One Family Owned: 1978 Mercedes-Benz 300CD

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While America was in the throes of the Malaise Era, doing its best to produce cars while regulations rained down upon the industry, Mercedes-Benz had created its W123 platform and was busy populating it with a variety of body styles and engine options. From 1975 through 1986, Mercedes would sell 2.7 million W123 cars – a far more successful result than the prior chassis. Body options included coupes (C123), sedans (W123), and wagons (S123). The cars were renowned for durability, luxury (even the downmarket cars), and classic style. Here on eBay is a 1978 Mercedes-Benz 300CD, bid to $5,100, reserve not met. This elegant coupe is located in Downey, California with the same family that has owned it since new. The seller’s aunt purchased the car and maintained it meticulously, as we’ll see.

A 3.0-liter, in-line, five-cylinder diesel motor powers this car, generating about 77 bhp. It is mated to a four-speed automatic. Performance is stately rather than spritely, but the cars make up for the lack of performance with quiet interiors, a steady road feel, and legendary longevity. Top speed is also respectable, at 110 mph. W123 cars have been known to rack up a million miles or more; the award for the highest mileage apparently belongs to a Greek tax driver in his 1976 240D with over 2.8 million miles. This Maple Yellow example has traveled 107,000 miles and no running issues are noted. Service records and other documentation accompany the car.

The interior shows only the slightest wear. The seats are MB-Tex tan upholstery with a minor split on the driver’s side bolster. The car comes with power windows, air conditioning, and factory Bundt wheels. An aftermarket Blaupunkt cassette stereo was installed to replace the original unit.

A California car all its life, this Benz is as clean as they come underneath. The pillarless design is thoroughly classy, and considering the enormous total of W123s running around, the coupe is rare with only about 100,000 made over ten years. The Benz is not a simple or cheap car to fix, but that’s where the production numbers are beneficial: parts are plentiful. A five-cylinder diesel might not tug at the heartstrings like an Italian V12 or an American V8, but these cars have been creeping up in price. Nice ones can command $10,000 while the later turbo-diesels – with much better performance – seem to sell for around $15,000. For a tidy car with great history the current bid is low; where do you think this one should sell?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. alphasudMember

    The three Mercedes chassis the C114/115, the C123, and the C124 all have that beautiful pillar-less design. I think the C123 was the prettiest. I don’t think the diesel would be my first pick but a 280CE with a manual transmission. Now you are talking. Hard to put a number on this car with the color and wheels not being a eye catching combo. California car and one family owner huge plus. Miles are low but not super low which would attract the collector. I’m going to say 10K would be the hammer price.

    Like 3
    • nycbjrMember

      Good luck finding a manual in these… most were auto’s!

      Like 0
      • Pete Phillips

        ALL of the 300 diesels were automatics in the United States. The only way you can get a manual transmission in one of these is to import one that was originally made for the European market, or go to a 240-D with the four-speed floor shift.

        Like 0
    • Uncle Paul's Garage

      Unfortunately the coupes don’t get the love the wagons get. $10k would buy it most likely but I bet the reserve is higher. BTW I own a c123 280ce with a manual and will never let it go. Never found a car better and I am a dealer of classics.

      Like 3
  2. angliagt angliagtMember

    I told my Wife that I was going to invest in a CD.

    Like 12
  3. Homer

    Even with the diesel, these are absolutely great drivers, very comfortable, and hold the road like a magnet.

    Like 4
  4. Kevin

    We had one of these. I purchased it during my college years from a graduating student. It had a couple hundred thousand miles when we got it and still presented well. It was an absolutely boring car but it was reliable tank. I put a 150k or so miles in it and it still looked the same. Sold it to another college student and it is still probably there being passed down the chain.

    Like 1
  5. DJ Oglesbee Esq

    I bought a 1980 300CD ,beautiful in 1991 from 2nd owner for 5K$ cash in the SF Bay Area .
    Gorgeous Gold,Palomino Leather (not MB Tex like the one shown here)…alloys ,even a dealer item mini backgammon set for rear center armrest opened!
    Grear for my road trip down the coast right?
    My family had several Benzs but no diesels .
    Mom and brother had a great mechanic near Walnut Creek,so I proudly stopped in as the newest Benz customer .I already collected Fiat 124 Spiders and Alfa Duetto ,so I already loved the Pininfarina design they made for pillarless Benz coupes!
    However, she was blowing abit of smoke ,an issue in MB Oil Burners and the Auto climate control modules blew like cheap lightbulbs .
    Expensive!!!Right off i was out 400$(later and my 84 Audi 5000 Turbo would be known as the 400$ cars …each time it broke)
    Who knew Audi used AC units from Caddy Sevilles ?🤣Oh that German engineering!🤣😅well it seemed I bought the Benz so cheap because it had a “weak sister” #3 cylinder was crapping out with massive blow by and my oil consumption on my trip was 1qt Castrol every 200 miles !!!Oye Veh!!!Yup I had a great trip trying to fund diesel fuel off the main highways *I found a book of diesel stations by state in the owner’s manual, a plastic glove too so caustic diesel wouldnt eventually eat my hand!)on my return, I sheepishly went to the Benz mechanic who said ,5k$US to fix or replace my old 125k Mile engine.
    Oooh great German engineering, crowbarring money from our bank accounts !!!
    Well my soon to be ex wife laughed and I sold the Benz for 5k$…so so the moral of the story is ,it the price is too good to be true,,it probably is, but I still loved the 77 smokey HP and all the dirty looks from drivers in Hondas !!!😅

    Like 2
    • Big C

      From the list of vehicles you’ve been involved with? You’re an automotive sado- masochist! There is help out there!

      Like 1
  6. AutoArcheologist AutoArcheologistMember

    I like what they did to the Bundt wheels… not stock but looks pretty nice, especially on this… wonder if my wife would let me do this to our Euro spec 85 280SL …

    Like 0
  7. Brian F

    The wheels are very distinctive. I remember seeing this car on another well-known auction site… twice. Note that the bottom of the doors has some (minor) rust. Close-up pictures of the bottom of the doors can be found in the comments in the second auction.
    It sold for $12,250 the first time. Yet, the sale was unwound.
    The reserve was not met when it reached $8600 in the second auction. I thought $8600 plus buyer’s fees was a fair price. Thus, I agree with others guessing the reserve should be between $9,000 and $10,000.

    Like 2
  8. Norman K Wrensch

    The non turbo 5cylinder was slow but the turbo’d engines did quite well. Worked on a few of them in the day

    Like 1
    • Brian F

      I agree. I own a low-mileage and immaculate 1984 300D. It drives wonderfully in modern traffic. There is an incredible amount of satisfaction in driving a car that connects the driver to the road and does so with a certain amount of mechanical perfection.

      Like 0
  9. Frechman

    Was this sold???

    Like 0

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