From Carl Benz’s first car in 1885 through right now, one Mercedes-Benz product has by far the strongest reputation for reliability and build quality: the W123, ancestor of the E-Class. Diesel-engined W123s became legendary for running forever, and so many of these cars have had no problem staying in everyday service that it takes them until now to wear out and show up in car graveyards. Today’s Junkyard Gem is one of those cars, an extremely sensible 300 TD station wagon that showed up in a California wrecking yard last summer.
It’s tough to find gauge clusters in these cars in California boneyards, because eBay sellers tend to grab them within days (or even hours) of their appearance in a yard’s inventory. This car still had its cluster, so we can see that it traversed 254,624 miles during its 42 years of existence. Considering that I’ve found discarded Stuttgart oil-burners with well past 500,000 miles on the clock, a mere 254k just qualifies as respectable for one of these cars.
The turbocharged version of this engine wasn’t available in the United States until the 1981 model year, so what we’ve got here is a naturally-aspirated 3.0-liter OM617 five-cylinder, rated at 77 horsepower and 115 pound-feet. That’s right, seventy-seven horsepower, in a car that weighed 3,635 pounds. You had to be patient when driving one of these machines. A couple of years after this car was sold, I took my driver training classes in a German car with just 48 diesel horsepower.
The successor to the W123 was the W124, which was the first Mercedes-Benz model to get the E-Class designation (though not until 1993).
This one has faded paint, but the MB-Tex faux-leather upholstery inside still looks good.
Unlike so many Malaise Era junkyard cars that I find during my travels, this one looks like it didn’t spend decades sitting immobile in a yard or driveway. Instead, it was used as transportation until it wore out or just got too obsolete.
Certainly the ideal car for the big family.