Exactly 40 years ago this year a car was launched that would change everything.
An executive motor that would set a new gold standard for passenger safety, reliability, build quality.
A car for the well heeled discerning driver.
A car with understated style.
Ladies and gentleman I give you the Mercedes Benz W123.
I'm gonna make a very bold statement now.
But I think this is the perfect classic that you can buy and stick on your driveway today.
A motoring icon that you can buy and run on a realistic budget.
Prices are only going one way And savvy Carfection viewers might want to put their pension pots into one of these.
Now I think this is the best classic that you can buy for three very good reasons, which I'll get to in a minute.
But before then, a little history lesson.
You see, there was a time throughout the 60s and early 70s when half the world was ruled by a motley collection of despots, crackpots and [UNKNOWN] usually from the back seat of a big chauffeur-driven Mercedes Benz.
Schools of top [UNKNOWN] nutters include [UNKNOWN] Robert Mugabe, [UNKNOWN] love their big stretch mercs, especially the humongous 600 [UNKNOWN].
Big Mercedes were the chariot of choice for dictators like [UNKNOWN] Pol Pot, [UNKNOWN] Kim Jong Il And even Saddam Hussein owned one.
Several royal households kept 600 [UNKNOWN], as did the king of Rock n' Roll, Mr. Elvis Presley.
Even Columbia's self-proclaimed King of Cocaine, Pablo Escobar owned a stretch Mark 600 limo in which he survived more than one assassination attempt, thanks to the big Benz's bomb-proof build quality.
It's probably fair to assume that instead of ever being a well-attended, gross owners meet, back in the 1970s, you would have made Spectre HQ look like a Quaker meeting house.
So while the 600 grocer was ferrying around world leaders and the uber wealthy The western world's captains of industries, the doctors and barristers and people in that sort of chief executives were looking for something more compact.
Something that still had that whiff of Mercedes Benz cachet, but didn't make them look like a low rent bond villain.
Turns out the car they were waiting for was this.
Launched in 1976 the new mid-sized Executive Saloon played it safe design wise carrying over styling cues from its bigger brother.
But the W123 was much, much more than a cut priced grocer for the masses.
Passenger safety was one of the W123's key selling points with a super strong passenger cell.
Side impact bars, crumple Zones, drivers airbag and a collapsible steering column.
Born out of relentless crash testing, at it's German facility.
The Mercedes obsessive desire to build a world leading automobile.
Of course, the W123's pioneering use of ABS.
Coupled with double wishbone suspension and server assisted disc brakes Rohl intended to protect your precious investment and stop you from crashing in the first place.
Despite the high list price this car was an instant success.
In West Germany eager buyers had to wait at least 12 months at the local dealers to get their hands one.
In fact people were prepared to pay a 5,000 deutsche marks, about 2,000 pound premium, just to get their hands on one by buying a lightly used second-hand one from local Wheeler Dealers.
In fact, German buyers were so desperate to get their hands on.
One of these.
But there was stories of people loitering outside the main gates of the Mercedes Benz factories and actually harassing workers as they came out to see if they would sell them their own cars.
Because workers had been allowed to put in early orders.
So here are my three main reasons why I think this is the perfect classic.
So, it's safe, it has a big boot, room for five, decent mpg, well, apart from this one, the 2.8 litre, which admittedly is the one that you want.
But there is a super frugal diesel that hundreds of cheapskates have run for decades on waste chip fat.
But most importantly, it's Uber reliable
So how is this car 40 years old?
Can it keep up with modern traffic?
Well, it sort of depends which one you go for.
The two-liter diesel, the 200D only has 54 brake horsepower to haul around this 1.6 tons of grade-A German engineering.
So let's leave that one to one side.
This is the range topping 280 ce which had 175 and even 185 in some of the later models.
Now that might not sound like a huge amount today but in 1976 well let's put it into perspective.
The Ngb still couldn't make a 100 brake horse.
The new Golf GTI had 110.
Even the entry level Porsche 911 2.7 liter only cost over 150.
But anyway, all of that is irrelevant because today, even a mid-range diesel saloon Smoke a so called sports car from the 70s and 80s.
So what's the point?
Just relax and enjoy your classic.
I'm not going to talk about vulgar.
It's not a 60 sprint or never bring lap times.
If you want something for straight line speed and you've got soul, go buy.
Over the last 116 years, Mercedes-Benz have won pretty much everything there is to win in motorsport.
[UNKNOWN] the Le Mans 24 hours, and of course, Formula One.
But I bet you didn't know that the Mercedes-Benz W123 also has a rallying pedigree.
Obviously the W1-T3 was never going to become a sprightly lightweight sports car, but it was a rugged and dependable workhorse, ideally suited to long distance endurance running.
Where strength and reliability were far more important than outright speed.
The 280 was duly molegated by the FIA as a fairly standard group to rally craft, before it's rally dated in the epic 1977 London to Sydney marathon.
It's 30,000 kilometer endurance, threaded it's way between 30 checkpoints, but across three continents in 30 days.
And remains to this day the longest car rally in motorsport history.
The following year at the East Africa Rally against all the odds the two [UNKNOWN] shocked the motoring press by taking first and second places overall with all four crews finishing in the top eight.
Don't get me wrong, this car is a [UNKNOWN], it's no Porsche [UNKNOWN] but this car has done a whole
135,000 miles, it's been around the world five and a haf times.
And it's not a concours car by any stretch of the imagination.
I think it's about £7,000.
But this car just feels still incredibly well put together.
It feels really solid, it feels very Germanic.
Really, it's been my favorite car, I absolutely love it.
But there is one more very good reason why I think this is the perfect classic.
Mercedes-Benz is a blue chip brand.
That three-pointed star up front is one of the world's most recognizable status symbols, and like most designer labels, it is reassuringly expensive.
When this was launched It cost £12,000 without any toys in poverty spec.
That was about the same price as a 3 bedroomed semi detached house.
If you want celebrity endorsements well the Queen Mother had a W123 as did John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
In fact, it's probably no surprise that a W123 also had a starring role in the recent Mad Max film because come the nuclear apocalypse as we all know there will only be two things moving afterwards and that's cockroaches and automobiles.
It doesn't actually feel like it has 175 BHP, if I'm completely honest.
I suppose a lot of that power is sucked away by this rather sluggish three speed auto.
But it's four speed, but the first one is only in low, so by the time you get it up to speed it is Screaming a little bit, shall we say.
And it's got a straight stick.
Nicely sounding straight stick.
It's very [UNKNOWN] apparently will like that, it's new.
And, It is very soft.
it's got fourteen inch alloy wheels and seventy profile tires so it soaks up everything.
It soaks up all the Some bumps.
But you wouldn't really want to be taking on the [INAUDIBLE] pass, shall we say, in one of these at ten-ten.
But this car does everything.
[INAUDIBLE], it's got power, it can keep up with modern traffic, it turns heads, and since we pull over, they always say, well, they always know somebody who One or they've had one in the past.
Or there's some sort of anecdote that they're desperate to tell it.
It's a car that makes people smile.
This thing is an absolute dawdle to drive.
Compared to say an old NGB or even a Mini.
There's no comparison.
This thing just goes on and on and on.
You can drive it all day.
This is a classic that doesn't just sit in the garage gathering dust.
It's a car you can actually properly use.
When you think of Volkswagens, you think of the Beetle.
When you think of Fiat, you may think of the Fiat 500.
When you think of Mercedes-Benz, you think of the W123.
It's the most recognizable Mercedes-Benz silhouette The iconic Bentley.
So there you are, then, three good reasons why you should be scouring the small [UNKNOWN] to make a Mercedes-Benz W123 your next classic.
Reliability, motor sport heritage, and an air of sophistication.
it may well be the only car you'll ever need.