Wednesday, December 09, 2020

My Daily Driver: @ekimap's Mercedes 300D

1. How did you come to the decision of buying this car?

Since I was a kid, I had always admired and ogled the Mercedes-Benz W123. Our family didn’t have one, but several of my parents’ friends did, so I got to ride in them from time to time. Even as a child, I knew these cars were something special. There was a quality about these cars that even a child could recognize as being on a different level from other cars. Maybe it was the way the doors thunked shut. Maybe it was the materials or the impeccable assembly quality. All I knew was that this was no Lincoln, Cadillac, or even a BMW; this was on a different level.

It wasn’t luxury features that gave the W123 its elevated status either. Even by the standards of the time, a fully loaded 300D was fairly spartan. No, the magic of that era of Mercedes-Benz was that they represented quality as luxury, not features as luxury. The cars were expensive because they were impeccably engineered and assembled, and they drove with a sense of heft, precision, and aplomb that were absent in just about anything else available at the time. That’s what qualified these as luxury cars, not fancy gizmos or toys.

I’m generally not interested in expensive things for the sake of image or prestige, but I do believe quality is worth paying for. The W123 is an automotive embodiment of that idea. It’s humble enough that it was the de facto taxi in many parts of the world for decades; it’s not ostentatious at all. But it’s respected the world over because of its quality and engineering, and that’s what makes it both humble, modest, and prestigious all at once.

With all that in mind, as an adult, I had to have one and scratch that itch I’d had for that car since childhood, so I bought this one a couple years ago for about $4,000. 

2. What has your ownership experience been like?

It’s been amazing, really. I bought it with 291,000 miles on the clock. The car, with its legendary turbocharged OM617 five-cylinder diesel, ran flawlessly from the start and continues to do so. There are nearly no squeaks or rattles in the interior after nearly 300,000 miles and 38 years, and the car drives beautifully. Its ride quality in particular impresses; it’s very softly sprung but beautifully damped, so it handles undulations in the road with a fluency not commonly found even in many modern cars.

I’ve put precious little money into this car. The car came with a bad right front wheel bearing, and that was fixed immediately for a couple hundred bucks at a local Mercedes-Benz specialist. I had an alignment done after realizing that the front toe was way out of whack and eating away at the front tires, which meant buying four new tires as well. Also, I strongly prefer the standard steel wheels and color-matched hubcaps of that era over the so-called “Bundt” alloy wheels that mine came with, so I found a good set of steel wheels and hubcaps on eBay and sold the alloys. And that’s it. 

There is a short list of things I need addressed soon, but none of them are major. There is a vacuum leak somewhere, and those of you familiar with old Mercedes-Benzes know that everything from the power door locks to transmission shifting to climate control operation is controlled by engine vacuum. The power door locks work intermittently and the transmission occasionally bangs off a hard shift; wherever this vacuum leak is, it’s not severe, but attention is needed. The other item that needs attention is the air conditioning. The leak has been traced to a rotted hose that has been discontinued; I need to track one down or have a replacement fabricated. And that’s it!

Other than those two items, the 300D is a joy to live with. It’s stately, it starts every time, and it turns heads everywhere it goes.

3. What is your fondest memory with this car?

I don’t have a single fondest memory. There is a sense of occasion to driving it every time I fire it up, which is almost daily. Even as a daily driver, it feels special and I feel a sense of joy every time I’m behind the wheel. I do love that my family appreciates the car as much as I do. We often just get in the car and drive it. My daughter recognizes that it’s a lot cooler than most new cars and even boasts about it to her friends. New memories with the car are created every day.

We do want to do a long road trip in the car once the air conditioning is fixed. We will no doubt gain lots of great new memories when we do that.

4. Why do you love cars?

For me, there is no why. It just is. I was obsessed with cars from my earliest years. I learned to read because my parents had this massive book called 1975 World Cars that cataloged every new car sold around the world that year, and I wanted to know about each and every model. And even today, cars rule my world. My entire professional career has revolved around cars, and I intend for that never to change.

And here is Ed's car, on video:

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