Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown, where we put our classified ad meanderings up for the world to see. Today, wir fahr’n, fahr’n, fahr’n, auf der Autobahn as we ply through the German used car classifieds in search of something to export. As with yesterday, we’re keeping budgets reasonable and taking advantage of relatively strong exchange rates. But first, let’s look at how our trip to England went.
It looks like the Cavalier takes this one, with the old repmobile pulling a handy 79-vote victory over the Metro. Frankly, I’d take the Cavalier as well. It’s no Turbo or GSi 2000, but it certainly gets the job done even if it seems a bit dodgy. Right, off to Deutschland to check out two family cars from very different eras that are both eligible for American import.
1981 Mercedes-Benz 200D – €2,950
Engine/drivetrain: Two-liter four-cylinder diesel engine, four-speed manual gearbox, rear-wheel-drive.
Location: Offenbach am Main, Germany
Odometer reading: 269,443 kilometers
Runs/drives? Doesn’t say.
Producing a whopping 59 horsepower, can you believe that this later 200D is considered the high-output model? Earlier 200Ds made just 54 horsepower which sounds positively glacial. Granted, this later model doesn’t sound much quicker, but at least it gets mediocre fuel economy by today’s standards.
Look, performance and economy aren’t exactly good reasons to buy this thing, but build quality and style are. The W123 has officially graduated from old tat to retro cool, and the positively vibrant colorway on this example is the cherry on top. Mustard yellow with a green interior would be outlandishly garish on a new E-Class yet seems perfectly cheery in this classic. Don your polyester jacket, light a Rothmans, and crank up the Faust.
Regarding build quality, the W123 is from Mercedes’ best era, a time when quality ruled over virtually everything else. As a result, many survive, and Mercedes-Benz will still supply W123 owners with a selection of spare parts. Try asking your local GM dealer for a new wheel cover for a 1981 Seville and they’ll think you’re from the past. Ask your local Mercedes dealer for a new wheel cover for a W123 and they’ll likely say “certainly, let me order that for you.”
Best of all, aftermarket spares are abundant, so you likely won’t have a terrible time keeping this cheery, low-spec W123 on the road. You may get overtaken by garbage trucks and used Schwinns, but you’ll be smiling all the way. Granted, it doesn’t say if this particular W123 runs, and the seller claims that it doesn’t have its TUV papers due to being a Serbian import. Still, obvious recent restoration work suggests that someone has really cared for this vintage Mercedes.
1995 Ford Mondeo 2.5 V6 RS – €2,000
Engine/drivetrain: 2.5-liter 24-valve V6 engine, five-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel-drive
Location: Beckum, Germany
Odometer reading: 292,666 km
Alright, maybe 59 horsepower won’t exactly feel brilliant when merging onto an interstate. How about trading Mercedes prestige for a Ford badge and nearly tripling the horsepower in the process? Yes, it’s the car that’s attributed to a voter archetype, the Ford Mondeo.
Mind you, this isn’t just any Mk1 Ford Mondeo. For starters, it’s a wagon, which means it’s all the more practical in daily life. However, what’s practicality without a bit of speed? This Mondeo packs the 2.5-liter 170-horsepower V6 that revs past 6,500 RPM and a five-speed manual gearbox. Proper Q-car stuff by mid-’90s standards.
In addition to the zesty lump under the hood, this Mondeo comes equipped with the RS package, a visual treatment that’ll burrow into the hearts of any ‘90s touring car fan. From the deep chin spoiler to the chunky five-spoke alloy wheels, this thing means business. There aren’t any performance upgrades to go with the body kit, but V6 power should be good enough.
[Editor’s Note: It’s always a treat when you find a car that has its most appealing visual element under the hood, in this case that fantastic intake manifold. – JT]
Granted, this V6 model has seen a replacement engine in its lifetime, but it’s quite similar to the U.S.-market Contour, so most parts shouldn’t be terribly hard to get in America. This Mondeo promises to be a fast, fun European import you won’t see too many of on either side of the Atlantic.
So, are you going for slow and sturdy or quick and understated? The 200D is a bit of retro gleam with the added intrigue of a manual gearbox but the Mondeo offers reasonable pace even by modern standards. As ever, choose wisely.
(Photos credits: Mobile.de sellers)
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200 D was very popular for the taxicab duty in Germany for decades. The taxicab had different gear ratios for quicker acceleration at expense of top speed. I hated them because of diesel clattering that could loosen the silver fillings in the molars. Not to mention how they stank to the high heaven of heavy cigarette smoking.
Thankfully, the German taxicabs today have become more “luxurious” with automatic gearboxes, power windows, air conditioning, quieter and smoother engines, etc. Smoking in the taxicabs today is forbidden so no more gagging at the stench.
My most ultimate taxicab experience was riding W222 S-Class taxicab with enormous legroom and adjustable rear seat!
Growing up, my Dad had a 240D and later a 300D. Even with the turbo, the 300 was pretty slow and the 240 was painfully slow. This 200 has to be dangerously slow, especially by today’s standards. These were built like a tank for it’s era, but that means they weigh nearly as much as a current car but have anemic 1980s level power. I doubt the Mercedes could reach modern highway speeds without a tailwind or a downhill slope.
TLDR: go with the Ford. It’s quick, manual, interesting and looks good. If you need a w123 fix, try to get a 300d. You get the bank vault construction without being a dangerous obstruction on the highway.
My dad used to own a 1994 Mondeo 24V Ghia hatchback. It was the perfect sleeper. Other than the 24V badge on the trunklid, some additional painted surfaces that would be black on lesser models, and the Ghia badges on the sides, there was no indication that it wasn’t just your standard under-powered run-of-the-mill base Mondeo. It certainly surprised many Audi, BMW, and Mercedes drivers when we flew past them on the Autobahn…
Merc will outlive us all and is only going to get classic-er, if the diesel gets a bit much it’s a big old hector with plenty of space for an EV conversion.
Mondeo could be a fun hack but it’s never going to have the status of the Merc.
I wonder what Taxi sign bolt pattern the roof of the Mercedes is drilled for.
I may need to import that Mondeo.
I wish I had the money, because I would be importing that Mercedes right now if I did.
1981 Mercedes-Benz 200D
Runs/drives? Doesn’t say.
It’s an 1980s diesel Mercedes-Benz and the universe has yet to reach heat death. It runs.
Look, I like the *idea* of the 300D — as in a classy, retro-cool car that just runs forever. But reality is that, over the course of a lifetime, I have cursed every moment I’ve ever been stuck behind one of these infernal machines, forced to inhale carcinogenic fumes so noxious that you’d think the goddamn car was burning bunker oil. Fuck these cars and the hipster grandpas that insist on driving them.
Diene Mondeo Bitte
Mondeo for me since it will be much more practical and much more pleasant to drive. And I bet it gets close to the same mileage as the old Merc.
Now having said that, I found the Merc interesting from a novelty perspective… but not 3000-euros-interesting unless I was specifically looking for an interesting/quirky weekend car. And in the EU, an old 200D isn’t not very interesting. They made many of them for taxi use alone.
I’ve certainly heard of the Mondeo but I didn’t realize it looks like it has an Escort front clip on it!
That was the result of Ford’s “world car” program, when they tried to make everything look European.
Had a shipmate who drove a 300D with a manual trans- what a tank. I can definitely see the appeal from a “built to last, cost be damned” perspective, but I WANT that Mondeo. Duratec V6, manual trans wagon? It’s so 90’s Ford- I can’t tell if it looks more like a big-ass Escort wagon or a shrunk-down Taurus wagon, but it looks better than both regardless- or maybe that’s just because they are never seen stateside. Anyway, I want that Mondeo!
Had a shipmate who drove a 300D with a manual trans- what a tank.
Wasn’t Pendergast, was it?
I can’t see where to vote.
but despite the wagon being 1) a wagon, 2) manual, 3) a cruiser, I have to go with the 59hp 200D.
Why? Because I am the proud owner of an 82 300D turbo sedan and I can tell you that these cars are more than cars, they are works of engineering art. They are function and quality personified. And every single one must be lovingly preserved.
I also own a Ford (well, a ’94 Mazda b4000), and this was somehow still an easy decision.
Mondeo, bitte. It looks like a 1990’s Escort/Tracer wagon but bigger. So it’ll get a lot of double-takes at Cars and Coffee while being under the radar for everyone else.
For a few years I drove a Mystique with the 2.5 V6 and 5-speed manual, and it was a hoot. Same drivetrain and chassis dynamics in a wagon? Yes please. This choice is as easy as it gets.
as an SVT Contour owner, Mondeo all the way. Great feeling transmission, high-revving quad cam V6, agile chassis.
Not 2022 fast, but not slow either. Thank the variable length intake runners.
I voted the same, for the same reasons. My Contour was a lot of fun.
I wish Ford had done a better job at rustproofing, because mine was almost 1970s era Japanese import bad. If I’d known that, I would’ve put a lot more effort into preserving it.
I got my money’s worth, but I’m always very disappointed when the structure decays so much faster than the mechanical parts wear out.
Diesel manual Mercedes? Sign me up every day of the week!
Oh man… A Serbian-import W123 200D in yellow? As a Serbian dude, I can tell you there is a pretty high likelihood this was indeed used as a taxi in the 90s and ran on a mixture of cooking oil, heating oil, and hopes/dreams. Odometer fraud is absolutely rampant in the Balkans to this day, and basically everything newer than 2000 has sub-200k km on the clock, and older cars are all 200k-300k only because fewer wouldn’t be believable. Lastly, as a firm subscriber to Torch’s claim that 55 HP is all you need to keep up with modern traffic – this is an exception. The 0-60 time for this high-output version was 27.4 seconds (no, I didn’t accidentally type a two instead of a one there…) back when it was new. Now it’s likely somewhere between “eventually” and “please no”.
That said… hell yeah give it to me.
I had a 240Dog for a while, and it drove brilliantly – at 55 mph – but it took a week to get there – and try driving it in Colorado up the Eisenhower pass! Nope.
My days of driving in the far right lane leaving a nice mosquito killing cloud behind me were left in the 80’s, where this old former taxi belongs.
I couldn’t imagine driving a 240D (or this 200D) up to the tunnel. Probably take less time to push it up the hill than drive it.
I want both of them. I used to have the coupe’ version of the Mercedes with the straight six. I sold it because I was dumb, and because I wanted to buy food. That car was a wonderful highway cruiser.
Having owned a US model 1977 240D with manual … voted W123. I can fix it myself, and it will run forever. Sure, the vacuum systems on these is a PITA, but if you know how to shut the car off with the big lever labeled STOP you should be mostly all set. Also like the crank windows.
Good overview for anyone curious: https://blog.fcpeuro.com/mercedes-w123-240d-vacuum-overview
I never thought I’d say this, but I’m going with the saloon over the estate.
That Mondeo wagon reminds me way too much of a 4th gen Taurus. Outside of the intake manifold and it being a 5 door, there’s nothing really calling out to me. I need something more…
Like pea green interior and Taxi Yellow paint. Even without the TÜV, you better bet your sweet ass it does because W123 things. With the equivalent of only ~167,000 miles, I’ll happily give them all the Euros for this one.