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European Diesels

I am looking for a diesel here in the Central Valley of California and I’m finding a glut of MBZs on craigslist… I wonder why are so many? One factor I’m sure is that they are smog exempt, but I’m finding almost no other choice for older euro diesels. I’ve found one Volvo. Here is my question: does a glut of MBZs mean I’ll be able to find parts easily, and the one Volvo mean I won’t be able to find parts at all for it?

Does anyone have any other suggestions for inexpensive diesels?

Yours truly not a car buff,

2001 Passat 4-motion owner

Stay away from the Volvo, you’re correct that it’ll be harder to find parts. Lots of MB’s because they were just about the only game in town and they built sturdy diesels. If you really want one (they’re slooooow, they smoke, and they get ok mpgs) then go ahead, but they are MBs, and they do need regular service. I’d find out what the local service availablility is first. VWs are the other major diesel brand, same comments apply.

If you can find a 1983 to 1992 1.6 liter VW Golf or Jetta diesel, you can easily find parts on the internet and you might be surprised what you can find at car part stores. You want an engine with the larger 12 mm headbolts used beginning in 1983; 1985 was a transition year to hydraulic valve lifters. A neighborhood car parts store might have to do a special order for parts; might not have everything stocked. The Chinese are making inexpensive parts for these cars and some are even of good quality. Go to and on to the TDI and Diesel forum for help and internet sites that sell parts. One site is

These cars have slow acceleration unless you can find one with a turbo but are very good with fuel mileage, have simple designs and are easy to repair with few electronic parts to give obscure trouble. You can drive them, including the non-turbo at any legal speed without harming the engine. The non-turbo acceleration is not a problem if you have at least an ounce of courage.

An old VW diesel is different than an older gasoline car but no more difficult to own than an older gasoline car and once you get accustomed to a few repair jobs might be thought of as easier to understand.

Why would anyone in their right mind want an old run-out diesel, Benz or otherwise?? If you are looking for economy, you won’t find it here…

Great question - some think they’re ‘green’, but they (old MBs) are some of the worst-polluting vehicles out there. I don’t get it, either.

Could you tell us why you want a diesel? What you want in a car?

I drive a diesel.  It has been a very good car for me.  Mine is a VW. (All VW "TDI's" are diesels). However there is a lot of difference between models and brands.  Maybe it would be a good idea to get a real hold on what you want from a car before trying to choose one. What are your needs for a car?  Room, smooth ride, looks ?????

Thanks for all the infomation!

I want something I can work on and get parts for without hassle and I want something I can convert to run on alternative fuel. I don’t much care about looks, but dependability is a priority. I’ve also been looking for small diesel trucks and just came up with a 1996 Ranger that’s a diesel. So far, diesel VW’s have been hard to locate here in California.

All the computer-run systems in my current VW too much for my needs.

Any other suggestions on where/how/what to look for?

If you can, for a reasonable price find a non-TDI, non-turbo VW diesel that is not a rustbucket and if you can DIY repairs and considering that depreciation is mostly done, it is likely that there is no motor vehicle including a motorcycle that can travel on a freeway for less money.

I took it that the OP’s interest is economy of operation. My answer will not work for everyone.

Regarding pollution, an old diesel car, fewer in number as time passes, is a spit in the ocean compared to the volume of exhaust coming from airplanes, construction equipment, trucks, buses, oil furnaces and trains.

“Regarding pollution, an old diesel car, fewer in number as time passes, is a spit in the ocean compared to the volume of exhaust coming from airplanes, construction equipment, trucks, buses, oil furnaces and trains.”

I would sure hope so! But I don’t compare the impact of my individual actions to something unrelated. I compare it to the alternative, such as driving an high mpg car and keeping it in tune.

Also, much of a community’s vehicle air pollution results from a small number of high-emissions sources, such as old smokey diesel cars…

Also, make sure you use alternative fuels that are acutally better than the oil-derived variety. Here’s a good article on how many supposedly ‘green’ biofuels are very bad for the environment: