Beautiful Bargain– 1980 W123 300CD Coupe
1980 W123 300CD Coupe
An ongoing series highlighting club members’ desirable and affordable classics
Article and Images Sid Arya
Serendipity, fate and patience all play roles in any search for just the right car. They certainly were important elements in my unification with this ultra-rare W123 300CD Coupe, produced in 1980 in Inca Red color with a complementing Palomino MB-Tex interior.
As a new father at the age of 30, I’m typically one of the youngest members at any local car gathering. Perhaps I’m still an old soul, because I think that car design reached its peak in the 1960s and has been mellowing out ever since.
I have a particular affection for Mercedes-Benz cars, growing from a seed that was probably planted by my father, a physician who was the proud owner of a silver-blue metallic 1979 300D with dark-blue interior. As an immigrant to the United States, owning a Mercedes was a huge achievement for him. The rattle of that legendary OM617 engine and the subtle vibrations entering the interior must have left a strong imprint on me at a very young age; in 2010 I decided I wanted one of my own.
With 2.7 million W123s sold worldwide, if I wanted something special it would have to be a wagon or a coupe, which represented less than 10 percent of those produced. When my daily search of cars for sale turned up a particularly beautiful 1980 300CD coupe with only 70,000 miles at a Los Angeles dealer, I couldn’t shake its grasp.
Its wonderful Inca Red, color code 581, seared its image into my consciousness. As I learned later, this unusual shade of metallic paint, which changes from a subtle champagne orange to a dark, almost tangerine color depending on the light, was applied to only about 600 W123s and R107s – and only during the 1979 and 1980 model years.
I made an offer, but the dealer was unwilling to negotiate, selling it instead to a wealthy banker in Chicago with a vast car collection. But I was sure I would eventually find the car of my dreams, so I continued my search.
Then in 2014, while doing my usual W123 search on eBay, I spotted what had to be the same car. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I rang the seller and explained how I had been following this car and that if I could buy it, I would cherish it. My pleas paid off, the auction was ended and my one-time offer was accepted.
The car had pretty much been untouched since being sold in Los Angeles, but several days of shop work at the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine put it back into safe running order, and as a bonus the Center helped me confirm the car’s originality and history.
These cars need to be driven often, with a proper warm-up and a respectful driving style, but I think most problems with these sturdy, tank-like cars stem from lack of proper maintenance. It still struggles a little bit in stop-and-go L.A. traffic, but it’s fine on the highway and the steering tracks straight and true. The doors close with a reassuring sound while the windows and switches work with a precision unseen today. And after careful detailing, the car looks as if it has never left the showroom floor.
My son Alexander has just turned one, and my wife Jeannine encourages my intention to keep my Inca Red beauty in the same shape it’s in now so when he’s older, he can drive it and educate the next generation in the beauty of vintage cars.
FROM THE TOP: The loves of my life: my wife, Jeannine, my son, Alexander, and my 1980 300CD. At the age of 30, I see myself as a fairly young car enthusiast and collector. I was keenly aware of the rarity of this particular car, painted in Inca Red, color code 581. In 1980, this unusual shade of metallic paint was applied to no more than 700 Mercedes-Benz cars worldwide! It truly is a beautiful specimen; the color & original condition make it worth every penny I spent.
The loves of my life: my wife, Jeannine, my son, Alexander, and my 1980 300CD.
At the age of 30, I see myself as a fairly young car enthusiast and collector. I was keenly aware of the rarity of this particular car, painted in Inca Red, color code 581. In 1980, this unusual shade of metallic paint was applied to no more than 700 Mercedes-Benz cars worldwide! It truly is a beautiful specimen; the color & original condition make it worth every penny I spent.
Sturdy and attractive W123 dash.
Palomino MB-Tex interior is gorgeous.
gained my appreciation for diesels from my father.
Spacious trunk easily swallows baby gear and groceries.
Reliable OM617 engine.
The W123 300 CD’s graceful, timeless lines
1980 Mercedes-Benz 300CD Coupe (W123)
PRODUCED: 1977-1981, U.S. 7,502 (all body styles)
TYPE: Two-door, five-passenger coupe
ENGINE: OM617 2,998 5-cylinder inline non-turbocharged diesel
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed 4G-Tronic automatic
HORSEPOWER: 88 at 4,200 rpm TORQUE: 120 lb-ft at 2,400 rpm
CURB WEIGHT: 3,582 lb (sedan, coupe is less) LENGTH: 187.5 in
TOP SPEED: 88 mph
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