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I have said this before and I guess I will say it again, just when I think I have seen it all, something else surprises me to no end. What you are looking at today is a 1990 Mercedes-Benz 560SEL modified into a hearse to resemble a small, ornate Japanese Buddhist Temple. To my surprise, this W126 isn’t in Japan. It is Raleigh, North Carolina of all places where it will be up for auction at the Raleigh Classic Car Auction. I have many questions and not a lot of answers, so let me try to make sense of what is going on with this wild thing.
When I see the word “concours” being thrown out there when describing a used car, my eyes usually roll over pretty hard. It’s becoming the buzzword for any car that is generally above average in condition, but no where near the level of pulling it on a golf course and having a group of men in floppy hats inspect for dirt under the fuse box lid. Every once in a blue moon, of those cars does actually pop up for sale and it carries an outrageous price. But this 1986 560SEL for sale in Florida not only looks outstanding, but won’t cost you the price of a new S-Class either.
I’ve made no secret of my love for the W126 on these pages. Produced between 1979 and 1991, they date from a period when Mercedes-Benz produced over-engineered cars with an unrivaled reputation for durability and quality. The W126 sat at the top of the range, offering the highest levels of luxury, safety and refinement that money could buy. Whenever I see one on the road today, especially if it’s in nice condition, I immediately think “old money.” Many well-heeled owners, too attached to part with them and wealthy enough to afford the upkeep, simply held on to their cars, replacing parts as necessary. It’s not unusual to see them being driven by their original owners, and buyers usually don’t have to look too hard to find one-owner examples in good condition. With a $20k price tag and only 28k miles on the odometer, this one falls into “collector” territory.
The nice thing about the W126 platform S-class is that you can still find a car suit to suit every budget. A quick look on local Craigslist throws up several examples in various states of repair for a few grand. And some of them look pretty clean. But of course, as the old adage goes, there’s nothing as expensive as a cheap Mercedes. And cars at that end of the market, particularly the V8s, are likely to need some costly repairs at some point or another, just as a matter of course. But what if you were in the enviable position of having an unlimited budget and a desire for a W126 in almost brand-new, showroom condition? What kind of money would you have to spend, and what would it get you? Perhaps this mint condition, range-topping 560SEL with an incredibly low 39k miles on the odometer is the answer.
The Mercedes-Benz 560SEL was the definitive über sedan for more than a decade beginning in the early 1980s. They weren’t particularly eye-catching or glitzy but had a refined, tasteful appearance in a way only a classic Mercedes-Benz could pull off. With a rear seat that was almost five feet wide, passengers were treated to the utmost comfort and the driver had adequate power at his disposal with the M117 V8 under the hood. Want to look like a diplomat for a day? This 1987 560SEL in Desert Taupe for sale in Illinois is a good way to do just that. For those thinking a classic S-class in good condition with low miles is out of reach, read on.