It’s one of those legendary vehicles that inspired tales of bulletproof reliability, except that it probably wrote the book instead of taking a leaf out of it. Such was, and still is, the robustness and might of the Mercedes-Benz W123 that still managed to exude the luxury that was to be expected from the tri-star marque.
The W123 was from a time when luxury didn’t necessarily mean ostentatious or overly-done. It was a vehicle that placed a stronger emphasis on executing its responsibilities but still indulged its occupants in a little extra grandeur that made the commute that much more enjoyable.
Unlike today with premium marques catering for the wealthy and well-off, the W123 could be enjoyed by a larger section of the car-buying public and even did its duty as taxis and limos, painting it in a more accessible shade for all.
It was an icon in its own right, to the point that we all knew somebody that knew somebody who owned a W123. For me, it was the ride of choice of a friend’s dad. That handful of times I took a ride in it left me with quite an impressive impression of it.
While it did project an image of luxury, never once did it make you feel metaphorically small or out of your league in the company it kept. The same feeling was replicated in the experience of sitting in the car.
The ride was supple and the materials top notch without being overwhelming, making you feel welcomed and even at home in the car rather than privileged to just sit in it.
Luxury in the 70’s and 80’s played by different rules, or perhaps luxury then catered to a simpler world. Either way, recreating that would seem to be a walk in the park at first, but once you get the ball rolling, it’s easier said than done.
Fortunately, the owner of the 200E featured here, together with his partner-in-crime, the W123 200T wagon, nailed it when it came to restoring the classics without ruining how it perfectly defined the opulence of that ear, or rather the simplicity of it all.
The 200E here is powered by the M115 engine that came in a number of variations and was employed in the predecessor of the W123 before being carried over largely unchanged into the W123.
It was a simple reason that kept Stuttgart from tinkering with it too much. As I mentioned earlier, this range of engines had an emphasis on reliability and thus, it had already earned a bulletproof reputation that the Germans figured didn’t require any improvements yet. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Nonetheless, the reliability and seemingly immortal nature of the engine resulted in average-at-best power outputs and even worse fuel economy, even for that period. It managed 94hp and 158Nm of torque.
Currently, it keeps rolling in the same state it left the factory but with the addition of a Stromberg carburettor for some extra fuel. That single add-on is the only thing that is changed under the hood.
The transmission that came with the car was a four-speed manual, and the bulletproof reliability extended to the transmissions as well; negating the need to tinker with that. Furthermore, the novelty of a four-speed manual holds quite a bit of weight in the restomod scene here so kudos to the owner.
It’s universally accepted that a handful of cars from that time, including the W123, had the perfect shape that accentuated everything about its exterior with just a simple suspension drop on the right set of rollers. Not many cars can lay claim to such a bold statement, but the W123 does so with such candour that it is often mistaken for arrogance.
The ride height was dropped with a set of compressed lowered springs in all four corners before being filled with BBS wheels. Come on now, nothing else but BBS would suffice in a situation such as this would it?
The choice of BBS wheels were the RG variant in 18x8jj for the front and 18x9jj for the rear. Some Maxxis rubbers measuring 225/40R18 reside up front while stickier Michelin Pilot rubbers in wider 245/35R18 trim call the rear home for that extra grip.
Key to maintaining the restomod feel of the car was to leave the interior largely untouched save for a few minor touches. In this sense, the owner nailed it once again. The choice of upholstery is none other than the marque’s own take on premium vinyl, MB Tex.
One would argue that MB Tex is just a nicer name for vinyl but bear in mind that this is Mercedes-Benz, the epitome of luxury for that era. While MB Tex is indeed more vinyl than leather, you would not be able to tell from feeling it. Many owners agree that MB Tex is more durable and lasts longer than leather, which is perfect to ensure this W123 stays on the road for the next decade or more.
That exterior shade also plays a huge role in rejuvenating the car. Borrowed from the DuPont Centauri catalogue, the shade of blue for the body and silver for the roof blend perfectly to enhance the angular lines of the car.
With so much blood, sweat and time put into restoring this 200E, here’s to seeing it rolling down the streets for decades more to come.
Blue/Silver metallic two-tone DuPont Centauri paint
SPEC CHECK: Mercedes-Benz W123 200E Sedan
Engine: M115 white-engine, Stromberg carburettor | Displacement: 1988cc | Bore & stroke: 87mm x 83.6mm | Power output: 94hp
Torque: 158Nm@ 3,000rpm
Electronics: What electronics?
Transmission: Four-speed manual
Chassis & Handling: Compressed lowered springs all-around
Rolling Stocks: BBS RG wheels, 18x8jj (front), 18x9jj (rear), 225/40R18 Maxxis (front), 245/35R18 Michelin Pilot (rear)
Interior: MB Tex upholstery, stock
Bodyworks: Blue/Silver metallic two-tone DuPont Centauri paint
Words: Dinesh Appavu | Photos: Haznajims