Estate, 300TD (300TDT), Wagon: W123 vs. W124 - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 02-28-2016, 12:07 PM Thread Starter
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Estate, 300TD (300TDT), Wagon: W123 vs. W124

I didn't post this in either the W123 or W124 sections, thought this was the place. If not, please move to the appropriate section, thanks.

I'm really on the fence about this one. Will be purchasing either a W123 or W124 Estate in the near future, but not sure which one to get. Will be using it to drive from Seattle to Los Angeles (1,200mi) about 4 times a year, plus using the car daily in the local LA or Seattle area. It will get used a lot. There are a series of moderate mountains with curves in southern Oregon/northern California, very enjoyable to run through. I drive generally very fast, and having a 1.9L Jetta TDi presently, learned over time how to make up for a lack of power (though that li'l rascal is quite 'torquey') with momentum. The dilemma is this: generally from my research I've found that the OM617 is more reliable than the OM603 (#14 head, rod-bender), but I gather that the W124 estate will have substantially more power, quieter, more comfortable, and better driving dynamics for my purpose (mountains, curves, most comfort over long distances, daily local use) than a W123. But the W123 is quite a bit 'more reliable' (iron head, etc.), parts more plentiful.

Is the W124/OM603 enough of a 'better' car for my purpose to deal with known 603 engine issues, or is it only marginally better than the W123/OM617, thus making the W123 the better choice? I'd be grateful for specifically the input of those who have driven both and can tell me how much 'better' for my purposes the W124 Estate is than the W123 Estate. Is it? Of course all constructive input on this subject is most gratefully welcome.
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 02-28-2016, 06:05 PM
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30 years v/s 25 years old car for 1200 miles trips.
That is going to be interesting.
For starters I would buy the one that still runs

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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 02-28-2016, 09:03 PM Thread Starter
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Yeh, I'm not gonna buy a dog. I'm willing to spend the bucks for one in good/excellent/well-maintained condition.
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 03-03-2016, 03:30 PM
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The 603 head issue has been in my experience a chicken-little thing. 617 heads crack also, and try finding a used head for a 123 300TD, they are special for the hydraulic pump mounting.

I test drove an '85 300TD when new, was "peppy", but I couldn't handle the uncomfortable seat, the soggy ride, mediocre power, big steering wheel, etc., etc. I bought a new Quattro instead.

When the 124 was introduced, I drove one, and was hooked. Unfortunately by the time I could afford a new one, they were gas only, ... I never loved that gas wagon and eventually sold it. The '87 I now have I bought used. The later 124s have more refinements, but the '87 is still a significant evolution over the 123, as it should be.

Problems plague both if not properly maintained, that means in the past 5 years, and in the past 30. If the fluids were not maintained properly you will likely have caliper issues eventually, cooling system issues, etc. If the suspension bushings are tired, either car will need the suspension refreshed. I really don't see much difference between an '85 123 and an '87 124 in cost of ownership. Be sure that you look at the buyer's guides and know what to look for, and yes a cracked head would be a bad thing, but you can get a used head from any 603, not just wagons, ... but a neglected cooling system is always a red flag.

To finish the comparison, the '87 was originally 0-55 in 9.5seconds (wagon, slower than the sedan as it is 400lbs heavier and .02Cd more drag), pretty respectable. It turns more neatly, less body roll, accelerates and brakes much better, will climb mountain grades happily, better fuel mileage, better HVAC, better ergonomics, better seats, lots of used parts available (sold lots of gas wagons through '95, lots of gas and diesel sedans through '95, lots of SDLs with same engine, ...).

Really it's a matter of taste. I love the 124, long story, but I also love the look of the 123 wagon (more classic look). If I were buying it to look at, it'd be a 123, if buying to drive a 124. It'll be tough to do an apples-to-apples test drive comparison because of the widely varying condition of these older cars, and the fact that there were only around 1,500 of the diesel 124 wagon ever produced (~320 of those white dealer-service wagons), or find a nice example of a gas wagon to compare for ride and handling and go from there. Most of these cars will have no power (search ALDA and switchover valve) until a couple of simple corrections are made, try to overlook that also.

- Jeff
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 03-06-2016, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Kajtek1 View Post
30 years v/s 25 years old car for 1200 miles trips.
That is going to be interesting.
For starters I would buy the one that still runs
Wow, I am impressed by the durability of your car, you might have to use it very carefully! is offline  
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