Prescott beats Pebble and trading Berlin taxis


Author: Martin BuckleyPublished:

I went to look at a gold Corniche coupe last week. God I wanted it but I suspect I’m only going to be able to afford the Rolls-Royce kiddy pedal car I was offered by the same vendor that I spotted under a sheet in his garage.

I was also tempted by a cheap Mercedes 230S fin tail on Piston Heads, which seemed almost to good to be true at £3995.

I chopped the troublesome Mercedes 230TE in for a W124 200E in much better condition (which will become my smoker once I get myself together to get a V5 sorted for it) but, embarrassingly, I had to send the new owner of the W123 back on the train in the face of descending oil pressure and rising water temperature – but he still seemed happy.

The 200E, surely one of the most boring W124 variants on paper, is actually lovely to drive although I seem to have destroyed the aftermarket radio/CD player.

At last the bright work for my dads Mercedes 300b is coming together and the final piece of the jigsaw arrived last week in the form of an illusive hubcap.

Meanwhile my early XJS is still dead for want of an ignition system that works and we are struggling with the timing on the Fulvia Zagato, although - thanks to a reader called Phil, we have a spare complete engine which, if nothing else, can serve as a guide once we can get it to Top Dead Centre and satisfy ourselves about the timing marks.

On ebay I put a bid in on a 1979 Winnebago. I’ve always had a thing for these huge American motor homes. Like the country's stationwagons, they seem so much more exciting than anything we ever did.  Its got a 5.7-litre Dodge engine and looks appropriately chintzy inside, too.

At the weekend I took the Jaguar 340 to Prescott and managed to blag my way in as I'd forgotten to ask for press tickets.

A fantastic day; just looking around the paddock is a treat (below) and the hill climb is as much about sound and smell (burning rubber and Castrol R) as it is about the drama of getting to the top of the hill in the shortest time.

In the car park, a couple of ten year olds were drooling over the Jaguar, which surprised me, as children for the most part seem unmoved by old cars these days.

As we approached the ticket office I found a wonderfully slightly-down-a-heel Aurelia Spider, no bumpers or mats and roof down (perhaps missing altogether) despite the fact that it rained on and off most of the day on the Sunday.

To me seeing that car was worth a field full of Pebble Beach ‘boiled sweets’.



I agree that the 200E W124 is a nice car to drive as long as you didn't buy a manual and you're not in a hurry. I always tougt it was much nicer looking (inside and out) than the W123. Anyone else agree?

GreaseMonkey (not verified)

Disagree luke.
Sorry, but I had a long run of W123s down the years, and as the last of the 'heavy metal' models I have to say I always found them much better built and with more style than later models. Ditto the W116 S-Class v the later W126 series. Big shiny chrome bumpers and grilles are what a Mercedes should look like. Probably less efficient and a bit softer handling but I still prefer them. After going through a few models since the eighties, my last 123 was an '84 280E which had done great service since I came to Australia eight years ago. Unfortunately it was written off a few months back in a flood, and I have not been able to find another as good (yet) but as the youngest of the range is now 26 years old that is not surprising. My current daily runaround is a W201 190E which, although low mileage with good history has turned out to be a real disappointment. It maybe peculiar to the extreme climate here, but not a day goes by without some piece of plastic trim making a bid for independence, and the constant perfidy of the electronics has meant it spends regular breaks at the trusted Merc specialist. I suspect Mercedes had to react to the times back in the seventies and design cars that were lighter and more fuel efficient while retaining their reputation for safety, but the switch to using lighter steel, more plastic and more electronics has made them less attractive and less reliable in the long run.
Martin does not say what his complaint was with the TE, and I suspect his pride in his Mancunian roots had him at odds with the current trendiness of the model, and not wanting to be seen as a Soho trendy does have it's merits, but I still think they are a great all rounder. If you can find a rust-free one, and can put up with the occasional fault in the maze of vacuum controls, hoses and valves that work all the gizmos, there is nothing that can't be easily fixed. I'll bet next time you visit a Morrocan airport taxi rank the 123s will still be outlasting the 124s.

Chris Martin



I agree with your sentiments about the W201. I had one of those too, and the dashboard is genuinely worse than that of a Lada (which I've never owned, but I've been in plenty). Mine squeaked and rattled constantly, the glovebox lid didn't fit, one of the air vents flopped around in its housing, and there were plenty of electrical gremlins to deal with. The W124 had a better screwed-together interior, but the electrical gremlins were a common theme. Is it true then that W123s don't suffer from the aforementioned electrical niggles to the same extent as later Mercs?


GreaseMonkey (not verified)

As regards electrical gremlins, Mercedes did somewhere in the lifetime of the 124 series introduse a new type of wiring loom that was biodegradeable, (I have an idea  Germany invented Greenies as a political force?). The problem was it biodegraded itself long before the car was ready for the scrapper. M-B corrected the faux-pas after a few years and replaced the faulty ones under warranty, so any surviving 124s should hopefully now have wiring that lasts longer than the glovebox lid and sun-visors.

Back to Martin's other blog subjects though, if someone had the patience to give that Humber Estate the service it's years of neglect would indicate is needed, it may even outlast the Mercs. Nice car, haven't seen one in ages, but that model was popular over here, maybe I'll start looking........

Chris Martin


The W124's are pretty tough knowing them well - they are however now starting to rust usually going at the front wings and jacking points first followed by the rear suspension mounts. W123's on the other hand fall into the ground if not well rust protected due to inadequate rust protection from new although I agree with comments above that the 123's were the last of the heavy metal Mercs. Build quality second to none. Whatever you might think of the 124 series, they're actually quite sweet to drive and the four pots aren't as bad as you might think - they were better engineered than the 123's and the engines are generally tougher, as the 123's tend to start giving up the ghost past 125,000 miles or so - the diesels and 280's go on for much longer.

As for the wiring looms, it's the six cylinder cars from late 93 onwards that give trouble with disintegration, The M104's, which come in 280 and 320 guise. The M104 300-24 escaped thank goodness, as I've got one in an SL!


I didn't make it to the Prescott car park this year but it gave me a lot of material to blog about last year :-)

Simon Stokes

A friend of mine has a German 200D W124, it's sooo slow. Makes my 200 W115 seem quick, it isn't. You thrashed it to Essen and said so!

As for old cars and young people, I find that plenty of younger ones like old cars. I went to pick up a male 9 year old friend of my girlfriends daughter in it and as he saw us approach on the main road he ran inside to tell his mum and sister that we were in 'the coolest car'. The Merc drew admiring glances from the kids playing round the corner and Matt enjoyed the trip here. Later I took everyone out in the Trabant (slower than the Merc), which he thought was superb. We even had time to look at a nice Morris Minor used for a business in Long Eaton (near Derby) and the kids loved it.

I think there is hope yet, as long as enthusiasts like us keep using them and leaving them lying around for people to look at. It worked for me when I was younger, still works now...

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