We are the champions — How the W123 finally won a title for us this summer

In the world of sports, this was not a good summer for us Germans. Instead of a midsummer night’s dream, we experienced a nightmare on the World Cup soccer field in Russia. We were longing for a taste of success. If we couldn’t be the world’s top soccer team, couldn’t we at least set some kind of world record? But first things first.

A world record instead of the World Cup

The W123 Club Elbe-Weser fan club in Tarmstedt, a small town near Bremen, sent out a call for people who could help them break a world record. A group from the Netherlands, the previous holders of the record in question, had held a parade of 323 Mercedes-Benz cars from the W123 series that made it into the Guinness World Records. The Tarmstedt team aspired to marshal even more cars and stage an even bigger parade, thus bringing this world record to Germany.

The ambulance came too: It was based on the W123 model

Well, I thought, that’s a pretty nasty trick to play on the Dutch. Our neighbors in their orange jerseys didn’t even make the cut for the World Cup, and then on top of that we want to take a world record away from them. How much more humiliation can that poor country bear?

But when I arrived at the parking lot and saw a number of Mercedes-Benz cars from the legendary 123 series with Dutch license plates, my reservations quickly vanished. Besides, the head organizer — a jolly guy who was speeding around the lot in his blue W123 and loudly honking the whole time — had an unmistakable Dutch accent. Finally, I saw a man wearing the country’s typical bright-orange outfit — clearly a Dutchman.

It says so, correctly — and obviously

So, no problems ahead. In addition to the Dutchmen, I also saw Portuguese, Danes, Frenchmen and natives of Bremen. There were lots of cars from this region, naturally including colleagues from Mercedes, as well as cars from every other part of Germany. Two S123 cars — the station wagon variant of the W123 — representing the Mercedes-Benz production plant in Bremen participated in the event. Both of these station wagons had been built in this plant. One of the drivers was Lars, and the other lucky driver was me. Everything was well-organized — even the rain, which stopped just as the parade began.

Like moths to a flame

The start of the parade was slightly delayed, and we drivers from Bremen were standing idly in the middle of the field. At that point I made a big mistake. Unaware of the possible consequences, I opened the hood so that my colleague could take a look at the flawless engine (80 hp). Suddenly, we were inundated by spectators, who ran over to us unstoppably from every direction. I was flabbergasted.

All of a sudden, people were sticking their heads into my engine compartment and talking shop about all kinds of details, such as a cable strap that had previously been clamped too tight by the apprentices and could possibly cause leakage. Or a small pump that none of them seemed to ever have seen before. And so on. It was insane.

The record-setting vehicle

Finally, someone approached me and asked me excitedly, “Is this really it? Is this really the Number One?” When I confirmed that this was really the first station wagon built by the Bremen production plant and delivered to a customer, the man was indescribably delighted.

If you want to see heartfelt emotions, this is the place to go. The people at the event were happy and satisfied. They were enjoying themselves, and no riot police had to be called in to maintain order. It wasn’t a World Cup match, “only” an event that broke a world record.

Cheers, ovations, and lots of fun

…and we won the trophy

At least I think we did. The parade got off to a good start, and the circular route was cordoned off for our event. The spectators celebrated with us, creating a small-scale folk festival. Some of them had brought their brass-band instruments with them and were helping to create a festive mood (I didn’t see any more orange outfits, though).

We’ve made it and we are proud

We sent out well over 400 vehicles on the circular route, and when the last car crossed the finish line the spectators went wild. As soon as we receive our official certification, our orange-hued neighbors will have to hand over their record to us. That makes me a world champion…um, I meant to say “world record holder.” I can’t wait to tell the other members of my club. At the end of the parade, yet another man came up to me and asked the same old question. He received the same old answer: “Yes, this is it!” The first one from Bremen!

The man turned out to be a colleague who is now enjoying his well-earned retirement. He had played a major role in the restoration of this green station wagon, and now he was lovingly stroking its roof.

The certification is now framed and proudly displayed in his home. Not in the living room — in the garage.

Talk about emotions! But the happiest person of all was his wife, who told me, “He’s finally found it. We’ve been looking for this car all day! My husband kept saying that it has to be here somewhere. I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like to go home without having seen it. It’s wonderful that we found it at last.”

Hans-Dieter Wuttke works at the plant in Bremen. He enjoys to write about travel, "his" plant and his daily experiences at the Waterkant.