If it wasn't for the oil crisis of the 1970s, a legislative mandate forcing automakers to offer cars that drink less of the precious Black Gold would have been unlikely to pass. Consequently, the traditional American luxo-cruisers shrunk in size, becoming gutless wonders in the process. In desperation, Cadillac introduced the flawed 8-6-4 power plant, whereas Daimler-Benz dared to do something nobody was prepared for: fit a thrifty Diesel engine into a Mercedes luxury Coupe.
Fast forward to 2005.
All of a sudden, it's deja vu all over again!
Gasoline prices have soared to dizzying heights and the fuel efficient Diesel engine, long established in Europe as the smart alternative to its gas-guzzling counterpart, is suddenly hip again. A veritable fleet of Diesel-powered cars and light trucks will be sold in the US from mid-2006 on, and home-grown Biodiesel, a renewable energy source, will not only reduce emissions dramatically, but will be more affordable than ever!
Being the only turbocharged Coupe ever sold in the US by Mercedes Benz, from 1982 to 1985, the legendary 300CD Turbo Diesel is special, very special indeed, simultaneously being thrifty and luxurious, sturdy and fashionable.
The car presented here, VIN *WDBAB53A0FA225293* was manufactured in Stuttgart, Germany, on November 19, 1984, over 20 years ago. It was picked up by its original owner, a dentist from San Rafael, California, at the factory on 12/10/84, as part of Mercedes' European Delivery Program. After a leisurely vacation it was shipped to California, where it has resided ever since, for many years with its second Lady owner, a real estate broker from Ventura. Having had only two owners in 20 years, it was used sparingly as a "drive to church on sunny Sundays" car, accumulating less than 6,500 miles annually, on average.
It has never had any rust or accidents and is as well-preserved as one could ever hope for.
Original build sheet and Fahrzeugdatenkarte (specification card) are present and confirm colors and factory equipment: this fully loaded 123-Series Benz comes with all matching numbers.
Factory books and manuals are included as well, illuminating the car's maintenance history.
While still in Germany the differential was replaced at M-B of Frankfurt, under factory warranty, at 966 miles.
300CD's super sanitary engine compartment is dominated by the final evolution of Mercedes' legendary cast-iron Diesel engine:
the turbocharged, 3.0-liter, inline 5-cylinder. Boasting an abundance of torque, 50% more horsepower (120 instead of 80), and improved fuel economy, compared to the non-turbocharged variety, the big Turbo Diesel humms along happily at 80mph, achieving between 27 and 33 miles to the gallon.
It's no secret: the OM617A engine has rightfully gained a reputation of being almost indestructible. Many W123 Diesels have managed to travel literally hundreds of thousands of miles without needing an engine rebuild. Finding a pampered California 300CD with low original miles--like the one for auction here--is almost like winning the lottery!
Allright, the engine bay is sparkling clean, but how about the car's exterior?
Well, let's have a closer look.
Click on any of the above images for a full-size view
Sporting a very exciting and rare factory color, Signal Red (MB code #568), the Coupe looks simply breathtaking. The finish is super smooth and glossy, without any fading, dents, or dings. Most of it is the original, factory-applied paint, just the right front fender and hood have been refinished, due to a couple of dings the car acquired during the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, parked innocently in its garage. This being a true California car, there is not the tiniest little bit of rust anywhere. None. Zero. Doors and hoods align perfectly; this car has never been involved in as much as a fender bender.
Click on any of the above images for a full-size view
Power operated steel sunroof with wind deflector, made by WEBASTO to exacting MB standards and installed at the factory, adds a whole new dimension to this Coupe. Roll down the side windows completely, open the sunroof, and it almost feels like driving a convertible!
Headliner and sun visors are immaculate.
Befitting a Mercedes Coupe, this 300CD comes fully equipped. From power windows and door locks, to electric sunroof, air conditioning and cruise control, every important amenity you would expect from a modern luxury-class automobile is included. Of course, there also is an updated Stereo system with CD player. What this car doesn't have is a bunch of useless, trouble-prone, and expensive-to-repair electronics, thank goodness!
Dash is original and perfectly crack free, as is the large steering wheel. Genuine Zebrano (zebra wood) veneer appears like new and creates a most appreciated feeling of true luxury.
Eggshell-colored, high-quality velour carpeting has been protected by original Mercedes-Benz floor mats since day one and looks terrific.
This fabulous Benz features another very expensive option that was rather special, twenty years ago: instead of the more common MB-Tex vinyl (often declared to be "leather" by less knowledgeable owners), this particular car was ordered with genuine, aromatic Italian ROSER leather. The creamy beige color, known as Parchment, carries the factory code 255. The fine hides were always lovingly treated with CONNOLLY hide food--a fresh jar is included--and are still supple, crack-free, and emanate an aura of luxury that is as intoxicating as it is priceless!
Though being an elegant Coupe, the 300CD is a full five-seater, with belts for three in the rear. The quality old-world craftsmanship of the 123-series Coupe is apparent everywhere. Even after 20 years, this car's cabin looks like new.
Factory First Aid Kit, still sealed in plastic foil, is housed in its own receptacle on the rear parcel shelf.
Are you ready for a test drive?
Wait, there is one more area to inspect: the trunk.
Fully carpeted, cavernous luggage compartment, large enough for several vacation suitcases plus golf bags, is as clean and tidy as the remainder of the car. Original spare wheel, tire jack, and factory tool kit are present and appear to be unused. There are no signs of any rust or water damage, nor is there a single stain on the carpet. Everything looks as good as it gets, almost brand new!
Time for the long anticipated test drive. How does the Turbo Diesel behave on the open road?
Exceedingly well, we are happy to report. April 19, the day we took all of these pictures, was another mild spring day in paradise. It felt wonderful to open the sunroof and let the sunshine in while cruising down Ventura's palm-lined boulevards.
This 300CD performs flawlessly; it starts, runs, drives, handles, and stops just like you would expect from a pampered, low-mileage Mercedes-Benz. All options work exactly as they should, including the automatic climate control (updated to R134) and cruise control. Everything feels showroom fresh and tight; the admiring glances and outright praise the car received everywhere confirm what we knew all along: this is one of the finest original 123 Turbo Diesel Coupes in the World, the proverbial "one in a million" automobile!
Sensibly priced, this fine motorcar is a very viable and smart alternative to the rolling computers of the New Millennium. Perfectly healthy, it is highly prestigious and still thriftier than a brand new, pint-sized econo-box from Asia. Devoid of mysterious black boxes and electronic systems forced upon new car buyers, it is destined to live forever. Preserve its outstanding condition, and you won't lose a dime, no matter how long you keep it.
Best of all, at the dawn of a new time and the rediscovery of the Diesel engine as a way of the future, the wide-spread distribution of Biodiesel being just a year away, you'll be ahead of the game. Once gasoline costs $5 bucks a gallon, as it is the case in most countries already, you'll be the one laughing all the way to the filling station!