This one has been a long road, and we’re still far from the end. I bought this 1984 Mercedes-Benz 300TD back in 2013. My dreams and plans were filled with smoky burnouts, roadtrips with my family, and living that longroof lifestyle.
None of that happened. The shop we first used for this build managed to fit the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine and gearbox into place and that was it. That’s as far as we got on the project before that shop got too busy to give our wagon the time it needed. Granted we weren’t paying them… so there’s that.
Fast forward five (fucking) years, and there’s a pulse on Project Wombat.

A lot’s changed in the five years since I first acquired this car. My daughter is three. We moved away from the beach to a condo in a quieter corner of Orange County. I’ve owned and sold a ’65 F100. I own a ’74 Mercedes-Benz 280. One thing that hasn’t changed is my determination to see this thing through and get the car running and driving.

That’s involved a lengthy (and costly) stay in a friend’s family tow-lot in Garden Grove. After I couldn’t handle the car sitting there anymore, I reached out to a local shop (OC Cars Inc, who fixed an engine issue on my truck and installed fresh front glass) about this project. We discussed my goals and an actual budget and a portion of that budget has been paid so that work can begin.

Step one was removing the HEMI and the 545RFE transmission. I listed both for sale on Craigslist and Facebook marketplace. The first person to respond asked if I’d separate them and sell just the engine. Thankfully, the second or third person to respond asked if I’d sell just the gearbox. I had both sold within a week and a half of listing them.
At a loss compared to what I originally paid, but enough that I didn’t feel cheated. Plus we needed them gone anyway. When first purchased, the engine, transmission, and a now-gone wiring harness cost us $2,500. I sold the engine and transmission for a combined $1,250. That figure has gone right back into the car.
The plan is to now source an LS-based engine, likely an LS3. We’re open to LQ engines as well, which are less expensive and can be made to produce to easy horsepower. From there, it will be a matter of custom mounting costs and fabrication plus all of the electronics and a custom driveshaft.
The initial goal is to simply get the car running and driving. After that, my plan is still to “Safari” it. That will entail a slight light, likely through a mild spring and shock upgrade. I’ll fit a set of off-road style wheels, which at the moment will be Motegi MR139s. Likely in the 15-inch size and finished in Bronze. They will wear BFGoodrich tires. Eventually I’d also like to get the car painted and I’m thinking of a dark green color, especially if I can find a vintage MB dark green and get the car sprayed in a family color.
Like I said, this has been a long road… but it’s one upon which this wagon is still traveling. Hopefully the journey is about to get a bit faster.