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  #1  
Old 08-07-2006, 12:16 AM
wonkknows's Avatar
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Question diesel wagon -- which to buy?

Hello everyone :)

I have owned a 1982 volvo diesel wagon and a 1992 dodge diesel truck. The dodge was wonderful. The volvo was economical but not very spunky.

I was considering purchasing another volvo diesel wagon and thought 'hmmm... maybe I should check out the 'cedes diesel wagons.

So I did some reasearch and read (is it true?) the 617 engines run for ever and the 603 engines aren't far behind in reliability but have more power.

I once drove a brand new 1988 540 SEC (maybe 560?) and really liked the feal of the car. I also like the looks of the 1987 wagon better than the 1981-1985 wagons.



In comparing the 81-85 300TD wagons and the 1987 300TD wagon I have some questions:

1) Since there was only one year of the 1987 wagon made, are replacment body parts worth their weight in gold?
2) speaking of weight, what is the weight of each of these?
3) which is more reliable?
4) what are the average engine life spans of each (mileage before rebuild)
5) what is the engine rebuild cost of each?
6) Is one a 'safer' wagon than the other (oops volvo owner showing through)
7) What is a good price for each of the above in good condition and with plenty of life left.
8) If I ask a mercedes dealer to work over a prospective car before purchasing can they tell engine health or is it a guess?

Thanks!
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  #2  
Old 08-07-2006, 12:38 AM
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Well since your talking about wagon MB's, you should know these are hot sellers right now. Both of which are going for sky high prices on ebay and even craigslist

But to answer your questions.

As far as safety: the 87 has ABS and a airbag while the W123's dont.

Which is more reliable: id say the 617 in the W123, even with alot of abuse these engines can still run like champs. And are more simple/easier to work on. But they are more "mechanical"

The 603 in the 87 is more powerful but has a flaw in the head design. Since this was the first MB diesel with an aluminum head, it was flawed from design. if the car was ever to overheat a crack would develope in the head. The #14 head being the common one, many other head designs came after and were more robust then the #14 but still risky.

Whats the expected life: depends on the amount of care and service done to it. My dads 78 300D with the 617 engine has 400+K miles and still runs like a champ with no blow-by.
My 87 300D with the 603 engine has around 200+K with no blow-by and again runs like a champ. But in comparison the 617 can outlast most any car in the world today. Some claim a million miles on these cars, and i have no doubt that my dads 78 will reach another 400K. But again it all has to do with maintance.
The 603 on the other hand, has the head issue but isnt far from the 617.


Well more people should chime in on the differences and what not, i guess it all goes down to which one you like better. I myself had a 300SD with the 617 engine in it. Loved the car and the ease of working on it, but wanted a faster and more updated car so i went for the 87 300D. Which i love! car is fast and even though its a little harder to work on, i like the challenge
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  #3  
Old 08-07-2006, 04:04 AM
sixto's Avatar
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wonkknows View Post
1) Since there was only one year of the 1987 wagon made, are replacment body parts worth their weight in gold?
2) speaking of weight, what is the weight of each of these?
3) which is more reliable?
4) what are the average engine life spans of each (mileage before rebuild)
5) what is the engine rebuild cost of each?
6) Is one a 'safer' wagon than the other (oops volvo owner showing through)
7) What is a good price for each of the above in good condition and with plenty of life left.
8) If I ask a mercedes dealer to work over a prospective car before purchasing can they tell engine health or is it a guess?
1) The W124 300TD was offered for 1 year but the wagon body style was available from 86 or 87 through 95. Exterior and interior trim evolved but most of the sheet metal stayed the same.

2) Don't worry, the engine can handle the weight

3) At this stage it's more about which has seen better care.

4) Long enough. If it's in good condition when you buy it, it will last a long time unless you break it.

5) From the same source for comparison's sake a rebuilt 617 long block is ~$4000, a rebuilt 603 long block is ~$5300.

6) The 87 has a driver side airbag and ABS. The newer wagon is more responsive and maneuverable. It's also a heck of a lot more powerful, quicker and faster.

7) Varies by region but you can probably find a W123 TD in great condition for $5000 and a W124 TD for $7000. Great being relative, of course. Figure on $2-4000 the first couple of years to make it a keeper.

8) Look for a reputable independent shop to help you with a prepurchase inspection and advice. These cars are older than the oldest techs at the typical MB dealership.

9) You didn't ask but in a W123 you know you're in a Diesel, in a W124 you have to remind yourself.

Sixto
... stay tuned
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  #4  
Old 08-07-2006, 08:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by greasybenz View Post
Well since your talking about wagon MB's, you should know these are hot sellers right now. Both of which are going for sky high prices on ebay and even craigslist
I thought wagons were 'out'. sedans/suvs 'in'

Why the sudden interest in diesel 'wagons' when they could all go buy sedans :p

Is the driver's seat uncomfortable in the 617s? I heard they were... Haven't spent any time in an older MB.

I was looking for a cheap wagon to own for 4-5 years. I guess with the extra $$ I'd save buying a gas vehicle I'd be ahead buying some other car than a diesel wagon.

Thanks everyone
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  #5  
Old 08-07-2006, 01:20 PM
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You can get a 300TE or E320 wagon for much less than a 300TD.

Sixto
... stay tuned
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  #6  
Old 08-07-2006, 01:49 PM
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I just bought a 1987 300TDt!

Hello Wonknows,

I currently have two 1985 300TDt's. One for my wife (the AC works on hers) and one is my daily driver. There is no doubt that the 617 engine is more bulletproof than the 603 with the aluminium head, but I bought one any way for the following reasons.

1. It has ABS and driver airbag. I know you hear bad things about airbags but that is mostly involving diminuitive people and we are from big genes. My wife is 6' or as she likes to say 5'12", so I discounted the naysayers when it came to airbags. The Euro cars had an option for passenger side bag but it wasn't available hear in 1987.

2. It has ABS. We live in the northeast where snow is a factor and I think it is a great feature for diriving in the snow.

3. It is diesel. I am not currently making biodiesel but want to some day so I wrote off any gas car.

4. The 603 engine sounds less like a diesel. While the 617 is a great engine, it sounds like an old timey diesel. The 603 is less noisy.

5. My wife is a real sport that she will drive these old cars that I furnish to her, but the W124 has much more modern styling than the W123. The W123 looks old, but the W124 in a well detailed state could pass for a current car.

6. I do all my own work and am capable of doing most any job including the cylinder head. This is a HUGE factor. You can spend a mint on these things if you have problems and you end up at the wrong shop. You can spend thousands giving some parts changer free training on W124 diesels while you pay him as he exchanges part after part until he maybe gets it right.

7. This website makes the going much easier. While most of the people here are not professional mechanics, some are and they provide insight that is hard to find elsewhere. Just this thread is telling you all the pitfalls of the W124 with the OM603. You could find more if you use the search function. That too is a great resource.

Good luck with your choice. May it be a Mercedes. Also, can you please put your location on your signature so I know what part of the country you are in?

Oh, by the way, the 1987 300TDt I just bought is a nonrunner that already has the head off. So the first repair I will learn about is the cylinder head!
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  #7  
Old 08-07-2006, 02:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by riethoven View Post
Hello Wonknows,

Good luck with your choice. May it be a Mercedes. Also, can you please put your location on your signature so I know what part of the country you are in?
Updated profile info, hailing from West Coast USA.

Am at the moment I'm a little discouraged about finding a good diesel wagon for cheap.

Bought my 1982 volvo diesel wagon for $2k, broke timing belt, rebuilt motor ($3k bill) , sold it for $2k.


Now when I want another one some strange thing happens to double the asking price in the last 7 years?



Mine only had about 80k miles on it too.

Well, maybe luck will smile on me.

Time will tell.
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  #8  
Old 08-07-2006, 03:08 PM
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Make sure

you get a turbodiesel. The non-turbo 123s, 124s get pretty boring pretty fast, IMO.
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  #9  
Old 08-07-2006, 03:34 PM
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I don't know... the normally asiprated W124 500E seems pretty exciting

Sixto
... stay tuned
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  #10  
Old 08-07-2006, 05:10 PM
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Ouch!...

Quote:
Originally Posted by wonkknows View Post
broke timing belt, rebuilt motor ($3k bill)
...that's no fun...I replace (actually, my mechanic replaces) the t-belt on my old Volvo diesel religiously every 5 years / 75k, but I've run across several motors where the belt let go while scavenging junk yards for parts--not a pretty sight!! So, right there is one advantage to the Mercedes: timing chain, not timing belt. No aluminum head on the 617 version of the Mercedes motor, either. And in either the 617 or 603 version, the pick up will be much better than the D24 Volvo motor; however, fuel economy will likely disappoint.

Good luck choosing!!

-Chris
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Last edited by Volvo Diesel; 08-07-2006 at 05:12 PM. Reason: clarifying
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  #11  
Old 08-07-2006, 08:59 PM
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I read the (driver?) seat(s?) was uncomfortable on the 80s 'cedes. Is this because they are pretty worn out by now or are they a bit ergonmically challenged? -Just curious.
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  #12  
Old 08-07-2006, 10:41 PM
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There's a decidedly German feel to the seats that you either appreciate or never will. There are a number of workarounds for tired seats and retoration parts are easily available if you prefer to go that route. Best to try your back side in a number of showroom condition 123s to see how it fits. IMO 124 seats are a shade more conventional and tend to stand up to time a little better.

Sixto
... stay tuned
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  #13  
Old 08-08-2006, 02:47 AM
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A Volvo diesel wagon would be pretty rare in the USA. Not so much so in Europe, though...I was with a friend in Paris France, and his niece (I think) was a nurse there, and she had an old 245 Volvo diesel wagon, it looked huge compared to the other cars around, but that tank could go anywhere in Paris, and it survived a t boning by a Porsche 911, the Porsche just bounced off its front fender, the Porsche didn't do so good though. It was fun to go around in that car though.

I heard some lawyers discussing a car accident involving a 245 Volvo wagon, they saw the car in a garage afterward, the mechanic said the car rolled 7 times and the doors still opened and closed, and NO glass was broken. the occupants thumbed the catch on their seatbelts and just got out of the car.

Have you thought about getting another Volvo 245 wagon?

Volvos have maybe the best most comfortable seats in the business. I used to campaign a 1991 744 Volvo sedan and I still miss that car...they DO last a long time! Irv Gordon with his '66 P 1800 has the mileage champion, I saw in "Rolling" the VCOA magazine, a couple of months ago, that the car is closing in on 3,000,000 miles!! And it's not even a diesel.

You might think about checking out a W123 300TD wagon if you can find one, they are not so cheap anymore as has been said, but they have all the old world Mercedes build quality and durability and safety. I found the seats
a bit bouncy, and you will find the steering wheel pretty large, but they are still great cars.

Either the Volvo OR the Mercedes will last you a LOOOONG time.

The cost per mile is the bottom line. Either a Mercedes OR Volvo mechanic who knows his stuff will REAALLY make a difference in saving your money.

Are there good ones in your area. There are both in the Los Angeles area, and yet in the SF bay area, there are WONDERFUL Volvo mechanics, but almost NO good Mercedes mechanics.....

I'd get that row of ducks lined up first, before I decided. Do you have a good indept. shop in mind for either make?

I think you are on the right track between these two makes. I have experienced both makes, and really like both of them....safety, durability, build quality, relative ease to repair, and longevity.

Good luck
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  #14  
Old 08-08-2006, 02:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wonkknows View Post
I thought wagons were 'out'. sedans/suvs 'in'

Why the sudden interest in diesel 'wagons' when they could all go buy sedans :p

Its because people who want to save at the pump, want a diesel. If they have kids, it may have to be a diesel wagon.

Also they are even more popular because SVO/biodiesel users want them as well, probably because the ones without a 3rd row can lug around the veggie oil easily
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  #15  
Old 08-08-2006, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
Either a Mercedes OR Volvo mechanic who knows his stuff will REAALLY make a difference in saving your money.

Are there good ones in your area. There are both in the Los Angeles area, and yet in the SF bay area, there are WONDERFUL Volvo mechanics, but almost NO good Mercedes mechanics.....

I'd get that row of ducks lined up first, before I decided. Do you have a good indept. shop in mind for either make?
I have a local guy who moved over from Prague. He has been there for years and years. He worked on both my diesel and gas volvos and has tons of mercedes/audis/bmw hanging around his shop all the time. He says he *hates* working on diesels. But in any case he did rebuild the top end (sent the head off for machining and put it back together) in my 1982 volvo diesel. I think he hates them because you can't wash the diesel off and smell like diesel fuel for a day or so. His hourly rate is less than the dealership but not by too much.

So he doesn't _like_ to work on them but I think he can and seems knows what he is doing.
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