Turbo Manual Wagon: 1980 Mercedes-Benz 300D

This next car comes from the seller and is described as “something special”…which is an understatement when you consider this is one of the only manual transmission equipped diesel wagons you’ll ever see. Sweet! Find this 1980 Mercedes-Benz 300D W123 offered for $13,500 in Santa Monica, CA via craigslist. Tip from Rock On!

From the seller:

1980 Mercedes 300TDT
condition: excellent
cylinders: 5 cylinders
drive: rwd
fuel: diesel
odometer: 161333
paint color: blue
size: full-size
title status: clean
transmission: manual
type: wagon

  • Read this all the way through. I took a lot of time to build this wagon and a lot of time to coherently describe it in detail. Yes, the photos are self-explanatory, but you might come away from the ad more excited about not only this Mercedes, but perhaps your own.*

Want something different?

Here is a special chance to own a classic Mercedes that they should have made, but didnt. This is the model that many enthusiasts wish Mercedes produced.

Mercedes produced a non turbo Diesel stick shift wagon but not a turbo Diesel stick shift wagon, and that is what this is, a reliable, properly converted Turbo Diesel Manual, 4 speed wagon.

The engine, from a subsequent 1983 Turbo Diesel W123, has been rebuilt at a great expense and a period-correct, authentic Mercedes driveline was converted to make this wagon robust and simple to operate and service; and get pretty darned good fuel economy too.

This car was built for the infamous Blue Nelson’s Death Valley W123 Tour for 2022, which was postponed until the end of this year. This is an invitational tour for a small group of reliable Mercedes W123 wagons that explore the back country throughout Death Valley, so the future owner of this wagon is automatically invited, should they want to go. (Some of the photos in the listing are from this pre-runner/scout a couple months back with famed MBZ maestro Geoff Elsmore ). This is THE wagon that was recently used as the scout wagon to pre-run the route for the tour.

Many desirable features of this wagon are present here, most importantly, it is wearing its factory ORIGINAL PAINT. Delivered from the German factory in the rare 904 DunkelBlau , ( less than 10% of production ) this wagon still has not been re-painted after 43 years. It does show signs of wear with rock chips, a small dent on the front right fender and the like, but there is no concern that a modern paint job will fail, degrade or peel, as it still wears it original single stage Glasurit paint, minus the roof.

I rescued this car from sitting as an abandoned project.

The previous owner wanted to make a stick shift manual turbo wagon but gave up, and abandoned the effort. I spent the better part of a year finishing the conversion properly, removing, deep cleaning and re-installing the interior then carefully polishing the original paint back to what you see now. I did find a nice, low-ish mile 904 Dark Blue, original paint hood from another car which I installed on this wagon, the one on it would not polish up enough, and yes the donor hood was also original paint.

There have been hundreds of hours spent at this point.

There is still some more polishing that can be done if you desire, from the belt trim down, for example. So yes, there are better looking, re-painted wagons out there but, it can only be original paint once.

The glass has all been professionally machine polished. There is a new windshield and high quality windshield seal replaced as well, not with the commonly used cheap gasket.

Many of the missing or broken items that were with the car when I rescued it have been replaced by authentic Mercedes ones I have personally pulled from donor cars, NOT reproductions.

Belt line trim is all straight, not broken or damaged, and is not the cheap, ill-fitting reproduction type. New headlight doors, left and right installed. Correct original and working clear, pre-1982 Bosch, fog lights and new halogen headlights. Good condition original German ULO tail lights, NOT reproductions are fitted.
Replaced headlight switch from a donor 1980 wagon. All 4 door seals are good and Genuine Mercedes ones, including the no-longer available rear, wagon-door only seals.

The grille surround and insert are new.
The roof rack adjustable bars are original and NOT reproductions. The always corroded and frozen adjuster knobs are working and in good shape. These original bars are $600 alone.

Front and rear bumpers are in very nice condition with no broken pieces, working low impact shocks, good chrome and impact strips are quite tidy. These impact strips are always scuffed or chipped or simply glued on, not here. They are attached with the proper Mercedes strips and will stay on.

The rims are genuine steel, W123 Mercedes hub cap style, including the spare. They have been prepped and painted satin black and have re-treaded all terrain heavy duty 6 ply tires. These are aggressive for ample traction off road, but still have manners enough for the highway- no annoying droning on the pavement. The stainless steel hubcaps are in great shape and are original 904 DarkBlue paint from the factory- not repainted- surprise.

This wagon is simplified mechanically, and thus now devoid of failure-prone wear items.

Low-fi upgrades to include:

  • All mechanical suspension. SLS delete. No hydraulic suspension to fail, only shocks and springs, much like the simpler sedans, and yes it does ride rather nicely.
  • Heavy duty Mercedes W116 SD larger and taller springs. This gives the car a few inches of increased ground clearance.
  • no A/C
  • no central vacuum controlled door locks. Just use your handy fingers and push the locks down to lock. Click, your safe.
  • radio delete. Yup, there is actually a factory Mercedes block off plate in place of where the radio might belong. Oddly enough, this authentic W123 radio block off plate is more valuable than an actual radio.
  • no electric windows, which means no window lift motors to fail, which is a notorious breaking point for many windows and their owners. Olde-tymey wind up windows, which will never fail, even when you drive off the end of the flat earth.
  • Mechanically there has been extensive work to make the wagon a good daily driver. In fact I have driven it to Canada, Washington, Oregon and to Southern California several times without incident. I would not hesitate to drive it anywhere, including into the back country of the Mojave Desert with no cell reception or paved roads. *

The previous owner had the engine rebuilt but I have no receipt to go with the claim. There are several indicators to corroborate this on the engine, which I would be happy to explain.

Lots of other mechanical work performed:

  • new alternator
  • rebuilt larger KKK turbo
  • new fuel lines
  • new fuel filter both spin on and pre-filter
  • new belts
  • calibrated and restored gauges including clock
  • new fan clutch
  • replaced fan
  • new thermostat
  • valves adjusted
  • replaced turbo air filter assembly
  • air cleaner mounts replaced
  • new air filter
  • rebuilt genuine Bosch starter
  • replaced brake calipers
  • cleaned and greased throttle linkage from the pedal to the injection pump, all silky-like
  • replaced brake pads
  • replaced brake rotors
  • replace both rear hatch shocks with genuine Stabil ones
  • replaced radiator and upper and lower hoses
  • coolant flush and coolant replacement
  • replaced battery with correct deep cycle group 49 Diesel rated battery
  • replaced battery tray with correct Mercedes one
  • restored wiper arms
  • replaced wiper blades
  • flushed brake system and replaced fluid with Dot 4
  • replaced vacuum shut off valve and vacuum line from booster to vacuum pump
  • replaced Cigar/ fuel hose, important for the turbo OM617 engine
  • replaced all 5 turbo injector return lines
  • advance timed the injection pump for better performance
  • Pop-tested, rebuilt/ shimmed, injectors- all 5
  • cleaned and greased/serviced all 4 window winder regulators. They operate smoothly now.
  • replaced both left and right back up lenses with German new old stock ones

The 4 speed manual transmission is in excellent working condition with a recent re-seal and fluid change. It has the 3:07 rear differential for good acceleration and respectable freeway cruising. If you change the differential ratio to say, a 2:48 to get more top end on the freeway, you will compromise the “off the line” performance, so this ratio is a pretty good all-around set up.

Oh and its plenty fast. Fast enough to put to rest, the myth of the dogged performance of the older Diesels. This is the one you want to drive to quell the haters. Yup I said quell.

Rust? Yes it has some. There is some at the bottom of the driver’s door and the rear hatch. Its not structural, just ugly. I did not cover it up or hide it, its right there for everyone to see so there are no excuses. If it was dangerous or a liability I would say so. There is a hole beneath where the spare tire lives, which I would be happy to explain how to remedy it, but I dont want to be blamed for hiding something.

I removed all of the carpet, threw away the pieces that were too yucky to use again, deep cleaned with a steamer, then an orbital cleaning machine, then pressure washed every piece and let it dry before re-installing it all. Yes it could be re-carpeted with a new, “somewhat close” not original, bogus replacement carpet kit, but I went to great lengths to find better, original 1980 carpet pieces to make it clean and authentic. However, the rear carpet on the cargo hatch board is pretty thin, and not so handsome, but it is original and now clean, so go ahead and car-camp on it without fear of lyme disease.

The front two seats are in good original condition. The padding is firm and no floppy seat springs or crooked seat backs which is so common in the W123s. The rear seat is like new…. tight, firm and pretty, envious ?

I did, however, custom make a lovely, chocolatey-brown ridge runner-type carpet mat for the back cargo area. It fits snugly and looks quite tidy. Also, there is a signature, period-correct wisk broom to punctuate the sterile-like facade.

The wagon comes with:

  • clean and current Oregon title and current tags through 2023. It is smog-exempt in California, so no smog test needed.
  • original service manual
  • original owners manual
  • several receipts
  • spare fuel injector return hose
  • spare Diesel pre-filter
  • Death Valley National Park map
  • original Mercedes cloth tool kit
  • original Mercedes, serviced and working jack with MBZ 17mm lug wrench
  • two sets of keys ( all tested ) with separate, vintage key chains
  • plenty of opportunities for exploration of self and the great outdoors

The wagon is located in Santa Monica and is ready to be enjoyed.

See a better way to drive diesel? tips@dailyturismo.com