Why is it so special?
At a time when the villainous Mercedes-Benz 600 Grosser was transporting the world’s dictators, executives and businessman alike needed something a bit smaller and inconspicuous yet just as cosseting. Built at a time when Mercedes-Benz was renowned for unrivalled build quality the W 123 series solidified the cliché that is German engineering and embodied the then Mercedes-Benz slogan, “engineered like no other car in the world”. The W 123 proudly forms part of the E-Class lineage. It was sold in a variety of body styles including a sleek coupè with frameless windows, a practical yet handsome station-wagon and least of all the definitive executive sedan. Debuted in 1976 the model range sold strongly regardless of stiff pricing for the era and continued to sell until 1988 where more than 2.3 million four-door models were sold. Today the W 123 series coupè and estate enjoy a cult-like following.
That classic cool feature: Unburstable mechanics and renowned safety
A bewildering range of engine options were available with the 230 E by far the most popular. The diesel variants are less popular but are renowned for wracking up monumental kilometres. A Greek taxi driver in 2004 handed is W 123 to the Mercedes-Benz museum after completing a scarcely believable 4.6 million kilometres. Along with mechanical longevity, passenger safety was a top priority and a key selling point. Technology such as crumple zones, side-impact bars, a collapsible steering wheel and an optional drivers airbag made this generation of Mercedes a pioneer in modern vehicle safety. In 1988 there was a famous South African crash that viciously tested the Benz’s safety claims. W 123 owner Chris White was making his way home on Chapman’s Peak Drive and momentarily took his eyes off of the road. The worst possible mountain-pass crash ensued and White plummeted 100 m down the rocky cliff face, that’s equivalent to falling 30 stories. White was rescued by emergency services and incredibly lived to tell the tale of how he remembered seeing his cassette tapes getting flung out of the open sunroof.
Can you get it today?
Having been built to last, good examples of the W 123 can be found with some web-surfing finesse, however, more affordable ones will be found with near astronomic mileages on the clock. That isn’t a bad thing if the vehicle has been properly maintained. We’ve seen low mileage ones in the classifieds for around R200 000 but expect to pay much less if you don’t mind doing a little bit of work on the car. Rust is a known issue with these vehicles and worn leather can be expected on well-used examples. Thanks to large numbers sold, legendary reliability and the cachet that comes with the Mercedes-Benz badge makes this a classic buy to go for. Make your move before prices head further north.