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W123 Wagon Images
Index of W123 Wagon Images

“Engineered like no other car in the world,” the ads said, and that was true in lots of ways. The Mercedes-Benz W123 wasn’t a radically new car like an NSU Ro80 or a Citroën DS, but the attention to detail in its design and construction stood in sharp relief to many other cars when it was new. In the late 1970s, most cars were built to last 100,000 miles, and some of them wouldn’t even make it that far. Not Mercedes-Benzes. The cars were very expensive to make and buy, and when something big did break it was also pricey, but that was rare. You got your money's worth from a Merc back in those days, and that W123s are still a common sight whether you happen to be in Casablanca, Cleveland, or Copenhagen is a testament to their hardiness.

2.7 million W123s were made from 1976 to 1986, but only one was something truly new for Mercedes-Benz: The S123 wagon, better known as the “Tourismus und Transport,” abbreviated in the model name with a “T.” Its story begins with the W123 itself, the capstone in a plan to revise the entire Mercedes lineup (excluding the giant 600), beginning with the R107/C107 SL/SLC in 1971 and then the W116 S-class a year later. As in later years, the S-Class set the tone for the lesser Benzes, but back in those days there were only four basic car platforms in the Stuttgart’s entire lineup, which meant the next and final step was the junior line of sedans, replacing the 1960s-era W114/W115. Before Mercedes made models for every purse and purpose (today there are more than 20 basic platforms split over dozens of names and models), the company just offered lots of different versions of its lower-end cars. The W123 as a whole offered a spectacularly wide range of powerplants and purposes, ranging from taxi-spec 2.0-liter diesel sedans to long-wheelbase limos to luxurious hardtop coupes. (Continued below)


6884 examples of the W123-083 chassis 230T Wagon with the M115-954 motor were made between 1978 and 1980.


The W123-086 chassis 250T Wagon with the M123-920 motor was made between 1978 and 1979.

The W123-086 chassis 250T Wagon with the M123-921 motor was made between 1979 and 1982.


19789 examples of the W123-093 chassis 280TE Wagon with the M110-988 motor were made between 1978 and 1986.


38903 examples of the W123-183 chassis 240TD Wagon with the OM616-912 motor were made between 1978 and 1986.

Custom 300TD El-Camino wagon
190 1979 -  1979 300TD Custom


36874 examples of the W123-190 chassis 300TD Wagon with the OM617-912 motor were made between 1978 and 1986.

193 1981
193 1985


28219 examples of the W123-193 chassis 300TD Wagon with the OM617-952 motor were made between 1980 and 1986 (Turbo).


18860 examples of the W123-280 chassis 200T Wagon with the M102-920 motor were made between 1980 and 1986.


42284 examples of the W123-283 chassis 230TE Wagon with the M102-980 motor were made between 1980 and 1986.

All had a friendly, modern look executed primarily under Bruno Sacco, though Paul Bracq and Friedrich Geiger were still at Mercedes in the early stages. The look was evolutionary too, following the W116 quite closely. The new breed of Mercedes look was self-consciously less sober, but not faddish or avant-garde in any way. It looked new compared to what went before, but timeless and traditional at the same time. Though not a direct continuation of the W114/115 cars, much was retained or evolved from the durable, understated predecessors, including most of the powertrains and suspension components. When the cars debuted, they bowed first as a four-door sedan, then as a hardtop coupe, and then as the long-wheelbase sedan, following the traditions of the previous models.

To this roster of bodies was added one very unexpected version - the aforementioned Tourismus und Transport—Mercedes’ First factory-built wagon. Until the “T” bowed at the 1977 Frankfurt IAA, Mercedes-Benz wagons had always been coachbuilt, primarily by Binz, who also specialized in Ambulances, Hearses, and service vehicles on M-B chassis,

Since demand for the four-door W123s was extremely strong right from its January 1976 introduction, the coupe did not arrive until the following spring, and the wagon another year after that. This despite the longroof having been designed in 1975 along with the other W123s. To build them all in quantity, the “T” got its own factory, the former Borgward facility in Bremen.

This factory had once churned out Isabellas and Lloyds, but after Borgward’s controversial collapse in 1961, it became a facility for truck builder Henschel, which was bought by Hanomag in 1964. Daimler-Benz took a 51% stake in Hanomag-Henschel in 1968 and eventually bought the truck part of the company altogether. In 1977, it retooled the plant for the T1 Transporter, one of the ancestors of today’s Sprinter van, but since demand for the W123 was so high, this plant also got the S123 “T” wagons, with production starting in April of 1978. A workhorse for the world, the T got almost every variation of W123 powerplant except the ultra-frugal 220D diesel four, but consumers could order it with gas fours, gas sixes, diesel fours and diesel fives from 2.0 to 2.8 liters. This was not the case in North America, however. Here, the Wagon didn’t arrive until mid-1979 and when it did, it came only as the 300TD with a 77-hp 3.0-liter OM617 diesel. Mercedes was heavily committed to diesels for the U.S. in 1979 and the second OPEC crisis made the wagon a very attractive car, competing only with the Peugeot 504 Diesel wagon and a few GM diesel wagons. But the less-expensive 240TD wagon was not on the menu despite the popularity here of the 240D sedan, then the company’s least-expensive U.S. model.

Why not? Weight. The U.S. 240D had only 67 hp and the wagon weighed 400 pounds more than the sedan, which made it a serious slug. The original 300TD also had no turbocharger, but one was quickly added in October of 1980. Curiously, in Germany the 300TD wagon was the only version of the W123 that you could get with the turbo, the coupe and sedan turbodiesels, offered from the summer of 1981, were U.S.-only models. The weight problem was not helped by the U.S. bumpers and other federalization changes.

But while Germans rarely considered buying U.S.-spec Benzes, many Americans eyed more powerful, lighter, and often less expensive Euro-spec models pretty regularly. Though they weren’t offered here, you could actually get a gas 280TE or other unusual Benzes in the U.S. in the 1980s, they just had to be privately imported, either individually or via a gray-market importer. Mercedes-Benz USA was not a fan of such activities, and successfully lobbied for stricter rules around those activities, which led to the infamous “25-year rule.”

This 240TD is a Euro-spec car but it isn’t clear when it was imported. About 200,000 Ts were made in all, about 8% of the W123’s overall run (the sedan accounted for 2.3M units) and a large percentage were shipped to North America. The gas W123s faded away entirely in the USA in 1981, leaving only diesel midsize Mercs until the W124 arrived in 1985.

By then, the W123s were at the end of their run, but the T was the last one to go, remaining in production until January 1986.

Ref: Frank Mallory's database and https://mercedes-benz-publicarchive.com