W124 Engine choice - am I drawing the right conclusion?

isobars

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Hi Everyone,

I’ve just sold a 210 Estate and with the proceeds I would like a W124 Coupe.

I’m not especially interested in high power, but would prefer it given the choice between a 230 and a 300 for example, however, not at the expense of hassle.

After having spent a few days digging around, I’ve come up with the following.

I’d be really grateful if anyone would give me a little – or a lot – of feedback about the conclusions I’ve drawn which are these, so far.

The 103 and 104 engines are both likely to need head work along with timing chain gasket replacement, not because of miles but because of age. So by now it should have been done, and if I can’t prove it, then budget for it.

Better head gaskets were fitted from 1993, is that correct, please?

If they were better, then what would be their lifespan? Should I look for evidence of a change purely on miles rather than age?

Post 1993, all engines are prone to wiring loom failure.

If the above is correct, is it a choice of a wiring problem, or the gasket problem?

And if that is the case, why would anyone take the gasket problem apart from the love of an easier engine to work on – the M103?

Is there the same gasket weakness on M102 980, 2300, four cylinder motors?

The more I write, the more I think I should look at a W123 280CE, or is that even more problematical??!!

Any thoughts most gratefully received.

Best wishes,

Paul
 

jonnyboy

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Keep watching. In the New Year I will have a blue-black e320 coupe for sale with grey leather. Sportline suspension, 5 speed box, and the loom will be done :)
M Plate car
 

Smiley

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The w123 280 coupe has its fair share of things to look out for, first one being rust. I doubt it will be very easy to find a good 123 coupe without spending quite a bit more than for a w124 coupe.
All 6 cylinder petrol w124s are prone to hg failure; usually it is a leak at the rear o/s or round the very front. The headgaskets were modified later to give more strength in this area. So one that has been replaced properly should be good for a long time. The engine wiring loom does break down and if the loom has not been replaced and the HG needs doing then it would be daft not to replace the loom at the same time - disturbing the old loom when removing the head would probably finish it off - and then finish the ECU off just after that. Many cars will have had both jobs completed by now.
The 300 or 320 is a far better car than the 220 - a very smooth 6 cylinder engine with a lot more power but not much thirstier. Other things to look out for are evidence of ATF + filter changes; clean red ATF is a good start - the later 5 speed auto has a few more problems than the 4 speeder; look for rust just about everywhere but esp the front wings, rear arches, bonnet, around the boot lock, around the aerial hole.
A good pre facelift 300ce or late e320 would be my choice.
 
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isobars

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Thanks for the advice, it's much appreciated.

Was the W123 more robust and less prone to rust? Yes, I have a 123 and 116, but I sold my 124 a few years ago and would like another opinion!

From memory, I'd say the earlier steel was thicker. If the drain holes were kept clear and rubbers remained fresh, it strikes me as a sturdier job. A lot of rust on the 124's seems to be coming from the steel itself. Does that make sense?

Did the 103 983 230E have the same oil loss problems as the 3 litre engines?

Cheers,

Paul
 

Smiley

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I am not so sure, my impression is that the 123 and 124 are about the same re rust - it is just that the 123 is a few years older and therefore the gap between the worst and the best is wider and it would be easier for the unwary to buy a money pit.
 

Roger Jones

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I've had my 1996 320 Coupé for nine years. As yet there is no sign of head-gasket or loom problems. The M104 320 is reported to be more prone to HG problems than its M103 predecessor, but I've had to change the HGs in both of my M103s, admittedly at higher mileage. I think the design of the HG was changed in response to problems experienced with the M104. I reckon a properly fixed HG should be good for 100k, but I am no expert.

From my own experience with both engines, there is no doubt that the M104 is better: smoother, quieter and more torquey. I don't thrash it it, but enjoy it for its pure ease and smoothness. I wouldn't dream of settling for a four-cylinder engine.

From everything I've read, the W124 appears to be more resistant to rust than the W123, although the comment above about age is fair. The W124 was a real advance on the W123 -- better car all round, by all accounts. However, wings go, and often rust appears at the joints under the the rear lights. The Coupé rear window usually delaminates around the edge; some get it fixed, others live with it, which is what I have done for 5+ years and it has not spread any further.

As ever, good documentation and a pre-purchase inspection should flush out the facts, and any defects (e.g. oil smearing under the car) can be brought to bear in the price negotiation.

My W124 Coupé remains my favourite car, the recent arrival of a 500 SL notwithstanding. You'll find more comments if you search this forum using my name.
 
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isobars

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Thanks Roger,

So I can budget into the price, would anyone have an idea of what an Indy would charge to change the HG, and the cost of a wiring-loom change, including P+L?

Thanks,

Paul
 

d w124

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Thanks Roger,

So I can budget into the price, would anyone have an idea of what an Indy would charge to change the HG, and the cost of a wiring-loom change, including P+L?

Thanks,

Paul
If you don`t mind a 4 cyl,why don`t you look at the e220?I`d also like to say that i have an e320 with 156k miles and still original loom and gasket.:thumb:
 

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Here are my brief thoughts on W124 coupes-

230CE - No major issues but sluggish
300CE - Good car but loom issue]
300CE - 24 Valve - Great car but Headgasket and also loom issue
220CE - Very very reliable but underpowered.
320CE - Very smooth, powerful, only wiring loom issue really

Of course all the usual checks apply.. all cars rust and W124's rust around arches mainly. Budget £1000 to do the loom if not been done.

W123 - Yes I have two.. I consider my gold coupe to now be one of the cleanest you will see in the UK... but finding a clean one will cost you double or triple a W124 coupe.. Cheap ones (under 4-5K) will be money pits.. W123's rust like mad once it sets in... Just see the restoration ive just done on my yellow saloon!
IMO the W123 oozes class and character.. that said you have to be realistic, older technology means the 280 is a thirsty engine and refinement is nowhere near the same as a 6 Cyl engined W124. Gear changes are not as smooth and engines are not as quiet.

Drive them and see what you think.

I faced a similar decision last year and I went for the W123.. just because I have a huge soft spot for them and I think the looks are timeless.
 
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ray_hennig

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The 300CE-24 never had a loom issue, that hit the 320.

Head gasket is likely to need replacement but may already have been done - try to find one that has been done as the later gasket is likely to last for the life of the engine. make sure a reputable person did the work.

124s are far less susceptible to rust than 123s, at least in my experience.

A good 123 coupe would be more rough and ready than a 124 but would have less electronic problems. Fuel consumption, in my experience, is much higher in the earlier cars.

Good hunting.

RayH
 
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isobars

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Thanks for the input!

Is changing the HG on a 103 twice as easy as on a 104?

Cheers,

Paul
 

Ade B

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HG on my 300CE-24 M104 cost about £600 + VAT from memory. The head wasn't skimmed as I was assured at the time it wasn't necessary (by a reputable/read pricey SE Indy specialist).

There is still oil weeping out from somewhere which doesn't bother me as its a neglible amount and there are no further signs of HG failure.

Depending on mileage and history I'd budget for suspension bits. The front ball joints on the sport chassis/ sportline cars are pricy as they come attached to the lower wishbone assembly (£200+ per side) and the rear subframe bushes aren't cheap either to get fitted by a specialist.

My rear screen has delaminated a little in the 3 years I've owned the car.

Best to test drive, the difference between the CE24 and the 320 is noticable in the way the engine makes its power/torque. Both have a fair bit of poke when booted, the 24 doesn't do much below 4k rpm but does rev to 7k rpm (much fun :))

On a well maintained car, the AC and other toys will still work.

Ade
 
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isobars

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Hi,

Thanks for the info.

I've just seen a three owner, no rust, 85K miles 300/24 1990. FSH, good extras, for £3000.

That seems about right, doesn't it?

If it drives correctly!

Cheers,

Paul
 

Ade B

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I'd say its OK if all niggles are sorted.

I'd expect a decent spec - electric seats, maybe heated leather, sports chassis and working AC for that.

Should have a 5 speed which will be fine at that mileage if properly maintained.

My 91 CE has no airbags or ASR which you may want - although I've never had any wheel spin issues as the peak torque comes in at RPM which are outside of 'normal' driving.

The 24v was the flagship E coupe at the time, and most come with a decent spec. The noise the engine makes when pushed is brilliant and they shift quite well at higher RPM for a stodgy exec car. :)

Let us know how you get on.

Ade
 
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isobars

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Hi Ade,

Thanks for the info.

Here is the spec per our Friends in the East:

Engine104980 22 006056
Transmission722359 03 320014
Order0 0 537 02026
Options221left front seat, electrically adjustable (ñ 01.11.1978)
222right front seat, electrically adjustable (ñ 01.11.1978)
240outside temperature indicator (ñ 01.03.1982)
251Becker Radio Mexico cassette, full stereo, electronic (ñ 01.04.1980 ïî 30.11.1990)
281trunk set, (280 SL)
steering wheel (390 mm) with sports design (ñ 01.03.1989)
300storage box in front tray (ñ 01.05.1988)
341additional lamp (ñ 01.09.1982)
362
412electric sliding roof with tilting device (ñ 01.07.1983)
420automatic transmission, floor shift (ñ 01.01.1963)
430headrests in the rear (ñ 01.01.1977)
443tempomat (cruise control), and steering column, electrically adjustable (ñ 01.07.1984)
461Unknown code471acceleration skid control (ASR) (ñ 01.07.1984)
524paintcoat preservation (ñ 01.01.1964)
531automatic antenna (ñ 01.01.1963)
543sun visor with vanity mirror, illuminated, left and right (ñ 01.11.1978)
551anti-theft warning system (ñ 01.11.1978 ïî 31.03.1998)
570folding armrest front w202/210 stowage box front with armrest (ñ 01.04.1970)
front folding armrest w202 - housing at front with armrest
580air conditioner/Tempmatic (ñ 01.11.1982)
600headlamp wiper/washer (ñ 01.08.1971)
613lamp unit, asymmetrical, l.h. traffic (ñ 01.02.1963)
650sports chassis with 15-hole light alloy rims (ñ 01.12.1988 ïî 28.02.1993)
873seat heater for left and right front seats (ñ 01.02.1984)

Did the paint work preservation work???

Cheers,

Paul
 

d w124

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^ That`s a very nice spec,ASR to.
 
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isobars

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d w124

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Ade B

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Be wary of an old car where the money gets spent on wheels and sound install ;)

Ade
 

andy_k

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the engine bay loom costs about £500 + vat (see sticky at the top of this forum for MB Eastbourne) and is a relatively easy DIY install.

Rust, as well as all the other places you need to check the rear subframe, many of these cars are reaching an age where they are starting to deteriorate.

Bushes all round will be worth doing but won't be cheap
 

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