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  #1  
Old 01-12-2015, 08:29 PM
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making the switch from w123 diesels to W124 gassers?

I've been contemplating the following scenario and thought someone here might have specific experience with both W124's and W123's and would have some wisdom that might help me out...

The short version is whether moving from w123 diesels to a w124 gas powered wagon will be a disappointment and reliability headache?


The long version if anyone wants to read...

I have been driving W123 diesels for about the last 5 years. Started off with a '77 240D and bought a '85 300D a year later that I have been driving since. The 300D just ticked over 300,000. Runs great but is a bit of an ongoing project (as any car with 300k on it would be). I also have less time these days to spend doing things like replacing the crank seal, re-building power steering pump and possibly replacing timing chain (all things that probably need to be addressed within the next year).

I have 4 kids. My wife's vehicle (a Vanagon) serves as the primary family hauler. I've had in mind for a while that as much as I love my 300D sedan it would be wise to have a second vehicle that has the capacity to haul all six of us in a pinch, e.g. when I need a few days to work on our Van.

To that end I have been looking primarily for an '87 W124 300TD. However they are obviously difficult to come by, particularly in my area (Seattle) and seem to (rightfully) cost a premium if they are in halfway decent condition.

I recently decided to widen my search to W124 gassers and have come across a few local examples that are fairly well sorted out with low miles for a decent price.

So here's a few possible outcomes I am contemplating...

  1. Stick with the w123 sedan. I know it inside and out and it has never left me stranded. Deal with the issues as needed and stop thinking about selling it. On the other hand my wife isn't a big fan of driving it and it doesn't fit the entire family. Selling cars is a pain.
  2. Hold out for '87 300TD (with 3rd row seats). Save up and buy one well sorted out, even if I need to have it shipped in from out of state. On the other hand this could be cost prohibitive or time prohibitive (if I buy one that needs lots of work)
  3. Buy a w123 300TD with 3rd row seats. This would be familiar to me mechanically. On the other hand finding a well sorted w123 wagon seems like it might also be cost prohibitive. Additionally my gut tells me that the 3rd row seats in the w123 wagon are not as safe as in a w124 (but I have no real data to back up that feeling).
  4. Move to a W124 300TE, less cost prohibitive and easier to find. On the other hand I know very little about MB gas engines.
  5. Move on to other brand options. Many years ago I owned a Volvo 850 wagon that was very reliable and nice to drive. They are easy to find and even less cost prohibitive than a Mercedes wagon. On the other hand where does that rabbit trail end? Possibly in an American SUV, or another Vanagon? Yikes.
Anyway, this has been therapeutic to type out. Thanks in advance if anyone has any input

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  #2  
Old 01-12-2015, 08:38 PM
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I've owned two 123 diesels. I've driven a few 124 gassers and I didn't like them. I did however like the 210 gasser that I once test drove. The newest 123 is 30 years old, so I can see the issues of trying to keep one as a daily driver if you don't have much time to work on it. I vote 210 (wagon if you can find one) for your situation. They also came in diesel, but for some reason they never sold a diesel wagon here.
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  #3  
Old 01-12-2015, 08:41 PM
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I'm in almost the exact opposite position as you to a certain extent. As I'm trying to get back in to 123's because I'm sick of the cost and bs complexity of more modern vehicles. I also like the idea of a 123 wagon but agree that really decent examples are few and far between. I'm thinking that in your area, Seattle? rust may be a bigger problem on 124's than on 123's but that's just based on anecdotal evidence. No real experience to back it up. If you are really looking at other family related options then I'd suggest looking for an older Suburban. You can get some pretty decent examples around here for less than 4K's. The only really major flaw I'm aware of on the 96 thru 99 Vortec engined ones are head gasket failures that can result in destroyed engines. If this is taken care of there seems to be little else to be seriously worried about and I've test driven about ten of them over the last few years all around 200K miles that seemed to drive like new. You will never find a better vehicle for family travel in my opinion. Especially if you really need space and you can find one with a front bench which gives a capacity of nine.

Other than that have you considered a 210 wagon instead of a 124? Rust may be a problem where you are for them as well, especially with the spring perch abombination, but other than that they seem to hold up well and have quite a few positive comments from folks.

I know the 124's have a loyal following and they may be a more refined car than the 123. But for myself I find it hard to see beyond the pinnacle of development that I regard the 123 as being.

No doubt others will chime in with their opinions but that's mine, for what it's worth...

- Peter.
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  #4  
Old 01-12-2015, 09:09 PM
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These people seem to think an E28 5-series is the ideal family car:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HzsJG0Sb_s
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83 300D Turbo with manual conversion, early W126 vented front rotors and H4 headlights 362,xxx miles
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88 Jaguar XJS V12 92,xxx miles. I should be in the garage now.
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  #5  
Old 01-12-2015, 09:39 PM
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Had 3-123 diesels including an 85 TD with 307K and 2-124 gas models, a 91 300te 103 motor and a 93 300e 3.2 104 motor. My preference/opinion is strong toward the 124 gas 104 motor. The 93 was SMOOTH, ran STRONG with good fuel economy until 360K! when the head gasket failed.

I would like a NON-ASR, NON-4MATIC, 93-95 124 sedan or wagon with a 104 motor. WHAT a car!!! None of the other four were close in ride, handling, or performance to the 93.

A 123 would be nice in my opinion, but would prefer a 124. An added bonus to the 124 is ABS and airbags
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  #6  
Old 01-12-2015, 11:28 PM
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I'm an 18 year Mercedes technician and I own two 124 chassis cars because I believe they are the best cars ever built. The 123 is a tank and I wouldnt dare disparage them but the 124 is an evolutionary step forward from there. Later generation models (210 +) suffered from bean counter mentality and close enough engineering.

Any 124 wagon you can find that has been reasonably well cared for will soon become an intergral and beloved member of the family. I know I wouldnt trade my 1991 290k mile 300 TE for a brand new 2015.
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  #7  
Old 01-13-2015, 12:17 AM
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The W124 is a steps ahead of a W123. The W210 is also steps ahead of a W124 in terms of ride and options. There is an abundance of W210 wagons out there for $2.5-3K in excellent shape. I'd rather get one of those than a W124 these days.
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Old 01-13-2015, 12:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skippy View Post
These people seem to think an E28 5-series is the ideal family car:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HzsJG0Sb_s
I really enjoyed watching this video.
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  #9  
Old 01-13-2015, 01:58 AM
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Nice Volvo 960/V90s are as hard to find as 87 300TDs. Inline, non turbo, rear wheel drive. You don't want a flunk wheel drive Volvo wagon... Junk.

I find the next evolutionary step, like the 124, 140, 202, etc, is not aging as gracefully as the 123. Ten years ago it was much easier to find a sorted 123/126 than it is to find a sorted 124/140 today. So much more technology, much more to go wrong.

Can you enjoy a car with the knowledge that the wiring in the car is slowly degrading as designed? One day your AC will stop working, needing a 20 hour job literally ripping the interior apart to get to the evaporator? Early electronics that can be difficult to diagnose? Reverse just crapping out at any moment? That is the real life of a 124 owner. I've owned several 124s and experienced each and every one of these, some multiple times.

That being said, the experience is overall positive. If you compare what my friend has gone through to keep my old w211 wagon with airmatic suspension in good shape, the 124 is a walk in the park.

Five years ago I sold my driver 124 wagon and picked up a 1994 Buick Roadmaster Estate. Complete with fake wood paneling, LT1 small block, fantastic seats, whisper quiet, along with a great ride with decent handling. It has been an extremely reliable car compared to the 124. Other than maintenance, I've had to replace one electrical component, the AC compressor, heater core, and the radiator due to my oil cooler lines starting to drip and had become fused to the radiator after 20 years. Less than $1000 total not including normal maintenance.

I also had a 2005 Toyota Prius with service records going way back. Literally nothing but oil changes, light bulbs, filters, tires and wiper blades. The transmission is a planetary drive CVT with very few moving parts. Engine as simple as can be. Battery pack problems seldom, blown way out of proportion. Its not uncommon to see 250k out of everything, including the original regenerative braking "pads". Buying one of these used would be the lowest cost per mile vehicle in existence, but it's a boring appliance of a car that was built to do one thing (gas mileage) at the expense of everything else (performance and handling). My current "work car" is a 2010 Prius. Not proud of it but when you're driving 30-40k miles a year and getting compensated for mileage, driving it is like a second income.

If I just owned the Prius, I would be miserable. Having the luxury of owning multiple cars to suit different needs or moods is great. If I had to choose just one to own, with the parameters of under 5k, family practicality, reliable, and fun to drive, It would be the Roadmaster Estate. European only? 123 or 126.
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Old 01-13-2015, 02:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by suginami View Post
I really enjoyed watching this video.
Picturing your wife and kids all driving w210s sounds great.
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Old 01-13-2015, 06:20 AM
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I have made the switch and I doubt I will ever buy another W123 unless I stumble across a rust free turbo wagon. The W124 is light years ahead of the W123 in terms of everyday drivability. I haven't needed to do any major work to either of mine yet so my opinion of them may change. FWIW both of my cars are M103 powered but the gas mileage isn't great. I get about 25 in the 5 speed and 20 in the autotragic. I prefer to drive them over my wife's 2014 CR-V.
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  #12  
Old 01-13-2015, 10:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gatorblue92 View Post
I have made the switch and I doubt I will ever buy another W123 unless I stumble across a rust free turbo wagon. The W124 is light years ahead of the W123 in terms of everyday drivability. I haven't needed to do any major work to either of mine yet so my opinion of them may change. FWIW both of my cars are M103 powered but the gas mileage isn't great. I get about 25 in the 5 speed and 20 in the autotragic. I prefer to drive them over my wife's 2014 CR-V.
The W123 just isn't an ideal daily driver these days. I'd myself take a W124 over a W123 any day, but a W210 over both of them. The W123 makes an excellent Sunday car and is built better than both W124s and W210s. The fuel economy also is pretty bad in a W123 for a daily driver.

My mother was buying a new car at the time and was looking at a CR-V. I found it to feel very cheap. The interior felt like the inside of a Suburu, and just like everything I could break very easily with little effort. The ride of the CR-Vs are so-so also. I ended up steering her into a Nissan Murano which IMO is the most comparable SUV to a ML350 in terms of quality, and luxury.
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Old 01-14-2015, 08:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jake12tech View Post
The W123 just isn't an ideal daily driver these days.
I don't see much of a difference between a 123 or 124 in fuel economy terms. Unless you are talking a 124 diesel compared to a 123 300D. If you are comparing 20 to 30 year old cars as DD's then I'd say fuel economy is the least of your concerns. Reliability and nature/cost of repair is far more relevant.

- Peter.
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81 240D stick. 316000 miles at purchase. 342000 now
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Formerly...
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1981 240D 4spd stick. 389000 miles. Deceased Jan 08
1984 123 200
1979 116 280S
1972 Cadillac Sedan DeVille
1971 108 280S
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  #14  
Old 01-15-2015, 05:18 PM
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The only real problem I had out of a 124 was the single wiper blade. The plastic gears from the factory crumble and your wiper motion gets strange, but the unit can be taken apart and the gear/gear rack replaced with bronze for about $120.

They do ride nice......
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Old 01-15-2015, 07:18 PM
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The problem with these cars is age is catching up to them. A lot of work is required to get a 30 year old car up to DD standards.

Unless you are willing to accept none functional systems and lower than ideal reliability.

Its not like 10-15 years ago when I started looking at W126's and W124's. They were new enough that plenty of very good examples were kicking around.

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