Date registered: Mar 2007
Location: Charleston, SC, USofA
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 4 Post(s)
Buy the best example that you can afford! An old adage in MB circles: "There is no such thing as a cheap Mercedes". If you buy a fixer-upper, you can spend A LOT of money and time putting it right, so get the best car you can afford to get, and I can assure you, you will be money-ahead.
123 prices are, in my opinion, usually stupid-high. A 123 is more noisy and more prone to rust than later cars. That said, they are the most simple and very durable, and will take a lot of abuse. The OM616 engine in a 240D and the OM617 engine in a 300D are both very durable engines with cast iron heads. If you learn to enjoy driving a manual transmission, a 240D with a stick is a great choice. However, don't test drive a later car which will be quieter and more powerful and handle better, or you may not want a 240D.
A 126 diesel is more refined (quieter, bigger, better quality interior). Earlier models have the OM617 engine, and they usually are about $1000 less than a comparable 123 sedan, which makes no sense to me. A later 126 ('86 or '87) will have the OM603 engine, which is more powerful but the original heads were prone to cracking. Used heads are around, but new head from MB will set you back $2000 or so. The '90's era 126 cars have a 3.5 liter version of the OM603, known as the "rod bender" engine because the rods were too weak and would bend, resulting in a trashed engine that drinks a lot of oil. By then the head cracking problem was solved, so a common swap was to get an OM603 from an earlier car and transplant the head from the 3.5 liter engine. There are also folks who have installed an OM606 turbo engine into the 126 body, which makes for a pretty fast luxury automobile.
The 124 cars have either the OM603 ('87 model year), the OM602 ('90 - '93??) or the OM606 ('95). I've already discussed the OM603. The OM602 (five cylinders) in turbo form in the 124 body is one of the nicest cars you can find. Plenty of power, a very reliable engine, and a very refined ride with good fuel economy. The last year of the 124 diesel, E300, has a non-turbo OM606, which is also proving to be a very durable engine but suffers from broken glow plugs in the head, which may require the head to be removed for a machine shop to extract the remains of the glow plug.
210 cars ('96 and later) are very prone to rust, especially in the front spring perches and the front control arms. They also suffered from poor quality electrical components. The OM606 with turbo in the '98 and '99 cars is a fantastic engine, hobbled in a low-quality body. I would just avoid these all together.
'87 300TD, 357k miles
'95 E300 Diesel, 370k miles
'95 E320 Cabriolet, 109k miles
'73 Balboa 20