrift Store Benzez? Perhaps not.
I also have an appreciation for Mercedes of this era. Not that I am the guy to take on the ownership challenges of an old Mercedes at this stage, but if I were going to buy an old foreign car for a daily driver, one of these would have to be considered. A very nice example of one doing just this kind of duty.
Nice find, Jim, I can’t imagine there are too many of these rolling around your neck if the woods anymore (if ever). The color combo is quite rare as well, a harbinger of things to come. Usually these are metallic brown with the cognac interior.
It still looks much newer than it should, even in 2013!
I would rock one if I could ever afford the maintenance costs.
These are tanks. My youngest brother had one for quite a while, as his daily driver, but eventually he decided it was getting to be a bit too much trouble. There are still a few on the streets here in Eugene, but the ranks are thinning. They’re getting old for a DD. But if one wants to keep a car going indefinitely, this is probably at or near the top of the list.
Ooh, I love those! That great diesel engine sure makes up for the ungainly sealed beams and battering-ram bumpers. I once (10 years ago?) nearly talked my brother into buying one, but that one was a little too crusty around the edges.
Our mom had the successor (not the immediate successor, but almost), a 1990 350 SDL Turbo.That thing was really neat too, but not exactly trouble-free. Bought in 2000, it came with a ream of maintenance and repair receipts, which showed that – among other things – the turbocharger had already been replaced twice. Overall, still a great car though. Not a sports car for sure, but acceleration wasn’t too bad, and road manners were excellent. And that interior! MB sure were at the top of their game back then.
saw one on craigslist (LA)with 700k miles on stock engine&rebuilt trans for sale by original owner,still running&still asking 2000 USD FOR IT.
The 0-60 time in the video seems to have been right around the 12.7 seconds claimed in Mercedes-Benz ads in 1978, perhaps several tenths of a second quicker. Impressive for a 35 year old diesel!
I found a 1978 advertisement for the 300SD Turbodiesel and posted it. It’s an interesting contrast to the sight of these cars now, as well as a stark contrast to MB advertising of today. The cars and the ads have both taken a huge step backward, in my opinion.
There are still quite a few of the these around in the Wet Coast. The drivetrain is very easy to DIY and with correct oil changes (3 months/5000km) the engines would go 500,000 km or more without a rebuild. Said rebuilds were relatively cheap and easy to do, too, if you know the right person to do such a job.
I have driven quite a few. The early ones were a new dimension in turbo lag, but on the highway, they were not bad for their day at all. The basic car is very solid and can be rebuilt pretty much indefinitely.
I kinda like these, I would rock one, in a 3rd world drug/arms lord sort of way, plus the body style reminds me of Ronin, which is always cool.
It’s so rare that I see these cars in proper running order. In my experience, they’re not exactly broken, but some aspect of boost or fuel delivery is out of adjustment and the cars just CRAWL.
Durability aside, what do people think about this engine vs the 2.5 five cyl and 3.0/3.5 six cyls which succeeded it?
A former neighbor who owns an indie MB shop had a w124 300d and he once confided in me that he had replaced the head twice because they cracked. Apparently the heads in the W124 diesels were aluminum while the ones used in w123, and our subject car as well, were cast iron.
BTW the hoods on the w116 diesels are very sought after by 6.9 owners, they are made from aluminum – a weight saver.
pshoar is correct. If everything isn’t right with these, they can’t get out of their own way.
I know of a 300SD whose left rear power window quit. We got the motor out and found that Daimler-Benz used different motors on the left and right sides. The day this car got assembled, either it was a Monday or Friday in Stuttgart, or the assembler had too much beer at lunch. The wrong-side motor was installed and its weep hole, to drain out moisture, faced UP. The motor had filled with water and was rusted solid.
pshoar is EXACTLY right. I had a 1980 model pretty much identical to this one, 10-15 years ago. I was too young/naive to realize it at the time, but I’m now sure the turbo didn’t work or something similar. You can’t fathom how long it took to get from 0-30…on flat ground, it was about the same speed as it getting pushed by a couple of people. I lived on a rural road in a bit of a blind curve and up a slight hill — I felt like I was taking my life in my hands every time I pulled out.
It was a sharp car, excellent interior, but basically the only thing holding it together below the chrome was the paint. I had a flat once, and Mercedes’ brilliant engineering used a jack that you stuck in a hole in the fender; when I started cranking, the body just started folding.
Didn’t think I was ever going to sell it. But it looked good.