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  • 1 Post By blurg

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Old 13 Jul 2010
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Another kind of RTW vehicle: '83 Mercedes W123 300TD


I'd like to use this post to show another cool way of an overland vehicle set up.
This is not about that it's the best or a better way, it's just another way to do it.
This post is also about how to prepare a 2wd vehicle to use for overlanding, as these vehicles are not always prepared for the bad roads in Africa, Middle East, Asia and so on.

It is also a way to tell people about the fact that you don't need a +20K vehicle to travel the world.

Well, let's get concrete..

Though this W123 was in perfect shape, I'm sure you can use a not so decent example for maybe 3000 dollars too and do your thing. The most important thing when you buy one is to make sure the body is hard. All the other things are easily overcome.

We did only some modifications and it turns out that this car with this setup handles very well. It might be a cool alternative for a bigger 4x4/truck. Though it's big enough to travel with two or three persons and to carry all the equipment to be fully self supporting in deserted places for a couple of days.

Our daily driver is used for our weekend trips, groceries, work and so on, but when the time comes for our next trip that same car is there to serve us again, our W123 300TD.

After I bought it I directly installed a newer Webasto waterheater, as this takes care of a prolonged life of the engine, and as extra luxury one can step into a warm interior in winters.

The Saharagelber after I bought it.

The newer Webasto heater, not really a necessity but very engine friendly:

Then after the Webasto I had the car converted to a Elsbett one tank system to be able to drive responsibly on vegetable oil. The first trip to turkey we could easily fill her up at the supermarket instead of the gas stations.

The first trip we used this simple set up, sleep in the car and extra tanks to fill up with vegetable oil. We brought a 2nd spare wheel with us.

Our first setup

Time to fill her up
http://300td.org - The weblog of a W123 on veggie oil

Last edited by blurg; 13 Jul 2010 at 12:46.
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Old 13 Jul 2010
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Well - Chris Scott's Sahara Overland book has a picture of a 1980s Mercedes 190 (W201) with bash plates under the engine in the section for 'other types of overland vehicle', so it can obviously be done.

Turkey - I don't blame you for running the car on veggie oil. But will you be in trouble if the tax people catch you? If the UK is anything to go by, you certainly would be and I suspect they have a similar law in Turkey, otherwise every diesel car would be running on veggie oil, given the eye-watering diesel prices there.
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Old 13 Jul 2010
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The W123 Feeling at home in Albania

After that first trip to Turkey we found out that things could be done a bit different. I did want to lift the vehicle before the trip but I failed to do that.

It's wise to lift the vehicle as high as possible, but not too high as axles can break when the angle gets bigger and under tension they might break.

So, I installed heavy duty version coil springs. In the case of Mercedes you can still order them at the dealer. Mercedes sold these stronger coil springs for the W123's in countries with bad road conditions. When you install the stronger coil springs you actually need to install heavy duty shockers too. In my case I only installed the stronger shockers in the front. The rears are still original. But hey, they are still in good shape!

Then a strong imperial was installed so we could fix a tent on it, though this is not a car modification, it's very recommendable! You can sleep on the car and sleep anywhere you want, regardless of the underground (like in a stony environment).

Then one of the next most important things to check is your wheels. I tried several things and I know now what NOT to use. I might sound stupid but I thought mud and snow tyres would be the best for the trips with terrain, water, mud, sand and so on because of the profile pattern.

This didn't work very well, after 20000km in Africa the profile was falling off. I turns out the tyres are so soft that in this heat the tyres will wear much faster (), I could have known that of course..

I also tried huge All Terrain tyres on bigger rims (15 inch instead of 14 inch), but they turned out to be too soft too. After a trip through Wadi Rum where I had the tyres deflated to 1,0 bar I broke the first one. These tyres were crap, or at least not usable for hot environments.

On my latest trip were the original tyres again. They were perfect but you get stuck much more easily. I'll try something different again on the next trip. More about that later..

A big imperial is also useful to put extra stuff on the roof which you can't fit into the car, like an alumimium box or an extra wheel or fuel can.

This results in the following setup.

As you can see the car is lifted quite a bit.

Another important item was the sump protection plate. I was lucky, Mercedes made these plates which could be ordered as an option. Sometimes you can find them on Ebay.

This plate protect your vulnerable oil sump and save you from huge problems. The year I installed it I bumped against a huge stone, even the plate was bent so much that it touched the engine and the whole car shook when idling. I had to remove it and bend it back.

The tent unfolded.

@ilesmark - I wasn't finished yet
I never got problems with filling the car up with vegetable oil.
Unfortunately it's more expensive than diesel these days.
http://300td.org - The weblog of a W123 on veggie oil
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Old 13 Jul 2010
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Sandplates might be handy, you can stuff them on the imperial somewhere. I've got mine between the tent and the imperial.
They can be of much help when getting stuck.
Deflate the tyres a bit if necessary, stuff the plates under the wheels and try to get out!
Carrying a compressor on 12V is therefore a must. Not only for flat tyres but also to inflate and deflate whenever necessary.

Last year we changed some of the cans for a aluminium box. We neede more space and taking a lot of cans with you seemed a bit useless. It's empty most of the time and apart from tracks through the sahara you hardly need an cruising radius of +650km.

The alu box. On top of it a manual shower with a jerrycan.

We also had handy kitchen system built.
The problem with a wagon is you need to pile up the stuff the use the whole place. Everytime you stop and need to cook you waste a lot of energy and time reorganizing.

It was always like this:

(On the image you see the sand plates between the wooden pieces underneath the tent)

Often you end up getting to many things out at a camping or picnic stop.

So we started to build a 'camper setup'.

To be continued...
http://300td.org - The weblog of a W123 on veggie oil
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Old 7 Aug 2010
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there is no legal problem using veggie oil in the UK. there is a limit on how much you can use before paying duty. can't remember how much it is but it's quite generous, and how would they check anyway?
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Old 7 Aug 2010
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Thanks fot this post - keep it coming.

You can also get a diff lock to fit the 300D. lots of parts from the G Wagons and the T1 vans of the same age will fit - even a complete 4x4 conversion, but you might as well buy a G then.

Roof rack - best to weld up a single long piece of steel for the gutter mounts, one day the gutters will just break if you stay with the single post mounts.

Snow chains can be fitted for use in mud - not any use for sand though.
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Old 23 Nov 2010
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Great post. I've been evaluating the need for 4wd vs 2wd for some time and this post does outline a perfectly viable alternative to 4wd.
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Old 23 Nov 2010
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Originally Posted by moggy 1968 View Post
there is no legal problem using veggie oil in the UK. there is a limit on how much you can use before paying duty. can't remember how much it is but it's quite generous, and how would they check anyway?
2500 litres

I think you are supposed to keep records to show usage, i won't comment about that on an open forum :-)

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