When I was a kid growing up in the 1970s in Florida, my family was very car-conscious. My parents had a love of cars, that had to do with their appearance, performance, style, and as a status symbol. My father was an attorney in a small town, he didn’t make enough money to buy what would have been his first pick of new cars, but by looking in the newsprint Auto-Trader Classifieds and used car lots, he was able to buy a Lotus Europa, an Austin-Healey, a Porsche 914, an Audi 5000, and a couple of Jaguar XJ6s.
All of these used cars that my father bought needed never-ending repairs. Especially bad, by far the worst, were the XJ6s, so he bought two of these. The 1978 XJ6 became abandoned in the side yard, because it wouldn’t start. I needed to go somewhere one day, and I took the keys to it, it started, and I drove it. I thought that I was going to get in trouble for taking it, I was a sophomore in high school, but I didn’t, so I just kept driving it.
At my high school, in several of my classes, was a tall, pretty girl, whose parents owned five car dealerships. Through high school, she sent me a subscription each year of the duPont Registry car magazine. The duPont Registry at that time was a thick, gloss print magazine of exotic cars for sale: Porsche, Ferrari, Aston-Martin, Mercedes, Maserati, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Pantera, BMW. Here is a link in case you want to see what this magazine looks like these days https://www.dupontregistry.com/autos/
( The tall, pretty girl in my high school classes, the closest resemblance in appearance, demeanor, and speaking, is this girl Jane from Vero Beach, Florida https://www.tiktok.com/@nachoslicker/video/7074611747117714731?is_from_webapp=1&sender_device=pc&web_id6947746048560809477 )
Looking at and reading about all of the exotic cars for sale in the duPont Registry, and trying to work on the broken cars that my family owned, was probably the main reason why I wanted to go to college to become a Mechanical Engineer. I wanted to understand, design, develop, and work on cars, and be able to afford the cars that I wanted to own.
When I finally graduated from college with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, one of the first jobs that I had was working at a bridge construction company in Florida. At this company, there was an engineer in his 50s named John who had worked all across the U.S. and South Africa. He considered himself to be an expert on Mercedes, especially diesel Mercedes. Nearly every day for the time that I worked there, we talked about Mercedes, especially because he was always going to look at cars that were for sale. Back then, you always wanted to see its “Book”, it had to have its “Book” if it was going to be considered an “honest” car.
As it was becoming the later half of the 1990s, from the automobiles that Mercedes began introducing, it appeared that the prominence of Mercedes was over. The peak of Mercedes design, style, sophistication, engineering, and distinction had been reached with the mid 1980s-early 1990s “S-Class”, designated within Mercedes as W126 (You don’t have to watch the entire 26-minute video below, this is just to get the general idea.)
The 1990 300SE shown in the video above was roughly an $50K-$60K car when new. Though this car was well-made, from new it required regular scheduled maintenance at the Mercedes dealer, which was expensive compared to a Ford or Toyota. Once this vehicle became 5-6 years old, repairs on something like the air-conditioner could be several thousand dollars at a Mercedes dealer.
These mid 1980s-early 1990s S-Class W126 Mercedes were intricately complicated in electrical, fuel injection, and transmission. Once these cars became 10 years old, their used resale price was down to $8K-$20K, compared to their original sales price of $50K-$60K. One reason being, if the transmission needed an overhaul, the engine & transmission had to be removed from the vehicle as one unit, the transmission alone could not be removed by itself.
In my opinion, which is probably the truth, Mercedes began to be so electrically over-complicated because it was in competition with Lexus. Prior to the Mercedes W126, Mercedes owners had been satisfied with a more spartan vehicle: sturdy seats, plain dash & door trim, straight-forward analog gauges, simple controls, durable transmissions, reliable engines, and very high build-quality. These were the Mercedes W116 and W123:
In the video above, this shows an S-Class W116, which was a luxury vehicle. However, the Mercedes W123 consists of 240D, 300D, and 300TD which were used in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle-East, and South America as personal vehicles and taxis:
In the 1970s-1980s there were three different World events that caused gas shortages and periods of high gas prices in the U.S. In 1973 there was an Oil Embargo by OPEC. In 1979 there was the Iranian Revolution. In 1980 there was the Iran-Iraq War. At that time, diesel was less expensive per gallon than gasoline. And diesel vehicles got higher mpg than gasoline vehicles. In the U.S., the vehicles available that used diesel, got good mpg, and were reliable were Volkswagen Rabbit, Isuzu Pup, Audi 4000/5000, Mercedes 240D/300D/300TD.
The origin of my 1982 Mercedes 300D Turbodiesel is as follows. A farmer named Don Zimbleman of Fullerton, North Dakota bought this Mercedes new at a dealership in 1982. On November 17, 2020 there was a Don Zimbleman Farm Retirement Auction where this Mercedes was sold as lot #50. Don Zimbleman died four days later at the age of 85. Here is his very interesting obituary https://www.dahlstromfuneralhome.com/obituary/donald-zimbleman
The person who bought this Mercedes at auction for about $2,600, was a Missile Systems Crew Chief at Minot Air Force Base. He removed the exhaust, fuel pressure limiter, turbo boost limiter, and installed a larger turbo. A little more than a year later, in 2021 an oil field worker from Watford City bought this Mercedes, with the intention of putting its engine into a Toyota truck, and scrapping the car. In the Fall of 2021 I bought this car for $3,000, and saved it from being destroyed.
When I bought this 1982 Mercedes 300D Turbodiesel, no one was impressed. I take that back, one of my co-workers who is in his early 60s, he recognized the car before he recognized that it was me driving it. He told me that he had always wanted one, his employer let him drive his in about 1990, it was very fast he said, it would go about 120 mph. How fast does this one go? About 125 mph, it has a larger turbo, and no exhaust on it.
But the important thing now, is that it gets about 30 mpg, because most of the driving that I do is not in stop-and-go-traffic, I mostly drive on highways in rural areas.
2 thoughts on “Rising Fuel Prices Makes Me Even More Proud Of My 1982 Mercedes 300D Turbodiesel”
No experience with Mercedes but had a big problem with BMW diesels before about 2015. The diesel engines developed insufficient torque at low revs and they kept stalling dead when pulling away either from a full stop or slow forward speeds.
This was in Europe with manual transmission. Quite dangerous when moving into a main road from a side road. Revving up was no use either, that just spun the wheels. It was just impossible to pull away smoothly.
Later this was remedied using twin-turbo technology but until then it was a pain in the ass that made me change back to gasoline.
In reply to Bierman,
Mercedes made the 220D starting in 1968, and in 1973 began making the 240D. The Mercedes 300D is very, very similar to the 240D, they began making the 300D in approximately 1978. In approximately 1980, they began offering a 300D with a turbo. Mercedes had sold hundreds of thousands of 220D and 240D prior to manufacturing the 300D.
I have a 1978 300D with no turbo, it has very slow acceleration, and a top speed of about 90 mph. When I bought the 1982 Mercedes 300D Turbodiesel last Summer, it was surprisingly fast. Getting onto a highway from 0 mph, it would accelerate very fast, all the way up to about 120-125 mph without any hesitation.
However, cruising along steadily at about 65 mph, I have noticed that this 300D Turbodiesel sometimes decides that it can do this without using its turbo, the turbo is barely spinning, pressing on the accelerator pedal does nothing at this speed if the turbo is spinning slowly, the car will barely accelerate to 70 mph. This can be very, very disconcerting when going up a hill.
What I have to do, is drop down to about 60 mph, then press the accelerator maybe halfway, and then I can hear the turbo begin to increase speed and pressure, to where I can have strong acceleration up to 120-125 mph. I foresee that if I had to drive on the Interstate 94 going into the Rocky Mountains of Montana, that I might have to pull off to the side of the road and stop, allow nearby vehicles to pass, then accelerate quickly in order to go up the steep mountains with the turbo fully spinning, not being able to let off the accelerator all of the way or I would lose the turbo speed and pressure again.