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  #1  
Old 06-08-2001, 12:53 AM
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As fuel prices continue to soar, I'm thinking of picking up a diesel daily driver. Probably an older SD, or if I could find one in decent shape, a w124 diesel, they seem to be extremely rare in this part of the country.

Now my question, besides the obvious of using diesel fuel instead of gas, and somewhat lethargic performance compared to their gas counterparts, what else is different in the driving experience?

I understand the issue of cold starting, etc, but being in NJ it doesnt get THAT cold that often, so I should probably be ok as far as that. Other than that is there anything I should be aware of before I embark on the search for my first diesel?

Also what sort of mileage figures should I expect from an SD? Granted diesel fuel is probably 25% cheaper, so that will be a savings, but I'm wondering what kind of mileage to expect.

Best wishes and take care,
George Androulakis
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  #2  
Old 06-08-2001, 01:29 AM
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I get an overall 25 MPG on my 300SDs The 300 SDL (six cylinder) seems better but I haven't had it long enough to get an overall average.

The 300SDs are very reliable and the engines last forever. The biggest problem is body rust if you drive in the salt that the idiotic DOT puts on the roads. But this is a problem with all cars.

Try Ebay, there are usually a couple for sale there.

P E H
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  #3  
Old 06-08-2001, 01:38 AM
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Check out ebay and autotrader.com there should be lots of used MB's in your area.I bought an 81 sd from autotrader and like the car better than any other auto iv'e ever owned (have owned over 50 cars trucks motorhomes and motorcycles)getting a real 28.7 mpg. I used to live in Fla. and it is the land of nicely cared for rust free used MB's might be a good place to start if you are looking for a real mint car.....
William Rogers......
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  #4  
Old 06-08-2001, 01:42 AM
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George, I am averaging 27-29 mpg in my car. Down here in South central NJ, diesel is running about $1.35 a gal. From what I have read here, avoid the "rod bender" 350SDL. The engine that is in my car was used up to 1985. It has a cast iron head, whereas the later engines I believe switched to aluminum. A compression check seems to be the first thing you should have done. Find out when the valves were last adjusted, but of course this would go with reviewing maintenance records.
As far as the driving experience, that would depend on which car you get. From what I have read here, the diesels used in the W124s were very quite and smooth(for a diesel). When my car is running, you know it's a diesel. On the W124 diesels it sounds like a gas eninge that's a little loud. Once you are up to speed you don't really notice that you're in a diesel
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  #5  
Old 06-08-2001, 02:24 AM
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Ok so judging by what you guys have said, an 81-85 SD will probably be what im looking for. Someone has an 85 SD listed with autotrader.com, asking $3,800 but no mention of miles. It's somewhere in eastern PA, not exactly sure where.

How risky a proposition is getting into one with +- 200k miles which im sure they will be in the range of. Granted the engines are known to last a long time, but will the trans / suspension etc hold up, or will it be a constant money pit?

Im extremely skeptical when it comes to e-bay. Small stuff, sure, but a car? sight unseen? That just seems like russian roulette.

I dont mind a car that needs work, as In a way I would consider it a learning experience, but I need something affordable, and reliable enough to drive almost daily. Well I have the C class and an Acura TL now, but im thinking of selling the TL, and getting sort of a project / fun car. I've been tinkering with the idea of a diesel for a long time, at least 3 or 4 years. Especially with all I read on the forums, it seems like these cars are a real love affair.

I really dont have the foggiest idea about diesels. I mean I know the basics, i.e. ignition is compression based, there is no ignition system, and I have read that the vaccum system plays a significant role in these cars, moreso than in a gas car. Not exactly sure how, but one can always learn.

The other thing im concerned about is turbo life. I know these cars seem to run way up there in the miles. But doesnt the turbo wear? My experience has been basically to stay away from upper mile turbo cars, as it is usually well worn, and at best just doesnt help with power anymore.

Best wishes and take care,
George Androulakis
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  #6  
Old 06-08-2001, 10:12 AM
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What do you mean by a turbo doesn't help with power anymore?
The turbo gives about 50% more power but only after the engine gets up to 2000RPM. The 300SD has slow acceleration until the engine gets revved up and there is very little torque boost from the torque converter. The 300SDL 6 cylinder has a much different torque converter that gives better acceleration.
As far as the reliability of the turbo, I see very little said about them here on this web site. If there was any big problem with them, I am sure there would be more complaints about them.
I can't understand why people discriminate between what they pay for a car and repair costs. They don't complain how much the purchase price is, but let there be a repair bill and this is terrible. Together they are both the total cost of owning the car and come out of the same pocket.
It might be because most people buy more car than they can afford. If you can afford $10,000 for a car, you should probably buy one for about $7000 and keep the other $3000 for repairs. That way you don't pay more that the $10,000 you could afford in the first place.
As far as Ebay is concerned, I bought 2 cars (1 cheapie and 1 good one) using Ebay and I was very pleased with both.

P E H
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  #7  
Old 06-08-2001, 07:31 PM
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I understand how the turbo works, but I was under the impression that as the turbo wore, the amount of boost it provided dimished. At least this has been the case with the other turbo cars that I have come across.

As far as pricing of a car, I agree that the total cost of ownership is what is important, but I dont want a money pit. I have seen several cars that friends have owned nickel and dime them to death.
What I'm more concerned with is the general reliability of these cars, will it nickel and dime you to death, or not.

Best wishes and take care,
George Androulakis
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  #8  
Old 06-08-2001, 07:49 PM
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As far as discriminating between a car purchase price and repair costs, I can see the argument. Granted it does come out of the same pocket. But let's say the car has X intrinsic value (monetarily speaking). When you purchase the car for X, you are expecting to recieve X dollars worth of car. As repairs come along, the intrinsic value of the car does not change. However your total outlay of money has, to let's say X (initial purchase) + R (repair costs).

The point I think that frustrates people, is that since (X+R) is not equal to X, they feel that their value has greatly diminished, specifically by a factor or (X+R)/X. If repair costs are significant, and unexpected, the total X+R may put them into a total expenidture situation that had they initally spent (X+R)would have left them with a car in much better condition, and that would have a significantly higher intrinsic (monetary) value.

Granted repairs are a fact of life, and any car, at some point in its life will experience them. But they are frustrating, and change the financial picture for any car in a hurry,

Best wishes and take care,
George Androulakis
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  #9  
Old 06-12-2001, 01:16 AM
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First of all, turbos don't wear...they either work or they don't. Second, if you want a 124 diesel you will have to make regular investments in the car to properly maintain it, but if you have good service records on the car and have a proper PPI performed, you shouldn't have too many surprises.
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  #10  
Old 06-12-2001, 10:03 AM
Icesailor
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George,
I just thought I would toss my $.02 in. A diesel is a horse of another color. The driving characteristics are different than any car I have ever driven. The acceleration from stop is snail slow and a hard acceleration will tend to pour out some soot. The eighties vintage cars also make more noise at idle than a gas car. This being said; I love mine. The cars have great throttle response once you are in the rpm curve where the boost is with you, somewhere at and above 2,000 rpm. While driving above 50 mph there isn't a 4 door out there that I cannot jump all over and when passing…I leave em all in the dust. These driving characteristics are something one just needs to get used to. I have driven both the turbo as well as the non-turbo Benzes and there is no comparison in acceleration. Another point is that Mercedes diesels were designed to run on better grades of diesel not found here in the states so it is advisable to add a diesel cetane booster to the fuel, although they will run ok without it. I find I get a mile or two more per gallon fuel and a quieter idle on the cetane booster.

I went searching for a diesel because I wanted what a diesel offers; an uncomplicated combustion system, reliability, fuel economy and the fact that a diesel is very content running day and night and day non-stop. I purchased a 1982 300D turbo with 158,00 miles. I have spent a fair amount of time doing various repairs to the car to bring it up to the level of maintenance I want it to be at. I, in all the repairs, have only needed to do two engine related procedures and they were to change the oil and adjust the valves all other items were non-engine related.

The only down side I have experienced in buying my car is that I let my girlfriend drive it a few times and now I have to find another one so I can again get to drive one.

Rick


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  #11  
Old 06-12-2001, 10:40 AM
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George,

I've spent some time studying your equation model of car expense satisfaction and must say that I found it intriguing. What it fails to take into account, though, is the depreciation-driven downward pressure on purchase price for older cars, that is not matched by a downward curve in parts cost and labor expense. A mid 80s MB diesel can be purchased for a couple of thousand dollars and yet require $1000-2000 a year in maintenance, depending on miles driven. The reason is that labor rates are the same, no matter the purchase price of the car, and the parts are still priced to reflect the fact that the car was a $30k car when new.

To end the discussion there is to miss the point, however. Ask any MB diesel owner and they will probably tell you the same thing. They probably cover more miles in that car than if it were a gas car, their cost-per-mile is probably much lower than if it were a gas car, and if they sold their car they would probably tell you that they miss it and it was the best car they ever owned. Part of the reason for this is somewhat intangible...the feeling of utter safety, knowing that you are driving one of the strongest cars on the planet and one which will effectively sacrifice its life to save yours; the fact that the driving position is the most comfortable you've ever felt (my 123 is much more comfortable to sit in than my 126 of the same year!); and the sense that your car is similar to the Energizer bunny in that it keeps going and going. These are important factors that do not fit into your equation.

The way I've always looked at it is that my average monthly maintenance costs were less than a car payment, and I was able to pay cash for far more car used than I would get new. Except for AMG cars, current production MBs are being built to a price, not to a standard. The older cars were built the other way around, and that doesn't fit into your equation either.

The equation is clever, but works best with commodity vehicles. Older MBs are not commodities and the value owners place on the cars is as much intrinsic as extrinsic.
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  #12  
Old 06-12-2001, 11:38 AM
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4 months ago I picked up a Diesel ('92 300D 2.5turbo) for a work car, and I like it a lot. Took some getting used to, but it's a great car. First off, it certainly doesn't run like a gas car-acceleration is not as urgent. However, it goes pretty darn good, and once rolling over 25mph it has quite good acceleration, if not neck-snapping.

As to noise/vibration/harshness, if you are inside the car it is virtually indistinguishable from a gas car, other than making a different engine noise on acceleration. Going down the road at virtually any speed, I dare anyone to be able to tell the difference. A very well engineered car.

I get nearly 40MPG with my D, and that's driving it fairly aggressively (remember, I'm accustomed to a 500E which is a bit more spirited in its responses). It started with no problem during the coldest weather, and that was without being plugged in.

Good luck in your decision.
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  #13  
Old 06-12-2001, 01:50 PM
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Moraine,

It's not conjecture, it's fact...if you drive the car things wear out and hard parts are not inexpensive, particularly when labor charges are figured in. If your experience is that your cars never need repair, then that is your experience. I assure you, though, that such a claim is the exception, not the rule.

Until recently my commute was 3k miles per month. Even though mostly highway, things add up and wear out. I have only owned a 123 diesel, but I know from my own experience and the experience of others that $1500 per year in maintenance is not out of line at all. Have you had to buy a trans for either of your coupes? If not, then you have dodged a bullet. If you have, then spread that cost over the miles driven and you'll see what I'm talking about. Have you had to pay the numerous hours of labor to replace leaky auto trans hoses on your cars?...same story. Rear axles replaced?...priced a starter lately?...you get the idea. Am I complaining?...no, in fact I'm shopping for a DTD right now to replace our sedan. Am I telling the truth about my experience (with a 343k mile car) and the similar experience of others?...you bet.

If this were not the case, then there would not be the same urgency to have documented service records and competent PPIs performed. The FACT is that these are unusually sturdy cars that will last for a *very* long time if properly maintained, and that maintenance is not cheap. Parts prices are only part of the story and I use MB or OEM as well. Flat rate for good indy shops where I live ranges from $60-70/hour, and it adds up even for simple repairs. Conjecture?...not in this case.
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  #14  
Old 06-12-2001, 02:30 PM
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In my forever to be humble opinion...

I owned a 1984 300SD TurboDiesel. Best car I ever had. I don't know if the car was willing to give up its life to save mine, but I sure felt safe and comfortable driving it. That car and I went through a lot together. When I finally it sold I almost immediately regretted it. My only comfort is that it was purchased by a family friend, who bought it for his daughter to drive. I occassionally get visitation rights. In fact, my wife rode on the car the other day and she said it still looks as good as when when used to own it. So that's some relief.

My 1984 Turbo was particularly fast off the line due to my mechanic doing some voodoo stuff witht he transmission. If they are well maintained diesels can run forever. In fact, the body will fall apart before the engine does.

One thing I would suggest, however. If you buy a turbo, make sure to let the engine run for a minute or so before you turn it off. If you turn it off right away, especially after driving on the freeway or at high speeds, internal parts do not receive proper lubrication and the turbo may seize up, or wear out prematurely. I always gave it a minute to catch its breath before turning it off.

With that in mind, I'd highly recommend getting a Mercedes diesel

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  #15  
Old 06-12-2001, 03:13 PM
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I couldn't agree more about other MB models and other cars being criminal in terms of repair costs. On the Ritter/Easley list there is a W140 owner who just found out that his AC evaporator needs to be replaced to the tune of $700+ for the part and 25 hours labor. All I'm saying is that my experience and that of the 123 owners I know differs widely from yours in terms of enjoying such uncommonly low cost/mile. More power to you and maybe my next 123 will be similar.

Remember, though, that the question that started this thread was, in essence, will you have to spend money on these cars and, in MY experience, the answer is yes. However, it sounds as if you and I are in complete agreement regarding the elegance of the simplicity and efficiency of our 123s, as well as the ease of many DIY repairs. My 126 will be sold long before we are without a 123, and for just the reasons you bring up.
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