At $2,500, Is This 1987 Mercedes 190D Beater The One to Beat?

Photo: Craigslist
Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

The odometer on today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe 190 reads 318K but the seller says its broken and the mileage is closer to 380K. Could that make this an unstoppable Benz and could that make its price an unbeatable deal?

There’s an old maxim that says hindsight is 20/20. There’s yet another saying that goes those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I think one of those aphorisms is an appropriate descriptor for resto-mods like yesterday’s 2001 Plymouth Prowler, I just can’t decide which is the more apropos.


There was no such vacillating amongst those of you who gave the Plymouth’s $34,000 price a crushing 82-percent Crack Pipe loss. And that came despite a twin turbo setup, fancy wheels (well, I liked them at least), and a laudably clean overall presentation.

That Prowler may have been babied, but what’s a person to do if the car you’re interested in selling isn’t quite so presentable? What if instead it looked as though it was prepped for a post-apocalyptic demolition derby? Furthermore, what if those janky looks masked a car underneath that was proving to be nigh-on unstoppable? What would you do then?

Well, in the case of this 1987 Mercedes Benz 190D with five-speed conversion, you throw it up on Craigslist and hope for the best.


The W201 190 is a fascinating model and an important one for Mercedes as well. Incredibly well built and wildly over-engineered, this model was the last great small car Mercedes Benz ever built. Notable features like the company’s multilink rear suspension, ingenious mono wiper, and encapsulated engine bay all made their debut on the W201

The ’87 190D with its 2.5-litre turbo diesel five cylinder is the W201’s unicorn here in the states for that single model year. It’s immediately identifiable by the horizontal vents punctuating the right-front fender.


The only transmission offered on the model was Mercedes’ 4-speed automatic, however all the parts necessary for a manual conversion could be obtained from other models, and that’s just what someone did to this car. You know what else has been done to this car? It’s had the everlovin’ shit driven out of it, that’s what.


The seller claims 380K on the clock, only that can’t be verified since the odometer stopped counting at 318K. The car shows the war wounds of those miles, with dents here and there, a clear coat that has clearly given up, and a general overall attitude that if shit goes down, this 190 will see you through.


The seller says that he’s been using the car to DD a trek between Pasadena and Palmdale, a trip of about 65 miles each way. Based on the commute and the car, I’m going to wager a guess that he works, or worked, at JPL.

regardless of how he brings home the bacon, he claims in the ad that the car is so dependable that he would ‘would drive it to Miami as it sits.’ Why anyone would want to go to Miami at the start of hurricane season is beyond me, but I do get his point.


As noted, the car rocks a stick, a five-speed to be precise, and that is claimed to have been professionally installed. It looks right at home in there, and should help make the most of the diesel’s power, but remember, Mercedes manuals are generally crap in action.

A new radiator and water pump have also been added, more recently it seems. Just as a reminder, the OM602 diesel as used here, is still considered to be one of the most durable engines on the planet.


This W201’s body on the other hand has seen better days. The paint is ratty and there are a coupe of dents on the rear end that would be a pain in the neck to pound out. Chrome AMG wheels add a welcome bit of ludicrousness and there’s a fifth in the boot for good measure.


The interior is likewise well worn but serviceable. The carpet in the driver’s footwell seems to be AWOL, and while the MBTex upholstery looks like it’s still serviceable, its waviness indicates that the springs underneath may not be.

What else is up with this beater Benz? Well, the seller says the car pulls to the right. You’d probably want to give the front end a thorough going over before taking that hypothetical trip to Miami. It also has lame A/C, non-working vacuum locks, and perhaps most consternating, a key broken off in the driver’s side door tumbler.


On the plus side, the sunroof apparently works, there are no leaks anywhere, and most importantly, the car can apparently not be killed. What might all that be worth to someone? Well, to its seller, who is looking for something a little newer so he can get his LYFT on, it’s worth $2,500.


It’s now your duty to decide if this worn but still in the fight 190 might be worth that much to some potential buyer. What do you think, is this old master beater worth that kind of scratch? Or, does that $2,500 asking put the brakes on this unstoppable Benz?

You decide!


Los Angeles, CA Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

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About the author

Rob Emslie

Rob Emslie is a contributing writer for Jalopnik. He has too many cars, and not enough time to work on them all.