240D question

This is a VERY open-ended question: I have an opportunity to buy a 1979 240D from a mechanic who specializes in German cars. He comes highly recommended. He says it's been well maintained, has 130,000 miles on it and
except for faded paint and the AC doesn't work it's a fine car. I've heard from others that the AC in these cars was junk and it not working is not surprising. He wants $1500 for it. The idea is that my wife will be working in Houston, TX and needs a car for a month. She'll drive it (NO AC!!!) and then I'll fly in and we'll drive it 2500 miles home to Oregon and have a nice road trip along the way.
Anything I should know about these cars? We have a 2001 VW Golf TDI so we know what modern diesel is all about. Assuming I don't care about the AC, anything else about the cars that are problem points/things to check out?
Any thoughts and help would be greatly appreciated.
Peter
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"we know what modern diesel is all about"
This old 4 cylinder 240D is no modern diesel; it's 1970 technology. These old cars are very basic, easy to understand and repair by a DIY owner. This engine makes about 68 HP and the car weighs about 3,300 lbs - starting to get the picture? 0 to 60 in about 18 seconds, which is OK for driving on local streets in town but not OK in competitive freeway driving, IMHO.
Don't put your wife into this old car, especially if she'll be driving it in Houston. Remember, this car is 27 years old!
If you want a (123 chassis) model (like this one) buy a '82 - '85 300D turbodiesel or a (126 chassis) '81 - '85 300SD which is larger but has the same power train. This 5 cylinder diesel is also simple and understandable but makes 120 HP which is adequate, not ample, for current driving conditions. One of these would be good in Oregon if you don't live where there are long hills.
Any 123 chassis should be checked for rust and engines of this age ought to be given a compression test before any cash changes hands for that's the only way to gauge the engine's remaining life. Prior to '81 the A/C system in the 300D, not the 240D, is very complicated and expensive to repair. The 240D uses simpler, manual controls but the compressor etc. is the same.
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same.
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Well...... not entirely true:)
That 240D used the horsepower-consuming upright 2-cyl York compressor.
81 and up, used the A4 axial Delco compressor.
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Also, the automatic and the manual are not to be compared, the manual drives like a regular powered car. Unless a 5l v8 is considered normal.
cp
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I still don't understand why you think the 300SD underpowered. I had one and would drive up mountain passes bigger than anything seen in the US and the car would barely notice it's going up hill. Highway traffic? 115mph no problem. Maybe there's something not right with your 116 300sd.
cp
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Sounds like fun except for the no AC in Houston part. Hopefully it's going to be in winter... It does seem like a bit of a sketchy plan to me, though unless you are a good troubleshooter and your wife is comfortable dealing with some problems.
It seems insane to assume it's just going to be perfect and work fine. It might, but that would be very, very lucky.
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As T G Lambach said, a 240D engine is no comparison with a modern diesel. Well, it is much simpler -- no turbo.
DAS
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Thanks all,
By saying we have a TDI I meant to acknowledge that the two diesels are not really comparable but we know some of the basics of diesel. My wife won't be driving on freeways just surface streets. I'm aware of how much of a slug the 240D is.
When we get it home it will be car I use to travel slow roads on the coast to work. 50 to 80 mile round trips. I have a 2003 MINI, which I love and don't want to put more miles on the little car than is necessary. What we're looking for is a reasonably economical work horse with a bit of style.
Peter

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On Sat, 22 Oct 2005 08:25:11 -0700,
had to open a new box of zerones to say:

I bought a 1983 240D with 172,000 miles on it from Bill Ditmire in October 2003... I've put about 15,000 miles on it since and have nothing to say but good about the car...
On a 1000 mile trip, the fuel system borked but the car never stopped running and I limped into Indianapolis, Indiana where I found an old-school mechanic who put me back on the road with an outlay of less than $300 dollars... I have since had the dealer in Springfield, MO adjust the valves and check the timing chain... The car has performed without complaint since and I expect to drive it until I'm ready for the crusher... :o)
I've never experienced a problem maintaining Interstate speeds and driving it around town is a snap... True, the sunroof doesn't work and the air conditioning is kerblunken as well... I solved those problems by driving the car in the cooler months... The passenger and right rear window lifts failed but a trip through the car wash seems to have fixed that glitch... Should they fail again, I'll just blow another 5 bucks on a wash job...
In all, there's little bad that can be said about the car as long as you understand that you'll be getting a mule, not a Kentucky Derby winner... Frankly, mules have much better personalities... :o)
<! -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- > zenit
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The 240D is not a modern Diesel. It is one of the most bulletproof cars ever made by Mercedes. Taxicab drivers used to take 240D's as a standard taxicab in Germany for years. Mileages of 500.000 miles and above are not at all uncommon. This is the good part.
The bad part: In the beginning the 240D featured only 65 HP, after some years they upgraded it to 72 HP which still is not very much for such a big car. I drove one myself for some months (before it was totalled at an accident). Being designed as a Taxicab, the car is quite noisy and acceleration is only sufficient up to 50 mph. Compared to modern Diesels the 240D burns quite much fuel, I got mileages between 23 and 29 mpg. This is not band and less than you would get with a gas powered Mercedes of that age, but the gas engines are way smoother and stronger.
The W123 body shows quite a lot of rust, things went better after the major facelift in 1981. Power steering tends to wear out after 100.000 miles. It can be adjusted once, next time you need to replace it. The front seats are a PITA and often worn out in that age. If you have a good Mercedes parts dealer he can get you some spring suspension packages for a seat overhaul. Vital functions like engine kill switch, automatic transmission control and power locks are driven by vacuum lines. If you have a puncture in the vacuum system, these things won't work (My 240D simply kept its engine running, even if I pulled out the key from the starter switch). Sunroofs tend to cause trouble.
If all things are working and the car has a good service history, you get a car with good passive safety, very good brakes, a superb handling, close to perfect ergonomics and a very high standard of manufacture. I would recommend a 230E with gas engine instead;-)
Frank
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Peter Newman wrote:

Rust, rust, rust - and rust.
Plus also the already mentioned things like AC, Tempomat (cruise control) (if any), everything electric like the power windows and the power sunroof: Remember these cars are old and owners tend to save money for proper maintenance of all things not directly related to keep the cars running.
Other problems are faulty vacuum systems, steering boxes with (too) much play, weak seats, non-operating radio power antennas, old water hoses (between water cooler and engine) or a faulty glow plug relay.
And compared to modern cars the 240Ds are dead slow - but in more than 22 years of driving W123 diesels (with as low as 55 PS and auto trans) I was never late because of the cars... ;-)
Juergen
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