Even a full 35 years after production stopped of the venerable W123 series, it’s still a pretty common occurrence to spot one of the sedans (denoted as the “W”123) in the junkyard. With a little under two and half million sedans built, that’s almost self-explanatory. Much less common is the hardtop coupe variant (C123). With less than 100,000 built and thus the rarest of the three main bodystyles and most of them living very pampered lives they just don’t get beat down as much. Comparatively, the S123 wagons were twice as plentiful. In other words, for every coupe there were two wagons and 24 sedans built. In any case, time stands still for no one and no car and eventually the sixth or perhaps seventh owner beckons and, well, the clock starts ticking sooner or later.
Of course these weren’t just cars to be seen out and about in, they could do work such as towing as well. While on a shorter wheelbase than the sedans and wagons, there isn’t anything less stout about them. The tinworm has started to nibble at this one in a few areas, and what looks like Anthracite Grey paintwork has also started to fade and perhaps shed the clearcoat here and there. And over there too I suppose. Never mind all that, we all have a few skin blemishes.
As a 1984 model, this is one of the later examples, as the coupes were only built through the 1985 season. Of course we got the double round headlights with the clear surrounds over here and larger bumpers, the front one of which this one has thoughtfully shed for us already, the one we saw in the rear is large enough already for both ends. The chrome fender overriders are an added on frippery, they did not come that way from the factory.
And of course the “Bundt” alloy wheels were ubiquitous across the range by the 1980’s. Someone helped themselves to the star that should be flying proudly atop that huge chrome grille that foreshadows today’s heavy duty pickup trucks. Hey, that’s what pickups need! Hood ornaments on top of the grille, perhaps in the shape of a cherry the size of a bowling ball! (Round for safety of course.)
Starting in 1982, the only way to get a Coupe (or any W123 for that matter) over here was to opt for the Turbo Diesel inline-5. With 123hp@4,350rpm and 184lb-ft of torque at 2,400rpm it got the job done in what would nowadays seem a very unhurried way, sort of the way your teenager takes out the trash after you’ve asked him three or four times and now you aren’t really asking anymore, i.e. it finally gets done, but yeah.
Of course the early 1980’s weren’t really a performance wonderfest anywhere, so a lot of the above is hindsight speaking. At the time I’m sure it was just fine although I was under the mistaken impression that the diesels started in second gear like the gassers did, it turns out the diesels started in first. In the end, the run from 0-60mph was dispatched in somewhere between 12 and 13 or seconds depending on the source, model year, and specific model, I don’t (yet) have a source for this specific year and variant.
Here’s that bad boy in all its 3-liter, inline-5 glory, there’s a turbo in there somewhere. It looks like it may have wet the bed recently, that Behr radiator with the plastic top doesn’t look like it’s the original one and the upper hose seems new as well. The coolant tank looks maybe 37 days old instead of 37 years as well. Someone spent a little Geld on this one very recently. I forgot to check the air filter but I can almost guarantee it’s new as well, in junkyard cars around here it often seems to be the first thing that anyone addresses when there is an issue with anything, no matter how much coolant may be pouring out of the radiator with the hole in it.
The roofline is a little more rakish than the sedan, and the rear side window is obviously abbreviated. This size class of Mercedes has always been the subtly elegant representative of the lineup, especially in two-door form. Lower both of those windows and there’s no pillar to get in the way of the breeze. That breeze feels just as good in Aspen as in Tyrol as in Japan when you’re livin’ the life in a Benz!
Enough room for multiple golf bags or luggage for that week’s vacation at Lake Como for those driving one of these on the Continent. Or, in this case, a set of later alloys from that S-class a row or two over being saved for someone’s next visit here, I think. Along with a small stash of someone’s VW Passat parts. Anyway, quite large, even if there’s a bit of a liftover. Back in the 1970’s when this was developed people weren’t such pansies and could lift stuff. Nowadays we hire someone else to do that for us.
Alright, I’ve been avoiding the elephant in the room for long enough, it’s time to address what I think may be an attempt at rust repair on the driver’s door. It looks like galvanized sheetmetal but with an underlayer of some sort of flexible but waterproof material, a good idea here on the Front Range. The 1/4″ head sheetmetal screws should have been all stainless like the lower ones, as you can see the uppers are rusting already, bummer. And the craftsman here may have missed a small spot at the lower rear edge. That’s what they make duct tape for though, to take care of the little holes, perhaps he was getting to that when the radiator went.
But nobody will worry about little bagatelles such as that once they ensconce themselves inside the Kabine. There’s genuine veneer all over the place (okay, on the dash), the almost-indestructible MB-Tex is holding up as well as can be expected after this many years in the Colorado sun (leather was available but I’m almost certain this is the Tex), there’s a steering wheel the size of one from a bus, which Mercedes will happily sell you as well every other place but here, however the wheel looks quite safe if you happen to smash your chest into it.
There are two “cupholders” on the open glovebox lid, and check out the little button that releases the seat to fold forward. Just push that and then pull the seatback forward. So much fancier than a lever that invariably breaks off eventually. And compare the armrest (actually a doorpull) on the driver’s side to the passenger one in the prior picture, they’re different because as the driver you will be too focused on driving with both hands on the wheel to have your left hand holding or resting on the door…I believe that’s why older German cars had the window switches in the center console, so that someone else can control that stuff for the others while the driver…drives. A novel concept.
Everything is a little worn in (patina), and some of the zebrano wood has left the party, however the center console is the definition of simple, with a huge thumbwheel on the left to spin to the desired temperature and then buttons to select what HVAC function you’d like to see happen. The requisite Becker stereo headunit is below that. A bank of buttons up top and then a few air vents of the round and easily directionable variety.
By the way, in older M-B’s, if you ordered another option that needed another button you got a different piece of trim to accommodate it. And if you ordered less options, you get a piece of trim to accommodate that as well, there were no blanks, just many, many versions of trim to fit the different number of buttons.
Even from this vantage point we can already see that there is no “Dashboard of Sadness” on display in the instrument cluster, that looks full featured as one would expect from a premium vehicle such as this. Let’s get closer to see the magic number,
Gott im Himmel! 392,509 miles! And look at that leading 3, that sumbitch is already getting ready to turn again to the 4, with full confidence in its ability to go all the way, keep going, and get back to where it’s started. The 1980’s were really peak Mercedes years for instrument clarity and legibility, these are great. The needles on the oil pressure and temp gauges actually swing around when driving to display information rather than being tethered in place so as to not worry the uneducated rube that’s driving the car.
There’s even a tach, something virtually unheard of over here back then when there was an automatic transmission in place in a luxury car. That almost $35,000 (base) price tag ($90,000 today) seems pretty good now that you think about the miles this one traveled, eh? And that’s assuming that VDO odometer actually works.
The seat condition makes a little more sense when you think of the mileage. Perhaps there was a passenger for many of those as well…Here’s that seat release button again and you can see the dial to set the recline angle of the seat as well near the bottom for infinite adjustability. All day comfortable as well, these seats are.
The back seat isn’t exactly swimming in legroom even for someone with my, everybody now!….yes, 32″ inseam. There is a power window switch though so that’s something to take the edge off. And a fold-down armrest.
It’s a Christmas Baby, built in December 1983 right at home in Stuttgart according to the A towards the middle of the VIN. No stickers for Mercedes, you get a real plate.
This angle was the first glance I had of this car and it struck me as having a very cocky expression with absolutely nothing to be concerned about. This car has the swagger to think it’s going to have someone find and turn the key and then it’ll motor on out of here under its own power, leaving all the other suckers behind. But you know what? It could be right.