I saw a post in the SuperTurboDiesel Facebook group recently asking why a lot of people seem to be abandoning their 605/606 projects. The comments on the post pointed to unrealistic horsepower expectations and turbo sizing.
I think there’s more to it. In my opinion, the market is becoming stagnant for numerous reasons.
- Saturation. The SuperTurboDiesel group on Facebook has over 5500 members. Not all of them are running the om605 or om606, but a large number are. When you think about demographics in automotive performance, diesel Mercedes is such a small niche market, with the om606 being an even smaller subset. Since the engine isn’t new a lot of those looking to do a build have probably already done so. New builders are becoming scarcer.
- Cost of Performance Parts. For those looking for purely cheap horsepower, the om606 is a good way to get it, to a point. Once you exceed a certain threshold, internals need to be upgraded with forged rods, springs, etc., and the cost of rebuilding can be quite expensive. Diehard fans looking to build something different (like me) will flip the bill, but new entrants into this niche market may turn away for a more common, less expensive alternative. The LS and small block Chevy have so many aftermarket parts available that it’s hard to overlook them as potential power plants.
- Scarcity. For people who haven’t started a build yet but might want to, the availability and price for acquiring a 606 in the USA can be surprising. They are becoming more difficult to locate. Lately, the trend is to purchase an entire vehicle (w210) and pull the engine. This leads to buying more than you need at an inflated price.
- Advertising. I think a major contributing factor to the popularity of the engine, at least in the USA, came from drift videos by Black Smoke Racing. Now that they have moved on, I don’t think new builders will get as much as exposure to the ideas as they were before.
I continue to be surprised by the way I’ve misjudged the Mercedes diesel market. Based on the emails I receive, the interest in and commitment to the om617 has far surpassed the om603 and om606. There are so many people who love that engine. But depending on the region, they are becoming difficult to find as well. They seem to be plentiful in coastal regions, but from Austin, TX to Tucson, AZ it was slim pickings when I was searching for the dyno car engine.
The om606 will always have a cult following. But it really is such a small niche that I think fewer builders will be considering it going forward. I have one more om606 to build, then I, too, am moving on to gas projects. My reasons have more to do with educating myself and gaining exposure to more power plants. I am not abandoning my roots, however.
As always, let me know your thoughts!