Date registered: Sep 2004
Vehicle: 2014 E250 Bluetec 4-Matic, 1983 240D 4-Speed
Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Quoted: 256 Post(s)
I think the W202 was the last MB built with good, reliable beater potential. Solid, if somewhat heavy (typical characteristic for a good beater), and the early ones were not supercharged so they were somewhat underpowered (another key beater feature - low mechanical stresses leads to good longevity with little more than frequent oil changes), and a reasonably simple interior.
The W203 was loaded with junk when it first arrived and while the basic machinery was sound, it is overly dependent on a functioning series of microprocessors. Which are known to malfunction.
So, get a C220 or C230 prior to 1999 model year. Or, you can go for the C280 but look to waste more fuel. A C230 Kompressor is a nice car but the near 200 ft.lbs of torque available makes actually getting good mileage very difficult. Jim