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Old 05-26-2003, 01:06 PM
Posts: n/a
123 = Economy, 124 = Expensive

I have come to the end of my economic rope with my 124 car.

I bought my manual transmission 300E in early '98 at less than 80K miles, and kept it tucked away alot. About three years ago, the engine in my trusty old 240D turned loose. At that time I started driving my 300E on a daily basis and thought that I could never go back to a 123 car. This was because DRIVING a 124 car is a fabulous experience compared to a 123. They are a fabulous driving machine. The 123 cars pale by comparison when sitting in the drivers seat.

At about the same time, the 240D laid down, not too long after the 300E had to have headwork so I found myself afoot. That was October of 2000 and I bought a new C240. One month after that we had a massive layoff and the company has been going down the tube ever sinde. For that reason I tucked away the C class, put the 300E back together and kept driving it to keep mileage off the C in case things got so bad I had to sell it.

The 300E now has 251,000 miles and is like a horse that is eating me out of house and home. I am buying parts for this car CONSTANTLY. None of my 123 cars EVER required so much repair.

I don't mind the work involved in the repair too much, even though most things that are simple to accomplish on the 123 are more involved on a 124. In my current situation, having gone through two pay cuts in the last two years and wondering every day if the company will survive, parts for the 124 are RIDICULOUSLY expensive as compared to 123 parts.

My front flex disc on the 300E went out AGAIN. This part is over $70 for the 300E as compared to the $35 or so I paid for the same 123 part.

I am ready to put on a full speed ahead campaign to put my 240D back on the road. I have one other project to finish (my tractor) before I dive in, but as it stands right now, I'm parking the 300E. I could pay a car payment for what I put in it every month in parts. I'm just fed up.

I have been saying I would restore the 240D when I retire. Instead I think I'm going to restore the 300E when I retire and drive it occasionally as a toy instead of trying to keep the expensive beast on the road for 1,000 miles a week as I do now.

Sick and tired in Texas,

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Old 05-26-2003, 02:46 PM
240Joe's Avatar
Registered User
Join Date: Nov 2000
Posts: 525

I wonder if it' a combination of the 123 versus the 124 and the year of manufacture. I've had 3 mercedes cars, all diesels. A 1980 240D, 1983 300D and a 1987 300SDL. I've maintained them all and it just seems to me that somewhere between 1983 and 1987 the quality of the parts went way down. My 87 had some parts wear out at between 100k miles and 150kmiles that my 240D with 250kmiles never had.

I seriously believe that somewhere in that time frame Mercedes cheapened the parts quality in an attempt to get the overall cost down, I believe to compete with the upper end Japanese cars.

I know you a big fan of the 240 with a manual transmission but I have to say that if I had to pick my favorite of the three that I owned it would be the 1983 300D. That said, my 240 will last until she returns to the earth (rust).

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Old 05-26-2003, 03:53 PM
Posts: n/a
The five cylinders have two strikes against them in my book. Strike one is the blasted things are a PITA to work on vs. the four cylinder.

Strike two, all the five cylinder models have automatic everything, windows, sunroof, ACC, etc. These are just expensive gadgets to give trouble. I learned many years ago how to open my own sunroof, wind down my own windows and in spite of what some people think I really do have enough sense to turn up the temp when I'm cold and turn it down when I'm hot.

I don't think that MB tried to build the 124 cheaper than the 123. In fact I believe the opposite is true. The 124 is a much more expensively built car due to its complexity. My 240D cost less than $20,000 new, while only four years later my 124 cost almost $50,000 new.

To me this is not a case of building it cheaper, it is a violation of the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid.)

My $0.02,
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Old 05-26-2003, 04:03 PM
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Woolwich, Maine
Posts: 3,597
I agree with your assessment. Overall I believe the challenge both in the market place and in the engineering departments of Mercedes-Benz changed when more stuff was integrated into the car. The initial challenge, and the W123 series came at the end of this basic challenge, was to make a great, basic car. Later the challenge became to make a car with integrated systems, like air conditioning, and electrically operated doodads (seats, windows, sunroofs, and so on), while adding safety equipment (air bags, anti-lock brakes) and meeting emissions requirements. The W123 series Diesels had a "get out jail free" card on emissions.

All this added equipment and regulatory performance mandated a new allocation of MB resources and the basic machine suffered. This happened, in my opinion, independent of Lexus, Infinity and Acura mounting a new challenge. The result is a machine with some of the old flashes of brilliance in terms of the basic machine, but many more compromises that really disturb guys like you and me. But those flashes of brilliant design, manufacturing and assembly capabilities keep me addicted.

In my opinion the flashes are getting fewer and further between with the later cars. The W210 E300D Turbodiesel is an example. If the power plant didn't exist, the car would not represent much more than what other makers offer, and some with greater reliability. I hope Mercedes recognizes the issue, but the shorter development time between models, and the proliferation of models makes me wonder. But then again, maybe we are the oddballs here, expecting cars to last half a million miles without having every part replaced a couple of times along the way. I like the new products and look forward to the new E320 CDI TurboDiesel. My 1998 will be my advisor in this issue. If it turns into a huge money hole, I am probably going to find another make. Or stick to old MBs. Good luck, Jim
1986 Euro 190E 2.3-16 (291,000 miles),
1998 E300D TurboDiesel, 231,000 miles -purchased with 45,000,
1988 300E 5-speed 252,000 miles,
1983 240D 4-speed, purchased w/136,000, now with 222,000 miles.
2009 ML320CDI Bluetec, 89,000 miles

1971 220D (250,000 miles plus, sold to father-in-law),
1975 240D (245,000 miles - died of body rot),
1991 350SD (176,560 miles, weakest Benz I have owned),
1999 C230 Sport (45,400 miles),
1982 240D (321,000 miles, put to sleep)
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Old 05-26-2003, 04:04 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Evansville, Indiana
Posts: 8,150

If you think the W124 is bad, wait for the newer ones -- Hans had a blower resistor on the parts counter the other day, fancy aluminum casting with long fingers for coolin -- $175 for a BLOWER RESISTOR for christ's sake! What happened to a set of nichrome wires on a box? Infinitely variable fan speed ain't worth all that much.

Ditto for all the electronics -- the W123 climate control box is about $200, the W202 climate control box is $2500! Ack!

Somewhere along about the mid 80's we collectively got computer disease -- everything has to be computer controlled (as opposed to electronically controlled) at great cost and complexity. Longevity has gone down the drain, everything is disposable these days, unlike the recent past when people cared about the environment and the cost of things, to say nothing of the value.......

1972 220D ?? miles
1988 300E 200,012
1987 300D Turbo killed 9/25/07, 275,000 miles
1985 Volvo 740 GLE Turobodiesel 218,000
1972 280 SE 4.5 165, 000 - It runs!
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Old 05-26-2003, 04:30 PM
Posts: n/a
I think the computers and electronics in the '86+ cars are very reliable. In my car all the windows work fine, all the seats work, climate control, engine management, everything. Gasoline engines will require more maintinence with all the sensors and electronics associated with them. I bet if you had an '87 300D you wouldn't be complaining.. the gas powered cars can get a little intense as they get older.
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Old 05-26-2003, 06:28 PM
Posts: n/a

I agree with you about the reliability of the computer gear, but I can't buy in on your assessment that I wouldn't have my complaints and problems were my 124 a diesel.

Very little of the problems I've experienced, other than the head problem, have been engine related. Almost all of them are problems with parts or subsystems that would be the same if it were a diesel.

I love driving this car, but it has reached a point where it's just not worth it any more. It still has a LONG way to go before it is as troublesome as my Vette though.

Have a great day,
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Old 05-27-2003, 09:51 AM
Rick Miley's Avatar
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Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Land O Lakes, FL
Posts: 3,086
I'm right there with you, Larry. My second MB was a 1987 300E that I bought in 1997 with the intention of driving it 30K miles a year. But in a little less than two years I had spent $8,000 on maintenance and repairs. The straw that broke the camel's back was when the evaporator sprung a leak. The thing that bugged me the most about that car was that things didn't stay fixed, just like your flex disk.

I'm also with you on the economy. I'm making less than 2/3 of what I was two years ago, and pretty much working month to month. That's a big part of why I bought the 240D - so I can park the E300 while it still has some warranty left on it. I'm really afraid of what the E300 will start to cost if I continue to drive it like I have been. Since getting everything sorted out, the 240D has been great.
Rick Miley
2014 Tesla Model S
2018 Tesla Model 3
2017 Nissan LEAF
Former MB: 99 E300, 86 190E 2.3, 87 300E, 80 240D, 82 204D Euro
Chain Elongation References
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Old 05-27-2003, 10:32 AM
R Leo's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: En te l'eau Rant
Posts: 5,393
Troubling MBZ Post W123 and W126 Model Developments

In observing and contributing to this forum I have come to the conclusion that Mercedes Benz just ain't what it used to be.

Complaints about questionable engineering in the newer model vehicles (post W123 and W126 models) and something I refer to as 'excessive featurization' is a recurring motif. Additionally, there have been some recent threads about the lack of quality in "Genuine MBZ" replacement parts. Specifically, a thread about inoperative thermostats comes to mind.

My own experience bears this out as well. When I bought Marlene, she needed a left rear taillight lens, I couldn't find a good one in the boneyard so I resorted to the local MBZ wholesaler. $133.97 later I was in posession of a new assembly, taken from an unopened, "Vorsicht" tape sealed parts box that had TWO broken alignment ears. Fortunately, this didn't affect the installation or functionality on my wagon and I continued to use the light assembly.

I was at the same distributor last week and while standing at the counter the gent next to me was picking up a replacement auto tranny pan. First of all, the parts tag sticker was on the INSIDE of the pan where you are forced to remove and clean it off if you are to use the pan. And second, two of the mounting/alignment ears were badly bent. It didn't look like a warehouse handling issue either...the pan appeared to have been painted AFTER the ears were bent becasue there was no flaking wherer the metal had been stressed.

All this to say, "caveat emptor" when going after replacement parts and be glad that there are plenty of W123s out there for parts cars.

Never a dull moment at Berry Hill Farm.
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Old 05-27-2003, 12:04 PM
Charlie Mitchel
Posts: n/a
124 woe's

I think we have got spoiled by the 123's.The 124 is not designed to give 300,000 or 500,000. I am afraid the MB has learned the rule of the 57' Chevy. If we build them this good and easy to work on no one will need another one, unless they wreck it or it rust to hell.
I would love to see a Lexus or Infity give 500,000 miles. And the parts are also high as heck.
No one can argue that MB have lowered their QC. In order to make more profit. And it is bitting them in the back side.
Just my .02
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Old 05-27-2003, 12:23 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Mustang, OK
Posts: 509
Certainly MB didn't make the greatest choices in every case favoring durability over manufacture expense, but there are MUCH worse examples around. VW's Diesel Jetta's have a whole host of electrical problems that would make Lucas proud. They burn up MAF sensors, eat up relays, ect... My old '96 Camaro Z-28 once stranded me due to a malfunction in the security system. Two of my work buddies have GM cars with the new plastic (ahemm, I mean composite) intake manifolds that have had to be replaced. One was practically new.

The point is, modern cars are too feature laden to be really reliable. The most reliable car I've ever owned (never stranded me) is an '88 Toyota corrolla I bought from a rental agency.

One of my work buddies occasionally drives a '60's Chevy pickup with a straight 6, cast iron everything, drum nonassisted brakes, to work. His Lincoln Town Car died, so he just hopped in and started it up. Another guy on the team has a '76 Chevy stepside pickup with 500k miles on it. Never been opened. The only major service has been an R-134 conversion.

Yup, simpler is better, but they won't be making those types of cars again. Think about ANY modern car in 20-ish years when the wiring harnesses get brittle and the grounds start to corrode. Ouch.

What else, '73 MB 280 SEL (Lt Blue)
Daily driver: '84 190D 2.2 5 spd.
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Old 05-27-2003, 01:32 PM
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Southern California, U.S.A.
Posts: 8,538
Larry, what have you had to replace on the car?

I remember reading your posts recently about the water pump, and the fuel injection or coil problem.

Any other issues?
Paul S.

2001 E430, Bourdeaux Red, Oyster interior.
79,200 miles.

1973 280SE 4.5, 170,000 miles. 568 Signal Red, Black MB Tex. "The Red Baron".
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Old 05-27-2003, 01:49 PM
Charlie Mitchel
Posts: n/a

Coil on a diesel?
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Old 05-27-2003, 02:29 PM
jcd jcd is offline
village idiot
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Northern New Jersey
Posts: 1,102
Very interesting thread.

The W123 was an engineering 10. Although mine is a 5 cyl, it is still amazingly easy to work on and parts are cheap and readily available.

I'm on a mission to find a another W123 diesel. I need a third car for the kids to drive. My wife and kids are fighting me tooth and nail as they hate "those uncool, smelly old cars". My rationalle is they last forever, parts are cheap and even I'm smart enough to repair them, with the help of this board. The family wants a used Honda, great car, but I would spend 2x as much and end up being held hostage to my mechanic for most repairs.

My dad still regrets selling me the 300D. He bought a 1999 C280 that has been trouble free, but when he finally hits the dealer for work.......look out. He got the C280 because he "wanted a car that would die after he did" (he's 72). Actually, I think he bought the new car as he is slowing down on the work he has to do and with the C280 he KNOWS he has to take it to the dealer or a tech. With the 300D, he KNEW he could fix it, so he did.

For me, this was a long thread, but I have to tell you....I have driven that 300D daily for two years and put about 30,000 miles on it. The only time it has left me in a lurch was a bad glow plug, bad master cylinder, bad vacuum pump. All three of these things I fixed in an evening. All of the parts I ordered in support of the repairs I received the day after I ordered them (thanks Phil). I paid $1,400 for it and have spent maybe another $1,000 on it between the repairs above, new shocks, motor mounts, window regulator, etc.

These are great cars and I wish that MB would re-introduce the W123.

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Old 05-27-2003, 02:42 PM
edge's Avatar
Registered User
Join Date: May 2001
Location: CT
Posts: 1,398
jcd, I concur with you. My 16 year old son just got his license and we may have to get a 3rd car as he's got a job this summer teaching tennis. I have been perusing ebay each day for the additional car. The wife and kids and fighting me against another diesel, they want a new Honda Element. So I have considered a W124 and perhaps a 94-94 S320. I really like the 95 E320 Coupe, but LarryBible's post has put me in a conundrum. The newer cars will not have the water leaks, winter starting, slow around town acceleration questions, however will maintenance be prohibitive? Will a W124 with under 125K miles have substantially less headaches than Larry's 250K+ miles?

85 300CD Signal Red/Tan sold
83 300D Manganese Brown 109K
97 E420 Midnight Blue 197K sold
98 BMW 328i Vert White 100K, sold
95 BMW 525i White 125K, sold
93 BMW 525iT Red 193K, sold
95 E320 Green Wagon 125K, sold
94 E320 White 127K, sold
85 300SD 156K Grey (Annie), sold
84 300D Lapis Blue 170K (Judy), sold
99 ML 320 Black (lease), 1998 C230 White (lease)
00 Honda S2000 Red (lease)
86 Mercedes 300E (sold)
84 Porsche 911 Red (sold), 1965 Porsche 911 White (sold)
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