A few specific old (and non-sports) foreign cars have a very solid Japanese fan-base. The Volvo 240 comes to mind, as does the Fiat 500, the Renault 4 or the VW Beetle and most of its derivatives. Ditto the global taxi that is the Mercedes-Benz W123. There are many other Mercedes models about, from the Pagoda SL to the V12 S-Class, but our dear W123 is ever so ubiquitous.
We’ve seen a lot of them on CC, as well. I’ve written two posts about these – one featured a saloon in Indonesia, the other a wagon I shot in Tokyo. Jim Klein recently regaled us with a W123 coupé junkyard find and Paul wrote a moving tribute about it just six months ago. And there are literally over a dozen other pieces to peruse, including COALs and vintage reviews (see list at the end of this post).
Some have even gone as far as calling the W123 a cockroach of the road. There really is no need for more information on the W123. If you don’t know all there is to know by now, you haven’t been paying attention.
However, the breed’s continued survival, forty-odd years after most were put together, never ceases to amaze. The montage above is a compendium of the W123s I’ve caught in Tokyo thus far, after a year of CC hunting. A modest haul, but it’s still the most common older Mercedes by a mile.
I came upon this nest of W123s last month. I first caught these two side by side, with one looking a bit worse for wear (and lacking license plates), while the other seemed minty fresh.
A few meters down the street, this sublime light gray one – curiously, it was the only one with US-style sealed beams.
Turns out I had stumbled upon Nada Engineering, a W123 specialist shop. It was a bit early in the morning, so they weren’t open yet, but if you check their website, it looks like they have a flourishing little business. So behind that W123, and close to those two other W123s, a bunch more W123s were asleep inside a corrugated iron building.
Talk about an infestation!
There were many opportunities to compare and contrast interiors, too. This is the blue car’s inner sanctum – immaculate, as per what we can expect from our Japanese friends.
The white car’s dash was obstructed by a towel on the steering wheel, unfortunately. But the rear quarters were up for a pic or two. It had doilies, just like an old Toyota Crown. Those must have been made to measure. The dash photo is the grey 280E’s sweet blue suite, which has extra wood, for some reason.
This encounter, lovely though it was, took place within a context. And that context was that I already had some W123s that had been bagged and tagged from a previous hunt.
One fine December morning, just a few weeks prior to uncovering this W123 nest, I had found a minor infestation in another part of town. In two different parking lots, just one or two blocks from each other, were two W123s. Which, I guess, makes this W12345.
This milder case was still cause for photographic action. Although I did not fully realize then that the invincible Benz was in such supply, I did have an inkling, after seeing two in under an hour.
Here’s the other one – drum roll please for the star attraction, the one and only 280CE coupé!
Much less common than its four-door stablemate, of course. I’ve been seeing a royal blue one around my neck of the woods for ages, but I’ve never managed to catch it. This silver one will do nicely.
More interiors were on offer. The coupé’s higher status and retail price was clear to see, what with all that wood on the centre console, though the grey saloon had that too. All cars were automatics, all were wrong-hand drive (for Japan, but that’s how they like their fancy foreign cars here, usually) and all were sporting fabric upholstery. No leather, not even MB-Tex – these Benzes are JDM as can be.
So that’s pretty much it. This was necessarily a pic-heavy (or text-light) post, as pictures tend to convey the feeling of helplessness associated with being overrun by W123s much better than words do.
CC Outtake: A Mercedes-Benz W123 Taxi in 2016, by Robert Kim
COAL: 1980 Mercedes Benz 300D – Slow and Steady Wins the Race, by Importamation
COAL: 1984 Mercedes Benz 300D Turbodiesel – One More Time, With Feeling, by Importamation