Life Car Revisited: 1982 Mercedes 240D

1982 Mercedes 240D

Back in April I wrote up a Mercedes and suggested that it could be a life car. Some of you liked the idea and others considered the 240D too slow and stinky for the daily commute. Well, Robert R. just found another of these robust diesels and sent it in figuring I might want it. Well, I do and if it were closer, I’d be tempted. The $5k asking price might seem a little high with so many $2k beaters still around, but this one does look like a keeper. Take a look at the craigslist ad here and let us know what you think. It’s located in Orangevale, California and is claimed to still be wearing its original paint. It has only covered 156k miles (which is considered low for one of these) and just had the vacuum system gone through. It has the prerequisite manual transmission, the air conditioner works, and the interior looks like new. Looks like a lifer to me. Thanks for the tip Robert!


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  1. RayT Member

    You might find a $2K beater, Jesse, but it would certainly cost you more than $3K to get it in the apparent condition of this car! Looks as if someone took care of this one, and M-Bs of this vintage (and earlier, of course) were pretty robust pieces to begin with.

    Unfortunately, it fails to meet two conditions: it’s not in my price range at the moment, and it’s on the other side of the country. Otherwise, I’d be heading there with a check. It’s not really my dream car — I see myself as a Ferrari 250GT kind of guy, and these things are as slow as chilled molasses — but it fits your description of a “life car” perfectly. I can imagine keeping (and using) it forever.

    • David Frank david Member

      Rayy, here’s one on the other side of the country, all the way out on Long Island, and he’s only asking 4K and it’s in amazing shape. On your budget, I’m thinking the 250GT is indeed a dream.

  2. jim s

    want very badly. safe, built like tank/vault, manual, diesel ( but no turbo ), not converted to vegie. shoulder belts in rear for child seat. if it has been cared for this would be life in the slow lane for life. great find.


    Made the mistake of buying an almost identical 240D. Same as this basically color and all but, was a 1981 if I remember correctly?

    Yup lasted me about a month or so before the timing chain broke while driving it to work. Paid $1500 for it from a Mercedes mechanics son and the only reason I paid that much for such an incredibly slow car was that it was rust free.

    Right after the timing chain went and broke the camshaft meaning that the engine would have a bit more damage than I wanted to fix, I stopped by a Diesel shop about 9 miles away. He wanted $1500 for a 240D engine that would still need the timing chain be replace due to the milage on the engine. So I went and started to swap in a rebuilt 440 I had laying around,

    Before I had a chance to pull the engine the old guy from the diesel place offered me $500 for the car so he could swap in his engine and I sold it to him.

    He eventually put it out in front of his shop with a $5000 price tag on it :(

    • Horse Radish

      Before I read your last line, I thought:
      ” Good on him, at least on person does the smart thing….

  4. fred

    These are great, indestructible cars in many ways, but I would never get near an interstate with one. My ’51 Kaiser deluxe with flathead six would easily win a drag race with it, and that’s not good.

  5. ron

    are these really front wheel drive? news to me.


      Where did it say FWD?
      Cause they are not thats for sure.

  6. David Frank david Member

    That really looks like a nice car. The 240s are slow, especiall up hill. I’ve had a number of these 123 Mercedes, mostly 300s and even a wagon, and these manual transmission cars are hard to find. My last 240D would still be around if my wife hadn’t had an accident with it. It split the front end off the Chrysler that hit her, but all my Mercedes needed was a new fender! I checked it on a frame machine and it was still straight. Sadly, my wife still refused to drive it after the accident.

    (The ad says FWD, just a typo)

    By the way, it’s just across town from me, so if someone is serious about it, I’d love an excuse to go check it out.

  7. Neil McElhannon

    I really wish you guys would quit bitching about cars not having manual transmissions. There are those of us older car guys that don’t like rowing though the gears in stop and go traffic in major cities..

    • David Frank david Member

      I’m certainly not saying old cars should have manual transmissions. I love not having to row my old automatic Mercedes, but these little 190 and 240 diesels are underpowered and really need a manual transmission. Otherwise they are really, really sloooow. The old Mercedes automatics are simple, easy to repair and durable on gasoline cars. On diesels, it’s seems to be another story. Even on my 300 TD (the d means wagon, not turbo) the transmission was problematic. So, this old guy loves his automatics, but some cars just need a manual.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Hey now, I’ve toned it down a lot with my manual-only mentality. Heck, even our newest project car is an automatic. Like David said, with this car you are not going to want an automatic. They are slow so you need every bit of power you can ring out if it!

  8. Horse Radish

    The perfect car for the American market, at least the first 20 years of their lives (Just pour in Diesel and Oil and keep going).
    If you want it to last (the way it’s designed to) and use it primarily for “unfancy but reliable” transportation you maintain it and don’t beat the crap out of it.
    AND IF you do (maintain it, and YES, that includes changing the timing chain when it stretches after a few hundred thousand miles), these actually move pretty swiftly.
    However, if you choose the latter (beat the crap out of it), the faster you run it the sooner something will fail (who would have thunk ?).
    SO, it’s not about flair, not about speed (look mommy!: I am the first at the next stop-light, again). it IS ABOUT LONGEVITY!
    If you run it closer to idle speed than full throttle, it will literally go forever (a million miles).
    My neighbor has one he drives (I have a handful that I am saving).
    He drives it leisurely. He will however get his next car paid by one stupid driver who will rear-end him, trying to fly down the street……
    BTW the 5 Cylinder turbo is even better !

    Now, to this car.
    Probably should have the chain checked (for stretching) and replaced for that price !
    European cloth seats swapped in or is it a Euro car ?
    Probably should check the mechanics (and maintenance) in person and not just on paperwork.
    Make sure it’s not just been shined up for resale…..

    And yes, the stick would be better to transmit the exsisting power, but automatics (when maintained and adjusted right) will work almost just the same

  9. Kam1271

    i almost bought one of these about 20 years ago (’77 240D 4 Speed Manual), but I just couldn’t stand how slow it was. It felt even slower than my friend’s 1970 220D 4 speed! I had to pass… I can stand being the one holding up traffic… especially while belching a trail of black smoke.

  10. David Frank david Member

    Holding up traffic and black smoke would indicate a problem. Those 240a are slow, but not that slow. A simple check of the fuel injection timing and resetting it might have solved that problem. I bought a really nice one with a sunroof cheap because the owner had the same problem. It was a great car after I set the fuel injection timing. Your problem could have been something more serious of course.

  11. Bobsmyuncle

    I missed your first installment. I too have wanted a one specifically a wagon for the same lifer duty.

    Up here in Ontario they seem to retain far too much value even with Starship type mileage so its never materialized for me.

    • David Frank david Member

      You occasionally see wagons for sale on the west coast very reasonably. My last wagon, for example, was $7500 for a perfect, rust free example, a 1998 purchased in 2007 with 100K miles, for $7500 and sold in 2012 for $5000 with $185,000. There are lots of 123 wagons, 300TDs, also for sale reasonably. For example there is this car on Craigslist for $2500, no op fr 2 years. a 1980

      “Extremely solid, near-mint body, tires good,new $177 battery starts ups first time, non-op for 2 years.Call for in-depth details.Basically driveable now.Also included is a full set of manual window riser mechanisms worth $300.Must go soon”

      You can do a search of all Craigslist here

      Let me know if you would ever like me to check out a car for you in my area. (retired and having fun playing with cars, especially with other folks money)

  12. Test drove it

    For original post: Life Car Revisited: 1982 Mercedes 240D

    This car has many issues… It is actually overpriced. Car does not start at times -fly wheel needs to be replaced- Seller thinks car has all maintenance done but far from true. This car will need about $1500 to $2000 repairs.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Thanks for the update. Guess it wasn’t the life car after all…

    • Jason

      Ad still up.

  13. Mark

    I saw the the car as well and drove it. TEST DROVE IT is there a lot of deferred maintenance? Besides the flywheel and some vacuum issues what else did you notice?

  14. Mark

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