The Mercedes W123 Wins The Jalopnik March Madness Beat-Off!

After weeks of impassioned voting, the good readers of Jalopnik have chosen the best, most thrashable, desirable, tune-able, drive-able beater of 2014: an old taxicab.

The final round of voting ended with great controversy — going into the evening the W123 and the Fox Body Mustang were dead even. In the morning, another two thousand votes had been cast, almost unanimously for the W123. Some kind of cheating was afoot. The Mustang camp rallied just as the voting neared a close, casting duplicate vote after duplicate vote, but were only able to inch to 148 off the Merc's then-insurmountable lead. The final tally was 6,857 Mustang against 7,005 Mercedes, the Merc holding a mere 1% advantage.


Mustang fans, you cheated well. But the Merc fans cheated better.

All in all, this isn't a bad choice. Jalopnik's current Editor-In-Chief used to run a W123, and if you are going to buy an old German taxicab, the ever-enduring '76-'86 Merc is a good way to go. Why is that? Let me quote the dear-departed cheapo car tome, Beater Review.

For the beater enthusiast interested in fuel economy and long life, and who doesn't mind looking like a middle-aged liberal arts college professor, the Mercedes-Benz W123 vehicles provide an ideal solution. But how could these ancient designs meet the reasonable safety and reliability criteria we demand in the Beater Review manifesto?

Therein lies the uniqueness. Not only to the Mercedes W123 chassis cars use a bomb-proof I-4 or I-5 diesel engine, but they also possessed side-impact door beams and were available with a driver side airbag and antilock brakes. Even the 1976 model. Re-read that sentence and you'll begin to understand how Mercedes established itself as the standard of the world back in the day.

Nearly any W123 Mercedes you find in this country will also possess power windows, a four-speed Mercedes-built automatic transmission, and high-quality vinyl "MB-tex" or leather seating surfaces. You also get disc brakes, independent suspension, and, to go along with the advanced safety features, a very crashworthy body structure. A Mercedes 280 or 300 is one of the rare older beaters into which we would feel perfectly comfortable strapping an infant seat.

However, not everyhting is rosy in W123 land, as Beater Review continues.

Oh, and don't forget that things like brake calipers and blower motors on Mercedes-Benz vehicles are special. Sure, they look just like the parts found on contemporary BMWs and Volvos, but Mercedes parts have been dipped in gold and polished by trained unicorns. As such, they will cost approximately 17 times as much as equivalent parts on more mundane vehicles, and aftermarket replacements simply won't do the trick. We don't know why, but only genuine Benz parts allow a Mercedes to perform its best.


So W123s require some special, wallet-emptying care, most likely just when the toilet busts in your rental and suddenly your landlord is "on vacation." That said, these things have been turned into stout rally cars:

and of course drift cars:

That's the world famous Black Smoke Racing drift wagon, so don't think that the Fox Body was your way to beater speed.


So enjoy your slow, coughing, neverending Mercedes, Jalopnik readers. Its joy will likely outlast you.


Photo Credit: Mercedes, Ford, Hieronymous Bosch

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