How Did You Get Here? 1972 Mercedes O 309 Diesel

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This unusual 1972 Mercedes-Benz O 309D is in my neck of the woods, listed on craigslist near Providence, Rhode Island. I am sorely tempted to go look at this, given my love of oddball European models, but I’ve got enough poorly-running people movers at my house. These big Benzes were a common sight in Europe and even third-world locations, where their durability and capacity were embraced. Check out this example here on craigslist with a $4,500 asking price. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Bill for the find.

Of course, my question is always how did it get here? Someone had to work pretty hard to justify bringing a rig like this over, but despite how difficult it has been up until just recently to import gray market vehicles, it wasn’t always that way. In fact, given the backdrop, it wouldn’t surprise me if this Benz was located somewhere near Aquidneck Island, down near the mansions of Newport and country clubs catering to European dignitaries. It’s entirely believable to me that a family on holiday brough this large Mercedes with them, or a business owner wanted their overseas guests to feel at home.

Now, there could be a far simpler explanation that a member of the military stationed at the Newport Naval Base simply spotted this diesel-powered bus while stationed overseas and took advantage of affordable shipping options to bring it home. Importantly, the glass all appears intact and the seats remain in good condition. You could bring the whole family and a friend’s family with this kind of seating. The seller notes it is running and driving, but should be towed as the brakes still need work. Some rot spots are noted, along with soft spots in the floors.

The cabin is rudimentary at best, and the seller notes the engine is shared with the Unimog of the same era. Mercedes’ diesels tend to last forever, so it’s not surprising that it’s still humming. The seller mentions that consumables like weather-stripping are long gone, and that’s where the project gets challenging – I’m having the same issue with my 1981 Toyota HiAce project, as the rubber seals around the window are extinct and I haven’t found anything close to good used ones. Regardless, this will be a labor of love, but if you need a family hauler that looks nothing like your neighbor’s, the Benz bus is mighty appealing.

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

    That is a LOT of glass!
    I can envision it being cleaned up and used as something like a timing vehicle (high looking-out visibility factor is important) for a car club autocross program.

    Pretty cool machine, but with limited practicality otherwise. Use as a people-mover won’t be ever again in this Mercedes’ future, I don’t think.

    Like 2
  2. Chase

    Check out a buddy of mine’s MB Bus! Turned into an excellent cold brew bus on wheels! Met them in Whitefish, MT!

    Had to send him a link to this one!
    Also on IG @openroadcoffeebus

    Like 4
  3. DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

    So COOL!
    But I don’t think he’ll sell much coffee/make money to pay for the bus on that winding road out in the woods. ;-)

    Like 0
  4. Rick Landau

    These Mercedes Benz were offered in the U.S. We sold them at School Bus Sales Company, Waterloo, Iowa.

    Like 4
  5. Kiwi Glen

    By my maths this is a great deal it has 14 windows not 21 compared to its VW cousin – but it would be more powerful, comfortable and a lot lower entry fee. I would convert it to a motor home and go explore

    Like 5
  6. David Frank David FMember

    This looks like the Mercedes busses in Santa Barbara in the 1970s.

    Like 1

    Very easy to live with the cost of entry. Lots of machine here for the money. Someone will get a deal. Would be an excellent platform for a camper with class

    Like 2
  8. Jesper

    These old Mercedes are wery popular here in Europe. U cant kill the engine, with normal maintaining and it run a mill. Km. Only rust can kill that car. Out with seats and u have a monster transporter or camper

    Like 1
  9. Chad

    fella here has 1 w/o all the windows. It was parked for awhile at the “Eastworks” so drew my attention. Went to explore it:

    It was a commercial vehicle (hauling duties) 1st but he uses it as a camper type thing now. Placed his business logo and assorted ‘adverts’ on the side (unrelated enterprise – its just a big billboard). One of those goldie locks sizes – not too big, not too small, not to high…U get it. Is NOT dual axel – dual wheel in rear.

    Like 0
  10. Gay Car Nut

    Sweet looking Mercedes-Benz bus. I remember seeing one like this near where I live. I haven’t seen it in a while. Either the business that used it had gone out of business and the owner had taken it somewhere else. I don’t know. But I remember admiring how it looked. I didn’t get to ask the owner about it. I hope someone purchases this people mover and restores it to driveable condition. I can see this being used as either an airport taxi, or a school bus, or something. :)

    Like 0
  11. rancher

    My mechanic buddy uses his for a camper/motorhome with all the extra seats gone.

    Like 0
  12. John p

    I got the privilege of seeing these old heaps traveling in Iraq!! I also got to drive later model ones.. needless to say-they suck in the sand!

    Like 1
  13. David Miraglia

    I always wanted a 0309D.

    Like 0
  14. Guggie 13

    what a neat camper project base to start with

    Like 0
  15. Shane

    When I was a kid, 30+ years ago, our local bus service used those Mercedes buses as local transport.

    Like 0
  16. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    There was one of these in Colchester Connecticut a few years back, but I don’t think it looked this good.

    No interest in selling it for a couple of decades and then poof, gone.

    Like 1
  17. MattyD

    I was a driver for UC Berkeley in the mid 1980’s when we had a fleet of six that were used to transport commuters from BART, the regional underground transport, to campus. The service was called “Humphrey Go-BART”, get it? The busses all had 5 speed manual transmissions with a granny gear. They were great fun to drive; not fast, but handled well compared with the larger van conversions and busses. Good times.

    Like 3
  18. Del

    We used to use similar ones on the Eastern front……..


    Like 1
  19. Patrick T McMahon

    It looks like one of the shuttles used in the Boston Common garage in the 70s. If I remember they had a fleet of 8 or 9 of these in that color combination that were used to shuttle people from the Common garage to the Downtown Crossing shopping district about a half mile away

    Like 0

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