CC Outtake: A Mercedes-Benz W123 Taxi in 2016


The Mercedes W123 series of 1976-85 has become a cult classic in the United States, in particular the diesel engine models that Mercedes emphasized in response to fuel economy concerns but decades later became trendy as a biodiesel burner and as a supposedly indestructible lifetime car.  The W123 evolved differently in the rest of the world, with a wider range of gasoline and diesel engines, still with a high degree of cachet by virtue of their high quality and the three pointed star atop their grilles.

With many owners willing to pay for their inevitable repairs, a well maintained W123 can last a very long time in a dry and rust-free climate, such as that of South Africa.  W123s are a regular sight on the streets there, mostly the gasoline four cylinder 200 that was the base model outside of North America. They are so common that the Cape Town beach town suburb of Camps Bay has at least two serving as taxicabs in 2016, over 30 years after they rolled off the assembly line.


Both 200s spotted were in apparently excellent condition, in their original base model glory with body colored wheel covers and shiny paint whose color resembled that of the beach a few yards (or meters) away from their usual stomping ground.  They most likely were built in South Africa, where local assembly of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars has occurred since 1958, with W121 Pontons.  The W123 taxis that were ubiquitous in Germany decades ago disappeared long ago, but over 5,000 miles to the south, some are still going strong.


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