TFL Classics Thinks the Mercedes 300D Remains Luxury Car Extraordinaire
From the era of Dallas, yuppies, and shoulder pads, the 300D holds up today for its simplicity and build quality.
If you look back, 1982 was a packed year, and then some. Joe Montana led his San Francisco 49ers to its first championship in Super Bowl XVI. USA Today debuted, as did The Weather Channel and Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Lawnchair Larry takes flight over Long Beach upon a lawnchair with 45 weather balloons attached. Dwayne Wade, Danica Patrick, and Lil Wayne are born. Thelonious Monk, Gilles Villeneuve, and Henry Fonda bid adieu to the world.
Also in 1982: the white Mercedes 300D procured by YouTube channel TFLclassics is produced, one its host, Ian Chisholm, says is the best Mercedes ever built.
“I truly do think that this era of Mercedes, the W123 platform, is the best they have ever made,” said Chisholm. “They built over 2.7 million of these cars from the mid-Seventies through about the mid-1980s, depending on where you live in the entire world.”
Chisholm adds that as the Ford Crown Victoria is to the United States, the W123 is to the rest of the world: durable, reliable, cheap to maintain, and unkillable. The reason for this is due to the company’s extreme commitment to over-engineering for excellent quality and enduring longevity.
“So, this Mercedes may not have a huge emphasis on exterior styling, but that doesn’t matter at all,” said Chisholm. “What matters is what’s under this ginormous piece of flat steel… This is a five-cylinder, inline turbo diesel. It develops about 120 horsepower, maybe 170 pound-feet of torque, but it is an extraordinary piece of technology.”
How extraordinary? Chisholm says the engines can go 600,000 to 700,000 miles between rebuilds, the engines are bulletproof (and EMP-proof, should the ICBMs take to the skies), and they sound like old-school diesels (or, as he demonstrates, a metal thermos with rocks shaking all about). Plus, a couple of latches on the hood hinges allow the hood to go a full 90 degrees for ease of maintenance should the diesel need it.
Other neat details about the W123’s overall build quality include the side trim bits (meant to protect the door handles from the dirt), the taillights (notched for improved visibility, plus the absurd ease of bulb replacement), and the close panel gaps that have held up nearly four decades later.
“I have been lying to you a little bit about this car in general, because there are some bits that are notoriously unreliable, this area here being one of them,” said Chisholm. “This was a top-of-the-line car in the United States, which means we have automatic climate control, which was cool for 1982, but this is a horrible system, mainly because it’s powered by 18 vacuum lines that come off the back of a control module.”
Chisholm says the system leaked vacuum, and the AC sometimes failed, plus the numbers on the wheel are in Celsius, which he’s unfamiliar with due to being “an American in America.” Thankfully, the wheel is color-coded, so keeping cool or warm should be no trouble for those who don’t do metric.
“One of my favorite things on this box on wheels is the safety,” Chisholm says. “By modern standards, it doesn’t have airbags, of course, but back in the day, it was one of the safest cars for sale because it had crumple zones, one of the earlier applications, actually.”
The W123 also has a decent turning radius of 30 feet despite its length, while the 14-inch wheels mean tires with bigger sidewalls, and thus, a more comfortable ride down the highway. The yellow fog lights are an excellent touch, as are the parking lights for letting motorists know where the big Mercedes is parked. They sure don’t make them like they used to.