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Old 12-22-2007, 07:36 PM
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Suitable beater for college duty?

I don't want my very nice 300cd to have to go through the horrors of being a college car, so I figure I want to buy another car for college duty, and leave my 300cd at home in it's garage (will be maintained when I visit of course)

I have my eyes on a 1981 300sd that has been on craigslist for a while now. I called the guy who owns it and chatted him up. He owns a few 4x4 trucks that he is also selling on craigslist. He said he has owned the car for three years, no previous owner maint. records. The car had a used transmission swapped in during his ownership, he said he changed the oil every 3k miles. There are rust spots and the interior isn't in great shape. The turbo kicks in, the car cools effectively. The car was wearing tires so he replaced the bushings and other things in the front suspension and had the car aligned. He has not replaced the front tires yet, I'll have to look into this, it's a red flag. 140k on the working odometer. I'll look at this car soon and see how the car is. I wonder how well an MB can be maintained by a diyer who is into ford trucks.

Or I could just get a 2-3k toyota and have that last for a while but I would hate being in a small tin can. A 90's VW comes into mind as a possibility as well. I would be happy with a cheap stickshift golf or jetta if it would last through college as a beater. Perhaps a crown vic, buick roadmaster? A 17 year old never should have one of those! (I own a 27 year old mbz )

That 300sd could be a hit or miss depending on the suspension or the quality of work/parts the guy used. What do you think a good car would be for a 17 year old who likes big cars or small ones with a stick-shift, would be semi-reliable, and wouldn't care if it accumulates dents and scratches?

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Old 12-22-2007, 08:01 PM
toomany MBZ's Avatar
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Originally Posted by derburger View Post
What do you think a good car would be for a 17 year old who likes big cars or small ones with a stick-shift, would be semi-reliable, and wouldn't care if it accumulates dents and scratches?
This big car may not suit you.
83 SD

84 CD
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Old 12-22-2007, 08:02 PM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: WC Minnesota
Posts: 22
I've put on over 100,000 miles on Crown Vics (for work) and over 130,000 miles on our own '92 Olds Regency. Both were ultra reliable. The Olds has 212,000 miles on it and is still going. I've had to replace the water pump 4 times. The first three were cheap junk remans.
The mid '90s and newer Crown Vics seem to have fewer bugs than the early '90s ones.
83 300SD 305k, A work in progress
81 VW 1.6L Rabbit P/U, No spark required
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Old 12-22-2007, 08:48 PM
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Mmm! Diesel!
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Snohomish, WA
Posts: 1,420
Well, I might get kicked by someone for mentioning this, but if you want a small, fuel efficient car gas with a stick, I highly recommend Saturn S-series. They're actually have a pretty rigid, and rather safe space frame, and since all the vertical exterior surfaces are plastic, they resist a lot of those dents that come from parking near other college drivers.

Before anyone jumps on the "they can't be safe because they're plastic" wagon, and begins to form a lynch mob to come hunt me down, let me say that I know a few people first hand that owe their lives to those plastic cars. One of them fell asleep and drove off a mountain in N.C., and lived to buy, you guessed it, another Saturn as a replacement car. They're no MB in terms of sheer mass, but they hold their own rather well against a lot of the lumbering perils known as SUV's that haunt the highways these days.

My '93 with the higher powered DOHC motor and 5-speed can, and has gotten 38 MPG on the highway. Around town, in stop and go traffic, it's never returned less than 27 MPG, save for the time when my coolant temp sensor has gone bad.

They're also incredibly easy to work on. Plenty of room in them, not many special tools required. The Achilles heel of the 1.9 litre engine is the hydraulic timing chain tensioner and chain guides. (Yes, they use a chain, not a belt!) They need clean oil, or the chain gets slack and causes some problems. Keep the oil changed, and everything tuned up, and it's not hard for them to last well over 200k. Mine has 190k on it, and cylinder compression is even in all cylinders, and they're all within 90% of maximum compression. At this point, I see no reason why the motor won't last another 190k. A gentleman in California even has one with close to 500k on the clock, and that's without a rebuild on the original engine and transmission.

Folks, the cars don't get half the recognition they deserve for something so well engineered. They're cleanly put together, simple as hell for something computer controlled, and the parts don't cost too much, either. That's why I've owned a few of them. Good little commuters!

Edit: My dirty little secret is that I have one in my avatar. Heh! If you look closely, my little coupe is in background behind the 300D.
- K.C.Adams

'77 300D Euro Delivery
OM617 turbo / 4-speed swap
404 Milanbraun Metallic / 134 Dattel MB-Tex

Current status:
* Undergoing body work

My '77 300D progress thread

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Old 12-22-2007, 09:16 PM
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I've solved the dent problem by parking at the far corner of every parking lot I park in. Either that, or if I find the cluster of Corvettes, Mustangs, and BMWs that tend to park together in lots to protect each other, I join that. Either way I don't take my chances with the middle of the lot.

Anything that's safe in a wreck would be my pick. Not much help but that would be my primary concern.

"What could possibly go wrong?"

~Michael S.~ -
1986 M-B 300SDL, retired due to rust and electrical problems. Donated engine to:
1987 M-B 300SDL, odo dead. New project.
1982 M-B 240D, odo stopped at 308,000
1982 M-B 300SD, 175,000
1989 Dodge Ramcharger, 87,000 - 4wd, 318
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Old 12-22-2007, 11:59 PM
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Location: Milford, CT
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Depends where you are going to school. If it gets cold get a gas car, running an old diesel is a PITA. I used a 300SD for two years as my school beater, this year I have the Jetta. The 300SD was a royal PITA because on those cold 10 degree January days it wouldn't start unless you plugged it in.

If it gets cold where you go to school, and you cannot plug in get a gas car. You will just end up cursing the damn thing. I carried a can of starting fluid for those super cold starts, 617's are tough engines.
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Old 12-23-2007, 05:16 AM
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Location: Wichita, Ks
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agreed hatterasguy...

for 2-3k college beater I see a lot of e30 bmw 3 series. Alot of them on campus have crazy amounts of miles on them. A 325e with 380k is the most I remembered. He had it for sale and was asking $4000.

An old e30 is a lot cooler college beater than a Saturn, there's alot of them, plentiful parts, customization, and are pretty easy to work on.
some in your area:

My pick of the litter:
I do know of a gold w123 gasser coupe in Wichita for $850.00. 6cyl runs great; If you don't mind the subtle rust bubbling, might work for you.

1985 500SL Euro w/ AMG bits 130k
1984 300SD Turbodiesel 192k
1980 240D Stick China 188k
2001 CLK55 AMG 101k
2007 S600 Biturbo 149k Overheated Project, IT'S ALIVE!!!

Last edited by TylerH860; 12-23-2007 at 05:40 AM.
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Old 12-23-2007, 11:03 AM
Jim B.'s Avatar
Who's flying this thing ?
Join Date: May 2006
Location: N. California./ N. Nevada
Posts: 3,611
Buy a last edition "Box" series Panther platform '88-'91 Crown Vic

Ford Crown Victoria/Mercury Grand Marquis GS/LS primer:

I am going to go and say, Get a nice condition 1988-1991 Crown Victoria.

The 1988 one I had, was anvil reliable, cost virtually NOTHING to run, just gasoline, oil changes, and every once in a while, brakes and a battery.

For being the cheapest car to RUN, dollar for mile, that I ever owned in my life, nothing can beat them. These are the ones built from 1979, so the body style and durability of the RWD, BOF, cast iron block, traditional American sedan that to THIS day are still bought by the Police and Taxi companies which beat on them and get 300,000 to 400,000 miles on thesm

You can put furniture, bicycles, all kinds of stuff in the trunk, actually carry 5 people in them, not worry about theft, and gas mileage on regular will easily hit the high 20's on the freeway. and you get some fair amount of comfort and safety.

These are so good that if looked after, they will run to 300,000 - 400,000

If you look around, you can get a nice one with low miles for about $1200, and $2500 puts you in to "mint condition" territory.

Specifically, look for areas of rust, collision damage that was fixed, cracks on the dash (espeecially at the front speakers) and the 1/2 vinyl roof, weak or non working locks and windows.

Most everything else is bulletproof, the EFI motor, the $2500 AOD transmission, (dont buy one with a bad transmission), Air conditioning, and thd body is sturdy. The LX versions abound, (LS in Grand Marquis) which give you leather seats, turbine look steel wheels, cornering front lamps and other things.

They don't have great handling, the rear brakes are drum,
the '90 and '91 have driver airbags (with teeny twin horn buttons) and they are quite safe and comfortable.

Just go to a junkyard, buy a steel wheel with a used tire on it, and discard the donut spare, and you are good to go - for YEARS!!

What is not to like?

Side note: If you want a newer car than these take a look at some of the old Crown Vic Police Interceptors on ebay. They usually have about 100,000 -150,000 and have Heavy Duty frames, batteries, radiators, AT coolers and oil coolers, full size spares. DO avoid the "vomit comets" (patrol units that carried prisoners) and "Dog Units" (K9 ones really smell) but $3,000 can get you a good one if you shop around, and the best are Detective, Captain's, water Dept and DEQ ones that are unmarked, in regular colors, but they are few and cost more, most P71 interceptors were white.

You can browse ebay tZQ2d100QQsbrsrtZdQQsocmdZListingItemList

100,000 miles is NOTHING on them, and sometimes you can find one with low miles that has been lightly driven by a senior citizen (who bought their cousins: namely the Grand Marquis Mercury.

They were good sellers, (110,000 Crown Vics back in 1988) so plenty survived, so you can relax and lookd for a real nice one.

Dollar for dollar, an absoultely worry-free, unbeatable value for what you get back.

Your friends will laugh at you for driving a grandpa car, but you will have the last laugh.
1991 560 SEC AMG, 199k <---- 300 hp 10:1 ECE euro HV ...

1995 E 420, 170k "The Red Plum" (sold)

2015 BMW 535i xdrive awd Stage 1 DINAN, 6k, <----364 hp

1967 Mercury Cougar, 49k

2013 Jaguar XF, 20k <----340 hp Supercharged, All Wheel Drive (sold)

Last edited by Jim B.; 12-23-2007 at 11:08 AM.
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Old 12-23-2007, 11:33 AM
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Location: Milford, CT
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Oh and don't get a VW they are just as bad as MB's. Some sort of Toyota, Honda or Subaru would be your most reliable option. Unless you really want to drive a grandpa car.
2017 Chevy Silverado 1500 LTZ
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"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."
-Thomas Jefferson
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Old 12-23-2007, 12:28 PM
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Posts: 667
I've heard great things about the straight 6 BMW's but it all depends on how much I want to work on a car myself during college. My 300cd seems to be voodoo magic that only an old German wearing Liederhosen can work on, most everyone else will not touch it. But buying another gold w123 coupe from Kansas would be neat but that engine isn't as reliable and fuel efficient as I would want it to be. I think I'll narrow the list down to a 3k 6cyl BMW, old Crown Vic, or the saturn/toyota/honda/etc car.

This car would be a riot.
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Old 12-23-2007, 12:37 PM
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Didn't I see Chevy Chase driving that in one of the Vacation movies.
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Old 12-23-2007, 12:42 PM
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Might I suggest....

lots of useful parts when your done with her....especially the 5 speed
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Old 12-23-2007, 01:02 PM
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Location: Mount Holly, NC
Posts: 26,353
oooooh that would be nice...
John HAUL AWAY, OR CRUSHED CARS!!! HELP ME keep the cars out of the crusher! A/C Thread
"as I ride with my a/c on... I have fond memories of sweaty oily saturdays and spewing R12 into the air. THANKS for all you do!

My drivers:
1987 190D 2.5Turbo
1987 190D 2.5Turbo
1987 190D 2.5-5SPEED!!!

1987 300TD
1987 300TD
1994GMC 2500 6.5Turbo truck... I had to put the ladder somewhere!
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Old 12-23-2007, 01:53 PM
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Rollin' on 16s
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Location: Vancouver WA
Posts: 6,528
If you go Crown-Vic get a old cop car! What could be more fun in college?
1979 240D- 316K miles - VGT Turbo, Intercooler, Stick Shift, Many Other Mods - Daily Driver

1982 300SD - 232K miles - Wife's Daily Driver

1986 560SL - Wife's red speed machine
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Old 12-23-2007, 02:00 PM
Ran when parked.
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Aix, France and Salt Lake City, Utah.
Posts: 294
Ever thought of a Saab 900? I'm a junior in college, worked for me for a little while.

Think of the 5 1/2 mpg you'll get with the Crown Vic. Not good on a college student budget, trust me.

1981 230E, 1984 300D.

Last edited by alfa 75; 12-23-2007 at 02:06 PM.
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