Mercedes Sprinter I, the official car that carried about the eastern europeans to the West and their parcels on a monthly basis. And certainly would have gone into space if there was a method, that’s how much mileage the Sprinter can munch. But is it worth it in 2022 to buy a Mercedes Sprinter I?
Is there anything more to be said about the first Sprinter? Whether you call it the Mercedes Sprinter I or the Sprinter T1N, this van was responsible for the migration of millions of people to better countries and to this day there are probably still some Sprinter T1Ns doing international transport.
What is the difference between the Sprinter I and Sprinter II?
It’s a pretty complicated discussion here if you have criteria other than price. Long story short, the first gen Sprinter is much more reliable, but it’s also lagging behind the Sprinter II in terms of equipment. But if you are interested in the Mercedes Sprinter I, then probably terms like “power steering”, “air conditioning” or “radio” mean nothing to you. When you get behind the wheel of a Sprinter you feel a burning desire to wash your feet in the petrol station sink on the M4 motorway in Hungary. Wherever you go from now on you will always order pork chop and fries and listen to country music.
We can laugh all we want, but the Mercedes Sprinter I is a 2 million-mile car and a car that has become almost national if it wasn’t so international. And if you want to buy something like this in 2022, you will basically have to assume that you will most likely buy a Sprinter with 2-3 million km clocked already. This isn’t necessarily bad when you consider that the bulk of the mileage was done on the highway and they have speed limiters anyway. Still, is it worth buying a Sprinter that has driven the entire village of Debrecin to Luton and back, departing every Tuesday from the town hall parking lot?
Mercedes Sprinter I Engines
2.3 MPI of 143 horsepower – Reliable in it’s own right, debuting on the W210. But mounting this engine in the Sprinter or ML is like putting a baby carrot on a plate of pork chop and fries and call it fine dining and charge double. In theory, it works, but it’s far too little. Plus I don’t know how many people have looked at the Mercedes Sprinter and thought “mmm, yeah, I want a petrol one”.
- 2.2 CDI with 82, 109, and 129 horsepower – THE legendary OM611, the million mile engine. And in the case of the Sprinter, the 3-4 million miles engine. It’s not necessarily indestructible, but you can find mechanics and parts everywhere.
- 2.3 DI of 79 horsepower – One of the most reliable engines of all time, this naturally aspirated OM601 was almost acceptable on the Mercedes 190D, but on the Mercedes Sprinter I it’s anemic. It’s indestructible, but at what cost? Like those who have chosen other paths in life to make money…you make money, but at what cost?
- 2.7 CDI of 156 horsepower – OM612 is essentially the 5-cylinder version of the 2.2 CDI OM611 and is probably the best engine they’ve made in modern history. Famous on the ML, E Class, Rexton, or Grand Cherokee, this engine is by far the most suitable for Bulgaria – Italy and back.
- 2.9 CDI with 102 and 129 horsepower – Like the 2.7 CDI, this 2.9 CDI is the 5-cylinder version of the 2.3 DI, and good luck finding one on the streets.
Mercedes Sprinter I General Issues
- I’ll start with the OM611 and OM612 diesels because they are by far the most popular on the Sprinter. The infamous black plague starts here and refers to the injector seals cracking and if you ignore them long enough they will run diesel all through your engine and you can buy another engine. Plus injectors in general are an issue with these engines. And then you have the spark plugs that have a habit of sticking into rigor mortis state in the cylinder head.
- Even if it’s not as bad as the next generation, rust will still set in faster than arthritis because the Sprinter I has water based paint but it’s also old so get ready to fight off the rust.
- Like any car and older person, issues start to appear at the joints so you’ll have to change from time to time. Antiroll bars, shocks, bearings. That sort of thing.
- I said the Mercedes Sprinter I is for you if you’re not interested in air conditioning or radio. That’s because the air conditioning tends to slack off instead of work.
- The automatic gearbox is to be avoided on all but the 2.2 CDI and 2.7 CDI engines that have the robust 5G-Tronic, even if even that gearbox isn’t made to take on heavy weights.
Mercedes Sprinter I Verdict
Like the Golf IV, it was an excellent car but now it’s a bit past its prime. Only punk music, Bonnie M, and bank rates are eternal. Is it worth buying one instead? If you find it in decent/functional condition and don’t care about comfort, then the old Sprinter T1N can still work. Like a senior back in the workforce because his pension is not enough, so the old Sprinter still carries his sins and parcels on the roads and highways of Europe.
What engines do I recommend? Well, at the petrol power section you only get the 143 horsepower 2.3 MPI anyway, but all the fun is in the diesel area and there the 2.2 and 2.7 diesel rule supreme.