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Baby Blue Survivor: 1981 Mercedes-Benz 240D

Another day, another clean W123! This 1981 Mercedes-Benz 300D is more typical of the diesel-powered Benzes we see, and the one that has survived with cockroach-like abilities in third world countries and the United States alike. Here, they’re cherished as charming daily drivers or cheap collector cars; other places, they see endless abuse as taxi cabs and delivery vehicles. This one is stateside, of course, and has low miles for any car from the early 80s, but especially so for a long-lived W123. The color may be an acquired taste, but the paintwork and matching hubcaps appear to be in great shape. Find the Mercedes here on eBay with bidding closing in on $11,000 and the reserve unmet.

The interior is a sea of blue, just in case the outside shade of Pape Smurf wasn’t enough for you. The standard non-turbo 240D was a fairly spartan model, but then again, Mercedes of this era weren’t overloaded with luxury or tech features. The classiest feature was the standard Becker radio, which sadly appears to have been replaced here with a later aftermarket headunit. The dashboard isn’t cracked, which is a major win for the next owner, and the highly durable MB Tex seating surfaces are in mint condition (like most models that remain in highly preserved condition.) The period-correct carpeted floor mats are a nice bonus, and the wood trim in the center console is still pretty nice.

The non-turbocharged diesel will get you nowhere fast, but it will get you there. Still, don’t let the lack of speed dissuade you – Mercedes of every engine configuration are perfectly content at 70 miles per hour on the interstate, and the seller points out that this 240D has no issue keeping up with modern traffic. The engine bay is quite clean and it’s always reassuring to see matching paint inside the hood and inner fenders. While the seller doesn’t go into any great detail, he claims the W123 comes with maintenance records and the original window sticker, which hopefully show a robust paper trail of regular services and that the 240D remains in factory-correct condition.

The color-matched hubcaps is a familiar look for W123s of this era, and while it is OEM correct, it also adds a few years to an already old design. I’m not suggesting a dramatic change, but the classic Bundt wheels are an era-correct upgrade; my personal favorite is the polished base-model wheel that came standard on the CLK 230 Compressor Cabriolet, which is suitably modern but doesn’t scream resto-mod. I’m surprised the W123 hasn’t cleared the reserve yet, as while it is quite nice, the current bid should be enough to bring a great-but-not-perfect example like this. Perhaps the reserve will be cleared with a bid of $15K?


  1. Avatar photo alphasud Member

    A small error in the description. You mention a 300D but it’s a 240D. I might believe the owner saying it keeps up with traffic if it’s a 300 5 cylinder N/A diesel but that’s a stretch. The 240 with the automatic will not keep up with traffic. Unless you happen to live in a state where pot is legal! Nice car though. The W123 is a timeless design and comes from an era of build quality not seen in the modern era.

    Like 6
    • Avatar photo Stan Marks

      Who cares if it doesn’t keep up with traffic? It’s a Mercedes. Not a hot rod. Pot is legal in most states, Alph.

      Like 1
  2. Avatar photo ace10

    IMO, the seller has tweaked the exterior photos. China Blue is a very pleasant, subdued color, with none of the harshness present in these photos.

    Like 1
  3. Avatar photo Fred W

    I had a 300D in the early 90’s. Yes, it will eventually “keep up with traffic”, but the first time you enter an interstate on ramp to merge with traffic doing 80, you are in for a real surprise. This car has the acceleration of a 36 HP VW transporter hauling a load of gravel. It did impress my bride-to-be though.

    Like 3
  4. Avatar photo Chinga-Trailer

    Any sort of real money for one of these cars is stupid if you ask me. I cannot imagine anyone bidding five figures or more has ever lived with one – the frustratingly slow acceleration, smoke, hard starting when cold and the terrible smell of diesel fuel that sticks with you all day if you get any on your hands while refueling. In our area, there is at least a 25% price increase differential for the stinky fuel too. Changing the oil filter is a P.I.T.A. and the oil turns completely black within 5 minutes and change intervals of 2,000 miles are best, but can be stretched to no more than 3000 miles without risking undue wear to the bottom end bearings. But on the plus side, they are solidly built, very long lasting (you will get bored to death with the car long before it’s worn-out), roomy and comfortable with the illusion at least of safety.

    Like 3
  5. Avatar photo cmarv Member

    Great Tehran taxi .

    Like 0
  6. Avatar photo cmarv Member

    Great Tehran taxi .

    Like 0
  7. Avatar photo cmarv Member

    Great Tehran taxi .

    Like 0
  8. Avatar photo Paul

    As my personal daily driver, I can attest to the attraction of this car. I have the 78 with the manual trans and can honestly say it is a perfect car for every day. Sufficient acceleration for city and local commute. 0-45mph is as good as the rest of traffic. It will travel 70 on the highway just fine and conserves fuel. Oil change, fuel, tires and brakes with occasionally adjusting the valves and you won’t have a more reliable auto. Everyone who rides in it loves it. Always comfortable and doesn’t make me want to be a maniac on the road. Good to have analog in my life. Modern examples don’t exist anymore because everyone is in a hurry to get no where.

    Like 4
  9. Avatar photo Daniel Gavin

    Slower than you know what going up hill…….owned a 1980 240D with a four speed. Great quality but really slow. Moved up too an ’81 289 CE……great car…sorry I sold it for a 633CSI.

    Like 1
  10. Avatar photo Arby

    Did you ever get behind an RV going up Highway 1 in Cal?
    This is the vehicle that was slowing it down.

    Like 7
    • Avatar photo DKW

      That’s hilarious, Arby. Truthful humor is the best.

      Like 1
  11. Avatar photo Superdessucke

    Cruises at 70 miles an hour??? Have you been out on the highway lately? It’d better be able to cruise at 90 miles an hour to keep up with modern traffic. And good luck with that. You would feel like a rolling obstacle in this. I would consider this to be more of a city car now.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Chinga-Trailer

      The problem with driving in the city is that everyone is in such a hurry to make it to the next red light before it turns green that you’ll aggravate and annoy everyone behind you. I once nearly got rear-ended by a young girl who I could see was texting as she started to accelerate to what she thought my pace would be!

      Like 0
      • Avatar photo Superdessucke

        Yes true, and the stinking black cloud of carbon exhaust would partly block their view of you as well.

        Like 0
  12. Avatar photo George Mattar

    Yeah slow, but built like a bank vault. My uncle had a 75 model. Got 550,000 miles out if it on original engine. Very few problems. Yeah diesel fuel stinks and costs a ton, but unlike today’s garbage MB products, which break down daily, this car will last.

    Like 3

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