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  • Mercedes C 123 – 40 years after the premiere in Geneva.
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    Mercedes C 123 – 40 years after the premiere in Geneva. Elegant practicality.

    Elegant practicality.

Prestigious world premiere.

While the last snow still lay on the mountains surrounding Lake Geneva in the final days of winter in 1977, down at the waterside the Daimler car was just as resplendent as the sun. The coupé of the W 123 model series celebrated its prestigious world premiere not just on the stand at what is today the Palexpo trade fair centre. Instead, the elegant two-door model was presented for the first time in its full diversity to a crowd of journalists and guests of honour, who sported contemporary broad cravats, at a magnificent villa on the shore of Lake Geneva. Neatly arranged, the vehicles stood in line on the wide sun terrace: Mercedes 230 C, 280 C and 280 CE. All decked out with smart Fuchs wheels, lowered side windows and interior trim in velour, fabric and leather. A perfect symbiosis of classic Mercedes saloon and elegant luxury coupé.

Then as now not a spectacular eye-catcher.

The C 123's close relationship with the successful saloon of the Mercedes W 123 model series was apparent at first glance. Except for such details as rectangular headlamps and a chrome strip under the lamellar lamps (which otherwise only the 280 series had), the front and rear ends were identical. On the other hand, the wheelbase was 8.5 centimetres shorter, the roofline four centimetres lower and the windows raked at a steeper angle. Then as now, the C 123 is not a spectacular eye-catcher. It is elegant. Even in 1977, it exhibited decidedly classic lines and made its grand debut with lowered windows. Only as an option were the four side windows electrically powered, sliding in grooves in the doors and side sections


Inherited from the Saloon.

One searched in vain for features that were taken for granted at the time, such as convenience closing or a central switch in the wooden (at first burr wood, later zebrano) centre console. However, the debut with lowered side windows was and is, then as now, a grand one; the freedom behind the wheel, also as a result of the low side line, comes close to a ride in a cabriolet, at least with the sliding sunroof open. The C 123 Coupé had inherited from the Saloon not just its design, equipment and engines, but also the ample spaciousness and excellent ride comfort. With the world premiere at the Geneva Motor Show in spring 1977, the safety equipment set standards.


Smart coupé body and diesel engine.

As far as the engine variants were concerned, the same applied then as normally applies today in the case of coupés and cabriolets. Weedy basic engines were nowhere to be found in the model line-up, the symbiosis of smart coupé body and diesel engine being available only in the USA in the form of the Mercedes 300 CD / 300 CD Turbodiesel. In Europe, the C 123 with its 80 kW / 109 hp four-cylinder carburettor engine offered a sound basis for the well-heeled clientele who chose to afford a coupé. Customers in search of more power under the bonnet, despite the optional four-speed automatic transmission, were forced to resort to the more powerful six-cylinder engines, which were available at the start of production in the form of the Mercedes 280 C and the sought-after top-of-the-line 280 CE model.

Four-seater coupé with the star.

Although the basic equipment specification was relatively sparse on all models, the four-seater coupé with the star could be optionally upgraded with countless extras to satisfy the needs of the customer. Alongside aluminium wheels, especially popular options included an electric sliding sunroof, a right exterior mirror, power windows and a radio with electric aerial. In addition, there were new metallic paint finishes, optional rear head restraints and an air conditioner for pleasantly cool air on hot summer days.


Range of engines.

The range of engines originated from the higher end of the W 123 Saloon or from the corresponding Estate version of the S 123. Apart from the 109 hp entry-level engine from the Mercedes 230 C, the 123 Coupé was initially available with the 156 hp 280 C and the 280 CE with 177 hp. Sooner than many expected, the US market was additionally treated to the merely 80 hp version of the Mercedes 300 CD, which was very well received, especially in California.

Mechanical petrol injection.

It was not until 1981 that the economical, yet anything but refined diesel engine, which was similarly used in models of the 116, 123 and 126 series, was superseded by the 300 CD Turbodiesel, which delivered a considerably higher output of 125 hp. Of the almost 100,000 C123 Coupés produced between 1977 and 1985, more than 15,000 units were powered by diesel engines. As early as 1980, the carburettor version of the 230 C was replaced by the considerably livelier 230 CE, which, thanks to mechanical petrol injection, came with an output of 132 hp.