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Here's Why the Mercedes 240D is the Best Car for the Apocalypse

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author photo by Tyler Hoover December 2016

Today, I'm covering a pet peeve of mine that involves one of my favorite TV shows: "The Walking Dead." If you don't know it, the setting for the show is the zombie apocalypse. It's been years since any kind of industrial infrastructure was functioning, including fuel refineries to make gasoline. Despite all of this, the characters are still driving around in gasoline-powered cars. This is especially puzzling, since untreated gasoline has a shelf life of up to a year -- at most!

This had me pondering what car I would want to ride out the apocalypse, and my answer probably surprises you. Let me describe why the Mercedes 240D is the ideal choice.

The first and most obvious reason is that the 240D is diesel-powered. Diesel fuel has a much longer shelf life than gasoline, lasting years with little degradation. It's also logical to assume that diesel fuel would not be as quickly depleted in an apocalyptic fuel crisis, as the vast majority of the U.S. population owns gasoline-powered cars. Plus, diesel would also be easy to siphon out of abandoned big-rig trucks to fuel as you go.

Should diesel fuel not be available, the Mercedes 240D can run on a variety of other fuels. Many a Mercedes diesel has been run long term on properly filtered used vegetable oil. Fun fact: Crisco was originally developed as a machine lubricant. In a pinch, kerosene or even straight motor oil can work as well. This is possible because the 240D has a simple and robust mechanical injection pump. Modern diesels, with electronically controlled fuel-delivery systems, would not tolerate these lesser fuels.

Speaking of electronics, the coolest thing about the Mercedes 240D is it doesn't require any electronics to run. With gasoline-powered cars, you need a spark to make combustion in the engine. But with diesels, high compression is all that's needed to ignite the fuel. This means the 240D has no spark plugs. With all its other mechanical components completely devoid of electronics, this car runs exactly the same with the battery and alternator disconnected.

This completely analog experience offered by the 240D is a very attractive feature in today's reality of endless automotive electronic sensors and nannies -- and it's why the 240D the ideal choice for the apocalypse. There's no computer monitoring this engine and triggering a "limp-home mode" if a sensor goes out of its narrow parameters. Not even an electromagnetic pulse from a nuclear bomb could stop this thing.

This lack of electronic interference in the 240D is engineered to incredible lengths. Many of the accessories, which could have been controlled electronically -- like the power door locks -- are instead controlled by a mechanical vacuum system. Even the oil-pressure gauge is a mechanical unit, with a small oil line that flows from the engine through a firewall connecting directly to the gauge on the instrument cluster.

Being the highest automotive achievement of the K.I.S.S. method -- Keep It Simple, Stupid -- the car is damn near invincible. The few components that make this car run come from the same material as Thor's hammer. This is why thousands of 240Ds have lasted almost 40 years as taxi cabs. Mercedes even enshrined a 240D in their museum after it endured 2.8 million miles of brutal taxi use. The country of Morocco got so tired of highly polluting Mercedes 240Ds dominating their taxi fleets that they had to offer their own version of 'cash for clunkers' to entice cabbies to upgrade.

The only compromise with the 240D is you can never be in any kind of hurry. Being a heavy sedan with less than 70 horsepower, the 0-to-60 time lasts about as long as a lunar cycle. A small price to pay during the apocalypse for peace of mind, knowing you will always be able to reach your destination.

These cars are already sought after by yuppies and enthusiasts who love this masterpiece of analog motoring, and prices are steadily rising. So if you're concerned about an extinction-level zombie event -- or if you think World War III is coming soon -- you better start shopping.

Mercedes-Benz 240D

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Used 1989 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL
Used 1989 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL
$51,000
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Here's Why the Mercedes 240D is the Best Car for the Apocalypse - Autotrader