A Mercedes called the Barrel – German motoring of the 1980s in one car
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A Mercedes called the Barrel – German motoring of the 1980s in one car

One could talk for hours about the merits of Mercedes W123. No wonder – after all, it is one of the best-selling models of the brand in history. Interestingly enough, the German company almost went bankrupt because of it.

Reliable and immortal

For the first time W123 hit the roads exactly on January 29, 1976. It was presented as the younger brother of the Mercedes W114. The barrel was a creation that accumulated a number of proven solutions, and this made it a reliable classic of German motoring. A group of engineers from ADAC carried out calculations, which showed that without major failures this car is able to drive up to 850 thousand kilometers. Precisely because of its faultlessness, Mercedes service technicians for some time did not register too many repairs. For this reason, receipts from workshops have significantly decreased. As a result, there were many rumors about the alleged bankruptcy of Mercedes

Why Barrel

The Mercedes W123 owes its nickname to the edgy shape that was fashionable in the late 1970s and early 1980s. From the lights to the bodywork to the hubcaps, the entire silhouette featured streamlined lines. Another typical detail was the metallized three-pointed star in a circle, the Mercedes emblem on the front of the bonnet. Among drivers, this emblem was synonymous with outstanding quality and trouble-free driving. It universally inspired admiration and envy in the eyes of owners of other cars

Sedan, coupe or station wagon?

The car was created in three body styles:

  • Sedan – W123,
  • Coupé – C123,
  • Station wagon – S123 T.

Sedans accounted for the largest number, more than 2 million units produced. What is more, they were the first to be produced. It is worth mentioning that among them about 14 thousand extended limousines were produced, which were often used by representatives of authorities, offices and cab drivers. In second place in terms of quantity came the station wagon – about 200 thousand units, and it was one of them that rolled off the production line on January 15, 1986 as the last one. The two-door version, or coupé, sold about 100,000 units, bringing the total to nearly 2.7 million!

The Barrels were fitted with gasoline or diesel engines. Among the gasoline cars the most popular was the 230E model with 136 hp, leaving behind the others – 200, 230, 250, 280, 280E. It is worth knowing that models with fuel injection were marked with the letter “E”. Gasoline engines differed significantly in the amount of horsepower – choosing the weakest – 200, we would have to settle for only 94 hp. The most powerful 280E could reach up to 185 hp. However, the diesels sold much better – among them, the 240D and 200D together sold nearly 830,000 units, or almost a third of the total production. In addition to them, there were also 240D, 300D and 300D Turbo versions.

The barrel was produced in 5 factories located in three countries around the world. To the people of Europe, the W123 could most likely come from the German factories located in Sindelfingen, Stuttgart or Bremen. In addition, production also took place in East London, South Africa and in Changchun, China.

Interior changes over the years

For nearly 10 years of production of Mercedes W123, a typical representative of German motoring, the car underwent minor modifications. The “square” upholstery installed in the first years of production was replaced by the iconic “herringbone”. The headlights also underwent changes – instead of round “glasses” from 1982, rectangular lights, previously reserved for more powerful engine versions, were fitted.

Unprecedented records

The year 1980 could be called the year of the Mercedes Barrel – at that time it became the most sold car in Germany. It should also be noted that there was a wait of up to three years for some versions of the vehicle, and the cars often fetched higher prices than factory models after one year of operation. However, they had the advantage of being available immediately.

Interestingly, Gregorios Sachinidis, who is from Greece, drove his cab – a Mercedes W123 with a 240D engine – 4.6 million kilometers and for 14 years (until 2018) this was the record for kilometers driven in a single car. However, Sachinidis gave his exhibit to the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart

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