Home » Throwing Common Sense Out The Window: 1980 Porsche 924 vs 1984 Mercedes-Benz 380SEC

Throwing Common Sense Out The Window: 1980 Porsche 924 vs 1984 Mercedes-Benz 380SEC

924 Vs 380sec

Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown, where we sift through the online classifieds looking for a weapon to surpass Metal Gear. Today, we’re lighting our money on fire. But before we get to that, let’s look at how yesterday’s battle of very reasonable cars went.

Pt Cruiser Vs Echo Final

It’s unbelievably close, but the PT Cruiser takes it by precisely two votes. Anyway, we’ve had too many practical cars so it’s time for some projects. Let’s jet off to the most cursed state in the union according to the internet, Ohio, in search of some proper shitboxes.

1980 Porsche 924 – $2,500

924 1

Engine/drivetrain: Two-liter inline-four engine, five-speed manual gearbox, rear-wheel-drive.

Location: Batavia, Ohio

Odometer reading: 40,000 miles

Runs/drives? Nope.

Ah, the Porsche 924. Perhaps the cheapest way into a Porsche sports car, this little coupe has a bit of an unfair reputation as an unloved Volkswagen cast-off. While originally intent to be a Volkswagen-Porsche joint product, VW pulled out as a result of the 1973 oil crisis, which meant that this thing went into the world with Porsche badges alone. These days, a 924 might just be your ticket to Porsche ownership on a budget, a rare phrase given the values of 911s these days.

924 2

You’ve probably heard jokes about how the 924 uses a van engine, jokes that aren’t entirely accurate. While a version of the EA831 engine was used in the Volkswagen LT, the 924’s lump was also used in the Audi 100. Either way, it didn’t make a ton of horsepower, but it did come mated to a transaxle which gave the 924 excellent weight distribution. Think of these coupes more as momentum cars than autobahn stormers. Mind you, this 924 makes zero horsepower at the moment, given how it doesn’t run.

924 3

This particular 924 is painted a beautiful pastel yellow and the seller claims it’s rust-free, a boon on any car out of the rust belt. Aside from paint and condition, these cars are just classic wedges with fantastic glass hatches that add a dose of drama to the silhouette. Sure, the 924 might not have the flared-fender aggression of a 944, but it’s charming in its own right.

924 4

Upon first glance of the interior, it seems like this 924’s odometer might be telling the truth of how few miles it’s traveled. The driver’s seat seems almost free of wear, while the carpets and door cards look pristine. Good interiors for these cars can be hard to find, so the condition of the cabin looks to be a massive plus for this cheap Porsche.

1984 Mercedes-Benz 380SEC – $2,500

380sec 1

Engine/drivetrain: 3.8-liter V8 engine, four-speed automatic gearbox, rear-wheel-drive.

Location: Deer Park, Ohio

Odometer reading: 138,000 miles

Runs/drives? Not a chance.

In most conversations about luxury cars, it doesn’t take long for the big Benzes to come up. Although Rolls-Royces and Bentleys may be more opulent, the S-Class and its kin have long been mass-produced previews of the automobile’s future. Plus, they have great presence, especially two-door models like the 380SEC we have here.

380sec 3

Power in this SEC comes from a 3.8-liter variant of Mercedes-Benz’s M116 V8. While earlier variants of this engine were known for stretching their single-row timing chains, this motor was revised with a dual-row timing chain in 1984, which means this car should be free from this issue. Power goes to the ground through a four-speed automatic gearbox, and zero-to-sixty happens eventually. Hey, it’s more about style than speed with this one. The seller claims that this big Benz ran when it was parked back in 2006, although it’ll likely need a lot of work to get back in running condition.

380sec 2

Looking at this 380SEC, it’s obvious that it was once very loved before it was neglected. Someone fitted all manner of AMG bits including bumpers, wheels, and skirts to make this thing a proper cocaine cruiser. Imagine power-washing the filth off, dropping all four windows, and reveling in the pillarless layout of this big coupe. Fabulous, right? Alright, maybe the rust isn’t fabulous, but you can just play it off as patina.

380sec 4

On the inside of the – oh dear god, what happened here? According to the seller, the sunroof leaked, resulting in the biohazard situation you currently see. Strap on your N95 and break out the Spray Nine, this thing’s going to need some serious work. Still, that AMG steering wheel shows potential, while the beige upholstery seems like a solid choice against the white paintwork.

So, two big projects, one sporty and one plush. The Porsche is likely a better choice for twisty road fun, but the Mercedes just has such presence. Both will cost a small fortune to recommission, so pick your poison and have fun with this one.

(Photo credits: Craigslist sellers)

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61 Responses

  1. Merc…
    Outside: clean the windows, nothing else.
    Inside: gut it, steam clean, roll cage, racing seats in the front, nothing in the back, no dash just a few gages, dark tint the windows.
    Drivetrain; ridiculous turbo LS swap, manual trans.

  2. 9-2-4…10-4

    I was a young carpenter back in 1979, partnered up with an older tradesman. We travelled together in his mid-70s Rabbit, and all he’d ever talked about was getting a “9-2-4.” His enthusiasm and genuine excitement was really kind of fun.

    In any event, life stepped all over him, and he never did make that acquisition. He was gone by the early eighties and I think about him, and his dream, quite often.

    FWIW: he was a fine tradesman, and a damn good driver.

  3. I just picked up a 924S (the one with the 944 motor), so I have to vote for the p-car. That being said, that Merc just looks dead. I sneezed just looking at that interior.

    1. I had a 924 and really liked it except for the juice. I don’t need a rocketship, but the 924 could hardly seem to get out of its own way. When my wife drove it she called me and said “something’s broken, it won’t accelerate”. I ultimately gave up, but kept my eyes open for a Turbo or an S. Got an S a couple years ago, much better.

      1. Glad to hear the S is much better as that’s what I just got. I’ve only taken it on a few drives since the timing belt hasn’t been replaced in 10 years– luckily the parts just came in the mail so I have my christmas project lined up. Any tips for a new 924s owner (or new porsche owner– this is my first german car of any kind).

        1. The subject 924 engine compartment reminds me a lot of the fuel-injected 81 VW Rabbit I drove forever.

          If the S also has the Bosch mechanical fuel injection like this one, you need to change the metal canister fuel filter religiously every 10,000 miles. Supposedly these systems are troublesome, but I drove the Rabbit to over 220,000 miles and never had an issue.

        2. I haven’t done the timing belt yet on mine, from what I understand it is pretty involved as not only do you have cam timing but also the balance shafts. You are supposed to have the special tensioner tool. Tons of info online, asI am sure you know same engine as a 944.

  4. With that kind of continuous water damage over 16 years I’d be pretty surprised if the foot wells in the Merc weren’t made entirely of rust and mold. Not being David Tracy I’m giving that combo a hard pass. 924 ftw.

  5. I so wanted to vote for the Merc, I love the 80’s S-class coupes. But between not being a real AMG and that petri dish interior, the Porsche is the substitute.

  6. I’ve always preferred look of the OG 924 body. It’s just so much purer to form than the bumped out fenders.

    I bet if you pulled the engine out and converted it to a pedal car you could get it to go down the road much faster.

    As for the Merc. If I were to go for one of this era, I would go taxi spec. At least it would run for another 20 years and even after taxi duty, the interior would have to be better than that. After the last couple years, I’m in no mood to discover new diseases.

    Porsche by a quarter mile, anytime. Especially in the condition this one appear to be in. If that dash ain’t cracked, this could be your next holy grail post.

  7. Couldn’t even give the merc a wash before taking a pic? Might have made me actually consider it, if they had (before getting to the biohazard interior). That porsche is a steal, even if it’s just a parts car for your Ute. (somehow, he would make it work)

  8. Last summer I rescued a ’77 924 that had been sitting in a garage for 16 years. Appearance-wise, it was about equivalent to this one.

    Including tires, I’m probably about $3500 into it. It’s a fun car, but unfortunately I haven’t driven it since May, which is when it decided to stop running properly. These early 924’s run on Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, which very few mechanics are good at anymore. I had to source a rebuilt fuel distributor (bottom center of the engine pic) from Australia last month, but it still won’t run above idle. I’m guessing a leaking cold start valve, but we had to get it into storage before the snow came. So it sits, for now.

    Long story short, it’s a slow Porsche that will barely be worth what it costs to get running again. If you get it for free, like I got mine, that’s probably fine. Which means this non-running 924 is priced about $2500 too high.

    I’d still take it over the Benz; looking at them, at least the Porsche doesn’t make me want to barf.

  9. (((Looking at this 380SEC, it’s obvious that it was once very loved before it was neglected. Someone fitted all manner of AMG bits including bumpers, wheels, and skirts to make this thing a proper cocaine cruiser.))) Really Thomas? Loved apparently equals Abused in this context!
    I know LoveHurts, but I feel like the soul of this once stately prince of the autobahn is screaming “just crush me now! ”
    At least with the Porsche I could sit inside and dream.

  10. Since you didnt offer a roller skates option i reluctantly voted Porsche. The Merc is a rusty pike of crap would cost more to fix than it ever it woukd be worth. Maybe if you parked it outside and it got hit by a meteor or two. The Porch isnt great, it isnt moving its a porch, but part it out. It is worth more than the sum of its parts.

  11. Oh, gee. While I have a lot of love for C126, especially 500 SEC and 560 SEC, I have to pass on 380 SEC for a few reasons: 3.8-litre M116 engine is quite gutless; this 380 SEC is an European model with possibly dodgy modifications to meet the US regulations by the dubious grey import specialist; and the body kit makes the car look like a 65-year-old man wearing the New Wave clothes as to make him feel “youthful”.

    Hard pass on both shitboxes…

    1. Agree on the price. Though this was a few years ago and they have gone up a bit in price since, I bought a a running 924 for a grand in Cheyenne Wyoming for $1000 and drove it back 500 miles to Nebraska with no heater in zero degree weather (kind of like today). However, of the two, the 924 looks like the better deal, as that Mercedes you is a little bio-scary.

  12. It’s not everyday I feel like there should be a third “aw, hell naw” option for neither. Today is a day that there should be. Not sure I’d take either even if someone promised to cover the repair costs for me.

  13. And even if you can’t get the 924 running again, the interior bits would probably defray most of your costs. Porsche by a mile, even though the C126 is one of my bucket-list cars.

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