What are collectables?
These are cars of special interest and therefore deserving of preservation. Not necessarily old, yet they exist in a defined quantity, either because the manufacturer has decided so, or because their production is stopped. Then, they take advantage of features that make them especially desirable: an engine, a chassis, a design, or a concept. Finally, they are likely to see their rating increase. An additional argument to collect them before everyone else!
Why is the Mercedes-Benz 280 W123 collectable?
Within a range primarily intended to function, the 280 brings power and pleasure thanks to its very beautiful 6-cylinder in-line twin-shaft. It retains the robustness and comfort of the other models to which it adds good performance, but is rather rare, because new, it was sold very expensive. Suddenly, it becomes difficult to find this German supercharged in good condition.
In the list of the strongest cars in history, the Mercedes W123 comes very high. Maybe even in pole position. We all have in mind the image of those taxis that have roamed the streets of the big cities of the world, we still saw them in Marseille ten years ago. In Germany, some taxi drivers went to express their disapproval in front of the Mercedes headquarters after its replacement by the W124, considered less reliable! The W123 has indeed been the object of great care in its design, as has the company’s flagship star, the S-Class W116. While it was ready for production in 1975, the manufacturer, very anxious to deliver the car as neat as possible, preferred to delay its arrival on the market by one year, the time to fine-tune it down to the smallest details. made possible by the good sales of its predecessor, the W114-115. Unimaginable today, including at Mercedes!
Technically, the W123 owes a lot to the S-Class W116. Like it, it benefits from a serious study against shocks, applying the ideas of Béla Barenyi, the Mercedes engineer who invented the programmed deformation zones combined with a hyper-rigid interior, a set patented in 1951. It has It also has an energy-absorbing steering column, while its four-wheel independent suspension is made up of anti-dive superimposed triangles at the front, and at the rear of oblique arms, all mounted on coil springs . It's modern and well done, without seeking innovation, however: the steering retains a ball bearing …
The style, directed by Friedrich Geiger, is inspired by the latest productions of the house: horizontal headlamps touching the grille, indicators projecting on the fenders, rear lights streaked to limit the effect of soiling, classic central cell. The 123 is modern and reassuring, but does not take any risks.
Under the hood, again, it's familiar. In essence, there are two 4-cylinders, a 2.0 l and a 2.3 l with 94 hp and 109 hp respectively, and three 6-cylinders. One 2.5 l of 129 hp and two 2.8 l, one with carburetor (156 hp) and the other with Bosch K-Jetronic mechanical injection (177 hp). In diesel, four units are offered, a 2.0 l of 55 hp, a 2.2 l of 60 hp, a 2.4 l of 65 hp and a 3.0 l of 80 hp (and 5 cylinders). A plethora of offers (less, however, than that of its predecessor) which is not reflected in the choice of transmissions, since we are only entitled to a manual or automatic 4-gearbox.
Prices range from 46,500 F (current € 30,500) for the 200 to 72,900 F (current € 47,900) for the 280E, very high values for the time. Especially since the equipment is minimal: even on the top of the range, the tachometer is optional! Consider that a Citroën CX 2000, much more sophisticated than the 200, sticks to 33,860 F. Its build quality is, it is true, not the same.
Either way, when it was launched in January 1976, the Mercedes was a big hit, with all of the year’s production sold out within weeks!
Then the W123 will constantly evolve, so let's keep it short. From 1977, it is available in coupe and station wagon, the latter being the first series produced by Mercedes. In 1978, the 280E went up to 185 hp, the power of its predecessor! The 240D follows the same trend, now benefiting from 72 hp. In 1979, the steering wheel lost the lateral ridges of its hub, the driver's seat was adjusted in height on all versions, and the panel sported a new plastic that was more pleasing to the eye. On the 280E, you can even get an automatic air conditioning!
The 200D climbing to 60 hp (what madness!), The 220D disappears, the 300D is now entitled to 88 hp and the 250 to 140 hp. Above all, the 300 TD Turbo-Diesel, the first station wagon with a supercharged diesel engine in the world (125 hp) appears.
In 1980, a new block was launched, the M102, in 2.0 l (109 hp) and 2.3 l injection (136 hp), replacing the old 2.0 l and 2.3 l. On the other hand, the 2.8 l carburettor is suppressed on the coupe. Another surprise, ABS enters the catalog of options.
In 1981, the petrol versions were finally able to acquire a manual 5 gearbox, imitated by the diesels.
In 1982, the 2.8L 156 hp disappeared for good, and this time it was the airbag that was available, as a supplement of course. At the same time, the heating controls are modified.
A final round of optimizations swept in 1983: all W123s were entitled to rectangular headlamps, the seat backs sport a new design, wood adorns the dashboard at no extra charge, the door seals were reinforced, a consumption indicator appears in the instruments and the 280E benefits from velor floor mats.
W123 sedans were withdrawn from the market at the end of 1984, station wagons and coupes followed in 1985. 2.7 million copies were produced, a record for a Mercedes of this range!
How much does it cost ?
W123s can be found at all prices. If we focus on the 280 injection, it takes a minimum of € 7,000 for a car in good condition, not requiring large costs, whether in sedan or coupe. Rarer, the carbureted 280s do not, however, impose a premium, unlike the station wagon. A correct 280TE will require a minimum of € 15,000, a really beautiful copy already flirting with € 20,000!
These prices are subject to wide variations depending on the condition of the car, more than its options or configuration.
Which version to choose?
The bodywork will be a matter of taste, but for fun, injection is preferable to the carburetor. In terms of the gearbox, the best is the automatic, the manual ones being slow to handle, the 4-speed does not encourage nervousness.
As much as possible, opt for a well-optioned 280, because initially it doesn't have much. Come on, the electric front windows and power steering are still standard… Pullman or leather upholstery, air conditioning or 4 electric windows will be most appreciable. If, in addition, we find one with ABS and an airbag … A word of advice: don't hesitate to pay more for a flawless copy. It will always be cheaper than refurbishing it.
These are the ones with low mileage, and appearing in perfect condition. Then there are the 280 TE station wagons, much sought after and expensive, as we have seen. 19,789 units were produced, compared to 126,004 sedans and 32,138 coupes. The least produced of all remains the 280 C (3,704 units), the 280 pointing to 33,206 units. They remain less desired than the injection versions, however.
What to watch?
The workmanship of the W123 is very careful, the sheets having been galvanized and electrophoresed, while the hollow bodies are filled with wax. However, although this is later than its rivals, this Mercedes rusts extensively, first in the wheel arches, then in the side sills, and finally in the trunk.
Then, given its enormous longevity (a neat 280 can easily go hundreds of thousands of kilometers), it is often worn to the core, especially if maintenance has been neglected. Special attention will be paid to running gear, engine / gearbox leaks and distribution. A chain does not mean zero maintenance: it must be checked and changed before 200,000 km!
Finally, the dashboard is sensitive to the sun, so splits on many copies. Good surprise, there are a lot of parts at Mercedes. At Mercedes prices, of course …
What impresses me with the W123 is its dated line, but not looking its real age. On board, again, the Mercedes looks younger than it is, not only in the design of the board but also in its resistance to wear. On the other hand, for luxury and fun, we will come back. We are strangely installed, between this immense, grainy and non-adjustable steering wheel which rubs on the thighs, and this firm seat but mounted on rather soft springs, which therefore moves a lot vertically. Afterwards, I'm a fan of Mercedes accessories from this period, such as the huge interior rear-view mirror, the large hyper-readable dials, the gradient of green on the top of the windshield (option) and the medicine box on the rear shelf. .
When starting up, the 6-cylinder is surprisingly sound, especially against the 2.0-liter and 2.3-liter 4-cylinder. But it sounds great! With the automatic transmission on D, I set off and appreciate the comfort of the suspension, the smoothness of the steering and the vigor of the engine. On the other hand, the chassis does not provide any particular approval, between the very marked body movements, the lack of overall precision and the lack of feedback. From this point of view, a CX is very superior! Fortunately, the balance and grip are good, which allows you to take advantage of the excellent engine, bursting with pep. This statutory sedan is close to 200 km / h despite its outdated aerodynamics (Cx of 0.43) and still knows how to surprise more than one at the green light. The block is very well supported by a well-spaced and lively 4-speed automatic transmission, although it does not have the smoothness of a GM transmission. As for the brakes, they are effective.
Reassuring above all, the 280E could be a worthy sport sedan with a firmer suspension (as noted by José Rosinski, who was the test driver for Sport Auto magazine, when he tested it in 1976) but as it is. , it dynamically transports the whole family in a delicious vintage atmosphere Derrick style. In terms of consumption, it's not that bad: 11 l / 100 km on average.
The newtimer alternative *
Mercedes-Benz W124 (1984-1997)
As much as the W123 was a reduced S-Class, its replacement, the W124, looks like a big 190. Indeed, in addition to its aerodynamic design signed Bruno Sacco, it borrows from its little sister its ultramodern running gear, including a multi-link rear axle . It also releases modular diesel engines (2.0 l 4-cylinder, 2.5 l 5-cylinder and 3.0 l 6-cylinder). In gasoline, it recovers the 2.0 l and 2.3 l of the W123, as well as the 3.0 l of 188 hp of the 300 SE. Then, the evolutions will be constant: 4Matic all-wheel drive and station wagon for 1986, coupe in 1987, 300 D Turbo that year which became the fastest diesel in the world, restyling in 1989 (full body rockers), fabulous V8 5 , 0 l of 326 hp in 1990 on the 500E, convertible in 1991, new range of engines in 1992… In 1993, it inaugurated the Class E designation and was redesigned for this occasion (the headlights no longer touch the grille), but the manufacturing quality drops a notch: it is a question of increasing the margin!
The 124 was replaced by the W210 in 1995, but the convertibles lasted until 1997. With 2.7 million units produced, it equals the 123. From € 2,500 in good condition.
Mercedes-Benz 280E 1981, technical sheet
- Engine: 6-cylinder in-line, 2,746 cc
- Power supply: injection
- Suspension: double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar (AV) slant arms, coil springs anti-roll bar (AR)
- Transmission: manual or automatic 4-box, rear-wheel drive
- Power: 185 hp at 5,800 rpm
- Torque: 240 Nm at 4,500 rpm
- Weight: 1,460 kg
- Maximum speed: 200 km / h (manufacturer data)
- 0 to 100 km / h: 9.9 s (manufacturer data)
> To find Mercedes 280 adverts, go to the La Centrale website.
* Newtimers are iconic or sports vehicles that are more recent than youngtimers, but whose value is rising. More reliable and easier to use on a daily basis, they owe their rise to technical characteristics that have often disappeared, such as large naturally aspirated engines.