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1982 Mercedes-Benz W123

A German legend

To those with a penchant for German engineering and stylish reliability, the Mercedes-Benz W123 has become a legendary must-have. Launched in 1975, the successor to the W114 was so in demand that the production line struggled to get up to the necessary speed and as a result, a healthy market in ‘nearly new’ vehicles selling at a profit was quickly cultivated. But just what made the W123 so appealing?

A safe bet

Whilst the Mercedes-Benz W123 could never really lay claim to having set many hearts racing, its squared looks weren’t completely short on style. What was guaranteed however, was the build quality and ‘safe’ mechanicals that the Stuttgart manufacturer was already famed for; this was Germany’s Volvo and the success of the W114 meant that faithful customers wanted a slice of the new model – be they families looking for a new all-rounder, or taxi firms, for whom the purchase of a Mercedes-Benz simply made for an excellent business decision.

Body styles

Although the W123 was initially launched as a saloon, a coupé (C123) followed just two years later. The reduced wheelbase and two-door status allowed for an injection of style that chimed with those whose children had fled the nest, but 1977 also saw the reveal of an estate version: the S123. This soon became the incarnation of choice; growing families could enjoy the increased space, whilst a large boot, roof bars and optional third row of rear-facing seats offered all the practicality needed in an increasingly lifestyle-orientated world.

Under the bonnet

The staple power plant of the W123 was a trusty two-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine that had been carried over from previous offerings. A diesel version was a popular option with those needing to use the saloon as business transport, but both had already proven themselves to be sturdy, reliable and capable of chalking up the kilometres without major issue.

Although power wasn’t a key part of the W123’s appeal, fuel delivery evolved and injection offered over a carburettor-fed set-up. For those wanting something larger and the ability to maintain bragging rights over BMW owners, a six-cylinder unit was available – offering a noticeable increase in power over the inline-four and even more so when fitted with the Bosch fuel-injection system.

On the road

In any of its forms, the cabin of a Mercedes-Benz W123 is simply a nice place to be. With a variety of specifications available when new, you could find yourself sitting on cloth, velour, leather or vinyl trim and looking at an optional wood-trimmed dash. Whatever boxes were ticked when ordering however, the W123 still feels relatively modern in classic terms and this is something that is equally apparent when on the road.

The combination of front double wishbone suspension, rear semi-trailing arms and coil springs with telescopic dampers means a reassuring ride and although slightly firmer than some other offerings on the market at the time, it is in no way harsh. Cornering is equally as comfortable – even at increasing speeds and with only a touch of roll, whilst the 10-inch disc brakes inspire confidence as you familiarise yourself with the car.

With the straight-six providing the power, the automatic gearbox allows the engine to use the revs on offer and, although a manual ’box was also available, the auto option certainly doesn’t hinder the W123’s progression when pushed and is flexible enough to cope with either end of the driving style spectrum – equally at home with ‘lazy’ changes around town.

There is little wonder that the Mercedes-Benz W123 was such a huge success and that highly-prized examples still remain in the garages of enthusiasts the world over. Timeless class, subtle style and hardy mechanicals still make for an excellent investment.

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