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Thursday 12th May 2011

Driven: Mercedes W123. With An S-Class V8...

PHer Chris Small tries out a remarkably stealthy Mercedes that, were it for sale, could well be 'shed of the decade'




I've always had a bit of soft spot for the old W123 Mercedes. My late Grandfather used to have a tractor-powered, black 300D. It was possibly the slowest thing on earth, but he'd owned it from new and it was in immaculate condition. As a child I'd stand back in awe as its stately like coachwork rolled into view, three-pointed gunsight glistening in the sun. It would also, of course, be accompanied by a massive cloud of black smoke and a Massey Ferguson-esque clatter. But enough of this somewhat rose-tinted memory, the W123 I've been invited to drive today, is a whole different kettle of crabs.


This particular 1984 230E isn't a bad example of what you can pick up these days for not a lot of beans. Granted, the silver bodywork isn't necessarily all the same shade and the blue velour interior brings back vivid memories of the decade that taste forgot, but all in all she's a straight old girl. The original dealer sticker and M-B owners club badge in the rear windscreen suggests that it's probably had a good life and has no doubt been periodically pampered by its previous owners. However, this car now harbours a remarkably well hidden secret, for lurking under the bonnet of this unassuming Merc is not the stock 2.3-litre four-pot motor, but a 5.0 V8 ripped out of an S-class. I kid you not.


Joint owners Adrian Mounter & Rob Parker explain: "We bought an old 500SEL as bit of a restoration project, but bodily it was too far gone, so it just sat in the corner of our yard looking sorry for itself. There was nothing wrong with the oily bits and we'd heard of people doing V8 conversions on W123s before, so we decided to hunt down a decent example that would fit the bill." The thing is, unlike other modified motors, this car gives no external clue whatsoever of the grunt that lies beneath. It's even running on its original steel wheels, complete with painted hubcaps.

The second you turn the key, you're greeted by the aural pleasure that can only be provided by a 5.0-litre V8 running through an exhaust with only one silencer in it. From the outside you may not be able to visually tell that something's a bit different, but if you know anything about cars you'll soon realise that all is not what it seems when you hear it.


As you engage drive on three-speed auto 'box it feels like the brakes won't be able to hold it, such is the eagerness of the engine to get going. The slightest dab on the throttle and it lurches forward with a pleasing chirp from those skinny tyres. This is an issue that Adrian is well aware of; "Yeah, the tyres are a bit of a problem actually. We wanted the car to be as stealthy as possible, but if you put your foot in at the lights it will just sit there in a cloud of its own tyre smoke."

This was something that I obviously had to try. And I can indeed vouch for the fact that traction is this car's most serious weak point. But bury your right foot once you're rolling and the acceleration can only be described as addictively comical. The surge of power is both effortless and insane.


The other major flaw is the handing, or rather the lack thereof. If oversteer-induced powerslides are your thing, then you need one of these in your life. It will go sideways and paint pretty black lines all over the road until you get bored or blowout a tyre, but that is just a coincidental by-product of making no modifications to the suspension. Uncharacteristic straight-line thrust is what this car is all about.

Make no mistake, it's very much a one-trick pony, but what a fantastic trick it is. The lads have yet to have their first run-in with a Corsa or a Saxo, but I have no doubt that much hilarity will ensue when the opportunity eventually arises.


The other thing you notice after driving this hormone-treated old girl around for a while is that, even though it has undergone some pretty invasive surgery, it still drives just as well as any other W123 I've driven. Once I'd left the un-policed joys of the airfield behind and headed into town, the car still demonstrated some impeccable road manners. It's easy to drive, rides well and everything still feels as solid as it did when it rolled out the factory. I guess that just proves testament to what a good car it was in its day and, to be fair, still is.

The final surprise comes when I ask how much this car has actually cost them. "All in, we reckon it owes us about a grand," they tell me. Now if that isn't a contender for SOTW top trumps, I don't know what is...




Pics: Joe Taylor

 

blueroom
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carinaman

Original Poster:

7,655 posts

55 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbB_CK_OQMc

As well as those Alloys I think the magazine got some steel wheels 'banded', and got Janspeed to make up the exhaust.

angusc43

2,733 posts

91 months

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Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
"Make no mistake, it's very much a one-trick pony, but what a fantastic trick it is."

Great line :-)

And love the picture of it laying 11's on the airstrip.

g3org3y

8,824 posts

74 months

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Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
Want. Very very cool. cool

Ray Singh

2,239 posts

113 months

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Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
I had a 1986 W123 280CE and that made a nice enough sound with its straight six 2.8.

This must be stunning. But all that power through those skinny tyres.....Must be fun to drive !!

300bhp/ton

29,629 posts

73 months

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Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
A most splendid car!!

biggrin
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braddo

4,134 posts

71 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
angusc43 said:
"Make no mistake, it's very much a one-trick pony, but what a fantastic trick it is."

Great line :-)

And love the picture of it laying 11's on the airstrip.
Would it be 11's or just 1's?! I assume 230Es didn't come with a LSD so unless they've also replaced the diff...

Brilliant though. My kind of car. thumbup

chazwozza

277 posts

69 months

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Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
Massive WANT!!!!!! laugh

bosscerbera

8,182 posts

126 months

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Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
Three speed auto? You sure??

Chris71

20,696 posts

125 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
Want.

I think this is an awesome photo:

Schmeeky

3,691 posts

100 months

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Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
Aye, brilliant shot!

I love the whole q-car/sleeper thing, and putting large engines in unsuspecting cars.. I'd go for a shabby estate version to put that lump in though! hehe

bosscerbera

8,182 posts

126 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
Schmeeky said:
Aye, brilliant shot!

I love the whole q-car/sleeper thing, and putting large engines in unsuspecting cars.. I'd go for a shabby estate version to put that lump in though! hehe
Any excuse to post a link to this.... Mental TE - and it's a stink weasel

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhxsN7HGo2Y

ETA:


Edited by bosscerbera on Thursday 12th May 09:56

Luca Brasi

831 posts

57 months

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Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
Very nice.

newdogg06

262 posts

72 months

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Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
There's a near-immaculate white 230TE near me crying out for that conversion. Wonder if she'll sell?

Lord Flathead

1,288 posts

62 months

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Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
Love sleepers and this ticks all the right boxes thumbup

james_tigerwoods

11,834 posts

80 months

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Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
Much like smile

Ashok

524 posts

142 months

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Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
Absolutely brilliant clap

bmthnick1981

4,166 posts

99 months

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Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
Really brilliant. Always wanted a W123 at some point and this one would be so much fun.

WIN.

Chicane-UK

3,416 posts

68 months

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Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
Awesome. Really got a thing for old Mercs. And old Mercs with huge engines are even better smile

Benni

1,915 posts

94 months

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Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
123 is not bad, but I raise you a........dash8 V8 Taxi :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBKlxa6wJXc
This guy had to mount and re-mount the engine/trans combo 42 times,
then the 560 SEC drivetrain hehe fit properly.
Love the brown plastic "leather" seats and the taxi-beige BBS cross-spokes,
I saw that once on an 1/8mile and it could smoke start to finish.
Owner has a magnetic "TAXI" sign for temporary roof-mount as well.

Wolands Advocate

2,343 posts

99 months

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Thursday 12th May 2011 quote quote all
Cracking idea.

I'm assuming this is the same Adrian Mounter who bought my old W124 E500.
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