Das Krankenwagen: 1978 Mercedes-Benz 250T Ambulance

Mercedes-Benz has long been known for making hearses, ambulances, and fire apparatuses, in addition to its usual fare of luxury sedans and off-road trucks. However, they typically were not sold stateside so it’s a rare occasion when one of these unusual conversions appears for sale locally. This is a 1978 Mercedes-Benz 250T ambulance that’s listed here on craigslist in Santa Barbara, California for $16,900. Mileage is just 43,000 and it is rumored to have been previously imported for Jay Leno. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Pat L. for the find. 

Now, Mercedes didn’t do these conversions in house, but similar to ASC here in the U.S., an aftermarket company took the new model from the factory and converted it into whatever spec their customer wanted. In the case of this ambulance, the conversion was executed by a German coachbuilder called Miesen. The integration of the high-roof design appears to have been well done, as it doesn’t look nearly as awkward as you might expect for a vehicle body that started out as a plain-jane sedan. The rest of the details are correct for a W123, from the hubcaps to the taillights.

As this is a European market car, the Mercedes features a drivetrain we don’t often see locally in a W123 body. It’s a carbureted gas inline-six, paired to a manual gearbox. The typical diesel and turbodiesel option likely didn’t make sense here, given the added weight of the ambulance body on the already underpowered drivetrain. The gas engine will likely feel more up to task of moving an ambulance presumably carting more than one passenger as briskly as possible, though it seems quite foreign at this point to imagine hustling an emergency vehicle though city traffic with a stick shift.

As is often the case with former fire, police, or emergency response cars and trucks that end up in private hands, the Mercedes is in excellent condition inside and out. Typically, someone who wants one of these bad enough won’t bother importing one that’s been ridden hard. The seller contends that Blue Nelson imported this Mercedes on behalf of Jay Leno, and it was repainted somewhere along the line. The seller reports that the true mileage is unknown and that he has recently fitted a new fuel line and catalytic convertor and also resealed the gas tank. As an added bonus, it passed the stringent California smog testing, too.

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Comments

  1. Bamapoppy

    While on a business/vacation in Germany in 1992 I saw one of these for the first time. Intriguing, but, why not?

    Like 2
  2. Spiderider

    This was sold in b.a.t this time last year for 7,300.. this last listing is still up in archives.

    Like 3
    • Tony Primo

      Someone’s trying to double their money!

      Like 4
      • Pierre

        Next seller will offer it for 32000$

  3. Mike

    This vehicle is getting passed around quite a bit. It sold on BaT last year for $7,300 and then the year before that for a $9,300 ask. No mention of Leno.

    https://bringatrailer.com/listing/1978-mercedes-benz-280se-4/

    The winner of the auction commented “So stoked. Project car for dad and a 14 year old. Headed to Santa Barbara!”

    Like 3
  4. local_sheriff

    May I dare to correct; it’s der Krankenwagen. Some of these conversions (in various condition) are still seen on track days in Europe serving as depot cars

    When I think of it I had a Siku toy variant of such an ambulance as a kid probably still stashed away somewhere in mom’s house
    https://www.sikumuseum.nl/en/super-series/1408-siku-1613-binz-200-w123.html

    Like 3
  5. Car Nut Tacoma

    Awesome looking ambulance. I’ve never understood why these were never sold here in the USA.

    Like 1
    • local_sheriff

      From ’76 onwards federal standards were introduced that regulated what kind of equipment must be carried, minimum space requirements etc which lead to the demise of car based ambulances in the US.

      While we can still see car or micro van based ambulances other places in the world those would most certainly fail to meet the increasing stringent requirements regulating modern US ambulances

      Like 1
  6. Frank

    MB’s best era of the 240/300 models up to 85 or so. Still built by hand using quality German parts. Great vehicle, I had a 84 300TD for 9 years the only issues were a power antenna and glow plugs. Germans by far built the best.

  7. Bill McCoskey

    I suspect this car has been converted to a quasi-station wagon. There is not enough room in the rear floor area for a gurney to be slid in and the back doors closed. Plus, I can just barely see there is a pair of forward facing folding bucket seats just behind the division panel.

    And I’ve never seen a Mercedes-Benz ambulance with carpeting in the rear. Then again, I’ve never seen ANY ambulance with factory installed carpeting in the rear. It would present problems with keeping it clean and sanitary!

    I can see this car as a unusual station wagon; a place for a couple of kids, room for the stuff wagons haul, and it WILL get stares from people as they pass you by, because it’s underpowered!

    Like 2
  8. chrlsful

    each time I C it come up here I’m tempted. Needa ‘square box’. Would like the million mi motor & auto instead. No rush down the rd for me.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercedes-Benz_OM617_engine

  9. Martin

    re: carpet and things … these were in fact often sold when the went off-duty – and used as camping cars. People threw away the medical equipment and put curtains, carpets, mattresses inside.
    When You look at the doors You can see there is some space added, compared to the normal T-model station wagon. In this one You can sleep. So, this Miesen is certainly a real Ex-Krankenwagen, ridden down by some Berlin-based Ostsee-Camping fan (judged by the color…)
    Cheers from Germany

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