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Samba Wannabe: 1960 Mercedes O319D

1960 Mercedes 0319D

I truly love odd and unusual vehicles, especially ones that you can actually afford to own and drive. The biggest problem with any oddball is finding parts, as most were never built in any significant numbers. If you can find an oddball that was built by a large company, restoring and keeping it on the road might be a bit cheaper and easier, plus when you tell people your odd looking vehicle wasn’t built by a small one-off company, but by a brand like Mercedes it tends to blow people’s minds. This 1960 Mercedes-Benz 0319D Panorama Bus is about as odd as they come, but is going to need lots of work. If you’re up for this challenge, you can find this oddball bus here on eBay in Portland, Oregon. Special thanks to Robert J for this tip!

Mercedes 0319D Interior

After VW introduced their Bus in the ’50s, it didn’t take other manufacturers long to copy the general shape and design. If you removed the three pointed star from the grille, most people would write this off as a regular VW Bus. Of course once they started to take a closer look they would realize this is definitely not a Samba. While Mercedes is best known for building luxury cars, they have always been a major player in the work truck and van markets.

Mercedes 0319D Dash

Finding parts for this bus will be hit and miss, as some parts are rare and hard to come by, while others can be sourced from any number of ’60s era Mercedes cars. One of the major pieces this bus is missing is its drivetrain, but thankfully these parts can be taken directly from a late ’50s or early ’60s 120 series sedan. This one would have been powered by the 180D 4-cylinder diesel, but you could have also gotten it with a 190 gas engine. I haven’t been able to find the exact model of transmission that these used, but I know it would have had a 2-speed. Someone started installing a Chevy drivetrain, but only got as far as mounting the rear end, driveshaft, and transmission. I’m not sure if there is room in the engine bay for a small block V8, but if you could squeeze one in this would be quite the exciting bus. Using the Chevy parts could save you considerable money and make for an interesting story.

Mercedes 0319D

Getting this bus back on the road will be an expensive endeavor (if you full restore it that is), but at least you will be able to find most of the necessary parts to do the job. My biggest concern would be finding any missing trim and deciding what to do with the powertrain. Making the Chevy components work is going to be tricky, but if you pull it off you could save yourself money and have a highly dependable machine with plenty of power. Whichever route the next owner takes, I’m sure it will be quite the conversation piece that will leave most modern day Mercedes owners in disbelief that it was built by the same company as their car. At the end of the day though, all that would really matter to me is the joy I’d get from pulling off the center roof section, loading up the family, and going for a nice drive up into the mountains for some sightseeing and fresh air!


  1. Robert J.

    This bus is WAY cooler than a Samba in my book any day. It is on my short list of dream vehicles to own.
    If you are willing to do all the work yourself, you could get this into roadworthy and enjoyable shape for not too much money. Parts are available from Germany and DHL shipping is surprisingly cheap. I would buy this in a second if I didn’t already have a Mercedes bus.

    You cannot fit a V8 in between those frame rails. You can fit an OM615 Mercedes engine in there though. It will be worth a lot more money when the time comes to sell it if it has a Mercedes diesel engine in it anyway.

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    • Horse Radish

      @Robert J.
      I agree on the motor.
      V8 definitely won’t fit.
      AND your problem is not the motor anyway, it’s the whole drive train mounting.
      The whole bus shakes and is noisy, if front engine sub-frame is not mounted correctly.
      What bus do you have ?
      Exchange ideas ?
      I got a 309, 319 and 321H.

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      • Robert J.

        Mine is the 306D, so there is a difference in the engineering. Let me know when you decide to part with one of your buses though. I do plan to own one of these in my lifetime. :)

        Have you replaced the rubber bushings that go between the body and the frame?

        Here is my bus:

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  2. Horse Radish

    As I have a couple of these I just love them, owned several and drove a couple of them.
    They were one up from the ‘samba bus’ and better in most, if not all respects.

    Besides ‘his’ issues listed:
    Wrong seats, (IDK what these are but they’re not the right thing (I had a bus with full seats and this ain’t it.)
    Chrome or trim cannot be found anywhere.
    All other mechanical parts are hard to get, body parts near impossible (they all rusted away and that is why you don’t see many of a good 100 000 produced.
    (All this courtesy Mercedes Benz, because they DESTROYED, not sold off or outsource, destroyed all back stock on parts in the eighties, to make room for a new production line and before they realized, that they can make huge money with classic parts).

    Now for the good things.
    These are unique and utilitarian vehicles.
    Extremely useful, because of size.
    Mileage was extremely good for size of vehicle (especially the diesel versions: 35 mpg), but expect to loose all races, even against Isettas and the like.
    If you don’t mind a mid-sixties-truck-ride-feeling.
    Extremely noisy, once above 35 ! mph.

    Having said that: this one has a few issues.
    Among them: the seller.
    he pulls auctions 12 hours before they finish and usually has crazy reserves.
    He claims to be an enthusiast, but only cares about making money on anything.
    (my opinion)

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  3. Dave Wright

    Josh…….there are some things that you will learn with time and experiance…….Mercedes is like GM, except everything they build carries a Mercedes badge, so. They build Chevies, to Cadaliacs to Gmc trucks. Everything from economey cars to heavy freight movers. They have a history of importing there fancier vehicles that have higher margins than the economey versions. We used a similar bus as a race car transporter with our Formuls Ford in Europe. They are wonderful vehicles with many parts in common with the sedan line we are more familiar with. Many had 240 or 300 diesel running gear. I am a true Mercedes believer, the only thing in common with all there vehicles is basic quality and engenering. In this country, Mercedes owns Freightliner and we are seeing more Freightliners on the European highways.this would be a great vehicle…..particularly with the current value assigned to the VW buses. Additional power for American highways would be welcome but to do it right, it seems you would change the entire running gear. That way an appropriate rear end differential ratios, and I would take a long look at the braking system. These were not designed for the extended high speed distances we take for granted. It was built as a local utility vehicle, maby a school bus? I have seen a lot of rust in these bodies, this one looks better than most. It would be a fun project.

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  4. Charles

    At the risks of show my ignorance, just some brain-storming here… If someone has already started installing a Chevy running gear, how about an inline 6 cylinder like a 250 ci, or a 292 truck engine? Install a turbo 350 or 400 behind it and have a super stout running gear that will cruise all day long at 65 – 70 MPH. It looks like someone has installed a 3/4 ton full floating diff. If the gear ratio is low, like a 4:10 to 1 or 4:56 to 1, a 700R4 will give good torque at low speeds and allow an overdrive for highway cruising. My first thought would be to swap the whole chassis to a 3/4 ton ladder frame from a domestic pickup or van. Ford vans have a full ladder frame, so one could use an E-350 chassis with a 300 ci six. That way one could have the look of a vintage Mercedes bus, but the simplicity, durability, and drivability of a modern van or truck.

    I could see this restored and converted to an RV, using standard RV appliances. With those beautiful windows, it would be unique.

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  5. Alan (Michigan)

    After looking at the photos, I can’t help but think that if a dash board could rust through that badly, then the body just has to be 50% filler. No photos from underneath either, quite possibly a scary sight to behold.

    It is a great, cool look, that would make VW Bus enthusiasts gasp. But I am pretty much on board with what some others have said regarding potential drivetrains. I’ think that sticking with an inline Mercedes Turbo Diesel would be the best option/upgrade.

    Oh, and HR’s reservations regarding the seller are noted. People who behave like that are…. Grrrr.

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  6. john a

    Saw one of these in like new condition at the MB of Beverly Hills used lot a few years back. They wanted $30k which seemed reasonable although beyond my toy budget. Another woulda /shoulda moment I fear.

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    • Horse Radish

      I saw that one too.
      It was dark blue.
      Came from northern CA (I believe) from the ranch where they filmed the Bonanza Series (so was the story)

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  7. Horse Radish

    Told you so.
    Auction closed with $7877 high bid
    Besides it’s a “Private auction” with shill bidding seriously expected !
    He is only re-selling at high prices and usually the crappy stuff gets offered.
    He says he has four (which I know he only bought over the last couple of years or so.)..
    So this is the worst he’s got, I assume.

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  8. Eddie

    I love it. Most people here are talking about restoring it to show quality. I would just put most of the money into the engine and transmission. Take care of the rust issues and enjoy.

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  9. Bill

    Bidding has ended on this item.

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  10. francis

    this bus is special because of it’s webasto roof.
    the missing parts are to be find.
    Yes most of the parts are the same as the 180 diesel ponton.
    the gearbox is also the same.
    the drive train is easy to buy and cheap… but in Europe.

    enclosed a picture of my restored 0319 with webaste roof and the 190SL Original engine but with 1 carburator as it original was.

    If you need more info…let me now

    I can help you by restoring this project bus


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    • Salvatore Orlando

      I am considering changing my engine. Will it greatly reduce the value?

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  11. Andress

    Hallo Francis

    Kun je mij aub je gsm nr nog eens doorsturen ben hem kwijt geraakt .

    Groetjes Andress

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    • francis

      miebrus at Hotmail dot com

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  12. Salvatore Orlando

    I have purchased two of these O319 MB omnibuses. One is a panorama 22 window. I wake up excited and then I panic thinking, “What the hell did I get myself into.”
    I need any information I can get.

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  13. francis

    do you sell them ?

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    • Sal Orlando

      Eventually. I’m not sure just yet. My goal is to start a wine tour business. But that could just be a pipe dream. Yes, I guess I’m fixing them up for sale but not immediately.

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  14. francis

    did you see my bus it took about 2 years to make it like new…

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    • Sal Orlando

      That thing is freaking beautiful. I’d love to talk and get some guidance if you’re willing

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    • Salvatore Orlando

      Can you email or call me please

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  15. Salvatore Orlando

    Mercedes bus O 319 SOLD.
    Let’s Samba baby.
    Well this restored Mercedes Bend O319 camper conversion did not bring the hundred and $175,000 that they anticipated. It did bring a respectable $145,000. For a non-Panorama version. I have one like this and I also have a 22 window Samba / Panorama version. Both of mine are rust buckets but they’re in the process of being restored. Mine will never be this “nut and bolt off chassis” restoration but they should be sweet.

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  16. Salvatore Orlando

    Picture was during the Auction when bidding was at $125K.
    Sold for $145,000.
    RM Sotheby’s Arizona Jan 19th 2018
    They expected $175K

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  17. francis

    WAAAAWW, So much for a non Original 319.

    My bus is nut and bolt restoration… Complete 3door + samba roof + original and optional webasto roof.

    Who’s this crazy buyer ???? He doesn’t now what he can get for this price.
    145K + costs means about 160K.

    He can call Me…mine is top.

    enclosed a few detailled pictures.

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    • Salvatore Orlando

      It actually sold for $162,000. ($145,000 + $17,000 auction fee)

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  23. francis

    rubbers and mirror new original

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  24. Sal Orlando

    Oh my God that is beautiful. You’ve done a fantastic job.

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  25. Sal Orlando

    I don’t think that buyer was that crazy. I just think you have a $200,000 bus.

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  26. Sal Orlando

    I don’t think that buyer was that crazy, a little bit maybe foreign on Panorama done original.
    . I just think you have a $200,000 bus.

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  27. Sal Orlando

    You should have heard the audible pleasure from the crowd when that bus rolled up onto The Auction Block. I did not hear that roar from any other car that went up there no matter how magnificent it was.

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  28. Sal Orlaando

    Mine is getting closer to being finished

    Like 0

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