Convincing my girlfriend to switch to an older model


Author: Martin BuckleyPublished:

The theme of the last few days has been the new car versus old car thing and the fact that I keep being told – totally unprompted – how tired people are of all the electronic glitches moderns continually throw up.

That got me thinking about my girlfriend’s Skoda Octavia. Now I wouldn’t go too far down the road of slagging off this 50+ mpg, 140mph saloon that always starts, stops and does everything it should… and which boasts acceleration that would probably shame most of the quick older stuff we covet.

But the value of this thing is going to go only one way – down, probably by a grand a year at least – and the dashboard lights up like Blackpool Golden Mile, what with all the warning lights for engine management and air-bag glitches its showing.

I formulated a plan to get her into something classic and actually made a financial case for it. The trick was how I would do that without mugging myself by buying something fragile and unreliable and ending up with no modern car to fall back on when things went wrong? Or when the weather is bad, or you have to go somewhere a long way off and the thought of doing 25mpg as opposed to 50mpg gives you that familiar pain in the wallet.

Well, luckily, something presented itself. My pal Steve Wilce announced that his dad was returning to the States and no longer needed the rather smart cream Mercedes-Benz W123 200 saloon I swapped for the hideously unreliable 230TE a few months back.

Did I want to buy it back? My very below-the-belt offer was nearer the mark than I had imagined and we did a deal for not a lot more.

Thus, the Skoda is going and the Mercedes will be the daily driver, the rationale being that now we live in the centre of a market town we have very little need for a car most of the time, so the increased fuel consumption is not really an issue. It is in any case offset by the lower maintenance costs and stable value of the Mercedes: looked after it will either hold its value or go up.

It is perfectly capable of long trips, is safe and has a lot less to go wrong. It even trumps the Skoda in having an automatic gearbox and an electric sunroof.

This epitome of a Berlin taxi was pronounced healthy by Mark Cosovich – the W123 ‘guru’ – and I seem to remember spending quite a bit of money getting the car serviced with him. Bonnie Tyler even drove it, but that’s another story.

I also have a 200E W124 that a friend is very keen to buy. I can then spend the cash on getting my everyday driver XJ-S a bit more up and together. It doesn’t do to be too practical. Anyone want to buy a Skoda?


Chris Martin

As a long time user of W123s I can see where you are coming from. Having had at least one for the last 25 years until my last 280E was written off in a flood a few months ago, it has taken me until now to find a suitable replacement - a totally rust-free white '85 280E with unmarked tan MB-Tex interior.
Good 123s are definitely getting rarer, so I plan to hang on to this one. While I have been tooling around in 107s or even the old W116 Crayford wagon down the years, my wife has been driving nothing else as a daily car, and although she has little interest in cars generally, likes the comfort, the ride, and the understated 'classy classlessness' that only an old Merc' can give.
Also, due partly to their tough build and partly to excellent parts supply, they can be ridiculously cheap to keep running, the last one we had for eight years, and it covered well over 150,000kms in that time, but cost less than a grand a year ( $ Aus ) in service costs, that is twenty bucks a week!
As for the 200, my first 123 was identical to yours, a light beige '82 model bought in '86 that served me well for four or five years and was still a minter when I sold it on for a 230TE. Despite common beliefs, the 200 is not underpowered, an ideal city car that will still cruise silently close to the ton and is by far the cheapest and easiest to service.
I wonder where DBM851X is now?
Chris M.


Chris Martin

You might have trouble convincing the older model to switch to a new girlfriend though.
Chris M.



I'm on the lookout for a new car to replace my Dads E32 7 series.

Been looking for a W123, W124 or W126 amongst others, not found anything yet though.

There has been a couple of W123 coupes around here recently, would be quite nice to replace the E32 with.

'85 928 S2


It's really difficult to ask when you have a merc on your garage! You need to have a lot of considerations to replace any car especially when it is a classic with highly reliable benz parts under the hood.

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