R320: Why Buy a Mercedes?
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This AWD minivan is our new efficient family hauler.
I know, I know, it sounds crazy that the guy who used to be so practical-minded would buy a Mercedes, of all things. Please allow me to explain!
First, the Suburban was requiring too much attention. The diesel conversion in a vehicle that complex required constant attention. Further, being that the vehicle was an aging, poorly-designed K1500 model, I was never happy with the handling or the brakes (yes, these are common complaints with the stock vehicle, so my conversion wasn't the culprit). My wife was never comfortable driving it, either. When one of the rod bearings started making banging noises, I already had my eyes on a somewhat smaller vehicle as a replacement, one that would achieve 90% of what the Suburban did in a ready-made, well-integrated package. I don't think that doing the conversion was a mistake, and I learned a lot that can be applied to future vehicles, but I definitely want to stick to simpler, lighter-weight vehicles where such a conversion can really shine. Perhaps something like a diesel sandrail or one of those common VW-TDI-into-Suzuki-Samurai swaps. We'll see where I go in the future on this front, but I really want to pursue something where the swap results in an improvement over stock performance and things are kept simple and inexpensive. The Suburban cost me about $16k to build, and with all the systems I needed to integrate to make everything functional, it took about 18 months of my "free time."
For those who are new to this blog, I currently own four turbo diesel vehicles. Call me strange, but I love torque and I demand good efficiency in my vehicles. The result is that diesels make a lot of sense. People will point out a higher initial cost of these vehicles, but I never buy new vehicles and when you look at used machines the cost of a diesel, typically, is not much higher. Especially not when you take the longevity of these machines into account. Maintenance may be more expensive, but I do my own maintenance. My vehicles are my #1 hobby, so I enjoy maintaining them and I absolutely refuse to go into debt to buy a vehicle.
There are some cosmetic imperfections, but this vehicle is mechanically solid and has a lot of potential.
This post wouldn't be complete without bringing up the current car market. Are you looking for a new car? I'm writing this in May of 2017, and Peter Schiff's latest update included information about manufacturers seeing worse-than-expected demand for their new vehicles. This is especially notable when they were already expecting declining year-over-year sales figures. So, the decline is worse than they thought. Don't let Janet Yellen or her minions at the Fed fool you: this economy is on the precipice and we are seeing cracks in our biggest three economic bubbles in the United States (homes, autos, and education). These guys are playing a con-game with our economy and their "data-driven" approach to managing the economy (something which Austrian Economics shows can't be done) is creating a mess. Without going further into detail on Austrian Economics (see Mises.org, or Contra Krugman, if you'd like to learn more), the bottom line is that lots of dealers have inventory sitting on their lots and now is a great time to find a deal. Further, that fact also affects the used car market and many used cars are ridiculously inexpensive right now. Given that I'm a person who prefers to stay 100% debt-free (yeah, I have a mortgage, but I'm working on that), this makes the capability that can be found in a used car a completely amazing bang-to-buck ratio!
So, still, the question is why I would buy a Mercedes. The answer is in the specs for this Mercedes minivan:
Spacious room for six, even the third row will comfortably fit somebody over 6 feet tall (though nobody in my family comes anywhere close to 6').
The same 3.0 OM642 V6 turbo diesel that is used in the Sprinters and a slew of other Mercedes-Benz vehicles. A common engine means that its strengths and shortcomings are well-known and parts won't be too terribly rare.
More on the engine: 398 lb-ft of torque!
4-matic. How many minivans have all-wheel drive systems?
Combining this with the same seven-speed automatic and transfer case that are used in a number of other models, including the R63 500+hp fire-breathing R-class, the drivetrain ought to be bulletproof.
The machine is EPA rated at 28 mpg highway.
Depending on where you can find the information, the towing capacity is between 3500 and 4600 lb.
Does that sound good enough? How about this: I found one with somewhat high mileage (145,000) for less than $7k. It has its scuffs, dings, and a number of issues that need attention, but this is an amazingly capable vehicle for the price. With classic Mercedes vehicles going 500,000 miles, I expect that this machine will also achieve a long life with some minor adjustments and modifications, along with proper maintenance.
That leaves one more question: What about maintenance? Given the time and capability I've shown in doing the Suburban modification, I believe I can do what's needed on this vehicle, too. Further, I've already purchased a knock-off SD Connect multiplexer and software, giving me the code scanning, reset, and recoding capabilities that the dealers have. Perhaps more, as the system I have includes Xentry with development mode and something called Vediamo, which is a development suite.
So, that gives you a quick background on my latest project machine. I'll follow this with posts about some of the work I've been doing.
Meanwhile: may the Lord bless you and keep you running on all cylinders!