The 312d Mercedes Sprinter first came on the scene in 1995 with it's now legendary 5 cylinder 2.9 turbo diesel engine. Known as 'the million miler', these early models are now hard to find. While the engine was mechanically sound, the van was hiding a couple of problems. A large amount of filler was hiding some accident damage to the near side panel, just behind the sliding door, and an intermittent short circuit on the cable supplying power to the engine stop valve caused a great deal of hassle.
The electrical fault took some time to find. The picture on the left shows how evasive electrical fault finding can be.
I crawled all over the van looking for a cable break, loose connection or a faulty relay but nothing showed up. So I called in one of my neighbours for assistance. He had recently retired from being a transport manager and had previously worked for the AA. A handy neighbour indeed!
Very soon we had discovered that there was no power getting to the engine stop valve, so we hot wired it and the motor started first turn. However, we were still unable to determine why there was no power at the end of the cable, so the van went into a Bosch dealer in Cardiff. They had the van three days before finding a break in the cable underneath the cab, just about the only place I didn't look.
The bill took £395 out of the budget but the repair has proven to be reliable.
The van was taken to a body repair shop for an estimate to repair the battered panel. However, when the guys investigated they discovered that some of the other near side panels and the rear valance panel were in need of attention as well.
Dealing with rust on a panel van is straight forward, but once you pack in insulation and convert the van, dealing with rusty panels a few years down the line would be a complete nightmare.
I decided to have the lower panels replaced, including the lower section of the sliding and passenger doors, the door sills and rear valance panel.
The work took some time to complete but was worth the wait after seeing the end result.
Once all the panels were fitted the nearside of the van was resprayed in the original Mercedes arctic white. New rear bumpers and wheel covers were fitted and as you can see, the finished product is quite pleasing.
The cost of all this work including a full service and MOT, came to around £2,150. So we are looking at a tidy reliable van at around £5,000. Could I have bought a better van for £5,000? Probably, but would it have had any gremlins to sort and at what cost?
What matters is that I am happy with the outcome of my decision to buy an old Merc Sprinter 312d as a base for my conversion. It has proven to be reliable over the 10,000 plus miles I have covered and is comfortable, roomy and will breeze up any hill with ease. Cruising on the motorway at 70 is also a doddle.