1979 Mercedes-Benz W123 240D 2.4 diesel from North America


The best car I've ever owned!


At 240,000 miles the vacuum system began to leak causing the automatic door locks to not work, the cruise control to fail, and eventually the engine to not shut-off. It became necessary to shut the engine off under the hood.

The fuel lines clogged after allowing it to run completely out of fuel.

A/C failed after approximately 220,000 miles.

Leaked oil excessively after about 200,000 miles.

The front seats eventually began to lose their straw-like stuffing into the rear floorboard.

General Comments:

What a car!

This car is a tank! You can't kill it even when you try.

This car is absolutely remarkable, and remarkably slow. It's 0-60 MPH time is over 19 seconds. So it's definitely not the modern AMG hotrod Mercedes of today. It does however have a great running gear and will run at 90+ MPH all day long, even with it's 60 something horsepower. The interior of this car is luxurious and comfortable, trimmed in wood and chrome. It has an old fashioned sense of luxury and charm that can no longer be found in todays high-end cars.

This car does something to your soul. It becomes like a member of your family. I sold this car at 275,000 miles and the last time I saw it (2 years later) it was running liike new. This was the best car I've ever owned. If you find one with low mileage, jump at the opportunity to own one of these machines.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 23rd February, 2005

8th Apr 2006, 23:54

Good review. I'm sorry that yours was an automatic. That must have been painfully slow. Ours was a manual, and it was slow enough. Great car though, tremendously reliable and it was fun to own, ride in, and drive.

13th Oct 2009, 13:00

Sounds good! I just bought a 1978 240D automatic with only 89,000 miles, it was a little old lady's car. Also I think the 0-60 time is more like 23-25 seconds, with the 240. I am not sure how yours went 90mph? The owners manual says top speed 83mph.

19th Apr 2011, 21:27

I have a 79 240d and plan on keeping her. A quart per eighty miles... Burning it. Lotsa oil smoke on deceleration, in gear. 60 plus and she burns more. If I keep her on the side roads, she'll burn less. Runs amazingly good and fires right up in the coldest temps that are here so far, and that's in the low 30s, which isn't that cold, granted.

I would sure like to find a 300d engine and do a swap...

Drives like a couch, and will darned near turn any turn at top speed!

Bug splats on the rear wind screen.

Don't know if I could drive her daily if I lived in San Francisco, you know??

This car is designed to be worked on, and it shows. You must maintain these cars! Someone let mine get low on oil too many times and that shot the rings and scorched a couple of the cam lobes... Noticed that when I did a valve job..

Looking forward to 100,000 more miles of oil burning cruising!

1979 Mercedes-Benz W123 280E 2.8, 6 cylinder. Fuel injection, double overhead c from South Africa


Good value for money, luxurious and stylish


Lost small volumes of coolant, fixed by replacing seals on the radiator. Approx. $9.

When cold, transmission is sluggish to switch from second to third gear. A shock could be felt on all transitions. After replacing oil and filters, all transitions are perfectly smooth, but switching from second to third when cold remains to be a problem. Warming up the car for a few minutes before setting out causes this to go away. Oil, filters and professional service approx $40.

Interior ventilation and air conditioning fan broke recently. Possible causes include dust clogging the system, we purchased this car from a rural farm, a lot of dirt had to be removed from everything when it first arrived.

Run-off pipe for air conditioner condensation has leaked into the car occasionally. We had this repaired with a dealer while on holiday, the fan broke shortly afterward, still need to get both these incidents checked by the local dealer.

Shocks had to be replaced when it first arrived. Dirt rodes in the farm area are the likely cause, nothing else wrong with the suspension. Shocks replaced, approx $80.

Both engine mountings had to be replaced (possibly also related to dirt roads). Engine mountings and labour, approx $100.

Lots and lots of light bulbs had to be replaced initially, approx $5. This is mostly due to the previous owner neglecting the car slightly.

General Comments:

This is the first of two W123's we purchased in 2002. A lot of dirt had to be removed, and some work done, due to the car coming from a rural farming area with a lot of bad, dirt roads.

The engine is still in perfect condition, and has only used oil once on a 2000 kilometer (approx. 1200 miles) journey through the Karoo desert, with temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees Celsius (approx. 110F).

The engine delivers a healthy share of power, and acceleration at speed is excellent. As with our other W123 (a year newer) this car is slightly sluggish when pulling away from a standing start. In Bloemfontein (almost 1 mile above sea level) it is extremely lazy, but at sea level in Cape Town (we experimented while down there last month) it has rather good torque, even from a standing start, owing to the better compression at that altitude.

The transmission is smooth, and selects higher gears at appropriate times. Unfortunately, this transmission does not automatically select a lower gear when more power is required, as with the other W123. Instead, the gear lever can be used to select lower gears in situations where this is needed. This may also be tied to the problem with selecting third gear when cold, and the box may need to be redone, but on the whole, it's good enough to leave it alone for the moment.

The interior is immaculate, a combination of functional comfort and classic style. All standard and luxury features are there, except for the power windows, which can be a hassle anyway. The ride is much smoother than the newer model W123, and even with brand new shocks, this car absorbs shock from the road gently.

The power operated sunroof is an interesting addition in this unit, combined with the eye-catching red paint job (original) and an abundance of chrome, it makes this car stand out in a crowd.

As with our other W123, considering the size and weight of the car, fuel efficiency is reasonably good, again, air conditioning and a heavy load have a negligible effect.

Handling is solid and the power steering makes city driving easy, considering once again the size of the car.

A host of gadgets and safety features come standard, like front and rear fog lights, and a buzzer to alert the driver that they have forgotten to turn off headlights or other instruments when leaving the car.

Although slightly on the expensive side, at roughly $2400, I still think it's a lot of car for the money, even more so when the relatively low mileage (for a Mercedes) and the reliability are considered.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 5th January, 2003