1983 Mercedes-Benz 300 CD: Yuppie Hardtop
Ah, the early ’80s. When tastes diverged from Coupe de Villes and Mark VIs to BMW 535is, Volvo Turbos, Saab 900s, and of course Mercedes-Benzes. German cars, especially, were very hip, particularly among the younger, affluent set. Who could forget Roman Craig driving his navy blue 560 SEL in the classic John Candy movie The Great Outdoors, or the Porsche 928 sinking into Lake Michigan in Risky Business? “Who’s the U Boat commander?”
While the W126 S-Class was the biggest, baddest Mercedes at the time, one step below it was the W123, which later would be dubbed the E-Class. Not in 1983, however. This series had first appeared as a 1976 model and initially was available only as a four-door sedan.
The pillarless coupe appeared halfway through the 1977 model year, and the wagon (designated S123—not W123, for you Jeopardy! fans) went into production in 1978. And while the sedan was the belle of the ball production-wise, the coupe was naturally the prettiest.
The coupe rode a shorter wheelbase compared to the sedan and wagon, at 106.7 inches. All 1983 U.S.-bound coupes had the five-cylinder turbodiesel engine, matched to a four-speed automatic transmission. The coupe was the luxury version of the W123 lineup; as such, it featured electronic automatic climate control, cruise control, vacuum power door locks, AM/FM stereo with cassette, power windows, and the “Bundt” alloy wheels all as standard equipment. The black-on-black example featured in the ’83 U.S. brochure appeared suitably elegant.
As for our featured vehicle, I spotted it way back in June 2013. As I recall, there was a cruise night on the riverfront with a number of adjacent food trucks and vendors. I was walking back to my car and happened to spy this attractive bit of ’80s Teutonic luxury parked by the old train station, which now serves as a visitor’s center. I hadn’t seen one in a long time (and haven’t seen one since, believe it or not, though I did see a nice blue 300 TD wagon that I should write about one of these days), so I had to take a few pictures even though it was late, I was tired, and I wanted to go home and eat dinner.
Also, I am not certain this car is a 1983 model. However, my late friend and avid Mercedes-Benz fanatic Jonny Valadez had a 300 CD wagon, and I inherited the brochure he had of the 1983 Mercedes-Benz model lineup, which was utilized in the research for this article, so I went with that year. For Mercedes, it is frequently difficult to pin down a single model year, compared to say, 1970s Cadillacs or Oldsmobile Ninety-Eights, which are more of my bailiwick.
The Mercedes appears to be code 877, Blue Green, nicely contrasted with what looked to be a Beige interior. And may I add how much I love the interior and exterior color selections? Just look at that dark green striped velour! Can I still order one?
As for the W123, its reign as the “medium” Mercedes—price-wise, size-wise, and otherwise—was coming to the end. While it was introduced in its home market earlier, the W124 appeared in the U.S. in late 1985 as an ’86 model. And while it had its own success, the W123 had just a little bit more of that stout, traditional Mercedes-Benz vibe.