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Old 07-11-2002, 06:04 PM
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Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 48
Question 1980s 300 D models - need some advice

Need some advice

I need a commuter car for my wife and I. She drives at least 25K a year. I really love those 300 Desiels but don't want to get into another maintenance nightmare like our C280 has cost us.

My questions are

1. How reliable are these models - mid 80s - 300 D ?

2. When purchasing one what problems are common amoung these that I need to be aware of? Any particular model to stay away from ?

3. How many miles should I expect to get out of one? I do all the regular maintenance.

4. Would this make a good commuter car?

Thanks in advance.......
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Old 07-11-2002, 06:38 PM
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1981 300D, 135K miles.

Great car, but: The vaccuum system will go out on you, door locks will be problematic due to this; Will want to switch to new ac system; Speedo will stop working, at least the odometer will stop, $500 replacement/repair; motor mounts will need replacing, and am now experiencing leaking oil seals on front crank case and head gasket. Definitely worth it for the do it yourselfer!
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Old 07-11-2002, 06:49 PM
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Join Date: May 2000
Location: Soperton, Ga. USA
Posts: 11,999
I agree - you will not find a better diyer car for a commuter. Either purchase it cheap $1500 or get one more exp that all the work has already been done to it $3500+. You will like the 300D alot - especially once you start turning wrenches on it and see how they are built for ease of maintenance.
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Old 07-11-2002, 11:30 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: S.F. Bay Area
Posts: 502
Best Buy!!!!!

Don't get your wife the 300D, get her the 240D. It's simpler to work on, the a/c, heater always works. Get the 4 speed manual transmission, it never fails and you know when it's going to shift as long as your leg works. The windows are manual and so the motors never fail. The steering is quicker and the spring rate is stiffer for winding roads.

They handle highway speeds ok up to seventy when they get a bit noisy. If you're really lucky, find her one of the euro 5 speeds that come up evey so often. At highway speeds above seventy, they're really quite. Then, if you so desire later, you can stuff it with a 300d engine or even a 300DT engine. Then the fun starts.

For an all round commuter you can't beat a 240D and you'll love how easy they are to work on. BTW, they're a lot less demanding mechanically than a 280!

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Old 07-11-2002, 11:44 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Wrightsville Beach NC
Posts: 1,512
You cant go wrong either way, Although I do like the 300D a little better. That extra cylinder helps a little on pep.....

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Old 07-12-2002, 01:39 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Northern Calif. (Fairfield Area)
Posts: 2,225
You didn't say where you live. The 300DTs are fine cars, but I'd recommend a 300SD. When you consider the value, they are dirt cheap no matter where you live. If you pay $4,000 for one you are still money ahead on any thing else you can buy. You can buy a really fuel efficient rice burner, but if your doin highway miles and an accident occurs, plan on the jaws of life to get you out.

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Old 07-12-2002, 10:32 AM
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Join Date: May 2002
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what about maintenance costs??

Thanks for all the advice guys.....
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Old 07-12-2002, 10:37 AM
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Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 48
I live in Atlanta

lots of wonderful stop and go traffic
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Old 07-12-2002, 11:00 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Northern Calif. (Fairfield Area)
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I'll say it again. When you look at the total yearly operating cost of a mid 80s 300DT or 300SD including acquisition cost, fuel, insurance, and maintenance, you can't beat it with anything else including something like a KIA. After you look at how much you're C280 has depreciated,especially with the extra miles,the cost per mile is significant without even counting maintenance. You can't look at an occasional $300 repair bill;you have to look at how many miles you put on a $4000 car. You have almost no investment.I know I got my moneys worth out of an 83 wagon I bought for $2000 with 200,000 miles on the clock. I'm getting ready to do the 315,000 mile service. Trans was changed by original owner, but engine is original. Head has never been off.

Good luck,
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Old 07-12-2002, 07:40 PM
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Paid $2200 for my '81 300SD. It had no maintenance records when I bought it (in fact, no paperwork of any kind other than the title). The only significant repair bill so far has been the transmission (more than I paid for the car!--I am not a DIY on anything beyond light bulbs). So barring a disaster in the near future, the cost per mile should continue to drop dramatically.

The car was driven in Maryland before I brought it to Oklahoma, only real rust is on the bottom of the front fenders. One big thing I am glad of, it has the vinyl interior, not quite as nice as leather but has worn much better than leather would have for 21 years (only a slight rubbed off spot on the driver seat back). I highly recommend trying to avoid a leather interior on an older car if you can. The right rear interior door handle needs to be bolted back onto the door, but I have left this for now as I rarely use the rear doors anyway.

Mine also has manual door locks, the only power on the car are the windows, sunroof and right side mirror. Being a Jaguar owner, I can attest to the value of avoiding power locks as cars age.

The A/C was converted to R-114 by a shadetree mechanic, but my mechanic said all he had to do was tighten the ground wire and he feels the system will work fine, though he did put an "unknown" material label for the referigerant, which might be a problem in some states (not in Oklahoma).

My main criteria was to have a car at an inexepensive price that looks and drives nicely, and so far the 300SD has been all that. Oh, I also switched out the mirrors on the sunvisors so my wife would have a clear one, looks like only the passenger vanity mirror ever was used by the previous owners, a trend I suspect will continue with me. And that center sun visor, what a great idea! Too bad it never caught on.

I also have a theory which many will find heretical but I will share anyway: With these older well-built cars, find one with a good interior, a good exterior, and be ready to put a little money into engine and mechanical. From all the quotes I have gotten, the engine and drivetrain always seem cheaper to repair than the interior if new parts are required, and body work is expensive too (interior part prices border on the ridiculous).
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Old 07-12-2002, 08:03 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 2,911
Just taking a wild guess, I'd say engine longevity is 50% maintenance effort and 50% luck of getting a well-manufactured engine off the production line. With the Mercedes diesel of the vintage you're talking about, the "luck" factor is very favorable.

Keep changing the oil properly - that's the real life of the engine.

And it goes beyond pure economics to a few intangibles - one of the most important is personal safety.

Would you rather be in a highway accident in a 300D/SD, or a Kia?

1987 300D, 345k miles
1982 300D, 325k miles

Still going strong and smooth running......
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Old 07-13-2002, 12:47 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Northern Calif. (Fairfield Area)
Posts: 2,225

I totally agree about the MB Tex interior over leather. I hate to burst your bubble, however, on the door locks. You have a vacuum lock system powered by a pump in the trunk next to your spare. Take a look. It just doesn't work.
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