Friday, January 31, 2020

Tectonic Acceleration: 1978 Mercedes-Benz 240D W123

One of my favorite automotive memories was driving a vintage Mercedes oil burner through the hilly streets of San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood. The 2.4 liter inline-4 cylinder non-turbo diesel engine didn't have much punch, but it did have enough torque to lug up seriously steep hills will very minimal throttle (errr...rack) input. Few cars have a similar ability to be started in first gear without the use of a the go-pedal up a hill...but you could just dump the clutch and go. I don't miss the tectonic acceleration...but I do miss a few interesting details on that old Benz.  Find this 1978 Mercedes-Benz 240D offered for $3,200 in Sevastopol, CA via craigslist. Tip from FuelTruck.

From the seller:

1978 mercedes-benz 240d
condition: good
cylinders: 4 cylinders
fuel: diesel
odometer: 97400
paint color: yellow
title status: clean
transmission: manual
type: sedan
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Here we have a 1978 Mercedes 240D with a low 97k original miles for $3,200 (final reduction of price, will most likely not accept best offers but shoot anyhow). It's mechanically in great condition with no issues. Work has been done on it and it recently did very well on a pressure test. A more modern glow plug system recently been installed to help with those cold morning starts. Interior has some things that need to be finished: lack of a correct working radio, and the driver seat has damage from use (thus the seat covers), and the interior cloth roof needs a plastic piece to keep it up. And there is a small amount of damage on the left hand side above the bumper. It comes with seat covers for front and back seats, although they are only on the front seats. The car is registered for 2020. Contact me if you have any questions or wish to arrange a meeting. Don't leave a voicemail as my phone doesn't show if someone leaves a message all the time. Serious buyers only please.

See a better way to burn some oil?


  1. I think you misspelled teutonic in the headline ... oh, 240D.

  2. I remember the 79 240D that I had fondly. It was a hoot to drive in NYC traffic, especially those onramps to the west side highway or the FDR with the stop signs at the end of the onramp and a blind curve in the highway. Pull up to the entrance, push the rightmost pedal to the floor, wait for a car that seems to have a space behind it, drop the clutch when it's a car length or two away, a half second of tire squeal and you'd lurch out into traffic as the car passed and with any luck not get rear ended. It amused the kids and freaked out the wife.

    The vacuum leaks in the doors that sometimes prevented the key from shutting off the engine was mighty amusing with Valet parking. One time I came back to the parking lot and they had been letting it idle for three hours. Being in a basement with an idling diesel they were not happy.

    1. Oh wow, the vacuum leaks..I'd forgotten about those. In my 79 auto you would pop the hood and hit the "ENGINE STOP" button that would cut the rack, but I had a 81 240D with a manual gearbox and I'd pop it in gear, hold the brake, and dump the clutch to kill it. Felt nasty the first few times, but i drove it like that for probably 2 years. Never did Valet it...probably should have for the fun.
      The manual gearbox 240D was certainly faster than the turbo 300SD-auto that I had a few years later...or at least it felt like it. The Auto transmissions would take SOOOO long to shift that up hill was a joke, by the time it shifted it was back down into the previous gear territory. The 79 had 500,000 miles on it and the gearbox would only shift when you lifted off the go pedal. Good times.-Vince

    2. I remember those NYC up-hill & curve on-ramps with a stop sign. Even with a mustang where I used both feet with an auto to make an entrance with both rear tires smoking and my lady passengers vowing never to ride with me again! Lots of fun in a rental!

    3. All this reminiscing is making me want one of these again, but how the hell did the drivers seat wear out with only 97,000 miles?

      Mine had 250,000 on it when the Manhattan Mercedes-Benz dealer killed it by putting the oil filter on so tight that it broke the mount and had a catastrophic pump all the oil out on the ground event, but the seats were perfect.

      Raccoon damage perhaps?

    4. My dream W123 is an '85 wagon with the turbo 5-cylinder and a manual swap. I did have an '84, auto of course, and sold it for faster prospects before I pulled the trigger on the 3rd pedal. But if you can live with a 4-speed it's certainly doable to swap all the manual specific parts over from a 240D.

      It wouldn't need drastic mods to be a viable daily driver I think. Biggest change would be a modern turbo, with smaller turbine & compressor wheels and better efficiency - this would reduce some of the glacial lazy feeling and improve response. A smallish intercooler, a bit more fuel (easy mod by cutting a larger slot in the fuel plate), fresh timing chain & maybe a valve job. I think you can also play with the P-pump to get it to bring more fuel in at lower boost which would give it a bit more midrange punch too.

  3. Sevastopol?

    Has Sebastopol gotten bigger all of a sudden?

    -Stan (the "busting your chops" Stan...)

    PS I always had the hots for the W126 series. Got a mint 280SEL instead. Boy, that was a learning experience... ( What did I learn? I learned I never wanted another MBZ).

    1. Checklist for buying a Mercedes
      1) Do they use these for taxis somewhere in the world?
      2) Can I afford to put my mechanic’s kids through a small liberal arts college?
      3) Is this going to be my third car for “the journey is it’s own reward” and “traveling should be a character building exercise but I’m not crazy enough for a Jaguar” use?

      You should be able to answer yes to at least one.

    2. Sevastopol...sounds like a pirate city. Arrggg...Sevastopol, ye matie.

    3. Stolen city... Sevastopol with a v is the biggest city in the Crimean peninsula. Russia, please return to owner Ukraine. Kthankxbai

  4. I feel like this is a candidate for biggest change in character swap if you dropped a Honda K motor in it. From no power but tons of torques to no torques and tons of power.


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