“The ‘Stroke 8’ made its public debut at the beginning of 1968. Over the course of its career, its outstanding qualities meant that it shaped a whole generation of automobiles. Today it is an established classic.” These are the introductory words of specialist author Thomas Wirth’s “Buyer’s guide” to the Stroke 8 Sedans in Issue 3/2015 of Mercedes-Benz Classic Magazine. The name “Stroke 8” dates back to the year of its official premiere, 1968.
Production of the pre-series models, however, began back in the Fall of 1967. All in all, some 1.9 million models of the Stroke 8 were built. When the successor model series, the W 123, was launched in January 1976, Daimler-Benz kept the production lines running until December 1976, so allowing the two model series to be produced in parallel for almost a year – not least to satisfy the taxi operators who struggled to see a way forward without the Stroke 8 diesel variants.
Production of the 250 to 280 E models and of the Coupes, on the other hand, came to an end between June and September of 1976. Alongside the standard Sedans and the Coupes, Mercedes-Benz also offered eight-seater Sedan variants of the 230 and 220/240 D models, which featured a wheelbase that had been extended by 650 millimetres and three rows of seats. This body variant was launched in late 1968 and went on to enjoy a production run of almost 10,000 units.
It wasn’t just taxi operators that used these eight-seater sedans, but also official authorities all over the world – in most cases with diesel engines. Indeed, more than three quarters of the models of this version were powered by a compression-ignition unit. A further source of income was provided by chassis for sedans and long-wheelbase sedans fitted with a partial bodyshell, which were supplied to specialist firms. The experts would then complete the necessary work to build, in the main part, ambulances, hearses and station wagons.
Particularly coveted by today’s collectors are the Stroke 8 Coupes – the first coupes in the upper mid-range to be built by Mercedes-Benz. These were launched to the press in November 1968. The first models to become available were the 250 C (130 hp) and the 250 CE (150 hp), followed by the 280 C and CE in April 1972 (160/185 hp). At this point the 280 C took over from the 250 CE, while the 250 C remained part of the range – although it now featured the derated 2.8-liter engine from the 280 S (W 108) that had been used in the export variant for North America since as far back as 1969 (130 hp).
The 2.5-liter injection engine reserved for use in the Coupe was the first standard-production unit from Mercedes-Benz to feature an electronically controlled fuel injection system (Bosch D-Jetronic). In terms of their technical basis and the 2750-millimetre wheelbase, the Coupe and Sedan are identical. However, the windscreen of the two-door model is less steeply raked and there is no B-pillar, while the roof is 45 millimetres lower. Its side windows are frameless and retract completely. The back bumper extends round over the rear fenders as far as the wheel cutouts.
A technical milestone was set by the new diagonal swing axle at the rear, which significantly enhanced the Stroke 8's dynamic handling compared with its predecessor, as well as its safety. Disc brakes on all four wheels play their part in this respect, too. Like the Sedans, the Coupes benefited from an extensive model refinement package introduced in 1973.
The most striking features of this include the ribbed tail lamps and the lower, wider radiator grille, as well as the new rearview mirrors. Numerous further improvements also found their way into standard production.
More importance was also assigned to the luxury touches in the case of the Coupes, compared with the Stroke 8 Sedans. They feature, for example, more extensive carpet flooring. Technical highlight: the front-seat backrests are locked into place by a vacuum system. Once the doors are closed and the engine is running, the seats can no longer be folded forward. However, as soon as a door is opened or the engine stopped, the lock is released. The backrests can be unlocked by hand using a pushbutton in the rear side paneling.
Depending on the specific variant, a Coupe could cost up to 3000 Deutschmarks more than a Stroke 8 Sedan. For this, however, buyers got a more capacious trunk, with a capacity of around 500 liters. The two models share an air of discreet elegance, credit for which is due to the then Mercedes-Benz designer Paul Bracq, supported by Bruno Sacco. By August 1976 more than 67,000 Coupe buyers had found themselves drawn to this particular design, many of them from outside Germany: more than 60 percent of production found its way to the export markets.
Anyone these days with their eye on a Stroke 8 Coupe should be sure to take a particularly close look at the bodywork. Rust can be an issue in all sorts of places, from the edges of the sliding roof through both cross and longitudinal members. The transitional points from the doors to the rear side panels are also critical areas, particularly at the lower edges. Rust can also fester behind the chrome trim on the C-pillars. Likewise important: a well-preserved interior. Technically, the car is robust in comparison. Accumulated mileage of several hundred thousand kilometers is not unusual.
Very good Stroke 8 Coupes, ideally with a full service history, fully documented back story and low mileage, will generally cost something over 15,000 euros. If you’re prepared to compromise on this, and yet still insist on a sound basic substance, you can reckon with prices of around 10,000 euros. It has to be said, though, that good examples are becoming harder and harder to find. Potential buyers will need patience as well as the money.