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I've heard alot of people call the 350SDL "ill-fated." I'm looking at diesels to purchase and i'm wondering if "ill-fated" means "did not sell well" or "destined to break down."

What are the problems with the 350 engine, as compared to that in the 300's of the 1980's?
 

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1991 300 SE
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The piston rod (or rods) will bend or break. Before breaking they bend, causing the piston to ‘egg out’ (make oval) the cylinder resulting in mucho grande blow-by, and excessive oil consumption. Some believe the rods were just too weak, others believe there was a design flaw with the turbo oil seal and intake manifold resulting in carbon build-up. At some point a small piece of carbon will break off, get sucked into the combustion chamber, and bend the rod when the piston hits the hard carbon fragment at TDC.

A 350 with a new crate engine would be much less risky – later versions of the engine were designed to avoid the rod-bending problem

The OM 617 was almost perfect – the OM 603 was less perfect with its aluminum head prone to warping but an otherwise excellent engine.
 
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