Home » Malaise Mercedes-Alternatives Diesel Duel: 1982 Peugeot 505 vs. 1980 Oldsmobile Toronado

Malaise Mercedes-Alternatives Diesel Duel: 1982 Peugeot 505 vs. 1980 Oldsmobile Toronado

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Don’t get me wrong; I love golden-era Mercedes. I put over 100,000 miles on an old W126 S-class and can still hear the click of the door shutting and the wail of the ten-cent seat belt buzzer on this car that cost as much as two and a half Cadillacs when new.

Regardless, I have to question the insane pricing I’ve seen lately on diesel W123 Benzes, particularly wagons. These were very basic things often festooned with vinyl seats (sorry, “MB Tex”) and a zero-to-sixty time of days – even my V8 420SEL was not fast by any stretch of the definition. I know there’s a charm that’s hard to put a price on, but if one must, it wouldn’t be six figures.

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That’s right; earlier this year a 1982 300TD wagon sold for nearly $100,000 on Bring A Trailer. Quite fetching in a nice shade of green, with low miles and in excellent nick, it was undeniably a fine example, but there are likely about a hundred cars you’d rather spend that kind of coin on. Also, the beauty of the W123 is that you can get a 150,000-mile example for a fraction of that cost with industrial upholstery and bulletproof switches that show virtually no wear.

Besides, there are other choices for ultra-slow early eighties diesels I found that we’ll choose from today that will blow the Mercedes away in terms of comfort and luxury. Are they perfect? No. Are they as durable as the Mercedes? Well, no again but you could get both for less than the auction commission on that $100K Malaise Benz.

Before we begin, I really have to question the sanity of our readers once again. Yesterday, Mercedes Streeter posted a Shitbox battle between two once-high-dollar European off-roaders that are now essentially ticking time bombs of deferred maintenance. Surprisingly (to me at least), the always-underrated Volkswagen Touareg was soundly beaten by… a Land Rover Discovery?

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Sure, I know about the VW Group electrical issues and such, but more than half of the pics our own Disco-owning Rob Spiteri tends to post of his little Land Rover show it on a flatbed. I haven’t seen one moving under its own power in a decade. There are two in my neighborhood, both at the back of the driveway and unregistered (one house has two newer Range Rovers in front of it, proving that some people don’t learn). The Discovery does look cool, of course, and is apparently great off-road, but you’ll have a hell of a time getting from suburbia to the wilderness. To each his own, I guess.

Back to today’s battle of the Non-Benz Diesel Malaise Luxury Cars.

1982 Peugeot 505 Diesel – $3,500

Engine/drivetrain: 2.3 Liter 4 Cylinder Diesel making 71 HP, 5-speed manual

Location: Tarzana, California.

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Odometer reading: 239,202 miles

Operational status: “good running condition”

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If there’s any car that can rival the Mercedes for durability, it’s an old diesel Peugeot. Their reputation was proven by the fact that they were common sites in Africa where there are few roads, and used as taxi cabs in Manhattan in the early eighties when they had, well, no real roads. Also, if anyone says that you can’t have a luxobarge ride and road manners in one car, they haven’t driven or ridden in a Peugeot. These were great alternatives to the much more expensive W123 back in the day, and compared favorably to other yuppie fodder diesel options like a similar-sized 5 series, Volvo 240 and Audi 5000.

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You can see for yourself with this 1982 Peugeot 505 Diesel in Tarzana, California. It’s a rare five-speed, so as the ad states the “performance” will be better than the typically-ordered automatic, meaning this 71 horsepower car will move like a quick glacier and not a standard glacier. The location says that rust shouldn’t be an issue; the hearing-aid-beige Pug benefits from a “decent repaint that is now peeling off” which has one questioning the “decent” part of the repaint.

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Considering the age and miles the inside of this thing has held up quite well; the power sunroof no longer offers any sun but the ad doesn’t say if the niceties on display like the power windows, Kenwood cassette deck or air conditioning work.  Even if that A/C functions, moving that lever up to “two snowflakes” will probably get you what feels like a hamster blowing over an ice cube and half of the engine’s meager power used to spin the compressor.

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Sadly, Peugeot never really did find an audience here in the States. After selling a mere 4,200 cars in 1990, they pulled the plug on the US market the next year. The W123 is such an obvious choice, so if you’re trying to make a statement with your veggie oil conversion project, why not make a unique statement?

1980 Oldsmobile Toronado Diesel – $2,000

Engine/drivetrain: 5.7 Liter V8 Diesel making 105 HP, 3-speed automatic

Location: Coats, North Carolina

Odometer reading: 68,000 miles

Operational status: “runs…wouldn’t take much to get it going”

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A “class action lawsuit” diesel-powered Toronado will make a different statement entirely, and to many of you that statement is a “wretched unreliable piece of shit.”  Hey, I get it, but hear me out. I know that the 1978-85 GM oil-burning 350 V8 was based on a gas motor, but it was not “merely converted” to diesel as the wags will say. I’m also aware that after getting sued by customers they replaced engines free of charge with modified head bolts that supposedly still broke. However, a little research will show that GM (in their expected infinite wisdom) saved a few bucks on these things by not adding a simple water separator to take that incompressible liquid out of the fuel, so that combined with crappy diesel fuel in the late seventies resulted in many of the head bolt failures of this infamous motor. I swear there are fans online that claim these things can be made to run reliably and strong, or as strong as a 105-horsepower 5.7-liter engine in a two-ton car can.

I’m not about to say that a GM Diesel with better head bolts will rival a Mercedes, nor am I claiming that a 1980 Toronado is anywhere close to the pinnacle of the vaunted 1966 version of this front-drive Oldsmobile coupe. I am saying that for the two grand being asked for this sort-of-running example, it might be worth a few laughs.

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The paint is beige just like the Peugeot on our docket today, though as a GM car the color is probably called “Antelope Firemist Metallic” or something stupid like that. The Olds looks clean with the exception of the missing GM “flexible” body-colored bumper fillers don’t live up to that description after a few bumps and fall off of the car. Actually, this thing looks surprisingly clean in all areas.

Now, the video in the ad does show the Toronado rattling away, but we are told that it is less than roadworthy due to the car sitting for over thirty years. Also, there is the little issue of the car “leaking diesel fuel under the hood” which could be anything from a rather easy hose fix or a water-damaged diesel pump now dripping at the seams. Regardless, diesel isn’t a particularly explosive fuel so you’re unlikely to end up like Sam Rothstein his same-car-under-the-skin E-body Eldorado. That reduces your worries a bit, right?

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Check out the interior on this thing; some deep cleaning would get it looking nearly new. Waft around in this for an hour and you’ll never set your ass in the hair-shirt austerity and equipment-free cabin of a diesel Benz ever again. Power seats? Variable speed intermittent wipers? Cornering lights? Even the Mercedes 380SL of the day didn’t have such witchcraft.

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The video attached to the ad proves that the opera lights still work. What’s not to love?

An unloved French import with unobtanium parts or an American luxury car with one of the world’s most reliable engines turned into possibly one of the worst? Which of these beige bombers would you choose?

By the way: Mark, his truck, and his prized MG have arrived safely at his new home, and he’ll do a roundup of all the guest posters this week (and see how upset he might be about our absurd choices, or were they not absurd enough?

 

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Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
18 days ago

I voted for the Toronado but didn’t leave a comment til now since I had PTSD from these choices ha ha…but I do like the comfy cruiser better. I’ll just throw another engine in it if I have to

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
18 days ago

Love a peugeot, but as for the olds. . . Kill it with fire!

Segador
Segador
18 days ago

I can smell both these cars through my screen and neither are pleasant

Last edited 18 days ago by Segador
Timothy Swanson
Timothy Swanson
19 days ago

Oh God, neither. Nope nope nope. Although maybe the Toranado and LS swap it?

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
19 days ago

Brother owned each of these in the before days. Olds was gone in about two weeks.

The arrogant French car stayed for almost two years. His was Taxi Yellow and he was always getting flagged down for rides. No shit.

And the ride comfort was unsurpassed too.

Last edited 19 days ago by Col Lingus
AlterId
AlterId
19 days ago

My dad had a company pickup with an Olds diesel that wasn’t too bad, and he took me. out to learn to drive on it a couple of times. (That first day in it I learned pickups do not turn on a dime when I tried to turn a corner at about 30 and ended up off the road. He was patient with me, but we both decided that learning a manual was best done solo on our P-shaped and barely developed mile-long street.) So, if it could be made reasonably reliable, the Olds…

Nah. We also had a bunch of Cutlass Supreme demonstrators in driver’s ed, and even without having driven much of anything I thought the suspension wallowed and the steering was incredibly overboosted, even compared to my mom’s 88. I’ve never driven a French car and. although a wagon or either 504 (the classic post-colonial symbol of France across the African countries it treats like we do Latin America), it’s handsome and probably has almost no rust.

Still, the Olds has been listed longer than anything else on the seller’s FB Marketplace page, so maybe both? I really don’t feel like I deserve happiness or anything nice anyway.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
18 days ago
Reply to  AlterId

You definitely do deserve all the happiness/nice cars you can reasonably afford!
I was sheepish about my diesel Mercedes at first—and still am about the BMW convertible I bought last year. I kinda get over that because of the way it goes where I look—and makes me chortle heartily on command.

Treat yourself. Life is short: gotta enjoy things.

Here4thecars
Here4thecars
19 days ago

I’ll lean into quirkiness and go Peugeot. If you’re going to buy a weird diesel car, why not go all the way and proudly drive a French car nobody even knows exists?

The48thRonin
The48thRonin
19 days ago

I’ll take the toronado because I hate money and myself

TDI in PNW
TDI in PNW
19 days ago

I had 3 Oldsmobiles in the 90s (my 2nd car, 3rd car and 4th car). I would love to clean up that Toronado. My 1st car (brown ’83 Corolla 5-speed, 2 door w/ trunk) didn’t last long as different friends wrecked it and blew up the motor. So my next car was my Father’s Oldsmobile; a ’79 Cutlass Supreme Brougham, the car I drove for about 4 years. Objectively, malaise cars were unreliable crap after 100k, but it was a great, comfy car.

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
19 days ago

I voted the Olds. Why yes, I do hate myself. Why do you ask?

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