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Discussion Starter #1
Hello,

I'm looking for a new (to me) car to use as my daily driver. I commute about 50 miles (round trip) every workday.

I rather enjoy performing as large a portion of my own maintenance and repair as possible. I don't mind the work, and I appreciate the degree of financial freedom it gives me not to have to pay the shop to do simply everything. I don't have the gear on hand to pull an engine or drop a transmission, but that still leaves a lot of stuff within reach, and the savings can be substantial on jobs where the parts cost is modest, but significant labor is involved. I derive some satisfaction from knowing that I've done the job properly, even if not particularly quickly.

What I'm working around to here is my concern that the vehicles I have now might be on the edge of what's still fairly accessible to me as a shadetree mechanic. I'm concerned that if I get something much newer (say, mid-90's or beyond) that I'll be getting into something that will still need repair and maintenance, but will be specialized enough to be beyond my experience and/or facilities.

So, I'm considering a strategy of looking for something older, but of a high level of mechanical quality, and then trying to find an example with reasonably low mileage to begin with. My needs aren't urgent, so I can lurk for a while and see what turns up in the ads. I'd like to do enough research so that I know when I see something whether might be worth pursuing (if it's a really good deal, it may not last long).

Given the description of my situation above, does a W123 seem like a good choice? More specifically, how about a 300D? I think it's safe to assume that the style and performance characteristics wouldn't be a problem for me, so I'm thinking specifically here of reliability and maintainability/repairability.

I have no personal familiarity with Mercedes-Benz automobiles, so in part I'm looking here for some comments on what I might reasonably expect from, say, a 20-year old car with ~100,000 miles on the clock. I know that much of it will depend on the care that a given car has received, and that reliability is never guaranteed, but I'm asking here in general terms.

I've heard lots of good things about the durability of the diesel engine. Are there caveats here? Aside from the engine proper, what's the durability of the ancillary parts (injection pump or turbocharger, for example)?

How about the automatic transmissions? Do these have a similar reputation for bulletproofness?

What about chassis, suspension, steering, and brakes? Any likely trouble spots?

How about air conditioning? I hate to seem like a sissy, but I'm a northern boy living in the South, so AC is not quite the luxury it once seemed.

To be clear, I'm not expecting to find a "perfect" car, and I'm not against spending money on repairs where necessary - it's part of the game. I am, however, trying to stack the deck in my favor, and keep the ratio of cash spent to miles driven reasonably low.

Apologies if this seems to have rambled too much, but the questions are big ones, and I'm trying to define my objective. Thanks for your time.

(By the way, you seem to have a nice community here. I hope it comes to pass that I have more reasons to visit here.)


Best Regards,

eskimo
 

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Welcome to the board, Eskimo!

The suject of 123 chassis mer-b's seems to be the hot topic of late, so forgive me if I sound like I am repeating myself.

In short, the 123 is a good choice, but of the 123's I recommend the turbo engines. Still a simple engine, but the extra power is very nice to have.

The quality of transmissions is pretty consist for the mercedes lines of the 80's and 90's. My '87 had the tranny rebuilt at about 190K due to tires gaskes weeping out as well as some slippage. Some say that 150K is a reasonable expectation, while others say 250K is. I hope the latter is true, since my '93 has 138K on it and rapidly climbing. Anyway, they do have a rep of being solid and reliable.

You ask about A/C, and that is kind of a tricky area. They do blow cold when working correctly. BUT, Mercedes cars have a rep for not taking kindly to R134 conversions. That means keep it using R12 and bite the bullet for any repairs on it. When buying a used Mer-B, make sure to have the A/C checked out by a qualified pro before purchase, even if reciepts show recent repair. Not that it should disqualify a purche, but be sure that you are fully informed of the potential costs of a repair.

The mileage that I have been told to expect from an injection pump is 100K. I doubt this to be true of the entire life of the IP, but the delivery valve seals often go bad and mechanics would sooner sell their customer a new unit than replace $2.00 worth of o-rings and an hour or two of labor.

A turbocharger may well be a 100-150K mile item, but makes for a surprisingly simple rebuild, though somewhat time consuming on my '87 (OM603 engine, 124 chassis). I doubt there is significant difference in the 123 chassis, 617 engine.

Brakes are easy on a benz, and should not be a worry. The suspensions may be a problem when the bushings go bad. Again, not a major problem, but time intesive, as the suspension is multi-link rear and bath the front and back are mounted to subframes that have rubber bushings that go bad. That is alot of rubber to replace, but is rarely needed to be done (maybe once in the lifetime of the car). The wagons have a self-level rear hydraulic suspension that is very reliable, but the parts can also get a bit pricey.

I do favor the 123 for its build quality and its styling and simplicity, but don't be afraid to look at the 124's. I don't feel that they are built quite as well, but still way above par for most cars of the era (and even now). They have convenient upgades like an alarm system (which do eventually fail), heated outside mirrors, ABS, airbag(s) and a separate vacuum pump for the door locks (the 123 chassis works on engine vacuum and are prone to failure). The 124's also have additional computer controls and other mechanism that do make it a little harder to work on, though. The early 603 engine (124 chassis) were prone to cracking cylinder heads too.


Hope this helps.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Cracker,

Thanks for the information. It all sounds fairly encouraging to me. Yes, basic build quality is a big part of what I'm after, and the style of the 123 is very appealing to me as well.

From what I've heard here and elsewhere, I agree that I would be best served by a turbodiesel 300. I've spent plenty of time driving a Mazda pickup with an 85 HP gasoline engine, and though I'm no race car driver, sometimes that's just too slooooow to deal with ordinary traffic.

So, with a little sharper definition, the search is on. There's a guy a little further south who sells cars that are donated through a charity, and he runs into older Mercedes fairly often. I've told him what I'm looking for ('84-'85 300D, low miles) so that he can contact me if a likely candidate turns up.

Other than that, I'll just keep an eye on the ads. I've called on a couple of them already, but they were stale enough that the cars were already sold. I snooze, I lose!

Again, thanks for the tips.


-- Eskimo
 

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Eskimo:

The OM617 powered W123 would be a great, enjoyable, and reliable DIY daily driver. The OM617 is often referred to as "bullet proof" with its cast iron block and head. Sounds like you are on the right track for what you want.

Sincerely,
Scott with his OM617.951 powered W126, DIY, 240 mile/day commute.
 
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