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  #1  
Old 03-10-2004, 03:26 AM
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Restoration advice 85 300TD

Hello everyone!

I've not posted in the diesel forum before, but I hope you all will help me decide what to do with my TD.

First, I'd like to say that this has got to be the best car that I have ever had. (I've had 23 over the years at last count). I have been driving this car as a commuter (100+ miles a day, 5 days a week) for quite some time now, it is a fantastic road car...and stylish too! The babes are always asking for a ride .


Second, I must have breathed too much soot from the business end of the turbo because I don't want a new or even necessarily a newer car (My wife and I share an 89 300TE...which is another fantastic machine).

Third, I would like to restore the car to its original condition, but I am really concerned about the cost. It runs very well, shifts very well and everything except the A/C and the hydraulic rear suspension still works. I have been tinkering on cars for 20 years now and done everything from cleaning switch contacts to engine swaps, but I have never actually rebuilt an engine and transmission before. Not that the car needs it. Runs fine. The interior is in remarkably good condition as well. The leather is good, carpet has seen better days, dash is cracked but not offensively so. The windshield has seen so many miles that it seems to be fairly evenly sandblasted just from all of the miles it has seen over the last 19 yrs, no cracks just difficult to see through when driving toward the sunrise or sunset.

My question to you is this... Is it economically feasible to restore a 19 year old diesel station wagon with well over 300K miles, 1 rusty quarter panel and tailgate, pitted windshield and non-functional a/c and hyd. suspension, or should I look for a different car in better cosmetic shape and keep this one for parts? The car looks bad, runs great, I want to keep it if it makes sense. At the same time, I'd really like to own a solid 300CD.

I really don't have a complaint with this car except for its appearance, it's quirks don't bother me. It starts every time and gets me where I want to go.

If any of you have undertaken a complete restoration of one of these 123's and have some advice to share, I would appreciate your input. I am prepared to take the car out of service for as long as it takes to make the proper repairs. It seems to me that if I will be undertaking this project, I should go ahead and rebuild the mechanicals so that I may do the whole restoration at once.

How much work can I reasonably expect to do myself? Are there a lot of special tools necessary to rebuild this diesel? Where can I find replacement sheet metal for the right rear quarter panel and tailgate below the window? If possible I would like to do all of the work, mechanical, electrical and body work (except paint) here at my home in my garage. Can the injection pump be rebuilt by me or would it require a specialist? Any advice specific to this chassis/engine would be quite welcome.

I'd like to see this good old car made right, it will probably be fine for many more years just as it is, but If I do this I want to get to it before it is too far gone.

Thanks everyone. Fire away.
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Old 03-10-2004, 07:00 AM
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Greetings! I also have an '85 300TD. i bought it in Miami Florida off the internet 2 years ago. It was rust free with 62K miles. Since then I have invested over $7K in it. I had the self-leveling rear suspension components replaced, as well as the rear half shafts and the rear sub-frame mounts. Lots of other minor stuff too. My philosophy has always been that if the basic body platform is good I'm willing to invest money to restore if I really like the car. My best advice is to try to find a competent independent MB diesel mechanic who is reasonable and familiar with these cars. Unfortunately, I didn't find one of these until after I had all the major work done at the dealer. The guy I have now is outstanding, and charges me about half what the dealer does. These engines have been known to go over 500K miles, so I wouldn't mess with a re-build unless it's burning a lot of oil. Make sure the timing chain has not stretched. I've tried selling my car because I found a diesel VW Passat wagon, and I don't need 3 cars. I've tried to get $9K for it but nobody wants to spend that much for it. So the only way I'll recover my investment is to keep the car and drive the value out. If you can't find a good mechanic in your area, come on up to Urbana and drop it off! My mechanic is "old school", he actually fixes things as opposed to just throwing parts at it like the dealers do. His prices are great. For example, just yesterday I was over there and he said he had just completely rebuilt the front end of a 300D. I asked him what the total was for parts and labor and he said $750. Just the other day I was reading on this forum that most guys are paying $1500 for the same job. Another option would be to find another used one in better condition and keep yours as a parts car. There are a lot of these cars around and many are in very good condition. Check out autotrader.com or ebay. I hope this has helped. Larry Larson
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  #3  
Old 03-10-2004, 07:15 AM
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Find a parts car!

I have a '79TD that runs like a champ. I happened to be driving through a neighborhood and saw a tired old TD sitting in a driveway. I stopped and asked if they were interested in selling a few parts of of the car. The guy comes out and says "it won't start, for a $100 you can have the whole car." Great body, interior a little rough. I tow it home intending to strip it, and find that all it needs is a hand pump. Car has 325k on it. I think I'll replace the hand primer and sell it for $1000. (when I get time).

My point is, I've seen a couple of nice bodied cars that you can get for around $500 or less. You could cut out quarter panels, spot weld, use filler, etc. Good project, keeps you out of trouble. Try the parts car route.

Great cars!
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  #4  
Old 03-10-2004, 12:50 PM
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Another owner of a 300TD has to chime in here. Mine is a n 1982. Red with palamino, 3rd seat and 175,000 miles.
I have, due to the state of the Airline industry sold our 99 E300
and am goin thru the 300TD to get it up to 100%. A full restoration, no, I don't want a concours restoration as a daily driver. I do want it mechanically sound and reliable. BUT my body is in excellent shape.
Rust. I will say this. IF you have it showing, you have it where it is not showing. You have to really look carefully at every part of the body and see if the cars body is sound enough to put that kind of money into it. I just did a complete suspensin rebuild, $800 in parts, all my labor. AC rebuild, $800 or so. I will redo a lot of the interiors. and may even have it painted after all the work. the paint is fine, but when you've got everything done thats the last thing. So how much will I have in the $4000 car? Probably another $4000. Can I get $8000 for the car probably not but I will know its ready to go another 20 years. Of course unless some idiot hits me.
If you have mechanical experience. I don't mean an ASE certified mechanic, I'm not. But I will do just about anything on a car. With the service manual, this forum, my brother (A ASE certified mechanic who works on Mercedes), And the local dealer technitions who give advice. I know I could tackel any job on the Mercedes. You can work on just about anything on the car.

So to summarize, you really need to get a handle on the rust situation in your car. Welding, body work and eliminating rust is a lot of work (rebuilt a 65 Mustang with the son. Sawsall and welder are the 2 primary tools for a Mustang restoration). You want a good body to start with. And as I have said, If you have rust showing, you have rust not showing.

My daughter was driving my wifes old 86 300SDL. SAfe car but not worth rebuilding. It woudl require to much $$ to bring it up to speed. We just found an exeptional 83 240D. I will probably put $1000 more into it and it will be a 9 out of 10 car. So for a total of $3200 we have a car that will last another 20 years, except for that dam driver that wrecks you restored car!!! The SDL would have taken $4000 just to get the drivetrain up to speed.

Rebuilding the engine/tranny and Injector pump. It woudl probably be cheaper to have them done WHEN its required. Is you engine doing OK? or are you looking at a rebuilding soon. Tranny? IP? these are the things that made the 300SDL not worth rebuilding. That along with a tired bosy just added up to a no-go on the 300SDL.

Dave
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1970 220D, owned 1980-1990
1980 240D, owned 1990-1992
1982 300TD, owned 1992-1993
1986 300SDL, owned 1993-2004
1999 E300, owned 1999-2003
1982 300TD, 213,880mi, owned since Nov 18, 1991- Aug 4, 2010 SOLD
1988 560SL, 100,000mi, owned since 1995
1965 Mustang Fastback Mileage Unknown(My sons)
1983 240D, 176,000mi (My daughers) owned since 2004
2007 Honda Accord EX-L I4 auto, the new daily driver
1985 300D 264,000mi Son's new daily driver.(sold)
2008 Hyundai Tiberon. Daughters new car
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  #5  
Old 03-10-2004, 04:16 PM
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Post

Here are some pictures of the worst parts on the body. The suspension and unibody underneath are solid, seems to have been undercoated when new. The car runs and drives very well. It seems mechanically very sound. It does leak a drop or two of oil every day, but I don't have to add any between changes (@3000 miles). I replaced the transmission filter and fluid when I purchased the car a couple of years ago and have had no trouble with the tranny, nor have I had to add fluid since then.

I drive this old girl daily, she seems sound.

I would hate to trash this body for a few parts which might be bolt on's...or easy fixes. I just don't know. A good tailgate and quarter panel would take care of most of the rusty spots that are apparent. Please give me your opinions. If there are any specific locations to check for weakness, I'd welcome your inputs.

The reason that I had mentioned doing a rebuild on the drivetrain would be as a precautionary measure. If I take the time to do the body work on this car and freshen seals here and there, I'd like to take care of all of it at once so that I have a good baseline for future maintenance.

Your thoughts?
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Restoration advice 85 300TD-85-300td-composite.jpg  
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  #6  
Old 03-10-2004, 04:32 PM
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Location: Knoxville TN
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Hard to tell

But tail gate looks salvageable. Kind of depends on how much of a perfectionest you are. Personnally, I think perfectionism is a disease!

Really though, if you want a really nice car, with the money you would have to sink into that body, plus mechanicals, you might be better off finding a nice southern car. This is however also a bit of a gamble, as anybody who has bought a lot of used cars can tell you. If you really educate yourself before buying another one, you can minimize the risk somewhat.

If it were me, I'd probably do the body work myself, get a cheap respray, and drive it into the ground. The way you describe it, that car will probably run for years. But, keep an eye out for a deal on that CD. I saw one in a local publication for $3500 (firm)recently.

Good luck.
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Old 03-10-2004, 04:41 PM
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dmorrisson I agree with you. I am not seeking a concours restoration for this car. I do want to be able to get it to a good baseline condition... both mechanically and cosmetically so that I may enjoy it for ... maybe another 19 years or more. I've got to say that this is probably the one car that I have had that there's really nothing about it that I just don't like. It's got plenty of room, plenty of power for the type of driving I use it for and the engineering is exceptional. It is a pleasure to own and drive. Just like the Heidelberg printing press that I owned for years...simple, reliable and in a class all by itself.

Even the W124 TE I drive doesn't have the same "soul" as the old TD does.

I believe that the engineering on the old TD is simple and solid enough that I can do the mechanical work on her myself. The thing I would hate to do is take her off the road and do a major but not concours restoration only to find that some critical component was beyond repair and have to start over with a different car.

I understand that I will have to drive the car to recover the value of the restoration cost. I don't plan to sell the car anyway. I read somewhere in another post here on this site about other owners referring to their cars as "lifetime" cars. That's the paradigm I have toward this one anyway. I don't expect that it will be worth as much to anyone else as it is to me. At the same time, I'm not willing to fork over $20K for a car that I don't want to drive, regardless of make.

Thank you all for your posts
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Old 03-10-2004, 05:47 PM
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I had a related discuision with an old gal friend of mine the other day. I'm personaly of the opinion that new car prices are insane for what you get, and it's worth it to spend the money on an old car if it's solid and you truly like it.

It all started with a couple of really, really nice high dollar old cars in the local bargin trader I commented on, and she was astounded that and "old" car could cost so much($16K for a nice 71 Challenger). We got to talking about it, and I eventualy explained to her that it wouldnt be so insane to take a vehicle one really liked and was solid and put a relativly similier amount of money into that a newer model would cost. There are drawbacks, financing, you'll not likely get your money back short of driving it out of it as was said, and finding someone to do it is another kick sometimes. But it really makes sense to me.
I think if one could somehow do this to popular models on a pretty frequent basis you'd find a lot of people that would rather spend $20K on the car they grew up with and loved than some new honda that looks like a spaceship. But what do I know..


Anyway! On the TD, beautiful color! And it does not look so bad, but body issues are hard to diag from photos. I would find a body man you trust(somehow) first and foremost and find out how bad it is and such. If it's shot, get another body and go to it.
If the motor and trans are sound, leave them to last, there pretty easily removable compared to some other things. It all depends on how far you want to go otherwise, all the parts are to be had(for a price) and I doubt there is anything on the entire car that is unfixable, that would be very un(old) mercedes like it seems.

I'll say this and then hush. I've worked on a lot of old cars, older than most of our w123's and such. I get hold of them because they get to be too agrivating and expensive for most people and I'm a sucker for nice people and neat old cars, and I have the scars to show for it. People that are serious about fixing an old car with a lot of miles anymore, the first thing I suggest is to strip it completly and send it to the body shop. If it has a frame, take the body off it, if it's unibody like the MB's you work acordingly, underside and such after the body is done. In the long run, it's a lot less headache than constantly working on dirty, nasty, cruded on stuff that is apt to be stuck and break in removal just to get to another failed part. And even after replacing tons of mechanical stuff, it still will not look or feel as new as it will after being really and truly pulled apart and painted and undercoated. It's really not that hard if you have a shop handy to work in, just takes time and money.


Yours may not need such extensive work, I can't say, but that's my general advice and opinion. Make a plan and go for it.

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  #9  
Old 03-10-2004, 06:16 PM
mb123mercedes
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Hi Wilson.

Like an iceberg where the biggest mass is
under water,the rust on this car is mostly
unseen.

For one,under the hood where the hinges are
there are drains that can clog over time and
since the passenger side one is close to the
battery,the battery acid combined with
water can and will rot out the firewall
under the battery tray.(mine did,fist size hole.
Someone fixed with what looked like rubber
silicone,which dried and then started to leak).

In the cab on the floorboard there is what looks
like some sort of sound deadning or covering,
if you remove this I'm almost sure that you'll
find more rust.(I hope not)
Since in mine the windshield seal also leaked,
there where two sources of water coming into
the car.
In the front passenger footwell floor and side
wall was rotted to the point where you could
see the floor support crossmember.
All along the side wall the bottom was rotted
all the way to the seatbelt mount.

In the picture you show rust by the rear door
arch,well mine had it in the same spot and
it had traveled into the passanger footwell,
just did not rot out the subframe mount.
Remove that covering and hold your breath.

Also remove the spare tire and take a good look
in the bottom.


I'm sure there are more area's but that is all I
have found.

Louis.
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Old 03-10-2004, 08:57 PM
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Thanks to all of you for your advice.

GB - sounds like you got very lucky finding that TD. If you have the opportunity, snap some pictures and send them out to me I'd like to see what shape your 'find' is in. I hope you are right about the tailgate, it is in poor condition right on the edge but not too bad yet elsewhere. It may take longer to fix that tailgate edge than any of the other spots on the sheetmetal. I don't think of myself as being a perfectionist, but I would like the finished product to match the fit and finish of the rest of the car. Extra time will most likely be required if I cannot locate a replacement gate.

dmorrison - I share your concern about hidden rust, mb123mercedes has suggested a few specific areas to check, have you any knowledge of specific problem or difficult to repair areas that I might check?

wolf_walker - about 22 yrs ago, my father and I restored a 71 MGB we had found in a field and bought for $300. It was rendering shelter to a family of cats at the time, It ended up taking about $10K before we finished that car, but it was just about perfect when we finished. My father was the planner on that project and I really don't know where to begin as far as putting together a 'restoration plan', he passed away a few years ago and I just can't remember what we did and in what order. Do you have any suggestions for resources for planning such a project, organizing parts, order of disassembly, etc.?

mb123mercedes - Thanks for the specific places to check on the car, I'll plan to check them out during the day and possibly post pics back to this thread. If you can think of any other potential hot spots, please let me know.

If I decide to go ahead and restore 'Liesl" I'll plan to post a diary with pictures and links on my home page, maybe we can all learn from this project.

Brad
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Old 03-10-2004, 09:01 PM
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need more pictures

#1. Under the battery tray
#2. Hinge area.
#3. Gide rod mount area.
#4. Bottom edge of doors.
#5. Front under body.
#6. Rear Under body.
#7. All tubes running under body.
The corner garage might put it on the hoist for pictures.
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Old 03-11-2004, 12:39 AM
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It does concern me with the amount and locations of the rust. They are the typical places.

The front fender rear section can be expensive, your getting into structure, not bolt on parts.

The doors I don't know if they can be reskined. We did this in Mustangs.

Now for the expensive area.

The subframe mounts. As was posted go under the rear seats and take a look with a hammer and screwdriver. Some pounding and poking will tell you alot.
The rear trailing arms. Again the hammer and screwdriver on the bottom section. This place rusts and the new replacements are $1100 each.
The firewall. I don't even know if this part is sold. I know with the Mustang you can't buy this sheetmetal. And Mustang restoration is a big $$ industry.

Do you weld? If not then you will pay for this work. Big $$. I bought a bottom line Lincoln-Electric welder $300. I added another $300 for supplies/upgrades.

Pull the carpet, what kind of rust? In the corners of the trunk and look at the firewall carefully.

The Mustang we bought showed no rust. But we found some anyway. The project took 2.5 years of work. And that was a 24 hour a day project for me. Had to learn alot and figure out a lot.

Normal Mustang restoration take about 5 years for the average guy doing everything himself. The Mercedes might be easier, but I really don't know. Money? the Mustang cost $6000 and we put another $6,000 into it. But we rebuild everything.

My recommendation is to find a good bodied wagon, great if its a blown engine, you can transfer the good part you have, and go from there,
Your looking at a lot of work.

Dave
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1970 220D, owned 1980-1990
1980 240D, owned 1990-1992
1982 300TD, owned 1992-1993
1986 300SDL, owned 1993-2004
1999 E300, owned 1999-2003
1982 300TD, 213,880mi, owned since Nov 18, 1991- Aug 4, 2010 SOLD
1988 560SL, 100,000mi, owned since 1995
1965 Mustang Fastback Mileage Unknown(My sons)
1983 240D, 176,000mi (My daughers) owned since 2004
2007 Honda Accord EX-L I4 auto, the new daily driver
1985 300D 264,000mi Son's new daily driver.(sold)
2008 Hyundai Tiberon. Daughters new car
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  #13  
Old 03-11-2004, 02:34 AM
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As long as the under body is not rusted beyond repair go for it,even if you put 10 k in it what can you buy for 10 K that even faintly compares to a real nice TD..........

William Rogers..........
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Old 03-11-2004, 02:54 AM
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~sigh~

I just typed about four paragraphs in reply and some general steps I'd take to get started. Then a sudden *click* and it was all gone. I HATE the windows key on a modern keyboard. I so, so miss my old clicky IBM keyboards that were rebuildable and weighed five pounds. Even my new IBM isnt as bad as this piece of junk. GRRR!!!


Tomorrow, I will re-type what I just lost.


How far are you wanting to go with this resto? I understand not a show car, but how *new* do you want it? What are you willing to remove to get there? Does pulling the dash, removing wiring harneses bother you? How about body shops, know any good ones? A shop that does a lot of classic car's and resto work would probibly be better suited. Many are just not going to comprihend a man wanting to really repair an old vehicle that is not some mainstream classic, and not understanding often equals not careing, and you don't need that in a body shop, believe you me.
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  #15  
Old 03-11-2004, 04:48 AM
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Thanks for the effort wolf_walker

I'm not afraid to take the car all the way down to the unibody, pulling the dash, rewiring, pulling the drivetrain to finish out the engine compartment, etc. If the kind of tech help that I have seen here continues to be available, I believe that the car can be completely rebuilt, harnesses, hyd lines, suspension, everything. I won't be entering the car in any show car competitions, but I'd like to do it right. My labor will have to substitute for large cash and speed to get it done. The project will probably keep me from wasting time in front of the TV for a year or two. If I can do it right, the time and work will have been worth it for me to have done it and have the car around for a long time.

I can sand, build harnesses, turn wrenches, cut material, (learn to) weld, whatever. I have my wife's old VW Rabbit Cabrio to drive until I get it finished. I would like to have the project planned from start to finish before I start in though. I'd like to do as much as I can without outsourcing too much. I live in a rural area and will have to rely on the advice of fellow MB enthusiasts and friends and family for help. There's no one around here that I know of (within an hour's drive) that will go near an import anymore unless its of the Asian variety. Seems like everybody around here wants to buy wrecked cars and spend their time on them. That's okay, but its not for me. Maybe I can gather enough info and encouragement to do it right.

I would like to make one caveat, lest I seem too eager to get into this. I'd like to fix it, but I don't want to waste time, money and effort, that's why I need help determining if this car can be made right again, with reasonable effort. I guess I was brought up to consider repair over replacement and regular maintenance to prevent unnecessary repairs. This car is in better mechanical shape now than when I bought it, just because I was willing to fix a few things that weren't quite right...rather than just let them go.

Thanks again for your input. I'm going to snap some more pics of the potential problem areas and plan to post them here over the next day or so.

Brad
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