1984 MERCEDES-BENZ 230 CEView vehicle description
If the W124 saloons and estates were the last Mercedes-Benz cars built up to a quality rather than down a price, the W123 cars were the last to have been over-engineered to what is now an obviously ridiculous degree. Built between 1975 and 1986, they were offered in both petrol and diesel engine versions, as well as saloon, coupe and estate layout.
Interestingly, the W123 was the first Mercedes-Benz estate you could buy direct from the factory; previous versions having all been bespoke conversions carried out by third-party coachbuilders. The W123 was innovative, too. Anti-lock braking was offered as an option from as early as August 1980 and risk-adverse drivers could order their new Merc with an airbag from 1982. The cars also featured a retractable steering column and servo-assisted disc brakes; exactly the sort of faithful, safe and reliable vehicle that well-heeled drivers were confident to put their families in.
If the saloon was dull but worthy, and the estate capacious and unbreakable, the pillarless coupe was surprisingly svelte; few would ever call the W123 sexy, but the short-wheelbase C123 came closer than anything else in the range.
The rakish three-door coupe came in three flavours: the 230C (later the 230CE), and the 280C and 280CE. The latter is the most sporting in the range, with an inline-six that boasted 182bhp and 177lb/ft of torque, enough to propel the heavyweight to a top speed of 124mph after passing 60mph in just under ten seconds.
The buying public loved ’em, and almost 100,000 coupes were built in total during the eight-year production run. Which makes a good 280CE a very shrewd buy if you’re in the market for a classic daily driver that’ll swallow a couple of kids plus a loved one for decade after decade, with only the whiff of an oily rag to keep it running sweetly.
When owner Rob wanted a more robust classic that would drive with the reliability of an everyday car, he turned back to the W123 series Mercedes he remembered from the Eighties.
‘They were so well built,’ he remembers. ‘I wanted something untemperamental that could almost be like a daily driver – but without doing the miles.’ He found that in this beautiful silver-blue 230CE coupe. ‘When I saw it, I could see that someone had spent some money on it,’ he goes on. ‘It had a nice history and the car drove very well. And it feels more modern than a lot of cars from that time.’
And he loved the unique attributes of the Mercedes’ pillarless design; ‘’There’s so much light from everywhere, and with the all the windows [and pillars] down and the sun roof open, it feels almost the same as an open-topped car. It’s very comfortable; a relaxing cruiser, you can mosey along all day quite happily. ‘
Rob has had the coupe for seven months and it has made him realize he would like to drive in this manner most of the time. However, he thinks it unfair to put the miles on a classic – no matter how robust – so has decided to sell the CE and go for a later model Mercedes.
On the Outside
Like most Mercedes of the time, the W123s looked best in subtle metallic colours, and this silver with a tint of blue is no exception. The bodywork retains an excellent shine all round. Panels also fit together nicely, with door/bonnet/boot edges lining up evenly all around and the chrome strip belt line matching nicely with its counterpart on the next panel. The coupe has had new (authentic Mercedes) front wings fitted, and these blend in perfectly with the original panels, in terms of both fit and finish.
Looking into nooks and crevices - door hinges or opening the fuel filler cap, you can see that the care goes deeper than just the surface. For instance, that filler cap cavity is very tidy - the paint finish still holds up, and everything - the rubber mount and the flap hinge/spring is very clean.
There are a few blemishes of course, but you have to look very hard to find them. There is a small bubble in the paint on the scuttle panel and another on the sill on the off side (in line with the rear window pillar).
Though quite subtle in its placing, there is actually quite a lot of chrome on the coupe. All of it remains intact and it is in excellent condition across the car, remaining straight and tightly bonded to its mounting. There are no signs of pitting or discolouration at the joins, which themselves remain straight both on window frames and the bumpers. The rubber mounts behind them also look very healthy, maintaining a healthy black pigment and showing with no signs of overspray where panels were replaced. The large trademark Mercedes grill retains an excellent finish. Its three-pointed star shines brightly – as does all the badging.
On the Inside
Mercedes interiors - in any material - are tremendously durable, and the inside of the coupé looks good. This one is trimmed in blue cloth (rather than leather) and the cabin retains a fresh airy ambience.
The seats retain their shape with crisp edges and firm bolsters and cushions. The seat material, as well as the carpets and headlining are all very clean, boasting all of their original colour. Edges of seats both front and rear look remarkably good, with the vinyl piping retaining a neat border around each.
The interior plastics also look good. Those thick-set door handles, though robust, can take a lot of abuse, but here, they remain firmly mounted and scratch free. Also, the ‘shoulder’s of the middle pillar/seat belt mount can crack, but again, these look to be in very good condition.
Mercedes interiors (like so many luxury makers’) have some rather fussy details - chrome caps to door arm rests, chrome strips in the gear selector mounting, but all these remain intact and untarnished. Also, the gear stick itself and the steering wheel show no scratches and retain all of their original colour. Also, a Mercedes cabin wouldn’t be a Mercedes cabin without a generous helping of glossily lacquered, strongly grained wood veneer. Everything is present and correct in this area. The switch panel above the stereo is perhaps starting to show a hint of cracking. The stereo itself by the way, is the original Blaupunkt Melbourne unit.
Glass is good all round – no signs of leaks around windows – though the driver’s window does show some scratches from raising and lowering.
Again – looking from the inside or the outside – crevises and corners around window openings and rubbers, as well as the joins in materials, look to be very tidy.
The Mercedes looks to be very sturdy underneath – can we say that again; very. Inner wheel arches remain very clean and the underside of the car in general appears very robust. The underneath is very free of corrosion, looking to have been cleaned regularly and weather-sealed. Suspension components look strong and linkages supple and brake assemblies similarly so (the brakes reportedly squeak when used in reverse). The exhaust appears firmly mounted and looks fairly new. Edges and joins with the sills and superstructure look very tidy. As mentioned, the door cavities and hinges look exceedingly clean.
The engine bay looks very tidy and inspires a lot of confidence. The motor itself appears to be leak-free and its ancillaries look to be in good health too – all very clean with no signs of leaks. The black air box is clean and dent free. Smaller components; nuts and jubilee are likewise clean and look to be easily adjusted. Hoses and cables are clean, supple-looking and neatly connected.
All components are confidence-inspiring in their condition and total lack of grease or grime, while the very clean underside of the bonnet suggest there haven’t been any overheating issues.
Seams and folds in wing joins and bulkheads look very clean and the metal/paint in the wheel arches appears very sound. Looking deeper into the cavities brings no worrying surprises.
In back of the Mercedes, the boot space looks equally good. The carpets are tidy, clean and un-warn, and pulling them back reveals a solid-looking boot floor. The spare wheel cavity is likewise clean and the spare wheel itself is sturdy.
Okay; that’s enough ‘verys’ for one section; it certainly appears that this Mercedes has nothing to hide.
The 230 boasts a comprehensively-stamped service book showing plenty of main dealer and marquee specialist stamps. There is also a letter (from W123 World) confirming the genuine origin of the new front wings.
In the time Rob has had the car, he hasn’t had to carry out any serious maintenance, but we, like him, have been attracted by the clutch of bills from around 2016, which show a comprehensive refettling.
From February of that year, we see a thorough brake overhaul as well as a battery and fuel pump replacement. With some other jobs/components thrown in, this comes to £960. In July, the Mercedes had its fascia rewired, new headlamp wiper arms, and a hydraulic system flush (£500). There was another £1500 spent on the car in September, which saw a rear wheel bearing and window replacement and the repainting of the boot lid.
What We Think
The W123 series coupe is everything this owner bought it for; a sturdy, reliable, relatively low-maintenance classic, ideal for (preferably young) family outings or relaxed touring for a lone driver or couple. And this example can hold its head up at the local shows too.
With its understated good looks, practicality and fairly recent fettling,, we think this charming and versatile Mercedes will command a value of between £8,000 - £12,000.
Inspection is always encouraged, within Govt. guidelines of course, and this particular car is located with us at The Market HQ near Abingdon; to arrange an appointment please use the ‘Contact Seller’ button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.
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