Welcome to Down On The Street, where we admire old vehicles found parked on the streets of the Island That Rust Forgot: Alameda, California. Today's car is one I see frequently, and I've spent months wrestling with an internal debate over its eligibility for this series; sure, it's a quarter-century old and a great-looking car, but probably 98% of the diesel W123s ever sold are still on the road today and it's a stretch to call this one a survivor.
Eventually, the rarity of the early-80s coupes in North America sold me; back in the early 80s, what self-respecting wealthy car buyer craved the sportiness of a big Benz coupe, yet was willing to put up with the 120 horsepower of a rattly, smoky diesel? OK, the OM617 was actually quiet, didn't smoke, and was probably the most reliable automobile engine ever made, but Americans who look for stolid reliability tend to want four doors.
I'm not sure this is actually an '82; it could be as recent as 1985. The feds didn't change bumper requirements or any other obvious stuff during that period, and I'm not willing to piss off car owners by trying to read the VIN on the dash. What I do know is that the W123 coupe is so much better-looking than the sedan that the Reagan Administration should have passed a law outlawing the sedan version from our shores.
The list price on one of these babies ran pretty close to 35 grand back in the day. A couple thousand more and you could have had a brand-new, gasoline-burning BMW 633CSi. Say it's the early-to-mid 1980s, you're a crooked S&L functionary or importer of certain Colombian delicacies, and you're shopping for your Teutonic dream coupe. Which one would you buy?