MB 300SD or 300 D turbo diesel and alternatives.

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I consider the popular 300SD or 300D antique 25 yrs old car because of gaz price hike lately in western US. I wonder these models have enough HP to go up hill w/ enough acceleration in a city where people drive
fast. I don't mind driving old car as long as it is reliable since I have no desire to fix it myself.
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IMHO you'll be making a mistake buying a 20+ year old car unless you are willing to fix it yourself.
There's no discount on old car repairs and a significant repair could reach 50% of its purchase cost.
M-B's are NOT economy cars, they do break and need to be fixed. They're relatively simple to fix so many owners DIY to contain the cost. If that's not for you then buy a Toyota or Honda etc.
I've owned a 1980 300SD since it was new; great car but its maintenance and repair cost / mile about equals its 24 mpg fuel cost / mile.
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I concur with TG - you must love the car to make this worthwhile. I spent a lot of time initially in getting my 300TDT roadworthy, but since then I've had very little work to do on it. That could change at any moment, however, and cost a lot of $$$.
That's a risk I'm willing to take, you should be certain of your own comfort level.
tweaks
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On Fri, 01 Jul 2005 08:48:21 -0400, tweaks wrote:

Having read the other posts - I believe your original (unanswered) question included two unknown variables - "fast" and "hills". Those terms are relative depending on who you talk to. If a "hill" to you is Pikes Peak, and "fast" is 100 mph, then you might be happier with one of the large-displacement gas-burners of the same vintage. On the other hand, the turbo-diesels of that period are quite adequate. The non-turbos are a bit more marginal. I believe they were rated around 80 HP for the 300s (a bit misleading, since diesel power/torque tends to be supplied at different RPMs than gas engines) The turbo versions were rated around 120 HP, which surprisingly, for a 4,000 lb. vehicle, feels quite adequate, especially once the car is well into the turbo-boost RPM range.
But keep in mind - this IS a love affair, and as such isn't completely rational. If you're truly after an "economy" ride, these just aren't the vehicle. They are beautifully engineered and manufactured, but when they break (and they DO break - not often, but anything built by humans will break), too many mechanics out there will charge you an extra 50% to plug a tire strictly because you rolled into their shop in a Benz, and as far as MB dealers go, in my experience, 110% of the MB dealers (especially in North America, where too many dealers got fat and rich selling what were essentially German taxis as luxury/snob vehicles) will screw you in six different directions, just on general principle. (Hey group - do all MB dealers in America rape babies in the park, or are there ANY decent ones?)
Having said that, the old diesels do have their appeal. On my block, due to some weird covergence of cosmic forces, there are six Benz diesels (and one sweet vintage SL). Just be warned. If you have this weakness, this succeptability in your genetic makeup, the old diesels are like crack cocaine. It's much easier never to get started, because once you're hooked, there's just no going back.
Cheers,
Conrad
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Addition:
These old 5 cylinder turbodiesels are adequate for most driving but not accelerating while climbing a long hill at say 50 to 60 mph; the 120 HP diesel engine doesn't have the power for that as do most gas engines.
So, to avoid getting blocked into the slow lane with the trucks one has to charge long hills and stay in the fast lane as long as possible for once speed is lost it can't be regained on a freeway upslope.
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ummmmmmmm I don't know about that. The '85 300SD I had was great for charging up any pass here in BC, and we're all mountains here. You have the w116 300SD, is the engine any different in that? The 300D is not good for mountain driving (baaad compression) so I would like to get a 300SD again. This one mechanic restores these guys and he'll be offering a 1980 w116 300SD, rebuilt engine and I might get it, supposedly it will be in beautiful condition. Are the turbos engines in the w126 more powerful than the turbos in the w116? Of course, perhaps the w116 is heavier....
cp
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My comments about a diesel's relative performance compares my 116 300SD to my '97 E320 which makes 217 HP and has ample power for any normal driving occasion.
1977 - 79 turbodiesels made 110 HP; 1980's and later have a higher lift cam and make 120 HP.
The 1980 MY 116 has a hood, trunk lid and firewall of aluminum as well as a fuel tank whose capacity is reduced to about 18 US gallons - all done to save weight and improve the car's acceleration.
I've owned an '80 since it was new and still like it a lot! So consider a 116 if a good one is available.
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Oh I'm sure the E320 has more power but I was just saying that from experience the 300SD has more than enough for mountain climbing.
And 217HP is way too much (even for a heavy E) in the hands of a typical driver, not that I'm implying that YOU are a typical driver :-)

Did these aluminum parts come stock? If not, can you suggest some sources?

Yes, I'm considering a w116 300SD. Can't afford a new S diesel for now but a 300SD would more than do :-) I just missed a beautiful restoration of a w116 300SD with a w126 300SD engine, aiaiaiai but this old benz mech I know is building a couple more, will not miss again. Any idea how the w116 compares to the w126? I have heard that the w116 is more solid? Any truth to that? Other than the hideous mini bumper things on the front and back of the w116 it looks great, especially with the euro lights.
What's the mileage on yours?
cp
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"> 1977 - 79 turbodiesels made 110 HP; 1980's and later have a higher lift cam and make 120 HP.

Did these aluminum parts come stock? If not, can you suggest some sources? "
The 1980 300SD had an aluminum hood and trunk lid as stock to save weight. I have to disagree about the fuel tank capacity, as mine in the US version car is 21.6 gallons and it is aluminum. With 26MPG, that gives this tank a max range of 561 miles, which is impressive. I'd also have to question the aluminum firewall. I can't say I've inspected mine real close, but it seems very unlikely MB would have made a firewall from aluminum. It has to be welded to the surrounding steel and that would be impossible.
So, whatever aluminum is in the car is there stock. Just out of curiousity, if they were not stock, why would you want sources? The sum total of the weight of these things is almost negligible in a car like this and all of them are extremely difficult and expensive to replace.
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Pretty impressive for that tank (I mean the car)

Oh, if they're stock then of course no sources needed. Maybe I'll swap the body panels from an Audi A8, which is aluminum (or at least used to be) :-)
cp
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Wow! I was skeptical when I heard this and grabbed a magnet and checked the hood and trunk lid off of the old 300SD that I kept along with many other parts.Well the magnet did not stick,but did stick to the W116 76 450SE I am restoring and guess the hood and trunk come off now!Thanks CP ,you made my day!
cp wrote:

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Sorry,thanks trader4 also!
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TG mentioned it first! I really am considering this thing!
cp
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My 116 gets 24 MPG (US gallon) in commute driving, about 10% higher on trips.
I can't opine on the 126 as I've never driven one. One owner commented that his 126 leaned too much vs. his 116.
The 1980 116 300SD was built with the aluminum hood, trunk lid and firewall. One can notice the difference when closing the hood and trunk lid.
I've driven my 116 109K miles in 25 years and will install a retrofit digital climate control next week. It replaces the "servo" and "amplifier" which are the soft spots in the OEM climate control. This kit is sold be Performance Products (www.performanceproducts4benz.com) for $700.
I intend to post how the kit works vs. the OEM as well as its installation.
The 116 is our errand car and an excellent one for that purpose; the E320 is the freeway cruiser.
These old 116s are great values for someone who is willing and able to do some of the repairs and maintenance due to their simplicity and robust power train.
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Better in commuting then trips, interesting. Maybe it's the gearing...

109K, that's crazy, wanna sell it?
cp
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Hmmmm,I just have to add that here in Alaska ,the 1980 W116 300SD that I used to own accelerated fairly well and tackled the mountains here without using gravity and running starts.Just only refused to start at extremely cold temperatures even with block heater.Look for rust on these in the arces,trunk and rocker panel.
W123D on the other hand does so so and personally prefer the gas W123 overall but they are very tough and easy to work on.Expect if you maintain to the letter many,many miles out of it!Look out yet again for rust on these in the floorpan,rear arches and rear bumper mounting area!
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Yeh, that's what I need here in BC. The 126 300sd was very good in any mountain pass. Will have to check if the 116 is heavier than the 126, hope not...
cp
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I've had a 300SD and 300D and the 300SD (turbo) was excellent for driving up ANY mountain pass. I live in British Columbia and have travelled everywhere here so I know what I'm talking about. If you get a car with bad compression then it won't be so powerful.
As for reliability, we have 5 of these various benz diesels and will never drive anything else because these things are reliable and cheap to maintain, unless a person is a fool and takes a 15-25 year old car to the dealer. I'm in Vancouver and in a big city there are always reasonable mechanics around. One benz factory trained guy I know (retired but still does work) charges $20/hour, and this guy is an expert, he's retired but just loves these cars and will die working on them :) . I've only had to do a chain change and valve adjustment though. In 250,000KM the only thing that was replaced was a bad transaxle, driving consists of 6 STEEP hills EVERY day for 5 years, and the car is still reliable (300D). The thing about these cars is that they are very robust, you change one thing and keep on going, other cars fall apart. My 1966 w110 is in more solid shape than the 300D, and that's a 40 year old car. If I didn't have the diesel I'd be driving that thing every day.
Bottom line is, if you still want to get one, get one with lower mileage, definitely less than 200K miles, preferably less than 150K, there are those around and make sure the car has been well maintained. Ours wasn't and burns oil, but that's it.
If old benzes were expensive to maintain as some people claim on this board than half of us wouldn't be driving them. It's quite the opposite with well maintained car.
cp
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cp wrote:

I see most 300sd in 81-85 with < 200K miles, every suspicious

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Old Benzes are cost-effective to maintain if you are doing most of the work yourself or if you are magically able to have below-market labor rates competently do so. There are probably competent guys working in their garage for cash, but not a lot, because if they are good they are probably working for market rates at dealerships and large independent garages. This is true of about every car more than fifteen or twenty years old. You can't pay modern labor rates and not be better off buying a new car, particularly at the giveaway interest rates offered today.
Why are dealer labor rates so high? I'm not certain except in the most general economic sense of "because they can". Costs of entry are higher and more intellectual ability is required of car mechanics than in the past, but it's still far simpler mentally than the IT field for example (physically it can be pretty intimidating, as excellent agility is required for some jobs today). Costs of needed tooling are relatively high, but much of the cost is artificially inflated: there is no reason for scan tools to cost more than a PDA, for example.
The long service intervals of modern cars have caused many marginal operators to leave the business, and convenience stores are a much more profitable use of retail real estate than the old gas station lube rack. Plus, car manufacturers have restricted many new car parts to dealers, which makes parts prices high for independent operators.
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