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  #1  
Old 11-09-2004, 05:19 AM
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lots and lots W123 noob buyer questions...

So, I saw an ad for a car that I want to make my future daily driver. It is a gray market car that is a 4 speed. It has us spec headlights though. It is an 84 300D, but I haven't asked if it is a turbo. Are all '84 W123s turbos? Or did rogue NA motors make it into the 82-85 years that turbo 300Ds were made? Also, is the 4 speed in it the same one as you find in a 240D? Does it have an overdriven 4th so that you can acutally use it on the highway without winding it out to a telephone number just to cruise at normal (70-90) speeds? I would guess that it does since I can't imagine someone in europe wanting to drive on the autobahn at high speed without a decent od ratio. Is there any way to tell from appearence if it is a W123 turbo, perhaps the wheels or something kinda give it away?
Also, I know nothing about the W123 cars really and about what to look for, except that you have to check for rust very carefully, which is not something I think much of in the volvo world. Any engine things to check? I am pretty mechanically skilled, and the merc TD doesn't seem more complicated that a modernish EFI gas volvo, maybe even simpler. I jsut don't really know the tricks to something mercedes specific. Just a list of links to threads with common problems or a basic list to of stuff to look at when buying one would be a hige help. I have also driven a few by now, and I like the way that they drive for the most part. Some have significantly more steering play than others though. WHat causes this? I understand that the W123 atleast uses a steering box, the pieces of which are not entirely familiar to me since it has been a while since I have touched anything without rack and pinion steering. Is it adjustable play and balance wise? Are there a lot of very costly joints and bushings that I am going to have to use a ton of special tools to tear teh whole front or rear end apart to replace them? Also, I drove one 87 W124 300DT with the OM603.96 and it handled much better than the older 300Ds, and had more power, but I think it is out of my price range for a daily beater. The guy that owns it is a fanatic and fixes it pretty religiously too though. Are parts going to be quite expensive for a W123 even? I know that the parts generally don't fail that often, but with a 2 year old car I just am thinking of how hard they will be to get and what the cost will be. Also, how does the manual gearbox shift? Is there any way to shorten the throw? I have never driven a manual mercedes, but romor has it that they aren't that great to shift. I prefer manuals, but if it isn't a very dependable trans, or it sucks to drive it, then I would just concede that it will be a daily driver and put up with an auto.
I also hear that the OM617 is externally balanced. Does this mean it has a dual mass flywheel on manual cars? And, do these fail much? I know on other diesels they fail a fair bit and are an expensive nausience to replace. How hard would doing a routing longish term maint project like a timing chain be? This is pretty stupid simple on my current car, but I am used to belts, so the whole chain thing is new to me.
What is a reasonable price for a fairly rust free W123 turbo? With say a little surface rust on the rear fenders and under the tail lights, and a decent ho hum paint job with some miles but everything expensive to fix working?
If the car I am looking at turns out to be NA, is it still worth buying? I have only driven turbos and they are at my threshold of slowness tolerence. No offence to you guys puttering around in 500K mile 240Ds, I just drive like a Cali person and feel almost unsafe with anything much less than 150ponies under the hood on the freeway.
Are there things you can do to make them faster? Can the ALDA be tweaked for example? can the injection pump deliver more fuel without destroying itself or becoming unreliable? Is removing the EGR that big fo a deal? How many miles is too many on these cars, or is it is just signs of wear that should be avoided and mileage isn't a big deal? What questions should I ask the seller?
Lastly, what sort of fuel mileage should I expect out of a manual trans 300D turbo or NA car? Or any 300d for that matter? Do some auto trans lock up on the highway and become more efficient?

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  #2  
Old 11-09-2004, 07:08 AM
MS Fowler's Avatar
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Let me take a crack at a few of your questions.....
But first, "Welcome to the Forum!", and to the world of MB.

Use the "search" feature; there is a lot of great info already posted here. In particular is a thread on DIY reapirs which is W123 specific.
Yes, the ALDA may be "tweaked" ,but its best to monitor exhaust gas temps to avoid melting stuff.
There are three main areas of concern with the W123.
1) Rust is one. Check particularly around the jack points.
2) The Air Conditioning is another.
3) Poor instument illumination is the third one.

Mechanically, the cars are excellent, and many run hundreds of thousands of miles.
Parts availibilty is excellent---Fastlane is the sponsor of this forum. I have used them several times, and have always been pleased with the parts and with Phil's quick serice.
W123 are also plentiful in the junkyards--if you're into that.

The steering box has been extensively discussed--use the "search"
I drove a 240D 4 spd, and found nothing in the shifter throws, or the quality of the shift about which to complain.
Keep us posted on your adventure.
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  #3  
Old 11-09-2004, 11:46 PM
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Thanks for the warm welcome on my first post, I got referred here by a volvo fellow who posts regularly.
I answered a lot of my questions with the search. However, the one vexing thing is that the car I am about to look at is clearly listed as a 4 speed and an 84 300D. It has US spec headlights, and I have seen another similar W123 wagon on Ebay with a 4 speed 300TD-T that is a turbodiesel. I am guessing that these cars are gray market cars that got converted to US spec lights.
I am curious at to whether any cars from 82-85 could be NA in 300D form? I did not find an answer to that.
Thanks again for the rust guide. I saw an 84 300TD-T locally in person that I will look at more closely for rust near the jacking points. It is high miles and fairly cheap, but it has been smoked in and has the cream/brown tex color setup, which isn't exactly my favorite, it is also an automatic wagon. I am going to keep my eyes peeled for a good 300D, preferably a sedan for daily transport, wagons usually cost more anyway.
I will pay extra attention now while driving them and drive a few more. I only just noticed some steer different than others, because compared to a volvo they all steer kinda numbly and lazily, though the turning radius is almost as good.
Thanks for the tip on the AC and inst cluster. I never use cruise control, or rarely use it, so I would buy a car with busted cruise control without regret.
What do people think of "German Star" Parts? Their prices seem fine, and they seem to know most of the specs. Are they as good as OEM? It seems a few people here use them, but a direct answer in my thread might be nice. Parts seem fairly available for the W123. I don't live in the land of salt, so unless the car has had a very poor life, msot that I have seen do not seem to rust that much, but I am not yet an expert in W123 rust...yet.
Am I into junkyards? Am I ever! I have many junkyard projects...
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  #4  
Old 11-10-2004, 12:35 AM
123c
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When looking for a good w123, stay away from ebay, unless you can check out the car in person... There have been several threads on listings where the sellers are trying to cover up major problems on the cars they are trying to sell.

The biggest thing too look at is the Climate control $y$tem, they can be very spendy to fix right, the early ones from 1977-1980 can be the worst and most expensive to repair... Many here favor the all manual 240Ds, because there is less the break, and more time enjoying the car on the road instead of repairing...
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  #5  
Old 11-10-2004, 02:06 AM
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yea, I don't look Ebay seriously, but it is a good noob tip for sure. I just look around to see what is out there. THe car in question is a local private seller.
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  #6  
Old 11-10-2004, 03:45 PM
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Ok, it looks like the question of whether this car is a Euro has yet to be answered. Clues for a Euro are:
1. Smaller bumpers
2. Two rubber strips on the front bumper (blank space in the middle), while the US version has rubber all the way across.
3. Cloth interior
4. Manual A/C controls
5. Manual transmission coupled with a 5 cylinder (300D) engine.
6. No turbo on a 300D after 1980.

A 5 banger with manual is the holy grail of the 123s because it offers the easiest possibility of building a turbo-5 / manny tranny combo. You already have the right flywheel, driveshaft, and shift linkage. Just to make sure this is clear, for 1984 a US 300D will have a turbo, and a Euro 300D will not.

When checking for rust, also lift the carpets and check underneath - especially in the back. If you get close to buying the car (this is more work), pull the plastic panels from the sides of the trunk and check for rust at the bottom. The other common spots are the lower rear part of the front fenders, and under the battery tray.
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  #7  
Old 11-10-2004, 04:03 PM
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Did Canada cars have the split rubber strip bumper deal? I am in Bellingham, WA , (about 10 miles from the border) and I have seen 3 300Ds with the split rubber and turn signal lights on the fenders.
European 300Ds have no turbos after 1980?, ouch.
Interior is cloth, climate control seems manual, and it is a manual. Bumper trim, haven't looked yet.
I am still a noob, so swapping to a turbo OM617 seems a bit hard on an NA. I have only driven turbo autmatics, but the turbos are just at the threshold of where I feel unsafe with something any slower. I will look closer at the car next time I get a chance to go home, it seems like a pretty nice 300D though. If it is a nice gadget free rust free W123, how much money, time and expertise is needed to make it an OM617 turbo? I know I will probably want ot swap the engine to a turbo longblock with the beefier bottom end that turbos got, so I guess I am asking how hard the swap is, not how to turbocharge an NA OM617. Will the trans and clutch/ dual mass flywheel be able to cope with the extra power if I ever want to start messing with teh OM617 turbo?

Last edited by volvonoob; 11-10-2004 at 04:18 PM.
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  #8  
Old 11-10-2004, 04:26 PM
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You don't hang a turbo on a N/A engine, that's a no no. But the swap to a turbo engine is basically a drop-in. No problem with the rest of the driveline handling the power. Drive the N/A 300 with the manual transmission and you'll probably find that it is fine - not too slow. Can't help you with the Canadian cars, and all the Euro cars are N/A. Only the U.S. got turbos.
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  #9  
Old 11-10-2004, 05:12 PM
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Well, I think Canada may have gotten the different bumpers and the corner lights because atleast one of the 300Ds I saw was a turbo and all were automatics and otherwise looked like US cars.

I think i could put up with an NA diesel for long enough to learn how to get a proper OM617 turbo in there, if I could find such an engine of course. On the other hand, no turbo makes maint work a breeze without all that heat and complication in a tight space, so that scores some points for the lazy like me.

I will know more when I take a closer look.
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  #10  
Old 11-10-2004, 06:10 PM
Jim B+
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Some helpful homework...

First, a lot can happen in the life of a 20 year old car...the original euro headlamps could have been scratched or one broken at some time, and the US ones easier to replace with. If it has a true manual heater / ac / defroster, that's a real plus...was only standard in the 240.

Get a copy of Frank Barrett's "Mercedes-Benz Buyer's Guide", a $20 paperback (out of print, but you can still find copies) that gives the pros and cons of all Benzes up until the mid-'90s. Barrett is the technical editor of The Star, the Mercedes-Benz Club of America magazine...I would also join the club just for the magazine (you can also check Mercedes cars for sale at the Trading Post section of The Star's website: www.mbca.org.

A lot of people post here from your part of the country...you also may want to make contact with your local MBCA club chapter.

Good luck...it's a real tribute to the quality of these cars that they've survived in such numbers, and that such a body of knowledge has accumulated and been archieved as to EVERY CONCEIVABLE physical or behavioral aspect of the cars. They are affordable and enjoyable, and you should look forward (with patience) to finding the right one for you.
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  #11  
Old 11-10-2004, 06:12 PM
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A non turbo is not on the threshold of safety in my opinion. It is just on the threshold of slower. I'd rather have a manual NA than a turbo automatic. But actually I'd take anything that ran and didn't smoke.

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