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1982 Mercedes-Benz 230E review
OWNER RATING 7.6 /10
  • Still enjoy driving it; So cheap to maintain; Nothing has gone wrong yet; Fire-extinguisher is still there
  • Need to buy some new cassette tapes because my current selection is rather limited; Moroccan taxi drivers like it even more than I do; Will my grandson/daughter laugh at me when I try to pass it down to them?
PRICE N/A
ANCAP RATING N/A

by Ranil Illesinghe

I first wrote a review of my W123 in December 2016, which you can read here. It was my intention to write a follow-up after 12 months of ownership had elapsed, but instead here I am writing a 17-month one.

So I guess the question is, 17 months down the track and 6000km later (the odometer now reads 37,000km), do I love the car as much as I did back then? Another question might be – has a situation arisen in that time that warranted the use of the original, driver’s seat-mounted fire extinguisher? Well…

For the first few months, Panzer the W123 was treated purely as an occasional car, being driven about once a fortnight while Remy the Fiat 500 performed daily driving duties. During this time, the big German never failed to bring a smile to my face, mostly wafting about through the autumnal streets of Melbourne, while seemingly making the whole world move at a more relaxed pace. Driving this car became almost like a form of contemplative meditation – my sanctuary from the mad, connected and dizzy modern world.

However, in August 2017, it was asked to perform a different role – that of daily driver. You see, Remy the Fiat 500 had come to the end of its lease, and it was time for it to be sold to its next lucky owner. Bruce the BRZ was chosen to be its successor, but that was going to take a bit over two months to make its way to our fair shores from the Land of the Rising Sun. So hence, Panzer was asked to perform the duty.

I must admit that this had me slightly worried. How would this 34-year-old car (albeit one with very low kilometres) handle this task? Would I be left stranded on the side of the Eastern Freeway on a cold, wet winter night? Would it stubbornly refuse to start one morning when I had an important meeting to attend? Would it get stolen from a shopping centre carpark and shipped off to Morocco and subjected to a hard life as a taxi?

Of course, I needn’t have worried. There is a reason why these things were, well, stolen and shipped off to Morocco to serve as taxis in the ’80s – they were, and still are, known for their build quality and bulletproof reliability, and this was also my experience during those months. Nothing went wrong at all. It started first time, every time. It always managed to feel solid and secure on the road, even in trying conditions.

The cabin proved to be toasty, comfortable and, yes, constantly filled with the dulcet tones of Jim Reeves and Engelbert Humperdinck. The hairiest moment came one night when a bike cut across in front of me, which I managed to avoid successfully via a combination of locked brakes, mad twirling of its ship-sized steering wheel, and body roll that resembled a sumo wrestler competing in a speed-skating race.

When the BRZ arrived in October, I promptly put Panzer on club plates. That cost around $150. Doing this reduced its insurance premium to only $15 a month. The yearly service cost was $350. The fuel economy is reasonable for something its age and size – around 10L/100km. And of course, depreciation is a non-factor. So on top of being elegant, comfortable and characterful, the W123 costs me barely anything to maintain. So it now sits in the garage and gets driven about once a month, and it is a drive that I look forward to every time.

So to go back to my original two questions – yes, I love it just as much now, 17 months later. Perhaps even more than I first did. And no, the fire-extinguisher is yet to be removed from its bracket, although one day, during a spot of barefoot-driving, I did manage to stub my toe on it while getting into the car.

I am convinced that this is a forever car for me – and perhaps one that I will one day pass down to a member of a younger generation, who, despite not knowing how to drive due to the proliferation of autonomous cars, will somehow appreciate it.



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MERCEDES-BENZ 230 BREAKDOWN

1982 Mercedes-Benz 230E review Review
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  • 9.5
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