1991 W124 300D Turbo Diesel - Modernising for family used over the next 10 years.
Thought I’d post some pics & share the story of our 300D and it's progress here in Japan. It's a completely rust free 165,000km (103,000 mile) example I bought for a measley sum, but then spent more on it for parts, taxes, registration, etc. than the base cost.
It replaces my wife's Lexus IS300 sports wagon, which although a great car had a bit of a drinking problem during school runs for the kids. Plus I've always had a soft spot for Turbo Diesel W124's since owning a W123 300D as a student in the UK a couple of decades ago.
I have been lurking on this and other forums to gain the information I needed to make better choices for components, so thanks to all who have contributed but shall remain nameless. Your help was much appreciated!
It looks so much better after spending an afternoon lowering with Bilstein sports suspension and H&R springs + new 17'' Rinspeed rims & decent sports tyres.
A friend & I did that work together on Sunday afternoon.
Half way through he got stung by a large hornet, so I had to suck his sweaty back and get the poison out – ended up giving him a juicy love bite instead (That’s what friend’s are for !) then doused with vinegar so there was next to no effect. We both still got bitten by mosquitoes as the sun went down, so went for a nice Indian meal afterwards in a lame effort to become less tasty to them in future.
Did a 5 layer machine polishing process on it yesterday with my favourite Zaino polishes. Came out sweet. Still has some micro scratches, but it’ll get better as I continue polishing it over time. Looks so much better as I hadn’t washed it since it arrived a few month ago!
I’ll still need to sort out some cracks and scratches on the bumpers and a few small bodywork imperfections, but my wife will be the main driver so I don't expect to have pristine bumpers... :o
Am still thinking of returning the mouldings on the bumpers back to black (With some used ones if I can find them), as they’ll withstand minor bumps much better and that’s how the original colour scheme would have been.
I also fitted a better leather steering wheel and shift knob yesterday along with the Avant Garde grille and the all important “Turbo” original badge.
Steering wheel is a bit smaller diameter but perfectly sized. Both were also bought used, so were inexpensive.
I’d hoped to put in the high end Clarion VZ-300 iphone compatible CD head unit I bought, but the Ebay seller in the States forgot to (or didn’t!) send me the main harness with this factory reconditioned unit. Unfortunately I bought it in April and never checked it was complete, so too late to claim. I e-mailed (politely) and got a one line reply saying I didn’t buy from him, even though the confirmation was from the same e-mail I'd contacted further below… another joker of this world whose integrity is next to worthless!
Anyways, I found another harness on Ebay which looks & is described to be the right one and it cost 25 quid, so I laid down a bit more faith in human nature and the other guy can continue to suffer what happens with his own karma.
Have also picked up a complete 500E Limited interior inclusive of door trims whose front seats I’ll re-colour and restore before fitting. As it will change to have 2 memory front seats with heating, I'll have to get new wiring harnesses and relays for the seats, but I have the right support to do this.
New seats will be fitted together with a complete set of rubber cupped floor mats coming from a taxi goods supplier in Germany which will keep interior and boot tidy & easy to clean from daily workhorse use. We live in a country farmhouse, so our little children tend to put mud everywhere in wet weather!
I’ve also got some proper Jelhert door & front speakers from the lovely Angelica Jelhert, Rainbow rear speakers, 1,000W of proper amplifiers, quality sound deadening imported from the States, etc. some of which is arrived & will be delivered to me shortly.
I’ll do a proper install sometime at the end of September in combination with fitting an HDD navigation system. A day’s work + a bit of time to make a bespoke (Oak) subwoofer enclosure between the two back seats. It’s about sound quality for me, not loudness though. Don’t really want to deafen the children, just encourage them to like the sound of quality music!
Bought an old R12 aircon gas recharger too.
The Aircon works OK, but looks like it could use some more gas. Once that’s done it should provide ice cool air to the interior to go with the ICE system.
Since changing all the glow plugs for new Beru items, it starts on the first attempt and drives well. Changing them was a doddle. 5 of 6 were shot!
It gives decent fuel economy and is a pleasure to drive. A totally solid feeling car.
Rides well on the new suspension and wheels too – a tiny bit firmer, but still comfortable. Still rolls a bit of course, but the thicker 320 Cabrio & 500E ARB’s coming from Europe will sort that out and there’s a used set of early model 500E brakes to go on too, with new discs, etc. so it can stand being driven fast if need be or braked hard when I want to hussle it, without making the brakes grumble or warp.
A few creaks and noises sometimes, but nothing I can’t sort out. Steering doesn’t self correct very well. Not sure if this is a part of the design (No bad tyre wear so it’s not geometry I think) or if it’s a slightly seized joint somewhere. I’ll have to check it out, but it’s probably the latter. Just one of those things to put right on an older car I guess.
I have a friend in Germany who is well connected for Benz parts, along with a technician friend of his who is W124 mad, so I can get around the extortionate costs of parts from MB Japan & technical knowledge is easier for some things too. Delay in getting bits is the only thing to plan ahead for.
Anyways, being Diesel I think this car will serve us well for a decade and any mileage we care to throw at it as a family. It’s old enough to present itself as a smart and classic Benz, without looking like a rubbish old car that is undesirable and over time it’ll become more and more classic too which being entirely usable. It was the right choice to sell the much newer Lexus and get this Benz, I’m sure. With all the upgrades, costs will be a little more in the end, but it delivers twice the fuel economy and as all deliveries are by road here, to keep industry moving Diesel’s always going to be cheaper than petrol in Japan.
I'll post more when I've completed some additional work. TBH I'm not one for detailing projects step by step - when I'm doing work I just want to get on with it and do as much as possible... but it should make a cool old benz.
I'm definitely a W124 fan.
Hello Newera, that sure it a beautiful car. Im new to the forum and new to MD diesels. I have a 92 300d and Im currently adding small touches to personalize to my taste. I see that your '91 has a facelift. How did you achieve that look? Thanks.
About 2 years ago, I decided it would be wise to stop changing cars every few years and just modernise an older, but high quality Benz Turbo Diesel capable of doing very high mileage & offer good economy. Older Diesel Mercedes are very rare in Japan and I wanted a rust free one with a decent body. This one came as a neglected and poorly looked after example whose glow plugs were all burnt out. To start it, I had to block the exhaust to build heat in the cylinders - so I could make the engine hot enough to easily remove said offending glow plugs!
Still, it was cheap to buy, although I've spent a fair chunk on all the bits to improve it since & repair everything that was faulty. I've been steadily adding to a list & ticking things off as I complete them.
It had taken 1 year to find this base car and after almost another year of ownership it's nearly completed, largely thanks to a friend in Germany who has sent many of the parts down to the smallest detail to help perfect it, whilst larger parts have been sourced used in Japan where possible (Dealer prices here are verging on stupidity!).
All the exterior plastics were replaced with mint condition newer model's, of a darker and better looking silver colour - of original paint.
For licence health (from speed cameras), I fitted a rectractable front number plate mount. At around 100 km/h the plate folds flat. When I'm driving in town it goes back to horizontal & there's a lock to hold it in vertical position (for inspections).
It has proper (500E) front & rear brakes & handling courtesy of new lower (500E) arms, Bilstein shocks, H&R springs and 500E / 320 Convertible ARB's.
A new high quality sound system (Jelhert conversion at the front) & 200W speakers at the rear with top quality sound insulation. For aesthetics I fitted chrome door pins. I've avoided any temptation to add more chrome now - the flavour is to make the car more modern through improvement, not garish!
I placed the amp in the trunk with all wiring properly routed and cable tied, with every terminal to crossovers properly crimped and shrink wrapped.
The Parrot Asteroid head unit offers all the modern features such as Bluetooth / hands-free phone & voice control.
All of the wood trim was replaced with dark 500E LTD original trim + 500E LTD Shift knob and I covered the original centre console wood panels in a Di-Noc dark colour brushed aluminium film. There's also navigation and self-dimming rear view mirror with compass.
To make the interior family / kid proof, I sourced taxi floor trays which are easy to remove & shake dust, sand, etc. off.
There's remote central locking too and the aircon is working super cold.
All that's left to do on the interior now is to fit new electro-luminescent instrumentation (With original style gauges) so all the lighting is pure white on the dashboard ( White LEDs). The gauges will then match the Defi boost gauge at night, complete with red needles in the original instrument cluster...
I also have a pair of 500E heated front seats with memory function - which will be fitted once I've restored the leather on them to perfection. I had thought of also fitting the 500E rear seats, but it's more useful to have a 5 seater than a useless box in the middle, I think (I had toyed with fitting a subwoofer in a custom enclosure, but kids don't need their ears blown out!).
I changed several seals & gaskets all the way from the fuel tank to the fuel pump itself and finally it's become a completely oil-leak free engine.
It runs perfectly & regularly delivers 600 - 700km per tankful of Diesel.
Ride is smooth, rattle & nonsense free.
Just a few more little details to iron out and it should easily last another 10-20 years by which time it'll be a daily driven classic car. I'm finally running out of things to do to it but have enjoyed noticing the thought & attention that went into the design of this car.
I see W123 Diesels being very well looked after in Japan and I know why now...
It's proving to have been the perfect choice as a family runabout capable of cruising 1000km in a weekend in comfort when needed. It's got almost 200,000km now, but I don't mind how much mileage we put on. Feels great to have bank vault like build quality & classic German engineering integrity to take care of the family.
I wonder if in 20 years - today's Mercedes will still work as well as their older designs? With so many electronics & poor build quality, I think not.... time will tell!
We're on a national 1 week holiday in Japan, so whilst at my inlaw's place with my family, today I took the opportunity to fit some electro-luminescent gauges, which will also better match the Defi boost gauge I installed recently.
From www.moman.eu I got Design 2,\ which closest matches the original design, incl. same rev counter & speedometer ranges as the 300DT.
The description above's OK, but could use some improvement, but as I'm not a member there I can't add to the comments (If anybody else is, feel free to cut & paste the comments below so that someone else can use them in future if referring to that thread).
Here's some notes / tips:
(1). It's best to fill the tank to the brim before beginning, as the best way to refit the fuel pointer accurately is to power it up - by refitting the large round connector. At the same time you can also refit the oil pressure gauge's pointer - at 3 (I'll go there if only the round connector is fitted).
(2). Only the following pointer needles need removing to fit (Use two small spoons to gently prize them off - it's pretty easy): Fuel Level, Water Temp, Oil Pressure, Clock. I masked the black centres off with selo-tape (It's all they had here and I forgot to bring masking tape with my selected tools for this job).
(3). If you try to clean the inside of the perspex glass, don't use cotton buds - as little pieces of cotton woll can get caught in places & is a pain to remove afterwards!
(4). The Moman kit is supposed to come with a "multiplier" for connectors. I couldn't find mine - but anyways a neater solution is to spice the wires together with solder and shrink wrap and have only one connector going to the inverter.
(5). For the UV lights (To make the needles glow red at night) at the top of the cluster - I obtained power by soldering to one of the brass (earth_ connectors at the back of the temp gauge and obtained 12V from the connector for the clock (Ah bugger!!.... Only just realised this'll make the UV LEDS always stay on... I'll have to get another 12V aux feed...A job to do tommorow... :o).
Careful when drilling holes with this - as it's easy to go through the plastic then have the drill bit hit the clear plastic facia. Having a short drill bit helps.
I took a couple of my daughter's sticky foil stickers and put them on the top of the UV LED's to help reflect their light back at the needles.
Used plastic glue (Dries in about an hour) to hold these LED's in place and also to attach wires to the top of the cluster.
(6). I obtained power for the inverter directly from the circuit board inside the cluster which gives varying voltage to the inverter (Confirm with a multimeter to know which terminal to solder to. It's easy to blow the inverter if the polarities are wrong!).
(7). I only cut away one area to feed wires through, as shown in picture below, then used small cable ties to secure the cables both inside the cluster and outside.
(8). Don't forget to remove the original illumination light bulbs from the cluster. You won't need those now the faces are lit with electro-luminescence.
Anyways, it's all working OK now. I'll just need to re-do the power to the UV LED's tommorow. Below are some pics to show what it it looks like now.
Will be interesting to see the difference later tonight.
More pictures later....incl. some of the car with the E500 wheels now fitted.
Thanks for the compliment Saijin Naib. It's getting closer to where I wanted to get it. I had a 16 year old W123 300D as a college student and at the time the W124 was a current model. A combination of my uncle buying a brand new 300E 24V (Which still has an amazing mileage of less than 2000 miles from new!) and watching the French "Taxi" movie must've stuck with me as I had always fancied a 3-litre Turbo Diesel W124 since... (Had a couple of 500E's too, great cars - but way too thirsty to be considered serious every day school run candidates).
When we moved to the countryside and found our Lexus was drinking too much fuel on the school run, I realised it was time to find the W124 300TD, then spend some time doing it up - whilst it's in regular use.
I have to agree with you, it's quite a timeless shape. Very "Benz" in style, but still classy even now at 22 years old (A previous owner updated the trunk & hood to the later model & I finished off by replacing the bumpers & lower plastics, etc - so it looks newer than it actually is). It'll age gracefully - even now people compliment us on our Benz and we just say, "Ah, it's just an old car... .
I'm pretty sure it'll last another 10 if not 20 years in family use - which will be nice. By the time our little kids are adults they'll probably fondly remember this car. Kinda like my uncles who all fondly remember my grandfather's 280 SE
I didn't want a newer model, as I prefer to work on each of my cars myself. This one's simple enough. I don't need digital systems to switch on brake lights and troubles associated with CANBUS data systems or anything of the sort & I know from a few friends who work on Mercedes for a living that these older ones are the last of the best....
I've enjoyed tinkering with it but I'm now finding myself running out of things to improve or repair. I keep scouring the internet for rare things, but there isn't much that I find myself wanting. Ah well, it'll be a matter of maintenance going forwards, once I;ve completed the installation of heated E500 sports (front) seats. Won't be upgrading the rear as I prefer the convenience of this being a 5 seater when the need arises.
The brakes and handling are pretty good now. Sometimes I hussle it along at a fair pace on local (empty) country roads late at night and the brakes never get grumbly, or too hot it seems. I guess they were designed for a car with around double the power of mine, so they're ample. The suspension works great. I'm glad to have chosen Bilstein shocks with H&R springs. Around where we live there are small roads with lots of bumps. I can drive along with the family inside at 100 km/h and it just absorbs these without drama. Other cars don't feel nearly as comfortable. It feels solid with not much roll when cornering either. I've recently fitted a set of 6-spoke W124 E500 original wheels which are 17 x 8.25J + 34 (IIRC?) and although very close to the edges of the unrolled fenders and suspension is lowered, they don't touch at all (I did fit 1 & 1/2 OEM bumpstops at the front when installing this suspension.
Will take some pics with the new wheels and upload soon. I prefer the look than the 5 spoke wheels in the pictures above (Which I guess I'll put up for sale soon, in case anybody wants them, or sell on Yahoo Auctions in Japan if not).
I've just been fiddling with the EL system a little more. Pin 13 (On the large circular connector) is the one to use for powering up the UV LED's whenever lights are switched on.
I painted the needles with a flourescent paint - and these UV LED's are used to make the needles glow. It works well.
I think the Moman Design 2 is close enough to original that it actually looks good (I agree with you, the others are trying to be too classy and fail - instead looking tacky!). With the needles painted flourescent it looks good, especially at night. Almost OEM in style, but EL is definitely nicer (dimmable too).
I also discovered last night that the LED's I had used for back-lighting before must be retained if I want to be able to see the odo & trip meters. So I'm putting these back in...
Bio Diesel? I know one guy who runs a Toyota Camping truck on it. But for now it's just not practical to be hinting around for used frying oils, etc. I'd rather pay for the convenience of just filling up with a tank of pump Diesel.
I think I'll try dropping in a litre of 2-stroke oil into the tank, as I hear (from a German Benz tech) that this helps keep the injectors & piston rings cleaned. May as well give it a try...even though it runs perfectly.
Yeah, the 5 spokes looked good, I just prefer the look of the E500 wheels. They could be OEM.... Also makes it look that little bit more like an E500 which I like the styling of, just not the thirst! :p
So now I have 5 rims (incl one as a spare) and will be selling them for say $550 + Shipping. Can probably send to the US cheaply via a friend in the military... They're mint aside from a couple of minor scratches caused by my sweet wife!
Ahhh, that is a good solution. Did you replace the overhead cluster lights with UV-LEDs so the needle will be front-lit?
Agreed. Maybe down the line I'll get one, but for now, I like the stock cluster well enough. The moman clusters are also missing the shift indicators! (big deal, I know).
Well, you don't have to go straight bio-diesel. A friend of mine fit a kit that had mixing parameters built in so you could run straight diesel, straight bio-diesel, or a blend of the two. He assembled it into an old Benz diesel. Ran wonderfully.
One of my dad's customers would use jet fuel. He worked at an airport, and all the fuel that isn't consumed in-flight has to be disposed of, so he took it to fuel his Benz diesel. My dad said the engine was absolutely spotless at over 200k miles.
AMG AeroI or AeroII wheels? Or just the stock 500e 8-holers?
Curb rash is a nightmare! I've fortunately not curbed my current wheels. I keep my fingers crossed I never do. Repainting them again would be a nightmare.
The UV LED's come as a kit from Moman together with flurescent paint. I put a link above to these and you can see pictures, including how it's installed (from their site).
There's a little drilling required to fit them, but it's easy enough to do. I've just refitted LED's in the original illumination positions so that the odo & trip meter should (hopefully!) be lit at night...
Here's what it looks like - I took the pic last night but exposure was so long, it came out a bit blurred. As you can see the needles are well lit by the hidden UV LED's
The wheels on the car now are apparently original E500 LTD rims. Here's a pic of them taken by the guy who sold them to me. Only one tiny scratch on one, which I can live with.
When I get a chance I'll shoot some new pictures at dusk (Best time to shoot a white car) and try to get some better cluster pics as well.
Yep, I think they suit the W124 very well. Perfect fitment & stance. I put 225's on the front & 235's on the rear.
Took a while to find them, but sometimes interesting Benz stuff comes up for sale, used - here in Japan... There was another set being sold at the same time (With tires) but I let them go as I didn't need two sets...
The moman clusters are also missing the shift indicators! (big deal, I know).
You could probably have Moman make you a set including shift indicator if desired. They can apparently make any design you want. Mine didn't have this, so I don't need it - besides, the shift lever is illuminated too (White LED).
Ah, I never realised they're the same wheels as fitted originally to the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution (Batmobile) models. That's cool.
They've got a slight concave profile which is subtle but nice. Will take some pics later anyways.
Thanks. I do use a polarising filter (Which is why the windows aren't reflecting and the sides are), but white is always a bugger to shoot especially if very reflective - as it tends to over-expose compared to other colours. A professional car photographers tells me he tends to shoot white cars at night for this reason.