Streetwalker- Slow as Molasses Edition


There are few certainties in life. Oh, of course there’s death and taxes- those are a given, but another immutable is that of the durability of the Mercedes OM616 diesel motor. While only producing a maximum of 72-bhp, the cast iron block oil-burner has proven to be one of the most long-lived of any consumer-available engines.
That claim is lent credence by the presence of today’s streetwalker subject- which is a 1980 W123 240D. This 30-year old benz, while not showroom fresh, is amazingly clean with bumper snoods that appear to have survived the eroding effects of sun and smog. The interior shows few signs of wear, and even possesses the original Becker radio, which probably only plays 99 Luftballons.

The most amazing aspect of this clean machine? Well, that would be the mileage as the appearance belies the distance the car has covered. If the odo is to be believed, this car has 302,798 miles under its brown belt.  Of course, for the OM616 that’s just getting started. It’s simply remarkable that the rest of the car has remained intact and so clean considering all the road time. It ‘s also a head scratcher that so slow a car would last this long, considering all the more-modern options available. The top-end on the 240D is about 88-mph, and acceleration can be measured by the same mechanism used for determining glacial recession.
So, what’s the asking price for this slow but spectacular diesel? Well, the seller wants $2,500 for the 4-speed 4-cylinder Benz. That’s a price that puts this in the realm of possibilities for many, and as it’s still got about 800K left before the first major service, that might be a good, albeit slow investment.
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  1. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    "Bumper snoods" = why we love you, Mr Robber of Graves.

    1. scroggzilla Avatar

      adding to personal vernacular.

  2. Maymar Avatar

    That is one solid block of Bruce. Also, last time I saw that much brown, it was in a UPS ad.
    Maybe it's because I can't wrap my mind around how glacially slow this really is, but I still want a diesel W123. Hell, I want just about any Benz initially released between '55 and '90.

  3. engineerd Avatar

    I need to meet this person. They seem to be weightless considering the lack of wear on the driver's seat. There's no way 300,000+ miles are on those seats with anyone weighing more than a feather.

    1. smokyburnout Avatar

      They appear to be MB-Tex vinyl seats, which like most things on Mercedes of this vintage, were engineered to survive a nuclear holocaust. However, the seat springs weren't.
      I'm assuming this is a rust-free California car, because thats the only way it can have 80,000 more miles than mine and have an asking price three times what I paid for mine.

      1. MrGoodCat Avatar
        MrGoodCat

        626 area code… SoCal east of Pasadena!

  4. FTGDHoonEdition Avatar

    I wouldn't mind having that car. It's just got ….I dunno…."presence?"

  5. RacinG73 Avatar

    It might be slow, but with the stick shift you can at least maintain the illusion that you're "driving" fast, no?

    1. Maymar Avatar

      Up to the point when a Kia Rio beats you in a stoplight drag race, and they weren't trying. Trust me, I've been there.

      1. RacinG73 Avatar

        Hehehe, I'm there right now. I know better than to make eye contact at red lights or to be worried about whether I can pull away from that Honda Odyssey next to me. I drive an '06 Scion xB for the mileage, not the hoontastic nature of its mechanical components. But, as I've 'splained on other boards, I bought it so I could afford to keep doing my real racing. (Previously I was getting 12.5 mpg driving around in my tow vehicle or an old beater Jag XJ6.)

  6. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

    My Volvo effectively tops out around 88 MPH, too… at least as far as I'm concerned, due to its severe lack of stability at that speed. I'm sure it's quicker to get there, though – even with an automatic transmission and a failing cat.
    But it's not brown.

    1. Tomsk Avatar

      Would you consider that severe lack of stability "some serious shit?"

      1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

        That's what M-B called this paint colour, I believe.

  7. Gearhead Avatar

    Am I the only one here thinking this needs an LS1?

    1. superbadd75 Avatar

      You might be. It'd be a shame to ruin a bulletproof diesel Benz with anything, even an LS1.

  8. Tomsk Avatar

    I think I'm in lust…it even has the optional passenger side mirror!
    If I had the space I'd buy it just to make my 300 SD feel like a rocket sled. And ensure that it stays as pristine as it currently is.

  9. superbadd75 Avatar

    What's funny about this car is that you could buy it and a brand new E Class today, alternate driving them, and the '80 would likely outlast the 2010 model, even with a 300,000 mile head start.

  10. Paul Y. Avatar
    Paul Y.

    In these [rusty] parts, that car would command double that figure. Somebody deserving of such a fine machine (with patience to match) had better snap that up.

  11. dragon951 Avatar

    Area code 626! It's within ten miles of me. On what street is it? I might just buy it.
    /looking at insurance quotes.

    1. superbadd75 Avatar

      Maybe call the owner? Just a thought.

  12. BrianTheHoon Avatar

    This makes me sad for my 240D that's still sitting in my driveway because I don't know what to do with it. My car had ~180K miles when the oil line blew at 70 mph on the freeway. Yeah, these mills last forever .. unless THAT happens. The motor was pumped dry and seized before I could shut it down. Very sad.
    The old joke about this car: "These engines last forever. Which is a good thing because it takes that long to get anywhere." (badum-cha!)

  13. CptSevere Avatar
    CptSevere

    I'm no big fan of Mecedes, I mean I have nothing against them, generally they just don't interest me. But, something about the diesels makes me want one. I don't care how gutless they are, I just like the idea of a car this size being so economical. I really like the 300 turbodiesel station wagons of this same vintage, I'd have one in a minute.
    I remember seeing a billboard in Atlanta in the early eighties, I think it was advertising a local Saab dealer. It was a cartoon depicting some delicious Yuppie chick filling up her Mercedes at a diesel pump with a truck driver filling his garbage truck or something, on the other side of the pump, tipping his hat and ogling her. The copy pretty much pointed out the fact that driving a Mercedes diesel will unavoidably force you to encounter they whom are not of your station (is that phrase sufficiently snotty? I tried). I got a kick out of that billboard, I'm guessing the Mercedes dealer loathed it.

    1. Mad_Hungarian Avatar

      Prices on good W123 diesel wagons can get stupidly high because they are the darlings of the veggie oil conversion crowd and hence are in huge demand. The cheap ones tend to be used up rust buckets. I owned a gas engine W123 wagon (grey market car) briefly and I personally think the whole W123 genre is overhyped. Yes the engine will run forever. However, everything around it will break — the climate control, the fiendishly elaborate hydraulic rear suspension, the cruise control, the vacuum locks, the windows, etc., and trying to keep up with fixing all the things that break will bankrupt you. In addition to being slow, the cars are noisy and not all that roomy. The instructions for folding and stowing the back seat on the wagon (takes 10 seconds in an American wagon) were written by Rube Goldberg. The 240D is slightly better in that it has fewer bells and whistles to malfunction. I'm surprised to hear the odometer reads 300K plus; most of the odometers break between 100K and 200K and few owners fix them — something else to think about if you are buying one.

      1. CptSevere Avatar

        Oh. OK. I believe you. You had me at the hydraulic suspension thing, that's precisely why I scoff at Citroens. You just made a good sales pitch for a Ford or Dodge truck if I ever feel like I can't live without an oilburner.

  14. Joe Dunlap Avatar
    Joe Dunlap

    The reason the seats look so good is that they have been reupped. Note the slight color difference from the door panel. Still a very nice example. I made a pretty good living servicing these and their bigger brothers, the 300D and SD back in those days. Never enough to afford one of course. 🙂

  15. Paola Ousdahl Avatar

    This is the correct blog for anybody who wants to find out about this topic. You notice a lot its nearly onerous to argue with you (not that I actually would want…HaHa). You undoubtedly put a new spin on a subject thats been written about for years. Nice stuff, simply great!

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