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6/12/20 12:28 p.m.

Hello fellow GRMers, my name is Matthew. I’m an ex Wreck-Racer that graduated Ga Tech during this pandemic, Spring 2020. I helped bring the Insight to its final, winning, year of the Challenge. I also helped build the LS E28, and you might have seen me piloting it last year on its horribly pathetic ¼ mile attempts, all while being embarrassed by Datsaniti.

I have been daily driving an E39 and dealing with typical BMW ownership experience woes during my last year of college and postponing a project car until after graduation. Well, graduation rapidly approached, and the project car is here. A little backstory, I have owned 2 Mercedes W123’s, a pristine silver on blue 300D was my first car that I got from my grandfather.

He loved these old cars and I remember riding around in his, running on WVO when I was a wee lad. I rebuilt the engine in this silver car, for no real reason I might add, and drove that car to my first few years of school until its demise, an interaction with the back of a Hyundai Santa Fe.

I was incredibly overwhelmed and a bit tired of driving such an old car everyday, so I yoinked the engine to keep and I parted out the car.

Fast forward two years or so and 3 cars later, I stumble across a $300 240D that had a locked-up engine. I picked it up, swapped in my engine, replaced some bits, and drove it for a semester. I even attended the GRM skid pad challenge at the Mitty with it. I’m pretty sure it got up on 3 wheels and was rolling coal the whole time. Side Note: If anyone from GRM has a picture of this it would make me very happy.

It looked alright but had typical issues that go along with a car sitting outside for a decade. The rear deck filled up with water and made sloshing noises whenever it rained. It just needed one of everything… So, I yoinked my motor yet again and I sold the shell for $400.

Fast forward again. I’m a few months from graduating, at this point I’ve owned a V6/6 speed Accord Coupe, Nissan Pathfinder, Turbo Miata, Escalade, and now the E39, and what do I find myself looking for? Another diesel Mercedes, history repeats itself again. “ItS dIfFerEnt ThIs tImE” I tell myself as I shop for a wagon or a coupe. I stumble across this listing on the Mercedes Peach Parts forum with no pictures, hardly a description, and an email. I began emailing this man who lives in rural North Eastern Washington about his wagon trying to get as much information and pictures as possible. After countless back and forth emails, pictures, videos, I have convinced myself that this 40-year-old wagon is in good enough shape to fly across the country for.

You see, my dad and I were planning on doing something adventurous to celebrate my graduation anyway. We had watched every Roadkill episode on YouTube years ago and always liked the idea of flying somewhere, buying an old car, and trying to make it back. As you can imagine, it didn’t take a whole lot of convincing, especially after his schedule opened up because of the “pandemic”. I pulled a carfax for good measure, found out the car was actually sold in Alpharetta Ga (where I am sitting writing the emails at the time), it was silver on blue and the same year model as my first car, it was just a wagon. This was fate!! I bought some plane tickets for the weekend after “graduation” and told the man I would be there to buy it if he held it.

I started planning, shipping spare parts out there, shipped a fresh set of tires and made an installation appointment at a place by his house, and booked the rental car. When the trip got closer, I started packing every tool I could possibly imagine us using. I even made some custom wrenches for if the oil cooler lines exploded. I figured this was a prime example of Murphy’s law. Anything I didn’t have in that car once we started driving would break at the most inconvenient time, so I better have it all.

On the next episode…. I will document the road trip itself and then start the build thread. This has just been such a cool experience, and I knew if I didn’t start a thread soon, the memories might fade, and it would be sad to not document everything. I guess I cant end this chapter without a picture of the wagon itself. Ok here is a teaser, the pictures I received over email from the seller.

Placemotorsports New Reader
6/12/20 12:32 p.m.

Very cool and memories with your Dad that you will hold on to.  Many of us wish we could have done the same.

mgfoster New Reader
6/15/20 12:24 p.m.

Chapter Two.

On Friday, May 8th, my dad and I got on the plane in Atlanta and started our journey. It was a long 5-and-a-half-hour flight to Seattle, and we wore N95 masks the whole way. Uncomfortable to say the least, but we made it and picked up the rental car. I shipped a few parts to mck1117 since he lives in Seattle, so we stopped by to pick those up and check out his Volvo selection. I especially like the LS swapped variety. Then we were off to get the car in North Eastern Washington, a little south of Colville.

The drive out there was incredible, Washington scenery is so diverse. We even stopped at a little drive thru coffee spot and were greeted by a topless woman? I wasn’t aware this was a thing, but we stopped at Starbucks the rest of the way to avoid paying $14 for coffee again. These pictures were taken on the way to and then leaving Leavenworth.


Then we encountered miles and miles of high elevation farm land.

And this super cool Motel sign.. 

After following the Columbia river for quite some ways, we made it to the car. It was rougher than I had hoped, but I can’t say it was unexpected. We had a delicious dinner that the seller had prepared for us using food from his farm, we signed the title and handed over the cash. Then we loaded up the car with the new tires, and the rental car with all the new parts and went to bed.

The obligatory social-distanced new owner old owner photo. 

We woke up bright and early for our 8AM tire appointment. We looked the car over, popped in a new air filter.

Found this nice clamped mystery wire. I didn’t undo it because I didn’t feel like figuring out what it was powering.

And then I noticed these fellas…


Then I drove the car for the first time! I didn’t even bother test driving the car the night before. It made lots of noises, the old tires did not feel quite right, but it was driving, and I had forgot how glorious the 3 pointed star was!


We stopped at Walmart to grab a few supplies, as well as some oil. We then went to the tire shop and had them do an oil change as well as put on the new tires. He told me the underside looks fine, nothing to be too concerned about, so I trusted him and didn’t bother crawling under there.

Next, we went across the street to the Autozone where I replaced the dead hatch struts with new ones I had ordered, what a lifesaver! That thing was dangerously heavy without them. I also put in both new fuel filters and replaced the fuel lines in the engine bay, as well as some new o-rings. Then we put everything from the rental car into the wagon so we could return it.

Oh, and I had to do a little exterminating with a can of brake clean. It killed them dead. But honestly I think they sent out a cry for help because there were ones by the bushes that kept bothering us. 



After that, we were off! The rental car needed to be dropped in Spokane. I got to enjoy the sunroof and the open road.


When we got to Spokane, I had to make my first emergency repair. The trim started flopping all over the place, but I knew I brought the gorilla tape for a good reason.


In no time we were into Idaho, had to stop and take a photo of a family friends hometown.


A couple more hours on the road and we made it to our first stopping point, Missoula Montana. Unloaded at the motel and then got straight to business. Wagons are so practical!



And this concludes Day 2 of… 7?


classicJackets (FS)
classicJackets (FS) Dork
6/15/20 12:35 p.m.

Awesome to see it posted here. What a sweet wagon!

golfduke HalfDork
6/15/20 12:58 p.m.

My Birth Year... German Diesel wagon content...  Mountainous vistas...



The gods are pleased.  Very pleased. 



11GTCS Reader
6/15/20 1:46 p.m.

This is awesome.  My dad had a  maroon '74 230 (4 cylinder gas), a dark blue 83 300 D TD (someone had massaged the fuel pump, it was pretty quick and would roll coal if you hammered it) and finally a silver 85 300 D TD before he got over his Mercedes phase.    This was all from 1982 - 1991 so they were a lot newer relatively speaking.   Have a great trip with your Dad.

mgfoster New Reader
6/15/20 10:45 p.m.

In reply to 11GTCS :

Thats pretty darn cool, especially for the time period! Rolling coal in a tuned diesel benz back then must've been pretty sweet! I still can't decide if I wont to upgrade the turbo and injection pump for some more power or leave it stock. Time will tell. 

newold_m (Forum Supporter)
newold_m (Forum Supporter) New Reader
6/16/20 1:50 a.m.

Awesome posts and beautiful pictures... 

buzzboy Dork
6/16/20 7:45 a.m.

I approve highly of all Diesel Benz content. Nice looking car


yupididit UberDork
6/16/20 8:00 a.m.

Makes me want another w123. Would love a manual gas vs a manual diesel this time around. 

bonylad Reader
6/16/20 8:45 a.m.

Amazing experience. I am jelly!

mgfoster New Reader
6/16/20 8:49 a.m.

In reply to yupididit :

I have definitely been intrigued by the gas w123's. It would be a completely different driving experience to have some resemblance of power. I kind of want to put a v8 from a 560sl into a w123 coupe one day, but we will see.

For now I think I will be satisfied by just experiencing a manual diesel. I've never driven one, all of mine have been slush boxes. I guess this is a bit of a sneak peak for the build thread? 

yupididit UberDork
6/16/20 9:11 a.m.

In reply to mgfoster :

I had a manual w123 240d with a vgt turbo and air2water intercooler. It was fun. I've never driven a manual gas w123.

I know a guy who makes m113 adapters to manual transmissions. 

mgfoster New Reader
6/16/20 11:13 a.m.

In reply to yupididit :

That 240 does sound fun. Although im very intrigued by these adapters? What transmission is being used? I always thought the bmw ZF boxes would be a good choice. 

mgfoster New Reader
6/16/20 11:47 a.m.

Ok back to story time. Chapter 3.

We wake up and hit the road out of Missoula. I think we went to Starbucks, and then an O Reilly where I picked up a feeler gauge and some more Cetane Booster. We filled up with fuel, went back to Starbucks for round 2 and THEN we were on the way. 

The whole point of this trip was to take our time and we were, debatably, in the most beautiful part of the country, so we decided to do a hike. I had picked out a few, but this one was short enough that we didn't have to lose a whole day of driving. I believe it was called Blodgett Overlook Trail. The road to the trailhead was a bit rougher than expected, but all the snow had dried and the wagon made it perfectly fine. It looked pretty cool up at altitude as well. 

After taking a wrong turn and turning our 1 mile easy hike into a 2 mile very steep hike, we had made it to the canyon. Quite a sight. 

After a quick picnic out of the back of the wagon, we were back on the road. The next notable stop was Wisdom, MT. I think the sign said "Population: 98" or something like that. Apparently another family moved in recently though, so the barista at the only coffee place corrected it to 104. Quaint, quiet town, with music playing country music playing in the street over a singular loud speaker. There was nothing in either direction for 40+ miles. Yet they had 2 "saloons" so we had a beverage and some "homemade pizza". Pretty sure it was Digiorno's. Picture taken in the town center. 


A few beauties on the road leading out of Wisdom. 


Then we made it to Butte, MT, which my dad and I like to call Butt. Only because its a E36 M3 town. 

There was nothing there, and we had a few hours of daylight left so we decided to keep cruising to Bozeman, MT because we had heard good things. Bozeman did not disappoint, it was the newest city I think we had seen so far. Ate at a very nice place for dinner, hotel was nice, good experience.

The next morning I wake up and see flurries out of the window. Winter had come back out of nowhere. Wouldn't have really mattered, except the thermostat had been stuck open and not letting the car get to operating temp. Good thing I had another one, we headed to autozone and I changed it in the snow. 

The worst part was probably the heavy snowflakes hitting my eyes. But alas, we had heat and defrost! Success. 

We drove through the snow to Livingston, MT for lunch, and then to Lovell, WY to stay the night. And that finishes Day 4, but please enjoy this picture of us being passed buy a fully loaded 240D. Even though we have an extra cylinder and a turbo. It hurt a little.


Placemotorsports New Reader
6/16/20 12:08 p.m.

Good thing you got the defrost going, nothing like a wiper blade flinging off in a snowstorm from ice on the windshield.

bgkast (Forum Supporter)
bgkast (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
6/16/20 2:31 p.m.

Nice! Makes me miss my fleet of Diesel Mercedes. I built the VGT turbo/stick shift car mentioned above.

mgfoster New Reader
6/16/20 3:12 p.m.

In reply to bgkast (Forum Supporter) :

Did you do any injection pump fiddling? I've been considering an HX30 swap but I don't think there's any real way to take advantage of it other than a $1400 BenzForce 7.5mm element upgrade. 

mgfoster New Reader
6/18/20 10:45 a.m.

Chapter uh, 4? This is getting longer than I ever had the intention of it being. 

We woke up in Lovell, WY at the Cattleman Motel. Imagine a 1 star motel in Atlanta, but it was the highest rated establishment in Lovell. I was pretty upset by the performance of the OM617 at this point. It was way more sluggish off the line compared to my old cars, almost dangerously slow. You floored it, and then the power buffered and you eventually started accelerating. I had ordered another valve cover gasket, so I figured what the hell, lets do I valve adjustment. Its an often neglected  maintenance item that can actually cause the valves to hang open and reduce compression.

Andddd, it ran approximately no different. Oh well, piece of mind. We had an extremely delicious breakfast feast at a local establishment, and headed to out first sight seeing of the day. Devils Canyon. Pretty incredible sight to see, if you screamed you could hear the echo 3 times. 

After a run in with some local cowboys herding cattle, we were back on the road. Pretty vast, but the 3 pointed start guided us.

We had to climb over the Bighorn mountain range to get to our next destination. The wagon just chugged right up to 9600ft in elevation, where we found a frozen lake.

If you kept it in boost, it had enough power to chug up the passes. Gotta love turbos. With the mountains behind us, we were back on some open roads. At some point the instrument cluster face decided it didnt like being there anymore. 

Then, we ran in to some pretty crazy weather. The dark skies ahead of us held hail, which seemed to appear out of nowhere and accumulated on the road faster than I could have imagined. Luckily it was pretty mushy, so no dents on the car. We also had a pretty good view of that rainbow for about an hour. 

And just before sunset, we made it. The eerie site of Devils Tower. This was a bit of a nerd moment for my dad and I, as we both love Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

We managed to snag a hotel in the closest town Hulett, WY. Unfortunately all the restaurants were closed because of Covid, so we had to cook our own dinner with our camping supplies. 

The next day was quite eventful. We drove through the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota to see a few important monuments. Stop 1, Crazy Horse. Dad says it looks about the same as it did 20 years ago. 

Then, Mt. Rushmore. I love this picture. 

After that, we cruised through Rapid City, SD and got on the highway towards the Badlands. Quite a remote location, I think we rode on this bouncy rode for around 30 miles before we saw anything. That anything was a town of 90 people outside the visitor center for the Badlands. 

And then the terrain really got interesting. 


After driving on what felt like the longest leg of our journey, we made it down I-90 to Souix Falls, SD, found a great burger joint and beers, and went to bed. Hit the ground running bright and early to try and make it to St. Louis. It was a long ride, but the elevation was lower and the car seemed happy going 75-80mph for the first time on the trip, so it was easier. We stopped in Kansas City for some Kansas City BBQ. After being told there was a 4 hour wait for to-go orders at the most famous establishment, we went to the second most famous. It was still delicious. Then we made it to St Louis pretty late and got a swanky downtown hotel right next to the arch. 

The next morning we embarked on definitely the hottest leg of the trip. For the first time we really wished we had A/C. WE stopped in Nashville for a famous Hot Chicken lunch. When someone offers you Mild, Medium, Hot, Double Hot, and Triple Hot, I think its only fair to assume Hot is actually Medium. It wasn't. I did find this cool Mercedes signage though. 

After sweating for a few more hours, back home in hot, humid, North Georgia. Quite a success if I do say so myself. I even have plenty of spare parts left to put on the car. We lugged camping gear both ways across the country and never once used it. So I decided why not use it in the backyard before I put it all away.  

OK. We are home. Travel blog over. Build thread commence. 

bgkast (Forum Supporter)
bgkast (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
6/18/20 1:00 p.m.

In reply to mgfoster :

I didn't get too deep into the injection pump, just some adjustments to the ALDA. The VGT turbo didn't push more air than stock, it just spooled way faster.

mgfoster New Reader
6/18/20 2:05 p.m.
bgkast (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to mgfoster :

I didn't get too deep into the injection pump, just some adjustments to the ALDA. The VGT turbo didn't push more air than stock, it just spooled way faster.

ALDA adjustment is my last resort after I rebuild injectors and time injection pump. I remember it making a pretty big difference in low end torque. 

yupididit UberDork
6/18/20 5:04 p.m.
mgfoster said:

In reply to yupididit :

That 240 does sound fun. Although im very intrigued by these adapters? What transmission is being used? I always thought the bmw ZF boxes would be a good choice. 

He's using a cd009 from a 350z in his clk. 

yupididit UberDork
6/18/20 5:05 p.m.
bgkast (Forum Supporter) said:

Nice! Makes me miss my fleet of Diesel Mercedes. I built the VGT turbo/stick shift car mentioned above.

I still miss that car! 

mgfoster New Reader
6/19/20 10:27 a.m.
yupididit said:

He's using a cd009 from a 350z in his clk. 

Ooooo thats pretty awesome. Is he selling the adapter? 

mgfoster New Reader
6/24/20 4:18 p.m.

After getting home I got right to work on cleaning it up from the trip, and the hard previous life on the farm. Im still shocked at the lack of rust, I would have assumed the worst from the North East. 

Bought a set of drill brushes (magical must buy for interior detailing) and started on the back area. Came out really nice. 

Such practical!

Also, rear facing 3rd row is a big hit with the little kiddos in the family.


I drove it around town for a few days and the noises just kept getting worse.. Clunk over bumps coming from the rear, isolated to really bad sway bar end links. Then the rear brake dragging noise got worse and worse. I found nasty seized caliper and an inner brake pad that was down to the metal. 

Then a loud whirring started coming from the front. Wheel bearing on its way out. RockAuto gets another order! I'm just thankful these didnt present themselves as catastrophic failures during our 2600 mile trip. 

Then I got sidetracked and ordered OEM shifter rebuild parts. Picked them up at the dealership in my other bavarian whip. 

One of my friends had a 240D flywheel so I scooped that up.  28lbs, and its 10lbs lighter than the 38lb flywheel thats supposed to be on the 5 cyl. 

Then I rebuilt the shifter. NOT EASY, aligning all the shifter arms is a pain. 

Gonna be sweet once its all installed though. 


Then I got even MORE side tracked and took my girlfriend to Charelston for the weekend so I could pickup these on Sullivans Island.....

ah yes, rare, full metal, coupe Euro bumpers. My heart is full of joy. 

Then I got back, RockAuto delivery happened, and I did the dirty work.  New rear rotors, pads, and calipers rebuilt. Tried painting one wheel, turned out great (now if I can just get the motivation to do the other 3). And I got rid of that cracked windshield. What a chore cleaning out all the old goo on the channel and re priming it. 

Had to get the OEM Hochtemperatur-Wälzlagerfett because it was $6. 

New used window from my original silver 300D. So much nicer. Now only 1 million more things to do. 

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