COAL: 1984 Mercedes Benz 300D Turbodiesel – One More Time, With Feeling

Happy Sunday! I took an accidental sabbatical last week due to moving my oldest back to her sophomore year of college. She took the LR4, so I have recently picked up a new (to me) COAL that I’ll write up later. Let’s pick up where we left off. The dark red 1980 300D was enjoyable, but each time I drove it one couldn’t help but wonder what a turbodiesel would add to the equation.

I was about to find out! On an innocent grocery store outing in 2002 or so, there she was at the side edge of the lot…a 1984 300D turbo sedan, dark blue nonmetallic paint. Once again, quite faded and oxidized. But that didn’t put me off, since I knew the the Klasse wax would take care of that with some elbow grease. The Bundt wheels were present but in dire need of paint. The side trim was missing, but turned out to be in the trunk as I later found.

So, this was a rough version of the legendary 300D turbodiesel for sure. But it spoke to me! I had driven a turbodiesel a handful of times in high school, a friend’s parents had a tobacco brown 1980 300SD. It was a powerful car, in it’s own way. Not Corvette fast, mind you, but faster than you expected such a large and heavy feeling car to be.  I wrote down the number on the sign and called. And called, and called. I always got a machine and left a message, but never got a return call.

About a month later, the 300D was still at the grocery store. And, I finally got a return call! The owner lived some hours away, and his daughter had taken the car to a local college where I lived. She bought a newer car, and they wouldn’t give her anything on a trade. So, dad directed her to park it with a for sale sign on it. Problem is, he had been passing the messages on to her since she lived locally, and asked her to follow up with the callers…..which she never did.

So, he was going back through and calling everyone. No one remained interested until he got a hold of me. He knew a little about the car….the odometer, which read a hopeful sounding 120,000 miles or so, had been broken for YEARS. He was sure it had twice the miles by now. And no air or heat. And the stereo didn’t turn on. And it didn’t like cold starts. So, what appeared to be a worthwhile project was sounding pretty dire. I offered $750.00 cash and he accepted.

Once we met up to exchange money and keys, I immediately started pumping it full of Power Service diesel additive….an IV for an old Mercedes diesel. Within a few hundred miles, it made a tremendous difference. Indeed, for all it’s faults, it ran very well and the transmission was as smooth as silk. The cruise control even worked!

I buffed the paint out several times and it shined up nicely. I had to wear latex gloves, so my fingers wouldn’t be stained dark blue. Spray paint the Bundt wheels, check. New tan WalMart carpet in the tan interior, black WalMart carpet in the trunk, check and check. I covered the well worn tan MBTex seats with nice sheepskin seat covers a friend gave me out of a 450SL he recently bought, as he didn’t care for them. I added a stereo from you guessed it, Crutchfield (who I ordered speakers from just this week for my latest COAL).

I went to my standby catalog back in the day, Adsit, for the little plastic sinkers that held all the side trim on. I don’t know why they had been removed and were in the trunk, but they all were in good shape and snapped back on without any problems. Adsit is still around and prints a fun paper catalog of new and used parts. I assume they must have a website by now…

This isn’t the actual car, but this is indeed what it looked like when I was done with it. This would have been a few months later, probably after at least a dozen buffings with the red Klasse. I didn’t know to clay bar at the time, but that would have made it even better, I presume. I actually had a friend with a detail shop ask me what in the world I had used, to make it clean up so well.

I did have to get the heat worked on. I probably would tackle this myself now, but it was above my pay grade at the time. About $700 later, I had a new heater control valve, rebuilt control unit, and new blower motor. Indeed, all was not lost, as I applied what I learned to later Mercedes COALs with heater problems I fixed myself. So, I made the money back over time I guess.

The new local WalMart Supercenter had an auto department, and I put on a set of their Douglas radials, which actually were quite satisfactory for this application. I can’t say how many miles I put on it since there was no working odometer, but probably 25,000 over the course of a year. I never addressed the A/C, but otherwise, it was in pretty good shape for an old car. I began toying with the idea of selling it on for something with A/C.

A local surveyor had a W126 body S-Class just like this, that I really admired. I don’t recall if it was a 420SEL or a 560SEL, but I do recall it had about 300,000 miles! It wasn’t for sale, but I wanted one like it if I could find a cheap one. Unfortunately, his wife was hit head on one afternoon by a drunk driver on a twisty local road. She was fine, but their S-Class was toast. I actually saw it pass by on a rollback before I found out it was his.

When I ran the ad (geez, a paper ad) for the 300D, I priced it at $3,900.00. My very first caller was the surveyor! He offered me $3,000.00 cash and I took it…..I had almost doubled my money, got a year of miles out of it, and that sure was an easy, quick sale for a car with no A/C or odometer. Bird in the hand, etc.

Shortly after it was sold, I found my W126 body S-Class, but it was a somewhat unconventional version we’ll look into.

Have you ever sold a car to the very first offer you received? Or later wish you had? I guess this would be in the realm of private party sales (as opposed to a trade).