A few weeks ago I was up in the hills way above Fort Collins orchestrating a home inspection and after walking around noticed the neighboring lot had a lot of interesting iron just sitting there. According to the seller of the property I was involved with, the owner was in the process of organizing everything to sell it, so I went over the fence and took a few very hurried pictures of everything. Included were a nice little assemblage of Mercedes-Benz sedans.
This somehow reminded me of Janis Joplin and her famous song that she recorded right before she passed. In any case, let’s twist it a bit – pretend that CCHQ will dip into its vast pile of ad dollars and buy one of them for you as a “reward” for your support over the years; which of them is your choice to tinker with? I’m fairly certain they all ran when parked.
Starting with the lowest performance level, the red car is a mighty 240D from the mid 70’s. Endowed with its diesel inline 4cylinder, it has maybe around 60hp but a lot more torque (well, still less than 100lb-ft but torque is what you feel!)
The red color is always good for an extra 5hp and sorely needed here, the matching hubcaps are just the icing on the Kuchen. Shall it be yours? At least you’ll start out on top of a hill, it’s all downhill for several miles so it’ll feel just as fast as anything else.
Next to it we have something slightly more mature, but I believe I misspoke just above, this may be even lower-powered, being a 200D. Also a 4-cylinder, this fintail is from after the mid-cycle refresh, the closest I can date it is 1966-1967, as I don’t think it’s a 1968 which got some further changes. Being gray, it’s a little more dour than the red car but people are more likely to give you a break when attempting to merge and you’ll get fewer speeding tickets than Speedy Gonzales in the red 240D. And gray is definitely “in” as a car color these days so you’ll fit right in.
One of the CC Poster Child Cars makes an appearance too, a venerable W123 in one of my all-time favorite Mercedes colors. Again, matching hubcaps, and this one seems to have the euro bumpers but not the lights.
As a 300D, it can at least sort of get out of its own way, best to get up to speed and then just keep going with the momentum play. With 77hp on tap from its inline 5-cylinder it’s no rocket but it’s not easy being green.
With one of the larger bumpers ever foisted on a German immigrant, this big boy strikes an imposing figure. I’m not sure I dig the beige paint, but I think it beats the copper color that was pretty popular at the time as well. Something very unfortunate befell (or fell on) the windshield, there’s a weirdly shaped large hole in it.
No matter, hopefully your windshield replacement deductible is small. And someone commented a while back that these older cars didn’t have that many electronics so if a little water got in, no biggie, right? The “Bundt-Cake” alloys are fitting on this model and give it a more modern look than the hubcaps some of the earlier cars wore.
300SD TurboDiesel. It’s a good thing the trunk is so wide, otherwise all that might not fit on there. The engine is a US-only inline-5 again, this time with a turbo. Only offered between 1978 and 1980, they still managed to sell over 28,000 of these in the US and Canada which seems like quite a lot.
Assuming it’s a ’79, it still only put out 110hp, and the 168lb-ft of torque isn’t going to move the well over 4000lb weight of this too rapidly, in fact 0-60 was around 16-17 seconds, more than twice as long as the Big Dog 6.9liter. At least the inside was a pleasant place to be as you watched the speedometer dial move slowly. Thank goodness for the mandatory 85mph speedometer which made it look like it was moving faster.
Ah, the modern era! It’s always good to finish with a W126, but yet again a diesel! Another 300SD TurboDiesel, this is one of over 78,000 produced for North America between 1980 and 1985. The color is very “period” and it’s also rolling on a set of Bundts. While the others all seem to be plated with the correct period plates, this one has a set that’s newer than the car, so perhaps it was acquired used.
I still like the W126 cars although some here find them to be trouble-prone these days; but hey, it still has bags of style, is solid, and comes from Mercedes’ greatest era. I’d kind of wish for a 420SEL myself but wouldn’t mind giving this 125hp wonder a bit of the old welly just for grins…
So there you have it. Five fairly underpowered but exquisitely built Mercedes-Benz sedans spanning most of its modern glory years. You can’t have two, but you gotta take one. Which is it? I think I’d want the avocado green 300D for myself.
Oh, and to get you in the mood, here is Janis herself (although the video was created later around the audio and it’s not a “live” performance, it’s overall quite good).
I wonder if these are leftovers from the waste-vegetable-oil conversion fad of about 10 years ago.
Old European cars are endless money pits.
++1 The most expensive car you can buy is a high-mileage, poorly maintained old European luxury car, your choice of makes.
I’ll take the red one, as long as it is not an automatic. Styling wise, the fintail cars never did anything for me, while the W115 is the cleanest looking ever.
I’d take the W116
I’ll take the Ford boom truck in the second picture. It’s likely diesel also and can pull these five to the mechanic’s shop for a well check.
License plate on red car: CLEAN UP AMERICA–BATHE A HIPPIE!
300D for me, not that it’s saying much but it’s going to be the peppiest to drive out of the bunch since the W123 is most certainly lighter than the W126 and the euro bumpers and great unique color make it a genuine looker over the whole bunch. Runner up would be the fintail, it may be the slowest but in battleship grey it oozes that mid century German car charm. I see potential that I won’t mention in front of the purists
Last is the 240D, I’ll never warm up to the W114 styling, it looks like a Granada.
Yeah they are kinda gutless I chased a turbo diesel Benz up the Bombay hill south of Auckland in my TD Xsara the black smoke from the Benz was evidence he had his clog down but the Xsara with four large adults aboard easily overtook less hp but a lot more torque than Benz offered, No I dont want one.
Nope. Although the fintail is attractive – I drove one of those for a few months in the 80’s (a 220 with the straight 6).
I have been fortunate to drive all of these cars at one time or another. The W123 is still the best car ever built, in my opinion anyway. When they were new, a Mercedes-Benz was still a much superior car to anything on the road. The only thing remotely as well made from this era would be a Peugeot 504.
With the turbocharged engine, the W123 had reasonable power, too. The same cannot be said for the S class models. The turbo lag on theses cars was a one-mississippi-two-mississippi kind of thing. Even when the tubo kicked in, 120 hp wasn’t a lot for a car that was around 2000 kg.
I never got the hype. Back in the day when these cars were new, folks here just wanted anything diesel, even an S class. You could get a 450SEL at the dealer, in stock, but you had to order a 300SD.
More great finds Jim. You are doing a excellent job providing cool and very interesting content, while Paul is away.
I’ll take the Binder in the background, please.
300SD turbo diesel please! It is the only Mercedes I’ve ever driven. The local Chrysler dealer had a matching one to this. Really liked it but the apartment I lived in absolutely refused to allow any vehicles to be plugged in in winter
( Costs too much hydro!🤑) So no point in even seriously thinking about it.
I would go for the fintail. You hardly ever see one on the road. Too bad it’s not a six cylinder car. The higher line cars had the quad stacked or Euro lights. It might have a column shifted four speed!
In the late-60s when I was ten or so a neighbor asked my dad drive their Mercedes once a week or so while they were away. It was gasoline but had a column-mounted four speed shifter, which was pretty cool for a ten-year-old who’d up until that point the only manual trans car I’d ridden in was my dad’s three-on-the-tree Rambler American (232 “Tri-Poised Power”.)
My uncle owned a 240D for 8-9 months back in the late seventies. He had a temporary job assignment at a facility some 60-65 miles from home and decided that it wasn’t worth relocating but he would instead commute back and forth every day. All but the first few and the last few miles were on the Interstate; apparently the Benz would happily cruise at 70 MPH without any strain, although it did take some time to get there. As soon as the temp assignment was completed he sold the 240D for more or less what he had in it, so he was happy with that. The one time I drove the car it seemed solid and well built but even with the four speed manual acceleration was more theory than actuality. For some reason owning a Mercedes has never been one of my goals, if I had the money to keep an old German car on the road it would have to be a Porsche 911.
You’re making me homesick, Jim (I grew up in Boulder and went to school in Fort Collins). The CO front range foothills are prime CC territory with surprising motley collections like this one parked among the Ponderosas.
I’d take the red one. While wheel covers with color that match the car look cheesy on most cars IMHO, they look great on these Benzes.
Whichever one has a manual transmission.
Or, since Shafer and Stembridge are picking cars from the background I might put dibs on the Plymouth Voyager in the background of the lead picture. Not a minivan, but the fairly uncommon Plymouth version of the Dodge B series van from the 70s. The narrow stripe of contrasting color is the tell.