This Unique 1981 Mercedes 300D Pickup Needs Love

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It’s too bad cars can’t talk, because this one would have quite a story to tell. It’s a car Mercedes-Benz never made, a 1981 300D pickup truck. It’s for sale here on Facebook Marketplace in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania with a $2,750 asking price. The seller is negotiable.

A 300D pickup would have been a practical addition to the company’s lineup for 1981. The diesel was economical, if made for leisurely progress with just 87 horsepower. But you don’t need a race car for hauling stuff.

This pickup conversion appears to be a quality job from the less-than-great photos, and the owner says it is. It’s hard to tell if the rear window is glass or plexiglass, and there are no interior photos. Presumably, the front seats are retained. It appears to have a fold-down tailgate made out the donor station wagon’s rear hatch. Again, the work looks neat but the actual workings of the tailgate are unclear.

Bidders need to be clear. There’s a reason this unique piece is pretty cheap. The car is a 30-footer, if that. The owner acknowledges it’s “very rusty” and  “needs a full restoration—don’t ask if it can be driven home. It needs major repairs before its roadworthy. However, it will drive onto a trailer.” The left side doesn’t look too bad, but the right rear quarter is pretty corroded. Don’t expect a pristine undercarriage, either.

There are 250,000 miles on the odometer. But these diesels are amazingly long-lived. Actually, this one hits kind of close to home because a friend just gifted me a 1989 Mercedes 300TE wagon, which is the later generation with a three-liter straight six and would also make a candidate for a conversion of this type. But I like it just as it is, and the 212,000 miles doesn’t seem to be fazing it much. The interior is like new.

The 300D was produced by the company from 1975 through 1985, on the W123 platform. The car was originally offered with a three-liter, five-cylinder diesel producing 54 horsepower. In 1979, the 300D got upgraded to 87 horsepower. Complaints about the lack of power led to a 110-horsepower turbodiesel option (300TD) for 1978. They were still slow. A four-speed automatic with a new torque converter became standard in 1985 and helped with the notorious turbo lag. The W123T was the estate wagon (the basis for the pickup on offer), and it was introduced at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1977. It was a popular mode, and buyers loved the durability. In many countries as many as 75 percent of the 300Ds sold are still on the road. Many of them reached 500,000 miles.

It’s interesting to point out that this isn’t the only Mercedes pickup conversion out there. In 2014, another one turned up on eBay, having been converted from a 1979 Mercedes-Benz 300TD (photo above). Evidently, a Wisconsin auto body shop turned it into a parts runner. The builder was ambitious, and created a neat flying buttress rear treatment. It looks pristine. The ’81, though, will require a big investment or a lot of sweat equity to get back on the road—probably 90 percent of it bodywork. It’s probably not an economic proposition, but would yield a really sweet and unique transporter for the ambitious restorer.

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  1. Oldog4tz Oldog4tz

    Jim – common misperception – TD refers to Touring Diesel, not turbo – thus conversion was from a 300D, unless it was a long-roof.

    Like 2
  2. Oldog4tz Oldog4tz

    Jim – common misperception – TD refers to Touring Diesel, not turbo – thus conversion was from a 300D, unless it was a long-roof.

    Like 3
    • Evan

      I don’t think it was a formal name by Mercedes, but I’ve seen turbo wagons referred to as 300TD-T

      Like 1
      • 3Deuces

        That is correct, the designation “300TD-T” decodes as follows: 300 = OM617 3.0 liter 5-cylinder diesel, T=Transport (wagon), D= Diesel, T = Turbo (introduced in 1981 in the US).

        Like 1
  3. Terrry

    That ’79 conversion looks beautiful, like it could have come from the factory. The ’81? Not quite so much, and I wouldn’t be surprised if its suspension mounts are also rusted away.

    Like 1
  4. geezerglide85

    I like the look of ’79. Could it have some El Camino dna in it?

    Like 2
  5. Oilyhands

    Who’d have thought that there would be a Mercedes El Camino…. Or would it be The Mercedes Der/Die/Das Strassa….. Awesome either way!

    Like 1
  6. Marcelo

    In the Seventies, in Argentina MB made pick ups using the base of the W114. It was for tax resonó.

    Like 4
  7. Till J.

    In Europe these conversion are not sooo rare. This cars normaly converted hearses….
    Greatings from Germany

    Like 1
  8. Montezuma50

    Nice to see my hometown on BF, when I grew up there we had the foremost expert in Franklins Dutch Kern and a vintage Rolls expert Tom Troxel. Old Dutch is long gone and Troxels shop raised. I left the Burg and my Gremlin in 83 for the Navy.

    Like 1
  9. DeeBee

    In a perfect world, you could get it, then get it running well enough to chase its own parts for the restoration!

    Like 1
  10. Car Nut Tacoma

    Awesome looking truck. I remember the Mercedes-Benz W123, but I’ve never seen a pickup version before. I hope whoever buys this has the means to restore it to functional condition.

    Like 1
  11. Peter k

    This car is a cancer bucket and will require plenty of money to bring the body back. Then there’s the motor which at 250k miles will need to be refurbished or replaced which will cost in excess of $6k. This is a car that best to be passed on unless your pockets are very deep.

    Like 0
    • Norman Wrensch

      At 250k that diesel is just broke it. Mercedes diesels are known to run 1,000,000 miles. But the body is going to require a boat load of work. more then I am willing to do these days

      Like 5
  12. Kewnn

    Terry’s hit on the real problem with this: the rear suspension is shot. Look how low it is. That’s not how they are supposed to look. Until, of course, they are loaded with gravel or logs.

    Like 1
  13. chrlsful

    I thought it was the other one. This one looks more ’60s falcon/chero.
    I’ll go for the other the M617 turboed. A million mi motor (as well).
    Unmolested waggy? even more just dont have the ching~

    Like 0
  14. Richard Kirschenbaumyt

    You have to wonder what kind of structural devices were incorporated to make this suitable for a light truck. The wagon body from which it was derive was a unit body right? Don’t all light trucks still have separate frames? I once saw an AMC Pacer converted to a pickup. I don’t know how practical it was, but the lines lended themselves beautifully to the conversion

    Like 1

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