A white one with the matching white hubcaps bearing the three-pointed star. This is the image that usually comes to mind when people think of Mercedes-Benz. Well, at least those of us old enough to remember or even experience the W123 iteration.
Manufactured from November 1975 to January 1986, the Mercedes-Benz W123 was one of, if not, the most successful models sold by the German marque, with some 2.7 million units released. But what made this particular iteration so popular even up to this day?
- – It had a certain sense of style: Sure, it wasn’t flashy or sleek by any stretch of the imagination. It was more squared off with a very few rounded edges. The interior was likewise more about function than form. Yet this is what made the W123 (the car’s internal code) a hit. It has an appeal that has withstood the test of time.
- – Features that were ahead of its time. Depending on how buyers spec’d it, one could get goodies like tempomat cruise control, power windows, a five-speed manual transmission, power steering, an “Alpine horn” that could be adjusted for loudness, a vehicle pre-heating system, and vacuum-power doorlocks. While these may seem like mainstream items today, you must remember that this was between 1975 to 1986—when stuff like this were a big deal and cutting-edge.
- – It had advanced safety systems: Anti-lock braking system and crumple zones—these were pretty advanced for the day. This made the Mercedes-Benz W123 one of the safest cars on the road.
- – Durability: These cars, as people would say, were built to last. Some examples could go as much as 500,000- to 1,000,000kms with only minor problems. It’s no wonder that many are still being used as taxicabs in various parts of the world. And of course, the collector car of many a Mercedes-Benz enthusiast.
For me personally, this was the car that ignited my passion for the brand. Being a car-crazy 8-year old, I first laid eyes on the W123 when my family and I were in the US in 1980. It was a white 240D with a blue interior. I also got to ride it a few times over the course of two or so weeks as the car belonged to my Aunt No frills, no fuss. Yet since then, I had a thing for the car and the brand.
And I’m pretty sure this is what others like me see in this no-nonsense Merc. Or Chedeng, as we Filipinos endearingly call the brand with the three-pointed star. An appeal that is sure to last for years to come.