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To restore or to throw up, tis the question

I hate to brag, but as far as I know, I am the least qualified person in the world (and throughout all of world history) to even consider the possibility of restoring a car. So, I would turn the bulk of the project over to pros for everything requiring mechanical aptitude of any kind (I am able to wash a car like nobody’s business and I can add fuel.) My question for you guys is this: if I can find an honest, competent mechanic, do you think it might make sense to restore my 1982 300SD Turbo? The body and frame and interior are filthy but sound; it has very little rust. I’ll need the whole nine yards for the engine, glow plugs, injectors, etc. She has about 260,000 miles on her, but I’d like to get her back in operating shape to drive occasionally. It has been 10 years she I drove her and she hummed along beautifully back then and always did. I will do whatever I can to reduce the labor costs if I decide to fix her up and I’m would be in no hurry to complete the project.

If you have experience along these lines or thoughts about what I should do, I’d appreciate your input.

Assuming you mean “It has been 10 years since I drove her” ?
What make and model?
glow plugs? is this a diesel? or do you mean spark plugs?
10 years sitting means you have to replace anything rubber, like belts, tires, etc. A major project. Plus remove the gas tank and gas lines and clean them out, as the gasoline has turned to putty. Plus a new battery of course.

I do have a little automotive knowledge and some experience doing some of my own repairs. I bought aa 1948 Dodge to restore back in 1977. I did have the engine running well, but when I realized the expense of the body work even doing some of my own work, I bailed out. Someone offered more for the Dodge than I had in it, so I sold it. In 1978, I bought a new 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon with the 4-4-2 trim package. I drove the car for 33 years. I thought about restoring the car since it was somewhat rare. However, the car had the small 260 V8 and the automatic transmission, so it wasn’t anything special. I sold the car. I didn’t think the body work was worth it. From my experience, I wouldn’t spend the money.

This project will cost more than buying a new car with better safety equipment and better reliability. Jay Leno would be the first to tell you that this makes no economic sense whatsoever, and the vehicle is not rare or unique.

A Chevy Cruze diesel would be a better investment.

Can you spell money pit? The engine alone could be could be so expensive enough to cause heart failure.

Also understand that the remaining diesel fuel in the tank probably has bacteria growing in it by now. If you try to start it on that fuel, the injectors will become plugged with bacterial gunk if they aren’t already.

I drove Mercedes diesels of that same era back when they were much newer, I was younger, and had more money. They were expensive to own and maintain back then. They are certainly more expensive to keep up now.

It’s a full-size diesel sedan

Believe it or not, these cars have developed something of a following

They’re not terribly economical, because of the size, old technology, etc.

They don’t even handle very well, but the cars were fairly nice, when everything was working as it should

diesel engines are pretty robust . . . I’d be more concerned about the cost of an automatic transmission rebuild

As far as safety features go, this car has almost nothing. It’s pre-abs and pre-airbag. Disc brakes all around, independent suspension front and rear, but the handling is not great. This vehicle uses vacuum for just about everything, by the way, including/especially the climate control

My first step would be getting it to start

I’m not in favor of a restoration, but I am in favor of getting it reliable. As long as that primarily involves tires, fluids, overdue maintenance, etc.

The maintenance on these cars is easy, and not expensive

If you can find a good MB diesel tech it is possible, but the cost will be exceed the value of the car. Like was said above your money would be best spent on something newer.

Detail the car yourself. If it looks good when you are finished, consider getting the engine maintenance done. I suggest doing it in this order because it mostly uses your time.

Huh . . . ?

I would think the first thing is to get the car running

Getting the car running might mean glow plugs, injectors, vacuum hoses, a battery, and the balance of a tune-up. Since the OP won’t do any of the work himself, it has to be towed to a shop. That seems expensive to me. The work I suggested isn’t nearly as expensive, since the OP will do that work himself. If the car still looks promising after the cleanup, then paying good money to get it running makes more sense.

I don’t view this car as really any different than any other car . If you really like it , have plenty of money to play around with , realize that you’ll put way more in it than it’s worth & still want to restore it , I say go ahead . If spending money on it will be a financial burden on you in any way , I’d say forget it .


Naturally, the vehicle will need fresh engine oil, coolant, fuel, and a battery

I’m skeptical if it needs glow plugs and injectors

I’m skeptical because none of us have seen the car, and I see no reason to just blindly assume the car needs “everything” because it’s been sitting

I would expect several seals to have dried up over the years. As such, there will probably be quite a few leaks when/if the vehicle is running again

Perhaps it was word choice , I think there’s a big difference in restoring a vehicle & just getting one running .

You think your evaluation of the car is colored by nostalgia? The reason I ask - my dad gave me the truck I drove my senior year of college. I was thrilled - until I started driving it. It ran miserably, had crappy gas mileage, and required some little fix about every month. It simply didn’t provide the experience I remembered. Sorry if I’m pasting my life experience on yours; if it doesn’t apply to you, simply ignore it.

I guess I’d just throw up and forget about it. But agree that diesel grows stuff pretty good so gotta get it out of the tank but the injector pumps are supposed to be very tolerant, not like the GM versions. So I dunno, a budget of maybe $15-20,000 to get started?

My brother has been overseas for many years now, but still maintains a condo here. In the underground garage sits his 1987 Honda Accord stick shift, which he has not run for about 12 years. It has about 200,000 miles on it and was not prepared for long term storage.

He asked me what it would take to get it going SAFELY and I estimated about $1800-$2500 minimum which would include brakes, battery, purging out the fuel system, hoses and rad. Also a timing belt. The A/c compressor has probably seized up as well.

Then there will be likely new tires.

In all it vastly exceeded what the car is worth and he’s going to have it towed away and scrapped or sold for parts.

I’m in agreement with getting it running first. The word “restoring” is one that may not have an end other than an empty bank account.

The 11th Commandment missing from the tablets Moses hauled down from the mount is “Thou Shalt Open Thine Wallet Repeatedly”.

If you want to use her, and you can’t now b/c she needs to be restored, you have no choice but to restore her. So from that point of view it makes perfect sense. Whether it makes sense from a time and resources point of view, that’s up to you.

I presume what you are asking is what’s all to be expected should you decide to go forward. I suggest you secure a copy of several issues of magazines devoted to this field of endeavor. “Practical Classics” is a good source. “Classics” monthly, another.

What you’ll find is that a typical restore goes on for quite some time. It isn’t uncommon to see a restore reported in one of the magazines that started in the early 1980’s and just now finished. Of course it doesn’t have to take that long. There was another report of a fellow who wanted to restore his Jag, so he took it to a place that specializes in Jag restorations. The first thing the shop did was a thorough inspection, and a report that listed everything that needs to be done to bring it back to showrooms condition. The list was pretty long, 230 items I think. And the fee to do it all, well, you don’t want to know. So he decided to just have them do a subset of those items, and live with a car that was drivable, but not in showroom condition.

That’s the thing. You need someone who does this to do an inspection at their shop, and present you with the list of things needed to be done. Until you get to that point, deciding what to do next is pretty much a guessing game.

Assuming the engine isn’t physically seized . . . I think several hundred dollars could get that car running

Maybe not in perfect condition, but running

And that wouldn’t include tires, seals, hoses, belts, etc.