Perfect World Traveler? 1987 Mercedes-Benz 300TD

I was amused to learn that one of the finalists in the currently airing Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, New York bartender Austin Rogers, revealed on the show his elaborate plan for his winnings: a round-the-world road trip in a 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300TE 4Matic station wagon. This is a very specific choice of vehicle, especially since it seems Rogers does not yet own such a car,  and while I imagine the all-wheel drive system is key to his plans, may I humbly suggest a slight substitution: in remote parts of the world, he might be better served by the near-600 mile cruising range of the rugged, diesel-powered 300TD. So here you go, Austin, this one’s for you: this lovely, one-family owned 1987 300TD, offered here on craigslist out of San Rafael, California for $7,000, a mere fraction of the $411,000 you’ve already won, to say nothing of the additional $250,000 you stand to win in the tournament (archived ad).

Over its 30 years on the road, this supremely classy wagon has passed through three generations of family ownership and covered 190,000 miles, with regular service and maintenance by the selling dealer and a local independent shop. After such a legacy of faithful, reliable transportation, it seems only fitting that its next steward should show it a truly grand new adventure.

Of course, any Mercedes wagon will provide Rogers with elegant and comfortable accommodations on his trek, but how many can do that while also being burgundy? This is a really important factor to consider. It helps that the 300TD was a one-year-only model in the U.S., early in the S124’s life cycle in 1987, when such decor was not yet passé; good luck finding a ’90s model with an interior that isn’t beige. Importantly for those portions of the trip that get a bit toasty, the A/C is said to work great, and there’s a Pioneer head unit that appears to be USB-compatible for keeping up with podcasts, or whatever it is New York bartenders listen to these days. The seller rates the interior’s condition as a ten out of ten, so presumably everything’s kosher under the sheepskins; judging by what we can see of the rear seat, this car is upholstered in MB-Tex vinyl, so it’s probably in great shape—that stuff is indestructible.

Speaking of indestructible, the Mercedes OM603 turbodiesel inline six is…well, actually not the most reliable diesel Mercedes has ever offered, with a record of cylinder head and turbocharger failures caused by the design of its particulate filter emissions system, but this flaw was detected early and a fix offered, so presumably a car like this with a long maintenance history and moderately high mileage has already had these problem areas corrected. All other systems, including the self-leveling rear suspension, are said to be fully functional, and the seller notes that the car may run on traditional or biodiesel fuel.

Suffice it to say, I wholeheartedly approve of Rogers’s plan, and am happy to do my small part to steer him in the right direction. Should he choose to ignore my advice, though, this sweet Benz would be up for grabs for the rest of us; what adventure would you take it on?


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    After taxes he will get less than half of the winnings. Still should be enough to buy this beauty though.

  2. Marc

    Just to give the writer a heads up, when referencing Mercedes platforms codes, it’s “W” not “S”, so, the car you wrote about is a W124. Good write up and they are good cars, plenty in the S.F. Bay are and prices are not to bad.

    • Nathan Avots-Smith Member

      True—the overarching series is W124. Within this family, however, wagons are referred to with an “S” prefix and coupes with a “C.”

      • PETE ENGEL

        Nathan is correct. In addition to his note, the W124 cabriolets (built 1993-95) are referred to as “A124”

  3. Don

    I remember that small box protruding on the passenger door which was an after market, fold down cup holder since Mercedes did not have cup holders at that time (I had one on my 1987 190E).

  4. john from ct

    Austin Rogers is incredibly irreverent, in addition to being highly intelligent. ..Must be related to Austin Powers? He’s the only reason that I’m watching the tournament. Oh the car…I’d search for a lower mileage version. And Austin definitely needs a very good 4WD for his round the world adventure.

  5. JohnD

    Thanks BF for including the archived CL ad, saves me a couple of mouseclicks! Oh and I love these/hope to own one.

  6. Fred w.

    I started with Mercedes with a ’59 180A at age 14, later had an ’87 420SEL, and last owned a ’91 (not sure of the model but it was a sedan and wasn’t diesel) . Although only about three years old at the time, it stalled on a regular basis to the point of being dangerous – usually did it when you pulled in front of traffic. That’s when I went to Toyota for my modern drivers and never looked back.

  7. Pete in PA

    Will someone please tell Austin that I have the car for him. A blueblack 1991 300TE 4MATIC out of Walnut Creek, CA with a MBZ rebuilt transmission and xfer case?

    I have been in love with the 124 chassis Benz since I bought my first one, an off-lease 1988 300E, in early 1992. I now have over a dozen examples of sedans, wagons, a coupe, parts cars, parts, etc. and am ready to “move on.” Just don’t have the time to deal with them.

    The 124s (and 126s) are great cars, possibly the best combination of simplicity, ruggedness, and driving pleasure that MBZ will ever make.

    • misterlou Member

      I have some parts needs Pete for my bf’s ’87 diesel wagon. Can you help?

  8. Steven D Visek

    One of the best cars ever made. Will run almost forever.

  9. PeterK

    I had one of these that I bought with 160k on it and then put another 200k on it before I sold it. I rebuilt the entire front end and ran the livin’ snot out of it. Great car, good fuel economy and very comfortable to drive

  10. David Miraglia

    Always liked these and one of the most affordable Benz’s. Would love to have one of these.

  11. Maestro1

    Nathan, I’ve always been a big fan of Mercedes Wagons, and in Diesel form they are virtually indestructible. I’ve had two, sold them both over time, and they delivered as promised every time. Someone should buy this car. Mine were trouble free up to 275,000 miles.

  12. JL Bassin

    Wagons rock, and Benz wagons rock more. I own a C240 low and slow 4matic. Turns heads all the time.

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