Thinking of w123 – Reputation of a classic

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Currently we think of the Mercedes-Benz w123 as the perfect Mercedes model which is pretty much a flawless classic. It is a car that resides in the super league of renown young classic cars. It is true they outlasted most other cars from that era and have a reputation for “superior” build quality and “reliability”. The w123 has indeed a large place in many people’s heart and often bring about memories and stories when nice examples roll by on the street. However the cult status of the w123 has maybe become a little skewered and starting negative discussions of the model is frowned upon in quite ideological ways. In hindsight this classic’s reputation might have become a little biased, as with most renowned classics (read: Ferrari).

Don’t worry I’m not trying to discredit the w123, but trying to convey a more realistic perspective of the model as a car looking away from the icon status. As any car or man-made object, the w123 is not perfect and comes with its quarks and weird engineering.

I was looking through an old review from 1977 of the 280E in Motor Sport Magazine written when the w123 was brand new. This is the perfect time to look into an unbiased opinion for the times and comparison to other cars at the market. If you want to read the full article, it can be found at https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/march-1977/37/mercedes-280e-w123

I’ll give some of the highlights opinion from the review under with my own comments on the matter:

Complaints

Complaint 1: One complaint is that the car is too expensive for the time, you could get more luxury and more performance from example Jaguar for less money. Also the extra equipment is expensive and 280 base model without electrical windows or sunroof starts at £8495 which is roughly £52700 in today’s money. Quite a lot!
Comment: This makes sense in 1977, but as time has shown, the Jaguar had many issues especially with QC and electrical system. Mercedes is a better built car, but is not as sporty with smaller (more boring?) engines and less equipment in general. In hindsight when you look at how long many of these cars have lasted, maybe it was not so expensive after all?

Complaint 2: Another complaint in the article is the low power of the 280 engine (remember this early version had only 177hp compared tot he 186hp of later models) and the author misses a bit the V8 power for this top w123 model which only clocks in 0-100km/h in 10s. The kick down is pointed out to be bit slow and the author recommends to keep in S when overtaking. Fuel efficiency was also not the best at its time where the author also points out that the engine is quite thirsty with 16-18mpg (14-12 L/100km).
Comment: I quite can understand the lack of performance when compared to cheaper Jaguars and BMWs at the time, but Mercedes never wanted this to be a sports car. That was reserved to the SL and top of the line S-class. The upgrades to the M110 engine in 1981 did increased its power and probably lowered fuel consumption a bit. I run mine 280CE from 1984 usually around 10 L/100km. The kick down is indeed slow, much faster to manually stick in S with the auto transmission.

Complaint 3: Plain interior and cheap plastic. The author points out the spartan interior, sparse use of real wood and really nasty cheap plastic used on the side door pockets. Also the boot has a cheap looking tool kit compared to a BMW.
Comment: The interior is very plain, but has kept the styling somehow timeless and looks nice too this day. I personally really enjoy the large air vents int the dash. The cheap plastic and nasty on the doors rarely breaks, except the glove compartment-lid. It always breaks and is definitely cheap plastic!
The author credits the seats for being quite firm and good, but I think the seat comfort can be quite uncomfortable on long rides. I wonder how other cars were at this time?

Complaint 4: Road and engine noise. The complaint is that Jaguars are superior in this department. Especially the wind noise from the and large flat mirrors and poor engine noise insulation is pointed out.
Comment: Agreed, quite some wind noise especially in the coupe version. The wheel sills can clearly be heard on gravel roads. Also the engine valve tick is clearly audible in to the passenger compartment. They should have put a bit more sound proofing, but it does save weight.

Recognition

Recognition 1: Rev happy engine. The straight six is very rev happy going up to 6500 before the red-line. The author also points out the engine has superior smoothness to V8s at the time.
Comment: A bit contradiction to the first complaint, but I see the point. I think the M110 feels fast and can keep up with modern traffic pain free. The straight inline 6s have perfect balance and are superior to any other engine configuration. It’s one among economic reasons why Mercedes has reintroduced them in their new cars and stopped V6 production.

Recognition 2: Brilliant suspension and road handling. The w123 utilizes the latest technology from the S-class at a cheaper standpoint. There is little body roll and the ride feels more comfortable than harsh BMWs while still being agile. Also the car has wet weather stability than the S-class. Super maneuverability with the recirculating-ball servo. Also impeccable braking with large disk breaks on all four wheels.
Comment: This I totally agree with! You can toss the w123 around mountainous roads at full speed without being daunted, there is a clear indication when you are pushing the limit with the classic wheel whine without the car going sideways. There is a reason why there were so many w123 Taxis going around back then, they can easily turn on a dime in the city. I was not aware that the ride was better than the S-class (w116) in wet. KUDOS!
NOTE: I should point out that you can get two different dampers to w123: Comfort and Firm. I will highly recommend the latter due to less body roll. And go for the Bilstein versions!

Recognition 3: Business as usual with effortless automatic door locks, boot and filler cap. Simple control of the functions such as lights, wipers and mirror adjustment. No fuzz about. The headlights can be adjusted wit a single knob
Comment: This makes Mercedes so easy to operate so you can focus on the driving without getting lost trying to find the door knobs. It makes the car a bit spartan though, and many really enjoys the weird quarks of old Porsche and Italian classics.

There is much more details in the magazine. I hope this gives some more nuances of a classic car such as the w123. Happy reading.


Cheers, Robs out!

1990 Mercedes 230TE w124 added to the fleet

Reading Time: 2 minutes

You might ask how can you go from 6.0L V12 to a 2.3L dull station wagon? Good question! This car will be a workhorse car for all year use, hauling trailers and transporting stuff.

It’s a bit scruffy looking when you get up close and have the impression of standing outside too long without a decent polish.

Lets start with the pros:

  • It’s a Sportline version – Oh yes Sport with 132 HP
  • It has ADS (automatic differential lock), so usable in the Norwegian winter
  • Mechanically the car runs fine, engine and breaks etc.
  • No significant rust to speak of
  • The black metallic color is quite nice and more easy to sell than for example green
  • No electric windows, so less things to break
  • AC seems to work OK
  • It has an electric sunroof that can be opened and closed
  • Comes with a DAB radio – FM is obsolete in Norway
  • It is face lift 1 – looks better than the 85 original and does not have the rust paint problems of face lift 2

And then to the negatives:

  • No electric windows – I need to please my luxurious ego
  • The sunroof tilting function is not really working at the moment – not the end of the world
  • There is a leak from the hose of the rear window washer reservoir – needs to be fixed
  • The cables and vacuum hose of the right front door have been cut
  • The driver seat is quite worn and needs a new sitting pad
  • Door check straps needs to be changed
  • Switch for the rear wiper needs to be replaced
  • Front plastic bumper has cracks – needs replacement
  • Fabric interior, where is the luxury?
  • Ugly unoriginal rims – Needs to be changed for sure. Good thing I have some original w126 rims that can be bolter straight on
  • Worn winter tires
  • The key for the door and ignition are different

So is this a lemon car? Not really, but not a show car either. It has some issues and the age shows. The price also reflected that. The mileage is not low either at above 350.000 km, so at least its driven in properly.

Many of will might ask how I can drive 3 cars simultaneously around. Well obviously I don’t. Mostly my father will use it as his daily driver. I can though see some nice articles come out of it. And having the opportunity to drive a classic w124 can be fun!

This is just a quick teaser. A full review will be posted at the end of the summer! So stay tuned.

Cheers, Robs out

Visitor Record

Reading Time: 2 minutes

2 year status and review

Finally the web page managed to beat the visitor record from the old car blog after I deleted back in 2017. Things looks like it will go golden if this continues! The rise in visits have really sped up after 100K visits. In a few days it is expected to pass 150.000 visits, which is 5.000 more than the old page ever got. It is also twice as fast to reach these results compared to the old one. High quality articles on a simple and easily navigable site is really beneficial.

I’ll share some statistics obtained from both internal in WordPress Statistics plugin and Google Webmaster tool. The accuracy are probably not 100% accurate, but give a reasonable estimate.

The benchmark of visitors all time vs recently. Very pleased!
1000 per week is better than a single year than the visits on the homepage of my work for an entire year.
The US is still the car capitol of the world, also other English speaking countries are heavily represented due to the page language.
I’m surprised that the w123 280CE Coupé review is the most popular page. I need to do more reviews then…!?
This is an interesting statistic from Google. It shows the results from the last 16 months. There were almost 15.000 clicks from the searches, where 313.000 references was viewed from the searches. Average CTR is the percentage of clicks vs the search result which is almost 5%.
Average position is the placement on the search order, so on average this is on the second search page as number 13. Overall pleased!
This graph shows the search engine referral clicks for the last year on different search providers. Most people still use Google as shown in the blue graph. By this I can work out what is the most popular periods during the year. August seem to be most active and end of December is totally dead. By this I can work out prediction of when sales campaigns returns the most yields, if I ever get into that.. hehe.
Personally I have switched to the DuckDuckGo search engine and is very pleased by the performance and the non tracking policy.

How to adjust the valves in the M110 engine – Part 1.5

Part 1.5 of valve adjustment of Mercedes M110 Engine. Stuck valve adjusting nuts require a DOHC valve compressor tool, which is hard to obtain for this engine.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Christmas came early..

Notice the part 1.5 nonsense, what is that all about you might think to yourself? Have I gotten mad over New Year’s? It’s rather just because of the half usefulness of this article. Since you readers are mostly DIY mechanics and Mercedes enthusiasts, I want to convey a story of the journey toward valve adjustments of such an old engine. In this way we share the ups and downs, the challenges and successes, and maybe learn something on the way.

Remember in Part 1 https://mercbenz123.com/posts/valve-adjustment-m110-engine-part1/ where I ended with 4 different options listed with increasing price and pain? Well since Christmas came early (2018) I ended up somewhere with a solution in the middle of option 1 and 2. After trawling the used car tool market, mostly ebay, I managed to find a seller which sold a late 70s vintage Mercedes valve compressor kit for DOHC engines. Although not specific to the M110 engine it is close enough, that with a few modifications it might just work. Let me just say it was the most expensive vintage tool I have ever bought. Lets hope it can come to good use!

Mercedes late 70s DOHC valve spring compressor tool.
Mercedes late 70s DOHC Valve spring compressor tool for several engine models.
M110 DOHC valve compressor tool
This is the M110 engine specific tool which is out of production. Looks similar right? Although not the same, I’m sure we can adjust the obtained one to do the same job with some modifications.

I almost did not buy due to the high asking bidding price, but after the deadline was reached it was still for sale. I decided to go for it as a Christmas present for myself and bid on the tool for a little less. Chance happened that we compromised and reached a fast deal. Two weeks before Christmas it landed in the mail box.

Valve spring compressors
It came with 4 different valve compressors. I might use the second from the left with some modifications.

It comes with 4 different valve compressors, although I’m not sure if any of them fit right out of the box. I might need to adjust one of them. The lever bar has a simple screw on attachment to swap out the compressor ends. The Hook is not attached, but can be placed in different grooves. I might also need to adjust the arrangement here as well.

Under I have tried to visualize how the tool is operated on the valve head. The idea is to compress the valve just enough so I can slide off the rocker arm. Since the valve clearance adjusting nuts are so tight we need a socket over the nut which is naturally blocked by the rocker arm.

I tried to overlay this tool over the valve and camshaft arrangement in the M110 engine. Here The sizes are not 1:1 but illustrates the point. Already here we can see that there might be clearance issues between the engine wall and the compressor. Also the circular edge for the compressor surface has to be cut, so it can slide onto the valve top under the rocker arm.

I’m excited to see how the tool can be used in real life, but since it’s winter and the car is hidden away, this have to wait until spring. I’ll keep you posted on the progress in this journey as soon as possible.

Cheers! Robs out


Other news: I tried to sell the S600 in the autumn, but was unfortunately little interest which is hard to believe when regarding the current economics and huge interest in classic cars. Norway is a weird country.. The car is in mint condition with low mileage so I will not give it away for free. I will instead keep it and enjoy it, make some good articles about the w140 and let time mature it into a true classic.