No Reserve Turbo Diesel: 1982 Mercedes 300TD Wagon

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Is a project Mercedes 300TD Turbodiesel a money-pit? or a gem in the rough? That’s the question as we contemplate this 1982 300TD, fresh from storage. On the one hand, the seller has replaced enough parts so the wagon will start, run, and drive. On the other hand, the vacuum systems are not working and the driver’s side windows need new regulators and motors. Rust has chewed away the driver’s seat floor pan and erupted along the sills and rockers. But these wagons are approaching “classic” status, and restored examples are cropping up on the market. Built on Mercedes’ W123 platform from 1980 through 1986, the Turbodiesel estate enjoyed the same reputation as its brethren for mechanical reliability. More than one 300-series W123 has surpassed 500,000 miles, and at least one sedan has crossed the million-mile mark. Given these achievements, our subject car’s odometer reading of 246,407 miles makes it seem barely broken in. But challenges are ahead for our car before it can supply additional driving pleasure.

The engine is a fuel-injected, SOHC 3.0-liter inline five-cylinder diesel, good for 120 hp. A four-speed automatic transmission brings power to the wheels. A top-notch wagon can reach a maximum speed of 105 mph. The seller notes that the battery, injection pump, and vacuum pump have been replaced. The car’s vacuum system still needs fettling; the brake booster, power steering system, locks, and other components don’t function properly. These cars were mechanically sophisticated, with fully independent self-leveling suspension, power disc brakes all around, and power steering. Ergonomic niceties included an electronically operated outside mirror, cruise control, and halogen lamps up front. Anti-lock brakes were an option.

Repair patches on the seats and cracked upholstery are the primary signs of age in the cabin. The instrument panel is undamaged, and other than wrinkles in the vinyl, the door trim is fine. The cargo carpet is threadbare but clean. Mercedes sold over 2.7 million copies of the W123 in its myriad forms – a success by any measure. The S123 wagon variant was Mercedes’ first ever, carving out a new niche in the luxury market. Despite its popularity, the earlier estate and the later Turbodiesel represented only about 5% of total W123 production.

This 1982 Mercedes 300TD Turbodiesel is for sale here on eBay with no reserve. The bidding has reached $2075, and the winning buyer will trailer the car home from Tallahassee, Florida. Values are exhibiting wide variance, with project cars selling in the four-figure area. I mentioned that restored S123s are arriving in the market: this 1982 sold for over $99k in January. Our subject car needs rust repair and any number of potentially expensive mechanical repairs. So what’s the verdict? Is a restoration worth it?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. CCFisher

    The Mercedes W123 cars are among the most durable ever made. This means that there are plenty of clean, dry examples out there, so there should be no need to deal with this car’s rust issues.

    Like 5
  2. Derek

    These are mechanically bombproof; used as taxis everywhere in Germany at the time. The welding – if good -will sort it out for another few hundred thousand miles…

    Shame about the automatic.

    Like 1
    • CCFisher

      US-spec TDs like this one weren’t available with a manual transmission. It really is a shame, because a 5-speed would have allowed drivers to make the most of the car’s meager power. A swap is possible, though, and with as much work as this one needs, why not add it to the list?

      Like 0
  3. Rusty Frames

    They’re bulletproof, until the vacuum system goes bad, and you can’t roll your windows down, or stop, or open the car. And with Mercedes famous mechanical sophistication? These cars are super easy for the novice hobbyist to take on.

    Like 1
  4. Fogline

    Reminds me of the one I picked up off an ad far from California. Lots of rust that I learned a lot from and made me understand what people were talking about when they said avoid rusty cars. Then there was the self leveling system…

    Oh – and it wouldn’t actually turn off when you turned the key.

    I really liked the car, but it was very slow. I know values are still moving up on these, but this sounds like something you will be fiddling with for the entire time you own it, never getting it quite right.

    Like 1
  5. Jim Simpson

    I own a California 1984 vintage with 293,000 miles ON THE CAR. CA 300 TDs are slightly different than most—and not even known in detail by “Mercedes”–the ever-present gurus on the diesels–with sage and savvy help for ALL Mercedes diesels. Interesting that due to an Oil Changer mistake causing burn-out oil loss of the original engine, it has a dealer installed NEW 5cyl diesel engine that was otherwise destine for Alaska as a reliable diesel back up-engine for an electric generation facility. Blueprinted! Thus, the car deserves all peripheral enhancements. I KNOW EVERY age-related failure- and have addressed them all. Soon for sale- Likely will see it here in time.

    Like 0
  6. Dave

    About 20 years ago I had a Mercedes 300SD sedan with the same 5 cylinder diesel engine. I bought it for my wife to drive but she didn’t like it. It had no rust, was painted “orient rot” (dark red) color, ran even better once I replaced the injectors and prior to selling. It ran well on filtered cooking oil, that used to be an option back then, just smelled a little like “french fries”! It only had about 140,000 miles when sold for about $4000, low for a diesel. This car is a wagon, but with higher miles and rust issues. The 300D model car (without the “S”) is a little shorter and less weight with same turbo diesel engine, so some people like them best. Late 70’s to early 80’s engine.

    Like 0
  7. Bunky

    When our kids were small, this was our dream car- but too spendy for us at the time. I’ve owned a 190C (gas), 220D, 240D, and a 300D Turbo. Ironically, the 300 Turbo got better mileage than the 240. 240 was painfully slow, but an excellent car. 300 Turbo had some Snoose- but if you needed extra acceleration to avoid a dangerous situation- forget about it. By the time your request got to the engine room, and the boilers were stoked- it was too late. Can you say “Turbo Lag”?, I know you can.

    Like 0
    • JIm Simpson

      Actually, there is a “Turbo Boost” screw located on the top of the engine under a “do-not-remove” plastic plug. I have not increased the turbo output on my car–yet the screw is there to maximize boost–especially on an older vehicle. Yes- a relative snail– at 5 cylinders- counterintuitive to anybody used to a v8 or even inline six. A Tractor, actually. However, I can still out accelerate most VWs, and that screw DOES make a noticeable difference I have heard from my Diesel mechanic–who is always wanting me to screw it in further! HA!

      Like 0
  8. David Frank David FrankMember

    TD does not stand for turbo diesel. T stands for touring. I put a lot of miles on my TD like this one and it certainly could have used a turbocharger.

    Like 0
  9. Fox owner

    It’s gone baby gone, for $2272 I think.

    Like 0

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