RUBY

By Gary Anderson, Wendy & Scott Patterson
Images by Owen Corrigan, Wendy & Scott Patterson
Wendy & Scott Patterson’s beloved 1984 Mercedes-Benz 300TD Station Wagon
Although I’ve been a “car guy” my whole life, I wouldn’t consider myself a Mercedes-Benz devotee. 
 
Certainly, as a motor racing aficionado I appreciated the cars and certainly was aware of the historic lore of the Silver Arrows – In fact, we have a dramatic framed photograph of Stirling Moss driving the No. 722 300SLR at the 1955 Mille Miglia hanging in our living room – but it never really had compelled me to pursue ownership. 
 
A childhood fan 
 
I also have nostalgic connections to the marque. My grandfather’s house, which he had built by hand, was directly across the street from a Mercedes-Benz dealership. My brother and I were fascinated by the dealership and we would run across the street on Sundays when we were there for dinner just to see what was new. We would both think, “Maybe, someday.” 
 
As we grew up, my mother would often admire the 450SL and 560SL models that some of our friends’ parents drove; these models were something of a dream car for her. They were gorgeous, elegant automobiles and they still are. We were around them and respected them, but my brother and I were being transported in practical Ford Country Squire and Chevrolet Suburban station wagons, typically with the wood-grained vinyl side panels that were so popular then.
 
Developing an obsession
 
So, what was it that led my wife Wendy and I to look for a Mercedes-Benz W123 wagon? Those refined roadsters that my mother had admired so much are where the story begins of the station wagon we now call “Ruby.” When we were a one-dog family, we often thought how perfect that little space behind the front seats of an R107 roadster would be for our Australian Labradoodle named Winston. He loves putting his head out the window of our cars, so what could be better than cruising with the top down in a 560SL with Winston proudly patrolling the space behind us? We occasionally toyed with the idea of buying one of these sporty machines, but just never took the plunge. 
And then one day while perusing social media, I saw a car that was simply stunning. It was a 1982 Agave Green 240TD station wagon on the W123 chassis on the Mercedes Motoring Instagram page. When I showed it to Wendy, we were smitten. 
 
In addition, we now have a second Australian Labradoodle, and they love their car rides. With the rear seats folded down, Winston and Gertie would have a mobile penthouse to enjoy. A classic Mercedes-Benz station wagon would be both desirable and practical.
 
I contacted JG Francis, owner of Mercedes Motoring. JG was kind enough to encourage our enthusiasm and he shared a few examples of interesting wagons from his inventory. The Agave wagon was stupendous, but it had a price tag to match. He also shared with us a 1979 280TE in Nickel Green with incredibly low miles and an incredible story behind it as well (featured in The Star July-August 2020 pp 43-49). Alas, the rarity of that example also placed it far from our reach. Nevertheless, our search for a Mercedes-Benz station wagon had finally begun in earnest, albeit with a budget. 
 
On the hunt
 
Half the fun of looking for a classic car is learning about the target make and model. I purchased the great Mercedes-Benz W123 book self-published by journalist Martin Buckley and W123 specialist Mark Cosovich. I dug through my old Road & Tracks that we collected and kept from our younger days. I purchased articles from Motor Trend and Car and Driver from eBay. The more I read and shared with Wendy, the more focused we became. We would have our wagon!
 
Finding Ruby
 
It is often said that timing is everything, and just when we were mentally prepared to make a commitment, we found the wagon that would become our “Ruby.” Like many other enthusiasts, I had been visiting the BringATrailer.com website for more than a decade. I bid first on an impressive Midnight Blue example, only to watch it shoot well past our price range. 
 
When we first saw the Signal Red 300TD appear on BaT, it just felt and looked right. Part of that feeling was emotional; the first car from the 1980s my wife and I purchased and have owned now for over a decade, was a 1988 Porsche Carrera in Guards Red. With this car in Signal Red, we started envisioning this awesome 1980s driveway with the wagon next to her contemporary and compatriot from Stuttgart.
 
A winning bid
 
Wendy was on a plane to Greece on the last day of the auction. We had agreed on a maximum bid, but Wendy would not be able to stop me now since she would be cruising at 30,000+ feet when I made my final bid! With Wendy likely sipping some wine somewhere over Europe, I bid in increments that always ended in 123. 
As the auction ended, I had just slightly exceeded our agreed-upon budget. Chalk it up to auction fever! I sent Wendy a text message that read, “I think we just bought a Mercedes.”
 
What's in a name?
 
So why is this Signal Red 300TD Turbo affectionately named “Ruby?” Names for cars are funny. In this case, that was the name of this wagon’s first owner, a lady from Texas, and red is the vehicle’s exterior color, so Ruby it was. 
Since Ruby joined our family over a year ago, we have enjoyed adding more than 5,000 miles to her odometer. She immediately became my faithful daily driver. During the height of the COVID pandemic, I think Wendy and I took a drive in Ruby almost every afternoon. Of course, on all of these drives the rear seats are folded flat and Winston and Gertie climb on board. I think it is safe to say Ruby is their favorite ride. 
 
Owners for life
 
After spending so much time during my younger days riding in more pedestrian machines, I never thought I’d aspire to own such a fine vehicle, but this car is, simply put, an immense pleasure to drive. Ruby always makes us smile, and she makes everyone else smile, too. We get waved at, honked at, get thumbs ups and find notes left under the wiper blades, asking that seemingly inevitable question. And the answer to it is: No, Ruby is not for sale!
 
Captions

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The 300TD was sold in the U.S. from 1978-1985. Ruby’s interior is durable, comfortable and classy. Ruby’s simple lines and graceful proportions are enlivened by her Signal Red paint.
 

 

 

 

 

 

We take a drive in our faithful 300TD wagon nearly every day. Ruby entices admirers from any angle; every detail illustrates why the W123 range is considered a landmark of design.
 

Our Australian Labradoodles, Winston and Gertie, always ride with us; we decided that a 1980s Mercedes-Benz T-wagon would be a comfortable and elegant way to travel.

 

SPECS
1984 Mercedes-Benz 300TD Station Wagon (S123)
TYPE: Five-door station wagon (sold in U.S. 1978-1985) 
ENGINE: Turbocharged overhead cam 5-cylinder inline 3-liter diesel 
HORSEPOWER: 120 at 4,350 rpm  
TORQUE: 184 lb-ft at 2,800 rpm  
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed automatic with torque converter
BRAKES: Dual-circuit 4-wheel discs
SUSPENSION: 
Front – independent, gas shock, coil springs 
Rear – independent coil spring with auto-level hydraulic assist
LENGTH: 190.9 in
WHEELBASE: 110.0 in
CURB WEIGHT: 3,780 lb
FUEL EFFICIENCY: 23-27 mpg  
PERFORMANCE: 0-60 mph 13.5 sec
 TOP SPEED: 108 mph
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