Mercedes-Benz W123 is First Produced
The Mercedes-Benz W123 cars were produced by the German manufacturer from 1976 to 1985.
The W123 models surpassed their predecessor, the W114/W115 "stroke-8" models, as the most successful Mercedes, selling 2.7 million cars before being replaced by the W124 after 1985. Also in some cases a successor, the additional range of smaller Mercedes-Benz W201 models was introduced in 1982.
Mercedes-Benz introduced the W123 four-door versions in January, 1976. While there was some technical similarities to their predecessors, the new models were larger in wheelbase and exterior dimensions. The styling was also updated, although stylistic links with the W115 were maintained. Initially, all models except 280/280E featured quad unequal-size round headlights and the latter large rectangular units. When facelifted these units became standard across the range. All W115 engines were carried over, with the 3 litre 5-cylinder diesel model being renamed from "240D 3.0" to "300D" (as it had already been called before in North American markets). The only new engine was the 250's 2525 cc inline-six (Type M123, a short-stroke version of the 2.8 litre six Type M110) that replaced the old 2496 cc Type M114 six.
In the spring of 1976, a coupé version was introduced on a shorter wheelbase than the saloon (2,710 mm (106.7 in) versus 2,795 mm (110.0 in)) for the saloon. This W123C/CE was available as a 230C (later 230CE) and as a 280C/CE in most markets; in North America there were additional 300CD versions with naturally aspirated, later turbocharged 3 litre diesel engines.
It is a tribute to the car's instant popularity - and possibly to the caution built into the production schedules - that nine months after its introduction, a black market had developed in Germany for Mercedes-Benz W123s available for immediate delivery. Customers willing to order new cars from their local authorized dealer for the recommended list price faced waiting times in excess of twelve months. Hardly used models available at once were commanding a premium over the new price of around DM 5,000.
From August, 1977, long wheelbase versions (3,425 mm (134.8 in)) were produced. These were available as 7/8 seater saloons with works bodies or as a chassis with complete front body clip, the latter serving as the base for ambulance and hearse bodies by external suppliers like Binz or Miesen. These "Lang" versions could be ordered as 240D, 300D and 250 models.
At the Frankfurt Auto Show in September, 1977 the W123T estate was introduced; the T in the model designation stood for "Touring and Transport". All engines derivative except "200TD" were available in the range. T production began in March, 1978 in Mercedes' Bremen factory.
In early 1979, the diesel models power output was increased; power rose from 55 PS (40 kW; 54 hp) to 60 PS (44 kW; 59 hp) in the 200D, from 65 PS (48 kW; 64 hp) to 72 PS (53 kW; 71 hp) in the 240D and from 80 PS (59 kW; 79 hp) to 88 PS (65 kW; 87 hp) in the 300D; at the same time, the 220D went out of production.
The first Mercedes turbo diesel production W123 appeared in September, 1979. This was the 300 TD Turbodiesel, available with automatic transmission only. In most markets, the turbocharged 5-cylinder 3 litre diesel engine (Type OM617) was offered only in the T body style, while in North America it was also available in saloon and coupé guises.
June 1980 saw the introduction of new 4-cylinder petrol engines (Type M102). A new 2 litre four with shorter stroke replaced the old M115, a fuel-injected 2.3 litre version of this engine (in 230E/TE/CE) the old carbureted 230. Both engines were more powerful than their predecessors.
In 1980/81 the carbureted 280 versions went out of production; the fuel-injected 280E continued to be offered.
In September, 1982, all models received a mild facelift. The rectangular headlights, previously fitted only to the 280/280E, were standardized across the board, as was power steering. Since February, 1982, an optional 5-speed manual transmission was available in all models (except 300 TDT).
W123 production ended in November, 1985. Most popular single models were the 240D (455,000 built), the 230E (442,000 built) and the 200D (378,000 built).
W123 introduced innovations including ABS (optional from August, 1980), a retractable steering column and an airbag for the driver (optional from 1982).
Available options included MB-Tex (Mercedes-Benz Texturized Punctured Vinyl) upholstery or velour or leather upholstery, interior wood trim, passenger side exterior mirror (standard on T models), 5-speed manual transmission (European market only), 4-speed automatic transmission (standard in turbodiesel models), power windows with rear-seat switch cut-outs, vacuum powered central locking, rear-facing extra seats (station wagon only), Standheizung (prestart timer controlled engine heating), self locking differential, sun roof, air conditioning, climate control, "Alpine" horn (selectable quieter horn), headlamp wipers (European market only), Tempomat (cruise control), power steering (standard after 1982/08), seat heating, catalytic converter (available from 1984 for California only, from fall (autumn) 1984 also in Germany for the 230E of which one thousand were built).
Power (vacuum servo) assisted disc brakes were standard on all W123s.
The W123 was launched here late in 1976 and went on to become the best selling Mercedes-Benz of the 1970s and early-1980s. It was a mid-sized model capable of accommodating an average family in comfort with enough room left over to swallow whatever luggage they wished to take with them.
It was a model to suit all needs, the Mercedes for the people if you will, with three body styles, sedan, wagon and pretty coupe. Typical of Mercedes there was a plethora of engine options to choose from, which expanded its appeal even further.
The choices began with a modest 2.3-litre carburettor-fed single overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine that boasted 80 kW and 186 Nm. In quite a heavy car the performance it delivered was best described as sluggish.
Before diesels were even thought of by the everyday motorist Mercedes offered one in the W123. The 2.4-litre single overhead camshaft four-cylinder was an old-time diesel, no turbocharging here, and put out just 48 kW and 137 Nm. Only those interested in economy bought these.
Or the most part W123 buyers chose one of the six-cylinder models, which offered more zip than the fours possibly could. They were powered either by a carb-fed 2.5-litre single-overhead camshaft in-line engine or a larger 2.8-litre fuel-injected double overhead cam unit. The 2.5-litre six put out 95 kW and 196 Nm, the 2.8-litre engine boasted 125 kW and 233 Nm.
From 1980 there was also the option of a 3.0-litre five-cylinder diesel that gave a more respectable 65 kW and 172 Nm. The vast majority of W123s were sold with four-speed automatic transmissions, but some made it to market with four-speed manuals. Final drive was through the rear wheels.
Mercedes generally equipped its cars well, although nothing to the level of today's models. Even the base model, the 230, came standard with air. It also had power mirrors, fog lamps, central locking and a radio-cassette sound system. Other models had power windows and some also boasted cruise control.
ON THE LOT
Buying an old model like the W123 is quite different to buying a more recent used car. They're generally not found in used car lots or auction houses, they're more likely to be found at specialist classic car dealers, or through newspaper classified or on-line ads.
It's also worth checking with the Mercedes-Benz clubs as the best cars are often sold by word of mouth through the club network. Values vary quite a bit because of the large variation in condition of older cars like the W123.
Generally the range runs from $2500 for an average condition four-cylinder sedan, through $5000 for a more desirable 2.8-litre six, to $10,000 for a pretty 280CE coupe.
IN THE SHOP
Buying a top quality model usually means it will stand up well over time, but even the best cars need regular care and attention and the
W123 is no different. It's wise to check for evidence of regular oil changes over the years, old oil is a car killer. Also check for crash repairs and paint defects; a car as old as the W123 is likely to have been in a fender bender at some time.
The engine should run smoothly and there shouldn't be any smoke from the exhaust, the transmission should engage gears smoothly without reluctance, and the brakes should pull the car up in a straight line. Check the tyres for uneven wear that might indicate a suspension problem, and the power steering shouldn't be heavy.
The sun can have an affect on the interior trim components, particularly the dash pad and rear parcel shelf where it's possible to find cracks and faded colours. Find a car in good condition and the W123 can be a pleasure to drive.
IN A CRASH
The W123 was made before airbags were routinely fitted, but Mercedes was a pioneer of safety in motorcars and were designing crumple zones before anyone else. The 'Benz bodies are strong, but are designed to absorb much of the energy in a crash.
AT THE PUMP
No lightweight, fuel economy isn't one of the W123's strong points. The fours and the diesels will deliver the best economy if you can stand the sluggish performance; the sixes are the best buy and will get 10 L/100 km on a run.
The W123 Series
In production between 1976 and 1985, the first Mercedes-Benz E-Class automobile differed from their predecessors in many ways. Along with Mercedes-Benz state-of-the-art features, such as the fuel tank assemblage over the rear axle to be shielded in an accident, the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class automobiles were manufactured with a larger wheelbase and exterior dimensions.
Features of the Mercedes-Benz W123
The Mercedes-Benz W123, offered in over 30 chassis codes and manufactured in a 4-door saloon, coupÃ© or estate body style, was offered in diesel as well as regular, had 2.0, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.8 or 3.0 liter engine options and 54 to 175 hp. The only new engine offered at this time was the Inline-6 (I6) cylinder, manufactured in the 250E's; the remainder of the E-Class models sported a 4 or 5-cylinder engine. The four-speed 190E's offered 4-speed automatic or manual and 5-speed manual transmissions with a fully automatic gearbox introduced in 1980.
The new exterior features included a flattened grille and sculptured sides that resembled a scaled-down version of the Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL. In 1979, the Mercedes-Benz 300E TD station wagon was introduced with a third-row seat.
The updated styling of the Mercedes-Benz W123 featured horizontal oriented, quad unequal-sized headlights and large, rectangular tail lights -- except in the 280E models. These types of headlights and rear lights eventually became standard for all E-Class models. In 1980 anti-lock brakes were available for the first time, and a driver-side airbag made its debut in 1981.
The production of the W123 ceased in 1985 and was replaced by the new Mercedes-Benz which was officially named the W124 E-Class.
The Mercedes-Benz W123 was manufactured in the Mercedes plant located in Sindelfingin, Germany.