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The Car Post

It's been a little over two months, and just shy of 3,000 miles that I've been putting around in the antique Benz.

It's a very different experience from other vehicles I've owned or driven, for a number of reasons. One, it's slow. Not that I've ever been a speed demon, but you absolutely cannot drive this like a gasoline car (unless that gas car is a 1971 Beetle). The lack of acceleration bothers people stuck behind me more than myself. Oh well, that's why there's a passing lane, folks.

But more important than the dogginess is the solidity. I know it's firmly into cliché territory to evoke the phrase "they don't make 'em like the used to" but in this case it happens to be absolutely applicable. I can't stress enough how much I appreciate a vehicle that doesn't feel like it's made out of tinfoil and sheets of plastic. Not everything about it is that solid, but engine and body are. Cast iron block and quarter-inch steel panels make it feel built for the ages.

I continue to be surprised by how nimble it is, being a full-size (or at least 3/4) wagon. It has a better turning radius than the Volvo, and glides from lane to lane with extreme ease. Care was clearly taken when designing how it would handle.

Even having driven it a while, I have a hard time shaking the feeling that 166k is "young" for a car. Growing up, 100k is when my folks would sell off a vehicle that they'd purchased new, and they generally considered anything over 120k to have so many endemic problems as to be not worth purchasing at any price. It really does still feel like a new car, turning over without the slightest hint of hesitation, and running flawlessly (if noisily, it is a diesel after all).

Of course, much as I do adore the old tank, there's no shortage of downsides. I ended up buying a "euro" model, which has been a problem for several reasons. One, the interior color is non-standard, so replacing broken or missing trim panels has been much more difficult than I was expecting or hoping. Also, the lack of built-in cruise control and a tachometer have been quite annoying (both were standard equipment on models intended for sale in the US).

All told, I am very happy with it, and look forward to potentially owning it long enough to flip the odometer. While I will eventually go forward with my plan to run the car on biomass, I've decided to delay it until I can understand the OM617's quirks a bit better. I also need to study up and decide if SVO or biodiesel is the better way to go, with an eye to engine longevity. If I do the conversion the right way, there will also be an additional cost (preheaters for SVO, new synthetic rubber, and a few other bit and bobs).

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longbottle
May. 5th, 2012 01:17 am (UTC)
It will. There's near universal consensus that these cars run basically forever. There are several documented examples of flipping the (6-place) odometer. And if I take the same kind of anal-retentive care of it as I have always done to my cars, it will probably still be putting around on the roads after I'm dead.

Which is actually a problem, because the one person I would entrust willing it to is a bit of more of a leadfoot than is appropriate to this vehicle. It would require him modifying his driving style substantially.