A benchmark for quality and durability, the W123 Mercedes was produced between 1975 and 1986, racking up over 2.3 million sales in saloons alone. Targeted at the executive car market, it was also a popular choice for German taxi firms who valued its reliability and build quality, plus their ability to sell them on to the African market once they’d racked up half a million or more kilometres, where they continued in faithful service with minimal maintenance.
The W123 was an evolutionary design, building on Mercedes’ experience with its predecessor, the W114, and carrying over many of the engines from the previous model, at least at the outset. The 250 that we see here hails from the days when badging gave a reliable clue as to engine size, featuring as it does a 2.5 litre inline six which drives the rear wheels through a four speed automatic gearbox. The engine has a single overhead cam driven by chain and performance, while not scorching, is ample enough to keep up with modern traffic.
The model is widely regarded as the best Mercedes ever built and remains hugely popular as a classic.
This Cayenne Orange example was first registered on 30 June 1978 and apparently originally purchased by a Mercedes dealer in Norfolk. The story goes that it was bought to use as a run around and so the dealer was too tight to pay the extra £12 for a passenger side mirror! It racked up 25,000 miles fairly quickly and then passed to the garage owner’s father who used it very sparingly and serviced it himself. It stayed in the same family for almost 40 years before passing to a Mercedes enthusiast. The current owner, who lives outside the country, was looking for a classic to use when he is in the UK, ideally a W116, but found this car instead and has enjoyed it over the last couple of years but now has his dream W116 and so has decided to let this one go to a new owner.
Remarkably, given its condition, the car is believed never to have been restored.
The handbook and service record are present in the original leather wallet. As befits its status as a dealer car, there are stamps in the service bookup to 15,000 miles, reached within 18 months. Thereafter the paperwork trail goes a little cold as it was being home serviced and, while there are a couple of invoices from its time with the first post-family owner, there’s none for any major work as there doesn’t appear to have been any! There is a sheaf of MOTs and a glance at the online MOT history shows nothing more than a couple of advisories which have been dealt with. The car will be sold with a fresh MOT and comes with a set of three keys.
Although the condition of the exterior (see below) provides some clue, it’s still a pleasant surprise to open the door and find an interior that is, to all intents and purposes, as new. Although an executive car, it’s true that there is not a great deal in terms of modern creature comforts but it’s a tribute to the original build quality (and, probably, the car with which it’s been stored) that the interior has survived in such pristine condition.
Indeed, the car must have been kept away from sunlight for much of its life as there is no sign of fading or cracking to any of the interior. The seats show no signs of wear and are comfortable to sit in and the carpets have always been protected by overmats and so are also completely unmarked. The stereo appears to be original and the radio works, though cassettes being a rarefied item these days, it’s not been possible to test the tape player. There is one aftermarket addition though: a powered aerial, operated by a switch on the centre console. The headlining is clean and free from any sagging and the boot immaculate, with a full size spare and the original jack under the floor.
The first thing that strikes you when you see the car is obviously the colour. You won’t see many in this hue as it was available by special order only and that’s a shame in our opinion, as it suits the car well and is very seventies. But shortly after clocking the colour, you’ll be admiring the condition which, again, looks to have hardly aged at all.
The paintwork is in lovely condition, matched by the wheel trims, and the panels are all straight with no sign of any dents or blemishes that we could find. In the pictures, the offside front wing appears to be a slightly different shade which is a consequence of a scratch repair 10-15 years ago but it’s not really noticeable in the flesh and all the other paint is believed to be original. The chrome work is all absolutely pristine, the lights free from any misting or damage, and the tyres all have good tread. Underneath looks very clean and in fact the only areas worthy of note are the door rubbers which are a little cracked.
In all, this car would be a worthy museum piece because of its condition and will surely make its next owner proud.
Under the bonnet, everything is neat, tidy and very original. Looking at the MOT history, the car has been regularly used but just not very much. The current owner certainly uses it very infrequently and reports that it starts faithfully each time. On the road, it pulls well and changes smoothly while the ride quality could teach a lot of modern cars a few things. The brakes are powerful and there are no untoward noises from the drivetrain or suspension. Essentially it drives as well as it looks.
The W123 might be a born survivor but there can’t be many left in this kind of condition that haven’t been extensively restored. For a Mercedes enthusiast, here’s an opportunity to own their archetypal model in an unusual colour and surely be able to claim some silverware.Even for the non-Mercedes geeks, there’s much to appreciate in a car which has survived 43 years in such pristine condition.
So whether or not you’re a proud wearer of a Mercedes owner’s club t-shirt, if you want a stylish, practical and very original classic in a colour that will get you noticed, then get your bid in now.
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