Ask most people in our corner of internet-land, and you’ll find they love manual transmission cars, won’t buy anything without a speck of rust, and only if there’s a financial upside. But as we all know, the rules of physics (and the other practical aspects of life) don’t apply there – it’s like building a a dream garage, where factors like budget, your family, and the commute don’t come into the discussion. But if you can accept that real life is a consideration, and if you want to be able to use your classic car more than four times a year – you know, for those two annual shows, a club drive, and the one time you can convince the family they want to ride in a noisy old car that smells of vinyl, burnt oil, and exhaust (the holy trinity!) – then maybe it’s worth compromising on the dream a little to engage some of the most important people in your life in the hobby and still be able to engage in it yourself. And that’s where we come to a great, family friendly classic – the W123 series of Mercedes sedans. Check out this 1983 Mercedes 300D Turbodiesel for sale for $3900 in Walnut Creek, CA.
Today’s car was inspired by a discussion with a friend, who lost his classic BMW to an errant driver, and whose partner is challenged by the thought of learning manual transmission or driving an old car. In the real world, compromises are sometimes the best way to engage your spouse in the old car hobby while still being able to get the holy trinity. So let’s try to find some interesting older cars that offer a middle point for car enthusiasts and their non-enthusiast families. These turbodiesel sedans are interesting cars, have sufficient power compared to any other diesel of their time, and were only offered with automatic transmission. In addition, they come with modern power amenities and decent air conditioning and heating (though as with any 32-year-old car, there’s no guarantee everything will still be functional).
This particular 300D is offered by the original owner, and is said to be in excellent condition. It’s been garaged for most of its life, hand washed and waxed (until 4 years ago – did the romance finally wear off?), and has no rust or significant dents. The odometer shows 235,000 miles, though those are generally said to be unreliable, and there are signs of age-related wear you’d expect on a car this old in wear surfaces like seats, carpet, and steering wheel.
That said, the paint shows none of the clearcoat failure you see on many of these cars, and it still has its original California blue and yellow plates in what looks like the original dealer frame. There does look to be some fading of some interior components, but everything looks intact and won’t need any excuses. All these considerations will help lower the barrier to entry – think about when you started skiing, you could call this a green slope before you move up to the blue square BMW or black diamond Ferrari.
Happily, you can also justify this purchase decision as a safe car. Even if the platform is now nearly 40 years old, these have a reputation for being just as safe as a Volvo of the time, so while it can’t match a modern car, it still beats an older Chevrolet, Fiat, or Renault sedan. And the fact that it’s clean, cared-for, and doesn’t have any funny smells (wait to close the doors until you start the engine!) means it’ll be welcoming to those other important folks in your life, and usable for your daily commute. What other family-friendly, fun-ish yet automatic classics would you recommend?