• Graham Eason

Why We Love The Mercedes W123

Updated: Nov 27, 2019

In the mid 1970s Mercedes looked at its medium sized saloon car, the poetically named W114, and thought: you know what, that's actually quite good, lets just do another one.

And so the world got the W123, a car that looked exactly like something a small child would draw if asked to provide the outline of a 1970s saloon car. It had a boot, a trapezoid middle bit, and a bonnet. With, of course, a three pointed star on it.

Photo: Classics World

Yet in its quiet, understated way the W123 was revolutionary. And brilliant. While British Leyland fiddled around trying to build Rover SD1s, Mercedes churned out W123s by the thousand every day and every single one was built like a tank. No car at the time or since - particularly no Mercedes - has had the sheer hewn-from-stone feel of a W123.

The W123's solidity helped establish Mercedes as a genuinely aspirational car brand. The doors thunked, the switches clicked and everything worked all the time. It didn't matter that it was no better equiped than a Ford Fiesta, in fact that was part of the appeal - look no radio: yes, because ALL THE MONEY has gone into how it's built.

The W123 was so durable and so reliable that it filled taxi ranks as well as executive parking spaces, and the suits didn't matter. It was also hugely popular in Africa, where its reliability and solidity made it perfectly suited to rough roads.

All of this was buzzing around our heads when we took this beautiful Mercedes C123 in for restoration this month. The C123 was the pillarless two door coupe version of the W123 saloon, a car that somehow took the inherently boxy saloon profile and made it svelte and stylish.

The trouble with the W123 and C123 is that despite their reputation they do exactly what every other car from 1970s and 1980s does - rust. Not as fast and not as much, but they're not exempt from the terror of the tin worm. This example, a 230E in beautiful Cypress Green metallic, has been in one family ownership since new. But it was beginning to fray around the edges, particularly the front and rear arches and bottoms of the doors. These are all common C123 problem areas.

The owner wanted a good job at a reasonable price. The initial job was to rectify rot on two front wings. But as the car also had deterioration to the rear wings and doors we provide a separate quote for this too - often it can is cheaper, particularly where paint is concerned, to do the job all at once than in pieces.

This project involves replacing the two front wings, which were beyond economic repair, rectifying rot in the doors and repairing the rear wings with new inner and outer arch panels. The latter job is where all the work goes - as the photos hopefully show, it's also where experience and skill pays dividends.

We'll post more updates on the Mercedes as it progresses. In the meantime if you have a classic car (or van) project, feel free to call us on 01527 893733 or email info@greatescapecars.co.uk.

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