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Buyers Guide to:

Mercedes-Benz 230E

Useful Info


1976 to 1985

Fuel Type


Engine Size


Engine Type


Drive Configuration


The Mercedes-Benz Club

Mercedes-Benz Owners

Just Kampers

01256 862288,


A replacement for Mercedes’ W114/5 model, the W123 as it was known appeared on the market in 1976. Initially available in saloon form only, it was joined by a stylish ‘CE’ coupe in 1977 and an estate model a year later. It was intended to provide a rival to the popular BMW 5 Series, and was renowned for the sort of bank vault build quality only Mercedes could achieve. In fact, the over-engineering ensured it was incredibly durable and plenty of examples covered huge mileages without problem making it popular as a taxi across the globe. It was replaced by the more smoothly-styled W124 model in 1985.

  1. Front panel behind headlamps
  2. Bumpers
  3. Front and rear wings, inner and outer
  4. Front and rear wheel arches
  5. Windscreen surround
  6. Door bottoms
  7. Sills
  8. Sunroof panel and aperture

The Checklist

  • Carefully for corrosion. As well as the hotspots listed, it attacks the battery tray and front bulkhead, while rot around the sunroof can be very expensive to sort. Major restoration of a W123 will cost thousands, and original panels are very pricey (pattern parts rarely fit properly) so be wary of badly rotten or bodged examples
  • Underneath for signs of rot, paying particular attention to the chassis legs, fuel tank, floor pan, spare wheel well, and jacking points. Lots of fresh underseal could be hiding problems
  • The condition of the paintwork – a quality re-spray is costly – and chrome trim as the bumpers are prone to rusting through
  • That the car hasn’t been run on the cheap. The engines are robust but regular oil changes are needed for longevity, so avoid neglected cars
  • For evidence of recent timing chain replacement; it needs changing at around 60,000 miles. Others issues include oil leaks, excessive exhaust smoke, and head gasket leaks caused by overheating
  • The manual transmission for whines or an obstructive shift, although it’s generally strong. The automatic gearbox suits the car better – ensure it kicks down promptly, and check that the fluid isn’t black or sludgy
  • For corrosion around the suspension mountings, especially the anti-roll bars and rear springs. Worn bushes or leaking dampers are the other issues to watch for. Listen for the drone of failed wheel bearings, too
  • The brakes for wear and tear, although replacement parts are easy to find. Failed master cylinders aren’t uncommon, while post- 1980 models got anti-lock brakes so ensure these are working properly
  • The steering for excessive play. The steering box may have no adjustment left, and genuine replacements are very pricey now. It can leak oil, too. Corroded alloy wheels can be refurbished at a reasonable cost
  • That the cabin isn’t overly worn or damaged. Seat trim was a choice of vinyl, cloth, or MB Tex – they all last well, but budget accordingly if a re-trim is on the cards. The driver’s seat base can collapse, though
  • For damp carpets as damaged door seals will allow water in, and they aren’t especially cheap to replace
  • That everything works. The central locking is vacuum-powered and problems can be fiddly to sort, while the optional air-conditioning is desirable as long as it’s working. The cost of getting it going again may have led owners to ignore a failed system

Everything Check Out?

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