(first posted 4/6/2012) The Mercedes W114/W115 ‘New Generation’ was the continuation of Mercedes’ new styling direction for the Sixties, which began with the finless 220SEb coupe and cabriolet in 1961 and the S Class in 1965. The new 200 series brought the new design language to their most attainable range of cars, including the Diesel models.
When the W111 fintail was introduced in 1959, replacing the venerable Ponton, the sedan versions sported some very un-Mercedeslike fins on the back. The coupe and cabriolet, however, had much more conservative styling, replacing the fins with a gently sloped rear deck that would be used as a template for the W108 ‘Super’ that would replace the top-of-the-line W111 in 1965.
While the flossy 250S, 280S and 300SEs now wore the subtle, elegant lines of the W108 chassis, the lower end gas and diesel fintails continued – until 1968. While some may consider these cars bland, they are one of my favorite Mercedes-Benzes. These understated cars with their bulletproof mechanicals and remarkable quality lured many Imperial, Cadillac and Lincoln owners into Mercedes dealerships in the late ’60s and early ’70s – as related in Paul’s W108 article.
The New Generation class, or W114/W115, was introduced for 1968. All versions used the same body. W114s had a variety of six-cylinder gasoline engines, while the W115 used four-cylinder diesels, five-cylinder diesels or four-cylinder gas powerplants. Diesel models initially included the 200D and our featured car, the 220D. The 220D was the fancier version of the diesel and had more standard features. The 2197 cc OHC engine used Bosch 4-plunger fuel injection and a 5-main bearing crankshaft.
New safety features included a collapsible steering column, padded instrument panel, breakaway rear view mirror and seatback locks as standard. The 13″ wheels of the outgoing fintails were replaced with 14 inchers. Wheelbases increased by two inches to 108.3, while the track narrowed slightly. Dual-circuit four-wheel disc brakes (as introduced about the same time on the Volvo 140) were an important new standard feature. And the rear swing axles, a Mercedes feature for years, were finally replaced with an all-new semi-trailing arm rear suspension.
But we’re focusing on the diesel, aren’t we? The W115 was intended for middle-class folks (in Europe, at least) who wanted a solid, unpretentious car for daily use. While captains of industry were buying leather and wood-trimmed 300SEL 6.3s, the accountants and shopkeepers were perfectly content with a 230 or 220D with M-B Tex vinyl and matte plastic trim. These cars were also highly desirable for taxi service. 200D’s were pretty common taxis at the time – and with their reliable service and high assembly quality, performed quite well.
In the US, though, this was seen as the cheapest way to get into a Mercedes, especially in ‘hey look at me’ LA. Yes, you probably got more looks in a 220D than a Corona, Montego or Cutlass Supreme, but you better not be running late for anything. The 220D produced just 65 hp at 4200 rpm, with 96 lb ft of torque. Add a sunny climate and A/C, and you would arrive in style – as long as you had an early start. This was not a hot rod, its function was good fuel economy and reliable service, and in that capacity, it more than delivered. But it must have hurt when a 220D owner got passed on the expressway by a Vega or Pinto. How embarrassing!
Changes to the W115 were relatively minor through the years. In 1972, the long-familiar two-spoke Mercedes steering wheel with chrome horn ring, was replaced with a padded four-spoke ‘safety’ version. In 1973, the 240D joined the 200D and 220D. It featured the new Federal ‘battering ram’ bumpers due to the new 5 mph bumper requirement. Under the hood was a new 2376 cc engine, still with 65 horsepower though. Zero to 100 km/h came in a leisurely 24.6 seconds. In 1975 a 300D was added, and it had a new five-cylinder diesel engine. It was also more luxurious than the 220D and 240D, with standard air conditioning and automatic transmission – items that were optional on the 220D. The 240D would continue to the end of the W115 generation in 1976 and continue on in the replacement W123 Mercedes.
The W108 and these W114/W115s led the way in Mercedes’ new post-fin look. In modified form, the styling would last all the way to the last W126s in 1991. While the simple lines may have been somewhat bland when new, they proved to be timeless, as this spotless 220D Paul found clearly shows. And you’ve got to love those color-coordinated wheel covers!
Every now and then I start wanting one of these. Manual transmission mandatory. The prices in my area are really reasonable. then I remember all of the horror stories of monstrously expensive parts and high-strung mechanics and I let my feelings for these cars pass.
I agree that the styling on these is timeless. And the color-keyed wheel covers were a defining characteristic which I always loved.
In the early 70s, my mother hired a guy to come and saw the bottoms off of some doors in the house after we got some new shag carpet. (I know, I know.) The guy showed up in one of these Mercedes diesels, probably one of the very earliest of this style. He pulled sawhorses and a Skillsaw out of the trunk and went to work.
I guess this set in my mind the ideal Mercedes – durable and practical. It is a shame that they had to go all Yuppie on us in the 1980s. I looked into one for about 6 minutes in 1985, but they had become ridiculously expensive for even the base diesel with a stick.
My first car, slow very slow with lots of smoke from the pipe, but it was so comortable. And it had about 800K kilometers ( !) on its odometer when it finnaly gave up.
What gave up, the car or the odometer? One of the things I find funny about old Benzes and Volvos is that the cars that allegedly last forever are also notorious for having odometers that fail. The only Benz I owned was a 1985 W123 and when I bought it I thought it was great that I got all the service records and it was driven so little between maintenance visits. Soon found out the odometer was working only about half of the time and probably had been like that for years.
A thing of beauty.
I had a ’73 for short time back in ’04. Purchased for $400 on ebay, I took the bus from NYC down to somewhere in PA to pick it up. The original owner had hit a deer with it about 7 years previous, after which it sat in a junkyard. The guy I bought it from picked it up to give his auto shop class something to work on. He threw a new hood, grille and fender on before I got it. The five hour drive home was uneventful considering it hadn’t moved more than a few miles in 7 years.
With the 4-speed stick the acceleration wasn’t a bad as you’d think, though properly planned freeway merges were a must. Mine really needed new injectors and glow plugs, and as the weather got colder starting it got harder and harder. It eventually got to the point where moving it for alternate side street cleaning involved either a jump pack or a sign begging the meter maids not to give it a ticket. I didn’t have the money or space to fix it so I ended up donating it. It likely ended up back in a junkyard, hopefully someone was able to use that cherry interior.
My first ride in one of this generation was in a Taxi, of course. We had just arrived in Amsterdam, in the summer of 1969, for our first return visit to Europe. We hired the taxi to give us a driving tour of the city, and my father did a very uncharacteristic thing: he insisted that I ride in the front, while he got in the back with my Mother and my two younger brothers.
It was exactly like this one: white, with tan interior. So I remember that ride with great vividness: the comfortable throne, the absolutely superb visibility, listening to the reassuring drone of the diesel rise and fall as the driver expertly shifted the gears.
There is something very comforting and reassuring in riding in a Mercedes diesel, especially back then. Nothing exuded a greater sense of utter indestructibility that it did. And that included every last little piece of it: a rolling chunk of marble; a sculpture to the gods of automotive immortality.
When the doctor down the street from where I grew up traded in his Lincoln Continental for one of these (around 1975 or so) we all laughed. Little did we know!
I was about to reply to Paul’s comment when I saw Turbo’s…now it’s really a reply to both of your comments.
I remember knowing these were special as a kid, but I don’t recall riding in one. As they ’70s wore on, a few of my parents’ friends had started buying Mercedes, but mostly S Classes. But my dad had one friend, who traded in a Cadillac for a W123 240D. I remember him driving me somewhere, and I will never forget the unique, solid feel of the car, and the sound of the diesel, and the way he got that thing to move.
At the risk of feeling and sounding old, I’d say that they really do not make them like they used to.
Is it possible to wrap it up in one word? Stoic, maybe.
In my shady used car days, I bought and sold many of these. They really epitmoised what I consider Mercedes Benz cars; supreme quality and understatement. Practically nothing ever broke on these cars. Hinges, hardware, upholstery, carpeting, were all first class. This is why I could sell 20 year old examples and not have irate customers coming back every ten seconds!
What I really remember about them was starting: you had to pull out a lever on the left of the steering wheel to activate the glow plugs. On a cold day this could take a minute or more. When the light finally went out, your diesel started to its noisy life, with plenty noise and vibration, too.
These cars were supremely well built. The MB products of today are nowhere near as good as these cars were and in fact, are nothing special at all.
And after the glow plugs warmed up, you pulled on the knob to engage the starter. To shut it off you turned the key switch and it activated a shutoff valve. Mine didn’t work when I first got it, so I had to pop the clutch to kill the engine.
Forgot about that part. You were actuating a cable on the injection pump that cut fuel flow. Nothing electric to break, not even a glow plug relay. Indestructible.
Ive had a few glowplug diesels getting in and starting is a different routine get in sit down ignition on glow then shut the door and put on seatbelt turn key and it starts, 65hp no not with any diesels Ive had of lateeven the NA Toyota I had claimed 67KW when new.
“On a cold day this could take a minute or more. ” We called it the “Diesel Gedenkminute” Diesel Memorial Minute.
I recall that the original tailpipe on these was chrome or stainless steel & that the hole @ the end of the pipe was a fake; there was a baffle inside that blew the exhaust downward, hiding the smoke a little.
Dang! They were cheating back then already!?! I never noticed that.
I have been keeping an eye on cheap 220-240D’s with the possible intention of grabing one just for the heck of it. manual of course, and I would love it if it was some sort of “avacado green” or “harvest gold” color scheme, with the color keyed wheels.
I dont consider them “luxury” cars in the traditional sense of the word, to me, they are the best made compact/economy car ever.
Here you go Carmine – avocado green and four-speed manual!
Just keep in mind the old adage, “there’s nothing as expensive as a cheap Mercedes”. (My 300D certainly fit this pattern.)
Boy, ain’t THAT the truth!
A good friend of mine owns one of these…a 1972. It actually does have the two spoke steering wheel with silver horn ring, so I believe it was 1973 when they were actually changed on the cars. He bought it from the original owner a few years ago who kept all of the receipts and documented everything. Unfortunately, the original owner kept that for himself. My friend, however, knows much of the work done on the car in the past 10 or 15 years, as he was the man’s mechanic. I can’t think of many people under the age of 30 who have two Mercedes, both classics.
I’ve driven the 220D a couple of times, and it really does make you feel like you’re riding in style. Just not so much if you’re unfamiliar with it and trying to drive through the Piedmont. It can be a bear to get up the hills. My friend, however, really knows how to work it and can cruise at highway speeds pretty well. It’s an automatic, but still a blast. He also has a 1980 240D (W123) and it’s a stick shift. Only about 3 more horsepower, but still a blast to drive.
In the 60’s, when I was a teenager, once in a while I’d see a Mercedes coming down the street. I wondered why anyone would want a plain, austere car like that. One day, as a friend and I walked home for lunch in junior high, we saw a dark green roadster. My friend remarked that the car cost around $ 10,000. I could not understand how that little car could cost that much. Considering that a strip down Cadillac could be bought for half that, who would buy a Mercedes? To me, it looked like a Rambler.
Live and learn. I realize Mercedes is the pinnacle of engineering and quality. Today, cars seem to all look alike. So prestige, price and affordability is the major factor. But if I had my pick between a 70 Mercedes or a Cadillac, I’d sure pick the Cadillac.
I also always saw the Rambler in these cars too.
But the headlight/signal light arrangement is UPSIDE DOWN! Or wait, hmm, “i before e except after…” 😉
A testament to MB’s phenomenal marketing talent, and its superb top-line cars, is that anyone could buy one of these econoboxes and feel special inside. Luxury is all about feeling (and looking) special. I once had an opportunity to buy a fintail economy model with an Indian OM616 (Bajaj Tempo) diesel retrofit, but the car didn’t seem that special to me. That was the first time I felt anything but respect for MB cars, and realised all were not created equal.
MB diesel slow is thy name it took until PSA built the 405 for diesels to move out of the slow lane I have nealy the last of those 1905cc TDI mills in my car absolutely brilliant fuel milage and on NZs twisty 2lane roads nothing passes me or keeps up.
That picture of the interior brings back memories… Riding in the front seats of my grandpa’s light blue 200 as little kids. The sticky, awful feeling of the MB-tex upholstery on my bare skin (little kids customarily wear short pants at the time.) It seems like comfort and nice feel wasn’t anywhere near the material’s design priority. That knob for opening the vent windows was incredibly stiff, my little hands can’t turn them. I remember that the headlights knob has a position for turning just the left or right headlight by itself. What’s the purpose of that?
Those are parking lights. So traffic does not run into your car when it’s parked. You can also pull out the knob for fog lights.
What fine cars they were. Love that understated styling.
My 1990 W124 200d still has only 75hp and 125nm of torque. Also still a four speed manual. What else could one need. Buttersmooth click clack gearchange after all these years and I can be in fourth all day. It’s not like it gets any quicker if I downshift anyway. Frugal to the core and mighty comfortable. It’s not afraid of bends either and it can do 160 kmh all day without missing a beat. I’m in Paris or Berlin in no time. If the outside temp is above say 16C I can feed it with vegetable oil. No mods needed. Normally if a diesel runs out of gas there’s big problems to be expected. Not with the Bosch fuel pump in this puppy. Just fill up turn the key and start a minute or two. That pump won’t break and it will do the job. Those 2.0 diesels do 1000000 km without hassle. Again what else could one need. It’s in a class of it’s own. They all were up until the dreaded E type with the round headlights. Benz were where it’s at.
Here’s a picture from the one time I had no diesel on me and went a little too far when the warning light for fuel was on. It has a 9L reserve capacity so that’s around 170/180 km. I was nearly home. I put it here to show a Benz actually still has those parking lights. I used them wrong that night though.
One more. I can’t seem to add pictures in edit mode.
Thank you. I wonder why they did not use the “parking” light for that purpose, but instead the headlight. Won’t that run the battery out faster?
So the W124 Benz still retain that feature. Do modern benzes still have that unusual feature?
It’s like this, no luxurious equipment standard, but there is abs, power steering, heated mirrors and an electrically adjustable right side mirror, hydraulic power locks and those parking lights on each and every one of them. Only the bare practical necessities were added. Left side mirror is hand adjustable for instance. That was the Benz way of doing things. Parking lights AND headlights would be overkill in their thinking. Overengineering yes, overkill no. That 75amp battery is not drained easily.
Modern Benz, meh I would not know. I am kind of liking the c type though. I might go out for testdrive one of these days and if I do I report back.
I’m trying to remember, but I don’t think my friend’s W202 does. I think it just has the regular ol’ park lights and headlights.
The car in the pictures does not have a headlamp lit. What you see, exaggerated by the camera, is the front position (Americans say “parking”) light built into the right-hand headlamp. In Europe, front position lamps have to be white; American-style amber ones are not allowed except (a recent change) on motorcycles. This car’s hazard flashers are also operating, which is why we see the left and right turn signals partly lit in both photos. The American “parking lamp” function is not the same as the “parking light” function as defined by the StVZO (loosely translated, that’s “German road vehicle code”). That function involves small, low-wattage lights — the rear position (“tail”) lamps in back and usually the front position (Americans say “parking”) lamps in front, though there have been vehicles with front parking lamp separate from the front position lamp. Howe’er they’re implemented, they’re operated _one side at a time_ for use when the vehicle is parked in a narrow street. This is a very old German requirement that is no longer required, because it — like the Swedish requirement for headlamp wipers-not-just-squirters and the French requirement for yellow headlamps and the UK dim-dip requirement—was out of alignment with the pan-European vehicle lighting code. Country-specific requirements like that were all quashed in the late ’80s/early ’90s, though most of the previously-required equipment remain permissible throughout Europe.
German-type “parking lamps” are fun to play with, but that’s all they are. The US method of requiring amber front and red rear side marker retroreflectors is far superior. It’s passive (driver doesn’t have to turn them on), it works all night long every time a vehicle’s headlamps shine on the parked car without drawing any power, it doesn’t stop working if a bulb burns out, and it doesn’t require complicated switching arrangements. But it’s a rare German-car fan who’s prepared to acknowledge that some aspects of US car lighting rules are better than their European counterparts.
American didn’t get amber park lamps until 1963 , the rest of your response as about as wrong too .
If you dislike a thing , SAY SO don’t go making up things .
I love me some German cars but they’re maintenance intensive and surely not for anyone who likes a Japanese car .
Amber front position (“parking”) lamps first appeared as an option to white ones on US-market cars in ’63, that’s right, as a byproduct of the industry’s voluntary adoption that year of amber front turn signals. That doesn’t change the veracity of anything I said. It’s not clear how your assertion about amber parking lamps is really apposite to anything.
Fun fact: the W114/W115 door lock knobs interchange with the W211 (2003-2009) E-Class.
One of the knobs on my mother’s W211 broke in half; I looked at “Mercedes door lock knobs” on eBay, and I saw a knob that looked identical. The description said that it was from a W114, but I ordered it anyway. Sure enough, it was indeed identical, and screwed right on!
Ironically, I had previously ordered a “W211” knob from another online parts store, but it looked completely different, and I had to return it.
my ’83 240d w/ 4spd. stick had the parking light feature, too. on mine it turned on either side of the parking lights. the idea was to use it on the street side of the car when you were parked at night. i always imagined myself pulled up half on the sidewalk in some european alley using them. in real life, i was terrified that my battery would wear down so i rarely used them.
Oh yeah, he had the wooden gear lever. I have my mind set on one of those too. BTW exactly the same lightswitch, steering wheel and rightside mirror adjuster on this beauty as in 1990.
For lovers of MB-Tex and other old automotive fabrics/vinyls, check out http://www.couchguitarstraps.com I bought a wonderful wallet from them made out of original NOS Red MB-Tex. I’ve had it almost a year now and it is holding up extremely well as would be expected. They are handmade in California and quite reasonably priced. Amazingly but not surprisingly, I am a little embarrassed to report that after a long drive during which the wallet has been in my back pocket and gotten a little warm, when I pull it out to pay for something, I experience the same aroma that I get when climbing into an older Benz…Warm MB-Tex!
Well, I had to buy one. More for that nostalgic smell you describe than anything else! Thanks for the link.
I got the GMC tan herringbone vinyl wallet last year myself – I think there was an article here about Couch – and I love it. I was torn between the MB-tex, the VW waffle vinyl or the GMC. I love that whiff of car interior smell you get everytime you open it. Great stuff for car guys.
I guess they don’t sell the Mopar vinyl because all of the seams would split in the first 90 days. 🙂
There indeed is nothing like a naturally aspirated indirect-injection Mercedes for reassuring solidity. I had a 1990 w124 250D, the big brother to Frenzic’s 200D. It was the manual gearbox model, which I wanted in order that it could get out of its own way. It was a great motorway cruiser, capable of silent cruising at 80mph or better, although it did take a bit of time to get up to speed. Unlike the older OM motors, it also could make it up hills without downshifting- I’d say its just about equal to my present petrol Volvo 240dl (on LPG) in power.
Oddly similar enough, like the Volvo, the Mercedes also had an insanely compact turning circle. There was a reason for this: part of the design brief for both cars was that they were expected to do taxi duty in their home country, and being able to turn in the width of a 2 lane road to pick up a fare without having to reverse was key.
However, inside, it is a different matter entirely- and this is where the Mercedes legend comes from. The materials- from the seat upholstery to the door clips were the same style as the w126 Mercedes, and equal in quality. The vents were metal, not cheap plastic, and the car was full of nice touches- like the reduction gear to enable the ashtray to open silently and slickly, the density of the carpets, which were much more akin to velour than carpeting. Similarly, the mirrors are different sizes- the passenger one is much smaller than the driver’s mirror. Why? So you won’t get it knocked when parked up on a crowded city street. It is that kind of engineering that made Mercedes a legend.
Plus, the fact that it survived 36,000 miles a year of commuting from single track rural roads, clogged M25 motorway and London traffic every day is a testament to its quality. In the two years and 70K I owned it, (from 99K-170k) I spent about £100 on repairs (plus oil and filters) only changing the brake pads/discs and one squeaky ball joint. Nothing broke, nothing fell off, and it never let me down, while still returning 35mpg- including at least 1 hour of stationary london traffic a day- it would do 45-50mpg if driven sensibly and without gridlock.
The thing that I cannot stress enough about these cars is how wonderful they are to work on. Unlike lesser vehicles (and the froggy E series that followed) the bolts are made of the strongest metal and don’t shear or round off. Brakes come apart and go back together easily. Even the door panels come apart with bolts and slide-in clips- none of those ‘rip out of the doorcard’ push pins here.
I think there will never be cars like this again. Mercedes may have improved from their nadir in the late 90s/early 00’s, but they no longer make simple over-engineered cars. My biggest mistake was selling it when diesel spiked in 2008 at about £1.50 a litre/ $10 a gallon (in the UK)- I thought it would keep rising, and I was in danger of not being able to afford my commute.
The Volvo that replaced it eventually is still a good solid tank, and is equal to the Mercedes in robustness of its bodywork and mechanicals, but for refinement, quality of fitments, or anything else, its still a mortal car.
What is interesting, is that until the Chryslerfication of Mercedes with the Froggy E class, each generation was an improvement on the last. The ‘stroke 8’ w114/5 were an improvement on the fintails in safety, design, and suspension. Likewise, the w123 improved on the /8 in power and durability- but never lost the quality. The 124 brought aerodynamics, high strength steel, and modern electrical reliability to the mix, as well as further refinement. There the legend ended.
At the risk of sounding too evangelical about these cars, its important to realise their faults. The first year or two of each generation Mercedes were dogs. When the 124’s were released, the taxi drivers in West Berlin went on strike over the poor quality. Likewise, even the now legendary w123’s were rusty poorly made lemons in their first two years. Now the w114/5? In Portland you wouldn’t know, but anywhere that salt is used, these cars were some of the biggest rust buckets ever made. Even Fords of the ’70s had nothing on how quickly these things could rot away. Indeed, all Mercedii from the late ’60s until about 1980ish had rust problems, likely due to the recycled Soviet steel that was everywhere in Europe at that time.
I wouldn’t say there was “Chryslerifcation” I’d Daimler, but Daimler Ass-Rapng Chrysler through de-contenting to where the products Mopar products screamed cheap and lousy – until last year. Daimler products too had to cut corners. Benz can’t afford to make a W126 car anymore. Note: current E class is a well put together, great performing car that, if you don’t go ape shit on options, won’t wind up too high in the stratosphere. Just don’t get carried away with AMG stuff and xenon lighting packages and the like.
My parents bought a 69 240 brand new in the Panama Canal Zone and proceeded to drive it from Albrook AFB to Northern Virginia with a week stopover in Reno, NV. The 240 (gas) was black with dark red Tex. My mom drove it the entire year my dad was in Vietnam through 71. Unfortunately in broke down regularly the whole year. I remember being repeatedly rescued by the local MB dealer. The 71 Estate Wagon demonstrator came after that…and never another foreign car.
My great uncle on my dads side had a similar story. He was a Mercedes guy all through the 60’s and early 70’s. Then he got a hold of a 240D in 1975 that ended his love affair with the marque. Rust, sloth slow acceleration and numerous visits to the Mercedes dealer saw to that. In late 1979 he bought a 1980 new style Buick Century sedan with the Buick 231 V6 in Limited trim with the rare rallye suspension option and never bought German again.
The pictures appear to be dead.
Excellent post! I like the look of the 1970’s Mercedes models. These all are very beautiful and luxurious Cars. Thanks for the stunning blog.
Sweet looking Mercedes-Benz. This was when Mercedes-Benz truly meant something great. Like our American Cadillac and Lincoln cars of this vintage, if you wanted a great car, and you earned enough money, this was a car you could drive. The last great Mercedes-Benz Diesel (IMHO) was the W123 and the W123T. Today’s Mercedes-Benz have become something of a punchline in a joke, without the humour.
In its days there was nothing else on the road that was so well built and lasted so long as a W115 diesel. Acceleration and top speed: completely irrelevant, trivial nonsense once you were inside and rolled down the road into automotive eternity.
W116 ? C107 ? R107 ? What ? Never heard of…The W115 was the ultimate Benz, THE Mercedes…”He drives a Mercedes”…, no need to ask more, it was a W115 for sure.
Lovely cars. I prefer the European headlights tho. Those US spec ones make it look like it has an eye infection.
That shade of light green was a very popular W115-color, also on the W123 successor by the way. I saw this 1976 W115 200 at a classic car show last November.
About a dozen years ago a big old “Grey Gardens” looking house in Wyckoff, NJ that I used to pass daily was being prepped to go on the market after the last of its inhabitants had obviously left the premises. Day after day I watched as decades of overgrowth was trimmed away, loose shutters were repaired and painted and the lawn was manicured. Just about when the house itself started looking like it might be marketable as a $1million “fixer upper” to the househunters of Northern Bergen County they cleaned out the garage.
The contents of said garage were his-and-hers W111 fintails. One in that dolphin grey color, the other in black. Both pristine looking, but obviously long stored and not running. They sat in the circular driveway of that house for agonizing weeks with “For Sale” in soap lettering across their windshields. It took a lot to drive by twice a day and never stop to inquire, but I was in the middle of several simultaneous life changes, so the timing was hellish. Every time I see a W111 or W114/115 I think of “The 2 that got away”.
Somebody probably got a great deal on a starter collection of great vintage MB’s. I have no doubt those cars are back on the road at least semi-regularly.
Back in 1975; I worked for a TV repair/cable TV shop in Drain,OR and needed to go to the next town over to look at a TV, but all the company vans were in use; so the boss let me use her 220D Mercedes; which looked just like this car; only it had an automatic.
I thought, ‘Oh, boy I get to drive a Mercedes” but was sorely disappointed in the experience. Tom said they were slow; but with the auto; that was an understatement; I have had some slow cars; a 1960 Falcon 2-speed auto and a 1959 Ford Anglia, to name two; but that 220D was slower. And on the twisty mountain roads I was on; It was not that nimble either; but it was quiet, heavy and she said it got 25mpg.
What it reminded me of, was my dad’s 1954 Nash; which was slow (not quite as slow as the 220D, but close) heavy, quiet, and had a body with thick sheet-metal and doors like a fault.
I wished the MB would have been a 300 SEL 6.3; maybe I would have had tried to buy one years later; but with the 220D I could not see what all the fuss was about.
This one looks very pretty .
I’m not terribly fond of the W114/115’s looks but they were indeed incredibly well made and good handling Automobiles .
I have a 1982 240D , US model with NO options , not even a radio when new .
We love to tour America in it , yes it’s slow uphill but the 30 + MPG’s is nice , the AC is refrigerator cold in Death Valley and once you’ve seen one go though a serious collision you’ll understand how safe they are .
350,000 miles , one of these dayze I really need to overhaul both the engine and slushbox tranny .
I’m curious what you saw in a post-collision W114/115 that makes you say they’re especially safe.
The car survived; the people inside; maybe not; with no airbags, no modern crumple-zones, dashes.
Actually the W114/115’s have designed in crumple zones fore and aft .
That’s what makes them so safe ~ the passenger compartment remains intact .
I’ve been in the junk business since I was a wee lad so I remember seeing these brandy new bashed all to hell , no deaths .
My parents owned 114’s growing up. In 1976 we were driving from Florida home to Illinois, and in Cordele Georgia on I75 we were hit by a drunk driver from behind. Our 6 month old 280C spun and hit an overpass wall. Both ends of the car were wiped off but the cabin was intact and the doors opened and closed perfectly. My mom’s leg was broken because the RF wheel buckled under the car and pushed the floor up a bit. But we survived. I’ve always been impressed with these Mercedes. That car was replaced with a 1976 280 Sedan which served us well other than some cold start issues in the winter months. I want to find a nice 280C!
Mercedes pioneered/invented the crumple zone, starting with the 1959 W111, which had both front and rear crumple zones. Mercedes also started installing standard shoulder belts quite early, although I can’t find the exact year right now.
I’ve never liked these; they always struck me as boring-ugly, the result of stripping all the charm out of the W108. Also, zero to 60 in…oh, I’d say maybe sometime later this month.
This and I always remember the interior in my uncles was very dull and austere if well made. The seats were terrible in the Winter being Tex vinyl or whatever material they used during the time. Always preferred cloth because of this car. Those seats did however hold up pretty well during the 5 years he drove it.
In 1990/91 I worked for an independent Mercedes parts house that stocked many oem parts for older Mercedes. The owner had a mid ’70’s W115 240D stick shift. Talk about being built like a bank vault, these machines were truly built to last. We had a lot of sheet metal as well. The steel was very thick. All the little parts bits were truly high quality, very little plastic, lots of metal. I grew to appreciate how finely crafted these automobiles were. We shipped out parts from that warehouse all around the US.
There will never be Mercedes cars or any other make built to this high quality again. Those Diesels were heavy and slow, but built to last a lifetime. This was in the land of no rust so I don’t know how well they did in salt country, but I was truly impressed with this model and older Mercedes in general.
These are very likely the best “pure transportation” automobile ever made. I had one, and do regret selling it. If East coast rust had not done its work, I would still be driving it 8 years later. My current daily driver is a Peugeot 505 turbo diesel, and has a similar feel to my old 240d, not quite as robust perhaps, and with a good bit more forward thrust, but that comforting immortal feel is the same.
A legendary automobile, no question. I will say that it did seem that these and the 240D’s ran on coal rather than diesel, bad as they smoked. But run they did.
Trundling around in a ’94 W124 E220 at the moment. It’s last invoice was the paltry sum of US$89 for two genuine mercedes front discs and brake pads to get the old boy through the annual government inspection. Admittedly, I’d only done six thousand miles since the last test, but the clock is saying 119,000 miles on the odometer, so I’m surprised at those who comment how expensive parts are for these cars.
Quality, well built cars? You bet. Working on a few electrical bit ‘n bobs over the years I’ve discovered ALL the contacts have been dipped in silver to ensure a corrosion free experience.
This is one car I’m never selling on. There’s nothing built since to beat it.
MercyMercedes…….as in “mercy mercy, save me from public transport” after a year’s worth of hoofing it around on foot!
You have to understand the average American thinks maintenance is what you do after your five year old car won’t start anymore .
Deferring routine maintenance on a Mercedes means when some fool buys it cheaply later on , it’s full of worn out and/or broken bits making it a money pit .
I’m foolishly not only a Journeyman mechanic but I love me some German cars , the last 20 years have been old (’77 ~ ’85) Mercedes , all but one was/is a Diesel .
So yes , you’re correct but never , _EVER_ forget : a ‘cheap’ Mercedes will always be the very most expen$ive car you ever own .
I’d never recommend a Mercedes to anyone as much as I love them .
The good thing about the W124, and also the smaller contemporary W201, is that there are still plenty around with completely documented maintenance records and even with a low mileage on the clock.
This one is coming close to your splendid looking Benz, a 1991 W124 230E (132 hp 4-cylinder) automatic with just 91,000 km on the odometer.
Inside, a quarter of a century after it left the factory..
This is the last of the great Mercedes-Benz.
Mercedes of 90’s! Cool! These models are looking classy! Specially the W123 Mercedes! Glad to see such collective info on Mercedes models with details. It’s really a brand that cannot be compared with any other but care and maintenance should also be taken in the same way.
I regret that I’ve never owned or driven a Mercedes-Benz Diesel. I’ve ridden in a few as a passenger, but never driven one. I’d buy one if I could find one in decent condition.
They’re out there and amazingly good cars .
The pre 123 chassis ones are good and handle like sports cars but are fairly slow , even when fitted with manual gear boxes .
This has always been my favourite Mercedes-Benz generation, next up being the W123.
I have a 1970 Mercedes Benz 220D and it looks just like the white one in the pictures and all the original paperwork parts and I still drive it
I had the 1959 W111 pictured here, same pea soup green body, brown TEX seats interior, white top, 4 speed manual on the column. No power steering or air conditioning.
Acceleration was far too strong of a word for this car. But once I finally coaxed it up to 70 mph; it would happily hummmmmm along all day at this speed. Perfect for my daily 110 mile commute to and from college.
I bought the car cheaply from my Dad’s foreign car mechanic. His wife was developing arthritis in her hands and just couldn’t muscle the steering wheel around town comfortably any longer. Nobody else wanted the 4 speed on the tree and non power steering combo.
Dayum but that diesel was a noisy engine! Esp when it was below 45 degrees outside. My dorm parking lot was a semi circle lot, around the 1930’s WPA built 3 story brick dorm building, That clattering diesel noise was magnified by the brick building to the point of drowning out the radio when starting it up after it sat all nights. Guys in the dorm would open their windows, yell at me, flip me off or frisbee out empty Domino pizza boxes at me. (I would return their fickle finger “salutes” thru the sunroof as I slowly crept out of the parking lot.
Other than the noise and glacial “acceleration”; it was a comfortable, smooth riding car, with room for 5 full sized American college students in it. I had it for two semesters. It never broke down on me. Just required fuel and oil changes.
When gasoline skyrocketed in price (and diesel was still below a buck a gallon) I had ALL kinds of offers to sell it. One demented driver in an Audi 100 LS chased me down to admire the car and “make me an offer I couldn’t refuse” on it.
The fuel injected Opel Manta I replaced it with felt like an quarter mile dragster by comparison! It wasn’t as roomy inside or reliable as the Benz had been, though.
A good friend had a 220D he dearly loved in the 60s and said that he would never try to drag against a VW type 1 unless it had an oval rear window.
A healthy guy (or gal) on a 10 speed bicycle would run off and leave both of ’em.
Memories—not many, but enough of a few to bring a smile, on account of the one of these that made an early cameo in an earlyish COAL post of mine. Also in memory: the starter switch. Pull it to the first stop and watch the little round metal grate next to the switch; eventually (eventually!) the resistance coil behind the grate would heat up, toasterlike, to indicate that the glow plugs had done the same. Then pull the switch to the second stop to crank the engine. I almost recall a separate engine-stopping control, but I could be wrong about that. And once the engine was running, accumulation of momentum was even more eventual than starting it had been.
Good brakes, though.
In the summer of 1982 I was in Montreal for a couple of weeks but I had left my car back in Toronto. One weekend there was a 20km road race in Jay Peak Vermont that we thought would be fun. It is about a 2 hour drive from Montreal. My soon to be brother-in-law offered to let us use his Mercedes for the day. It was a W123, which is the successor to the W115, and it was a 300D which is the 5 cylinder non-turbo diesel. It was probably quicker than the 4 cylinders, but it was still lethargic. On the way down I found that the cruise control switched off whenever we hit even a slight hill on the autoroute. It could just not keep up its speed. Jay Peak is a ski resort, so as you might expect there are lots of big hills in the area. On the way back we were going up a very long hill quite slowly when we were passed by a Lada. I think that is worse than being passed by a Vega or Pinto.