1989 Mercedes-Benz 230E – Classified of the Week

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By Chris Pollitt

This week’s classified of choice comes to you from a place close to our hearts here at Car & Classic, because we also have a W124 230 of a similar vintage to the car featured here. Ours, a once decrepit, fit for the scrapper, £100 wreck has been brought back to life. We’re using it as our main mode of transport at the moment, and even though it has some 203,000 miles on the clock, it’s still going strong. And after some mechanical work, some new fluids, a good clean and some new paintwork, it’s actually a remarkably nice place to be, and in which to be seen. And that’s our car. A W123 that errs more on the side of being a bit tired and worn. Yet still it feels tight and together and it’s reliable, comfortable and outlandishly smooth. Imagine, then, what an example with a quarter of the mileage would be like? Actually, you don’t have to imagine, because that’s what we have here. 

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The W124 took over from, unsurprisingly, the W123. The W123 was a car that had built a reputation for being as tough as old boots, a car that would run and run forever, that wouldn’t flinch in a crash and that would never break down. This was good for Mercedes-Benz, but at the same time, it was also bad. How do you follow that up? Mercedes engineers had to work very hard indeed, but because they’re Mercedes engineers, they knocked it out of the park. 

The W124 arrived in 1985 and brought with it the first use of the E Class name. This was clever, because at the time the only other car to have a ‘class’ was the W126 S Class. By giving the W124 a position within the ‘class’ system, it made it look to be a more upmarket car. Clever. 

Of course, it wasn’t just clever marketing. The W124 was and still is a formidable machine. For starters, it was put together by human beings. But not just any human beings, it was put together by Germans. And they know how to screw a car together. The fit and finish is, well, it’s teutonic to say the least. Efficient, solid, reliable. Certainly, our 203k car is still whisper quiet inside. 

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Mechanically, the W124 was offered with a whole host of engines. People in roll-neck jumpers will tell you it has to be a six-cylinder. Ignore them. The four-cylinder, as fitted to the car pictured here (and ours), is a trusty, reliable unit. It’s cheap to service, it’s easy to work on and it’s got more than enough power to pull the W124 along. You won’t be winning any street races, but that’s not what this car is about. You waft along while the four-speed automatic transmission does all the work for you. 

What else of the car seen here? It’s had three owners since 1989, but all have been in the same family. There are only 47,000 miles on the clock and it comes with reams and reams of paperwork detailing every bit of work that has been done to it. Externally, the car is painted in a fetching shade Astra Silver, which is important. It’s a colour that is unforgiving of rust or other imperfections, so it’s pleasing to see this car has none. Though rust prevention is something to stay on top of with a W124, as they like to rot – front wings, inner wings, rear inner subframe mounts. 

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It’s not often you can look at a car that, if looked after, could be the last one you ever need, but that’s what this W124 Mercedes-Benz is. There are few cars built so well. But within the world of W124s, there are few that have been cared for as exceptionally well as this one. It could be the best out there, and at a mere £5,995, it’s a bargain. And if W123s are anything to go by, the price will only go up.

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