Thursday, January 19, 2017

Stately German ambassador to Coney Island

I was all the way at the very end of Ocean Parkway where it meets the boardwalk at Coney Island when I noticed 2 German stalwarts roosting. I've already featured the Beetle convertible so now it's time to go a little more upscale:
This is a 1980 Mercedes Benz 300D in Silver Blue Poly. In official company verbiage this ride is known as the W123 in U.S. spec. The only visible difference between the U.S. and Euro spec are the headlights. The Euro version has lights that look larger because they're all behind glass that spans the entire surface of the housing as opposed to the separate exposed head and fog lights here.
We know it's a post-1979 model since these fog lights are yellow as opposed to the clear lenses on the earlier cars. This ride is sporting USA and Puerto Rico flag badges on the grill along with another mysterious one. I have to say it's remarkable that this still has its hood ornament that sits up there like a piece of cheese in a trap to passersby.
This 300D is powered by a 3 liter inline-5 cylinder Diesel engine mated to an automatic transmission (there were no manual U.S. spec 300Ds). This engine earned a legendary reputation for durability with many going 300,000+ miles before requiring a rebuild. This car is a part tank and part Swiss watch.
These chrome cowl vents only lasted through the 1980 model year before switching to black plastic versions for the rest of the '80s. This, combined with the yellow fog lights, identifies this as a 1980.
Two Germans of the same vintage are getting familiar like a couple of dogs. Both of these enjoy timeless looks that still seem fresh today.
I chose not to feature these 1980s Mercedes 4 doors until today because they remain ubiquitous on the streets of NYC. I finally relented because cars that are 37 years old and being used as daily drivers by dozens of people deserve a big shout out. I've never owned one of these but I've had friends who did and they are very capable, comfortable cars. The seats along are a stroke of genius as most seem to be in good condition even at this age.
Even if that D wasn't on the trunklid you'd know this was a diesel by its telltale chattering sound. That's the sound of getting between 26-38 miles to the gallon for 300,000 miles. Once biodiesel conversions became popular these were perfect candidates. The engine blocks are made of iron and the older indirect injection style of these motors makes them very forgiving on what sort of fuel they will run on. You can literally add vegetable oil to the tank if you're in a pinch and this thing will start and run. I've even seen a biodiesel full size black Mercedes 500SEL that was the strangest collision of ethics; massive limo-style ride that smelled of french fries while running.
That's where I'll leave this proud little tank.
As I said earlier these rides can be found all over the place both on the streets and in classified ads. Parts are universally available and many owners vow to keep these until the day they die. Regularly scheduled maintenance can be a bit pricey since this is a Mercedes but if it is kept up this car will literally run forever. Parts are essentially the same for all body styles so the convertibles, station wagons, and 2 door coupes are equally easy to maintain.

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