Long time readers will have read many stories where I referenced the Banana Boat. My 1979 Mercedes 240T Wagon. A very unique car. Only the Diesel was imported to the USA in the wagon in those years. This was a grey market car.
It also had the “Taxi” trim level. Avocado green interior with cloth seats. A banana colored exterior. Hand crank windows. Manual transmission and no power steering (so also no power gadget failures nor fluid leaks). With a 2.4 liter engine and a side draft carburetor it could go 110 MPH (I had it that fast once when newer as I floored it to pass someone and was surprised when I looked down at the speedo…)
It has been part of my Armageddon Kit for decades since it is points and condenser ignition (EMP? What EMP? ;-) and can carry a lot of stuff.
But after about 270,000 miles and 39 years, it’s reached an EOL point for me. About a year? or 2? ago I took it to Chicago. On the way back, it was occasionally backfiring. This knocked the exhaust pipe off the headers, so it had a long vacation in Florida at a friends house rather than come home with me in it. Florida being much closer than California after I’d dropped down to I-10 to avoid a snow storm. Later I flew back and got the exhaust fixed, adjusted the timing, and drove it back to California.
That was it’s own adventure. Frequently it was running badly. Attempting to adjust the timing and points was frustrating. Then in the middle of nowhere New Mexico, I noticed that when I pushed a bit sideways on the distributor shaft the points gap changed by more than the setting. I was suffering from dreaded Wobbly Shaft! The bushings in the distributor were worn out.
OK, I learned to set them one way for a cold start, then after it warmed up to reset the points gap. That got it running well enough to get me home even with slightly variable timing / gap. But by then, some of the backfiring had again busted the weld of the exhaust pipe to the header.
OK, I got home. Then I left it in the driveway for months. Finally got around to taking it to the Mechanic. How much to make it fine again?
Well, time and abuse take their toll. There’s a rusted out hole in the firewall under the battery (so a bit breezy on the passenger side footwell…) and some more rust in the drivers side fender. It is a replacement from an accident from before I bought the car a long time ago. Seems a couple of years living on the winter streets of Chicago with my Son had an impact. Though the rest of the body seems unrusted.
In a compression check, one cylinder is 30 Lbs, the others are fine. Since it had been tuned up just prior to the trip to Chicago, it isn’t from lack of care. Most likely a burned valve or seat (though possibly just needs adjusting but I doubt it).
Somewhere along the line the A/C mount had a bolt fail, so it needs the compressor mount reworked. The compressor is fine, but the hole the bolt goes into needs some tap and die work. That causes it to eat belts, so it isn’t belted at the moment so no A/C. The fan is OK, but makes some odd squeaky sounds sometimes… new fan or grease required I think.
Then there is the paint. Dusty finish and with some spots of rust started where the seal got a pinhole in it. Needs a paint job.
Drivers side seat wore through some few years back, so needs a recover instead of a throw cover. (Though the rest are pretty good). But a generally “getting ratty” aspect to the interior. Seems 39 years of use and things get a bit rough ;-)
Cutting to the chase: It would run me about $4000 to “make it right” per my mechanic. Likely an engine rebuild or swap, some creative body repairs. A seat cover and some paint.
For $2500 I just bought a 2001 era Wagon with 100,000 less miles on it, perfect paint and very good interior. seems that 22 years younger matters in cars. As much as I love the unique character of the Banana Boat, paying $1500 more to end up with a workable but shaky old wagon was just not on the cards.
So if anyone want’s the Banana Boat, it’s available for free for a good home. Realize that since it was Florida reg (as the Florida fly in car) it is NOT subject to the California “Cash for Clunkers” program. Being minus California smog gear, it is also not possible to get a California Reg. unless those are put back on. No government subsidy queen here. Just a unique old beast of a car.
It runs. It’s drivable. (It got here from Florida!). It could use the valves adjusted at a minimum and / or the head re-done, along with the replacement distributor put into it to make it run well enough to try another long trip. (My Mechanic has everything needed for that including a replacement distributor and machine shop to make parts if needed). One need not do the full $4k to make it “good enough to haul hay”. I’d guess about $2k would make it roadable enough.
The 240 T had very few imported to the USA. The Wiki says they were made in 1978, 79 and 80, only. And only for Europe. Once, some long time ago, IIRC, I read that a bit over 6000 were made in this model year. Few of them made it to America. I doubt any others are still alive on the roads here. (I drew a crowd at the Mercedes dealership in Florida when I went in for a service item. Most of the mechanics had never seen one, so the whole shop came over to look at it.)
But for me, I think it’s time to move on. I still have my 240D as my Apocalypse Car and at this point with just the spouse and me, and both of us headed for the retirement farm, maybe I don’t have to spend as much time prepping to be one of the guys who rebuilds technical society “After The Fall”… Having one post-EMP car is likely enough.
So there you have it. R.I.P. Banana Boat. It is too worn to be an Antique Show Car and both it, and me, are no longer needed for our ability to keep on going through EMP and adverse conditions. I’m putting my old bones in a new seat in a comfort-mobile and “moving on”. The Banana Boat is going to the bone yard at the mechanic until some parts are needed from it, or someone wants it.
In some odd way, an end of an era. I’ve had a wagon-like Apocalypse Ready vehicle since about 1983. First was Billy, an International Harvester Scout Traveler 4×4 with a Nissan Turbo Diesel engine. Then the Banana Boat. All EMP proof and able to haul large stuff on questionable fuel. No more. Now it’s only a Diesel sedan and a trunk for me.