Just when you thought you’ve seen it all. Well, this 1982 Mercedes-Benz 500SEL has it all. This W126 had a life of excess and has all the paperwork to prove it. The story goes the car was ordered as a grey market import by a private owner in Chicago with a boat load of options then immediately shipped to AMG for more special touches. Those “special touches” you see above aren’t the work of a 17 year-old who bought this car from a Buy-Here, Pay-Here lot and a couple cans of spray paint. No, that is the work of AMG. I’m sure they were scratching their heads a little when this work order came in, but when someone offers up $20,000 (in 1982 money, mind you), you do what they say. An AMG body kit was added, all the chrome was painted black, the wheels were replaced with Rial alloys, the interior needed more leather, and the engine gained roughly 50 horsepower for the small price of $11,000. Total cost for this entire car, modifications and all? $62,656. For those keeping score at home, that is $164,234 today. I hope this owner loved this car.
When looking at last week’s 1980 Mercedes-Benz 300SD, the claim of it being the best sedan in the world (at the time) came up. Those were someone else’s words, not mine, but I am certainly not going to argue against it because I actually own a 1980 300SD and it is one of my daily drivers. 1980 was also the last year of the W116 and the W126 was already on the roads late in that year in Europe with 1981 being the first model year for the new S-Class in North America. The W126 had to continue on the legacy of being the best luxury sedan in the world and again, at the time, it would tough to say it wasn’t. You could have the efficient OM617 diesel or two V8 options in the Gen 1 W126 with the 380SE/L or the 500SEL. Today’s car I wanted to check out is a 1983 500SEL but it isn’t the standard North American spec cars you are used to seeing. This W126 is a Euro-spec car with some neat options, both inside and out.
A few months ago I checked out a 1989 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC AMG Widebody that had everything and a price tag to match. Today’s car is styled similarly, but unlike that 560SEC, this one doesn’t have the same punch and thankfully no where near the same price tag. This is a 1983 Mercedes-Benz 500SEL. You are probably asking right now ”This is an AMG car, right?” Well, not really. See, this is a really nice European-spec 500SEL with some AMG body parts, AMG wheels and an AMG steering wheel. You might of noticed I left out the part about a massive engine. This car looks every bit the part of a really good pre-merger AMG car, but without the heart. The thing is, I’m totally fine with that.
Throughout last week I checked out a few custom creations from coach builders both really interesting and a little odd. I didn’t have plans to continue this streak until I ran across this creation. What we are looking at today is a 1990 Mercedes-Benz 500SEL limousine by Trasco. Trasco is a German company that has been producing both stretched and armored S-Class since the launch of the W126 chassis. To this day they still do conversions on not only the W222 but G-Wagons, 7-series, A8, Land Crusiers/LX as well as some other vehicles you typically see with protection. Of course with the majority of limos built in the 1980s, they reflect the times quiet well. This one is no different.
Engine: 5.0 liter V-8
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Mileage: 126,560 km (78,640 mi)
1990 Mercedes-Benz 500SEL, 45cm limo by TRASCO
Guessing off the seller’s description, this 500SEL was lengthened by almost 18 inches in the center of the car. This allowed room in the rear seating area for a small television and what looks like a VHS player. But to be honest, this whole car looks like a mess. The exterior of the car is pretty beat up with bumps and bruises everywhere on the bumpers. The rear badges are literally held on by a bunch of different style self-tapping screws drilled straight into the metal. Inside, it doesn’t get much better. The gauge cluster was modified with some of fake stones on the dials and the surrounding area of it looks like it was painted with a coarse paint brush. The privacy curtains are lace of all things and don’t offer much privacy at all. The entire car can be described as filthy as it looks like a good vacuuming wasn’t on the priority list before taking photos of the this poor thing. At least one redeeming quality is that the wood looks to be in fine shape and hasn’t cracked yet.
This Trasco creation for sale in Japan is listed $22,000, which I don’t need to tell you that is insane. I’ve seen other Trasco W126 limos sell for a third of this price and they weren’t in nearly as bad a shape. I guess maybe this might appeal to Japanese buyers who want to pony up this kind of cash. I just hope they like 1980s nostalgia and a giant coat of arms in the middle of their limousine.
It has been a while since I featured a nice W140, but this example outside of Detroit has given me a perfect excuse to check out another one. This 1992 500SEL in Arctic White with the outstanding Saffron leather interior has everything you would want out of an early W140 and a few extras that I think are great additions. Of course, all this comes with a price tag.
Engine: 5.0 liter V8
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Mileage: 104,898 mi
Price: Buy it Now $8,000
1992 S500 Immaculate. White over Palomino. All options including self closing latches on doors, power rear view mirror, self closing latch on trunk . . . . . . . . . . The vehicle has never been driven in the winter and has been kept in climate controlled storage. The car has never been through a car wash, only hand washed. I bought it with 99,000 a decade ago, and now it has 104,898 miles on it. It has been a summer Sunday driver. Living in MI does not afford me the opportunity to enjoy the vehicle as much as I’d like to which is the reason for selling the car. As a Benz aficionado you would know that all big body big engine Benz’s were 500SEL’s in 1992. In 1993 they became S500’s. The second owner, a physician in Myrtle Beach SC, bought the 20 inch AMG wheels and low profile tires you see on the vehicle in 1996. He also had the fascia’s on the front and back bumper and side fascia all pained white to match the rest of the car, and re-badged it an S-500. Since the wheels came out in 1996, and the all one color “Euro” look came out at the same time, most think its a 96 car or later. Everything works and it has been maintained for me by my local Mercedes dealer over time. With this vehicle it’s not about the price, it’s about the car. If your looking for an outstanding Vintage Benz that has been pampered and lived its life being well cared for, then the money is secondary to this piece of history. The vehicle has never been in an accident and also comes with a car cover.
First off, let’s address the best part of this car: the wheels. These are called ‘Eltanin’ wheels which were available as an option on European W140 sedans and coupes in 18 by 8.5 inches wide. Because the grass is always greener on the other side and these wheels looks great on the bigger body sedans, the Eltanins are in high demand with the W140 crowd and bring a pretty penny when up for sale. Also, on the exterior of the car, one of the previous owners decided to spray the lower body cladding Arctic White to match the rest of the car which gives it an updated look to match the later W140s. The badging on the trunk was changed from ‘500SEL’ to ‘S500’ which is a little odd because it’s 2017, who cares if your car looks 22 years-old vs. 25 years-old. Inside, this car is equipped with the Saffron leather which is a love it or hate it kind of color. I personally love it because it fits so well with the burl wood and matching colored carpets. You still get some darker color tones with the black dash and door trim so the interior isn’t all a mess of tan and caramel colors.
The ‘Buy It Now’ on this car is $8,000 which isn’t totally out of the question if this car is truly how it presents itself. For that kind of money I’d probably want to pop off the valve covers to take a good look at the oil tubes to see if they were changed over to metal and check the cam chain guides as well. We still aren’t at a point where W140s are becoming collectible outside of S600s and the S500 Grand Edition because the market is still flooded with every variation of these cars for a few thousand dollars. If you want a nice early W140, you’d get no argument from me about snagging this car because it sure seems like a good buy. But if you’re like me and go all in if you are committing to a 20 year-old car, the V12 S600 is where I’m spending my money.
Early buyers of the W126 in America had to make do with the relatively anaemic 3.8 liter V8 in the 380SEL. Thirsty and underpowered, it was a bit of a disappointment. Meanwhile, European customers were offered the better performing 500SEL, which was powered a 5.0 liter version of the M117 block good for about 240hp. Although MB USA eventually relented in the face of demand and brought the car over by official channels, early Euro-spec examples pop up for sale in the US every now and again, since many of them made it over to these shores via the gray market.
Limousine conversions can go either way. The way I enjoy them are the factory conversions which Mercedes-Benz calls the “Pullman”, a term carried over from railroad cars that were built to be relaxed in. Their fit and finish is totally perfect, which makes sense because these cars were usually built for heads of state like
Boris Yeltsin Vladimir Putin to be the ultimate in chauffeured transport. On the other end, companies have taken the standard production car, sliced them in half, lengthened them, stitched them back together then added their own interiors in the passenger compartment. These cars were mostly used as shuttles for kids to puke up their Jägermeister on the way to the prom. Today’s 500SEL for sale outside of Boston is one of those types of limousines. Yea?
“Pre-merger” AMG cars date from the period when the company was not yet officially part of Mercedes-Benz and instead existed as an independent tuner (it would be folded into the MB family in the early to mid 1990s). Back then, customers could upgrade their cars with AMG parts by choosing from a menu of cosmetic and mechanical upgrades and having them shipped from the production line to Affalterbach for modification (or, if they were in the US, having those parts installed by a locally authorized dealer, like the storied Beverly Hills Motoring Accessories). Early period AMG cars that show up for sale today offer a neat slice of the exotic 80s tuner world, but they present a number of difficulties when it comes to authentication. This gray market, seemingly AMG modified 500SE is a good case in point.
When the W126 S-class first appeared in the US in the early 80s, the most powerful gasoline model available, the 380SEL, proved a bit of a disappointment. The 3.8 liter V8 engine produced a relatively paltry 155 hp, prompting wealthy American buyers to go to the trouble of importing the more powerful 500SEL from Europe. These cars, initially unavailable in the US, were powered by a 5.0 liter V8 which produced a much more respectable 240 hp. In fact, the gray market demand for the 500SEL turned out to be so strong that ultimately Mercedes-Benz of North America relented, and began officially bringing them to the US from 1984-85 (in 1986 they were phased out in favor of the 560SEL). Still, Euro 500s remained an attractive proposition: making roughly about the same power as the US 560s, they had slimmer bumpers and more attractive glass headlights. That may explain why this ’86 Euro-spec model was imported to the US in 1987, by a high-level German banker no less.
I remember vividly when the Mercedes-Benz W140 debuted. It seemed such a big departure from the W126 S-class, both in physical size and technology. Pouring over the pages of a brochure sent to my father from Mercedes-Benz North America, I marveled at this car’s features, such as the small chrome posts that would emerge from the rear fenders to help guide in parking and the new 6.0 liter V12 that found its way under the hood of the 600SEL, a car which could be optioned with four-place seating. If that wasn’t enough, the W140 could quite possibly be one of the few vehicles to feature an electrically adjustable rear view mirror. If that isn’t over the top, I’m not sure what is. Some folks liked this car for its technical prowess, others derided it for its size and excess in a worldwide recession. It’s hard to think, though, that a quarter century has passed since this car’s introduction, giving way to successors it bore little resemblance to. This 1992 500SEL for sale in South Dakota is a like new example with less than 20,000 miles on the clock.