“Aziza of Lebanon” (“beloved precious of Lebanon”) is not your typical taxi as the W123 sedan doesn’t have a Mercedes engine under its hood. Instead, owner Akram Abou Aziza fitted a BMW engine to keep the 46-year-old car in running condition. He has had the car for the last 12 years during which he decked out the iconic saloon with flags of the western Asian country.
Despite its venerable age, “it runs efficiently and works well.” The 58-year-old taxi driver operates the vehicle in the Beqaa Valley in eastern Lebanon. Aside from having the colors of the flag inside and out, the W123 boasts an aircraft on the hood to honor the country’s army. Open the trunk and you’ll find a trusty hammer in case the car needs to be repaired the old-fashioned way.
The video doesn’t go into details about the identity of the BMW engine, but judging by the engine block, it appears to be a four-cylinder M42. It’s a naturally aspirated 1.8-liter gasoline engine used during the late 1980s until the mid-1990s for the E30 and E36 generations of the 3 Series. The company’s first mass-produced DOHC engine developed 134 hp (100 kW) and 172 Nm (127 lb-ft) in the former and a slightly higher 138 hp (103 kW) and 138 hp (129 lb-ft) in the latter.
Mercedes made 2.7 million W123s between 1976 and 1986, during which the E-Class’ ancestor spawned numerous specialty versions, including a jumbo taxi as pictured above. Unfortunately for Akram Abou Aziza, it’s getting more and more expensive to use the car as a taxi due to rising fuel prices, with inflation reaching 120% in Lebanon.
It costs the equivalent of €94 to refuel the Mercedes sedan, with the owner saying he couldn’t afford to live without money sent from his son abroad. He used to earn about €80 a day, but it’s been getting increasingly difficult in the last two years to make a decent living. The silver lining is his BMW-powered W123 is still going strong as it approaches the half-a-century mark.