This site features a fair amount of W126 S-Class. Usually they are the frugal 300SE or the loaded up 560SEL that still make excellent drivers and offer a ton of value. Every once in a blue moon, I come across an S-Class that was a ”money is no object” car. Usually these cars have options that you never seen let alone on a car manufactured 35 years ago. This 1981 500SEL located in the San Francisco area is one of those cars.
The W140 S-class was a huge step forward, even for a company known for innovation like Mercedes-Benz. Here was a luxury sedan like none other, chock full with all the latest technology at the outset of the 1990s, even offering a brand new V12 engine for those seriously power hungry customers. Its large size drew the ire of some, especially as it debuted in the midst of a global recession. Nevertheless, this car would soldier on throughout the 1990s, being the face of executive transport and embassies everywhere. This 1993 500SEL for sale in Florida is in amazing condition, with just over 78,000 miles on the clock. Even budgeting in money for the inevitable maintenance, this is a lot of car for the money.
Mercedes-Benz was the company that basically invented the idea of a super sedan with the 300SEL 6.3 back in the mid 1960s. Interesting, then, that the 300SEL 6.3 was fielded in motor racing by a group of ex-Mercedes engineers who founded the now famous tuning arm, AMG. Fast-forward to the 1980s and AMG was in the business of engine performance, wheels and body kits. The 500SEL was a W126 that was never offered officially in the US market, but a fair amount made their way to these shores through grey market importing. This 1983 example has a good bit of the AMG treatment, from engine modifications to the famous Penta wheels. For a person like myself who grew up in the 1980s, this car brings back a lot of memories of those posters I’d have on my bedroom wall of all the wild cars from that decade.
The W140 Mercedes-Benz S-class was a victim of its own times, debuting at the Geneva Motor Show in 1991 under the cloud of an economic downturn. Such a big and brash luxury sedan seemed out of step with the times and if that wasn’t bad enough, this car had to follow in the footsteps of the beloved W126 S-class. You still see a good number of W126 models roaming the roads but the W140s are few and far between these days. The W140 chassis would live on in the form of the recently discontinued Maybach 57 and 62, which would help to recoup some of the $1 billion USD spent on development. This 1993 500SEL for sale in Illinois is not the flagship model, but many would no doubt prefer the lower running costs of the V8 versus its V12 sibling.
When the W126 S class debuted at the outset of the 1980s, the top engine for US customers would be a 3.8 liter, all-alumnium V8. Those in Europe, however, could specify a larger, 5.0 liter V8. This led to many gray market imports flooding the marketplace, leading Mercedes-Benz lobbyists to push for legislation against private importation of vehicles not originally intended for US sale. But, in 1984, Mercedes-Benz threw an olive branch to those S-class buyers wanting a bit more power: the 500SEL. With a new 5.0 liter V8, this engine produced 184 bhp and 247 lbs. ft. of torque. This may not sound like a lot from a V8 engine, but manufacturers were still coming off a wave of newly introduced emissions controls that strangled power. Also, this was an era where a Honda Accord was barely cresting 100 bhp.
The 500SEL would last two short years until the 560SEL, with the 5.6 liter V8 engine, arrived for the 1986 model year. This final year 500SEL for sale in Texas has covered a scant 63,000 miles and spent much of its life in Southern California.
Here is something a bit unique. The pictures are nice, but the seller provides no description at all. Note to car people if you are selling a car and want to get people to offer you good money, describe your vehicle.
You occasionally see Benzs like this that have had a tough life and get moved to a new owner who a decade after the car was built tries to bolt on cheap body parts to make an AMG look car. This one appears to have been given the AMG treatment early on. Though the AMG front fender badges have the new AMG logo that would not have been contemporary with the car.
The car does have genuine AMG body parts, the trunk spoiler in particular is a fairly unique item. The car also has tailight filler spacers on each side of the rear license plate. These red parts that match the ridges of the tailights are not stock. The wheels appear to be genuine period correct AMG spec Ronal parts. Though they are missing AMG center caps.
The addition of a 5.0 badge on the right of the trunk makes me wonder if AMG did any engine work. Why advertise that it was 5.0 unless it was special? Mercedes only distinguished engine size with numbers on the right when they were different from the engine size given in the model number. (190E 2.6, 280SE 3.5, 300SEL 6.3, etc.) This is not a standard part for a U.S. 500SEL. To my knowledge it was only used on the 450SLC 5.0, standard, from the factory.
The velour interior, combined with the euro headlights, along with the VIN show this to be a Euro car.
If you are a Benz enthusiast and have never tried the online VIN decoder it is a must see.
If I can drag some more info out of the seller I’ll post it here.
Seeing this Benz in white roll by in the mid 80s truly would’ve said big pimpin’ to me. I love the sturdy look of this era S class.
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