1981 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 300SD 3.0 turbo diesel from North America


Finest car ever made


Regular maintenance.

General Comments:

I only run the Merc on the highway, but a finer car has yet to be built, I run between Seattle, Boise and Napa Valley in the old girl; she'll do 75 all day with no complaints. Yes the body is breaking down around the drive train, but I'm confident we'll cross the million miles mark!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 21st May, 2016

1981 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 300 SD 3.0L OM617 turbo diesel from North America


A rich fool's car


Everything went wrong with this overly-touchy car:

The entire air conditioning system quit after 250.000 miles, including compressor, vacuum switches, dashboard vacuum control center, sensors, etc.

The radio simply quit. So I replaced it. The new one quit too. I bought a used one, and that one quit too. Three radios in one year!

All the wood inserts in the interior panels were pretty much ruined, despite intensive care.

Power window on driver's side didn't work. Rear power window motors were very weak, and it was much better just not using them.

Power antenna broke after using it 3-4 times.

The entire vacuum door-lock system didn't work, and the car had many leaks in the vacuum lines.

The automatic transmission was hard and jumpy, so I had to replace it at 260.000 miles.

The powerseats stopped working when the switches on the doors fell apart.

The driver's side seat started leaning towards the left hurting my back.

Door lock on driver's side broke because a plastic lever inside the door had rotted out.

Sunroof wouldn't close or open without manual assistance. One day a piece of rubber fell out of it, and I never managed to figure out where it belonged.

Hood latch cable had to be replaced as soon as I bought it, because it would neither lock nor unlock the hood.

General Comments:

The car ran like a German panzer. You could feel every little rock on the pavement, and it just wouldn't do over 85 mph!

It was reliable and elegant, but as many people have already said: "A rich fool's car".

Nothing else to say about this car. It was good to have this experience so I can avoid it in the future.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 5th December, 2010

6th Dec 2010, 00:54

You bought that at well over 200K miles/320K km??? Why??

9th Dec 2010, 23:30

A 1981 Mercedes Benz 300SD was a "rich fools car"... in 1981.

Now, almost 30 years later, it's a poor fool's car.

30th Nov 2014, 03:08

The review above reflects more, to me, on the owner and likely his/her mechanic(s) than the vehicle itself. One should try to test drive more than one example of a car they are unfamiliar with to get a reference point for comparisons. It is very common for owners and even mechanics to dismiss hard/mis-timed trans shifting on these older diesels as bad transmissions, when the cause is vacuum adjustments. 90% of the time there are simply vacuum leaks. If you can't drive this car over 85mph and can't get there quickly, there is a major problem with the car. Bad turbo or fuel system issues. These vehicles are some of the most reliable ever sold in the us. The A/C went out after 250,000 miles? Think about that, few cars ever even make it that far at all. Yes, I am a mechanic who specializes in Mercedes, and I am biased, but I just had to put my $.02 in.

1st Jan 2017, 00:43

I bought my 1981 MBZ 300SD new in 1981 and still have it and still drive it regularly (but sometimes it might sit in my garage for weeks without use). I have maintained it as per MBZ standards so upkeep is reasonable; it now has over 275,000 and I expect I will expire before it wears out.

Certainly I have had normal parts repairs and replacement, but nothing major that I would consider undue. I wish that those who disparage the 1981 300SD might consider researching a car's ownership history before buying. Also, I just retired/sold my 1995 Lexus ES300 at 291,000; regular maintenance is the key to successful ownership (just like keeping your home in good repair).