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Color is everything on a vintage car for me, and some colors seem to work better than others on certain models. Today’s car, a 1980 Mercedes-Benz 500SEL, might be one of those “love it or hate it” examples.
This is a grey-market car that probably was imported when new judging by the door plaque, and it is finished in the very-rare shade of Signal Red. I don’t believe this color was ever offered on any US-market W126s because who wants a red S-Class? I know the 1980s were a wild time, but your SL was supposed to be red, not your very serious S-Class. However, now that this car is 40 years old, is it officially cool enough where the color doesn’t matter?
What if I told you that Mercedes-Benz made a W123 slower and less powerful than the 240D? Thankfully it was never sold in the US, but the 200D does exist. It came in at 54 horsepower and 83 lb-ft of torque, which is impressive that the engineers thought this was adequate for the year 1977. My whole thing is that I don’t care if cars are slow, I care if cars are dangerously slow. When you get stuck on hills, that’s not fun. When the car doesn’t have enough power to merge into oncoming traffic, that is a problem for everyone. So a Sunday evening drive out in the country, sure. Any kind of commuting or highway? Not a chance.
This example up for sale Oklahoma City now only checks in with the impressive 54 horsepower and 83 lb-ft of torque, but also has the steering wheel on the right side. An odd ball to say the least.
I think the days of picking up a nice W124 Mercedes-Benz coupe for very little money is probably over. I remember only a few years ago where a decent example could be had for $4,200 or so and everyone would leave happy. The last year or so? Not so much. Most have been trading in the $10,000 ballpark with some really nice examples selling for much more. Yes, you can probably find a handful of 300CEs that need some love for much less than 10k, but how much as you spending to get it back up to snuff?
That brings me to today’s example, a 1990 up for sale New Jersey that has just over 100,000 miles on the odometer. It looks to be well looked after and not beat up at all. But I think the problem with this car is interesting color scheme of Signal Red with the slightly darker lower cladding. Is it garish? Probably. Is it old enough where a crazy paint scheme is now considered cool? Maybe so.
Don’t look now, but the Mercedes-Benz W126 coupe is surging fast in terms of value. A very nice 1991 560SEC painted in Bornite with less than 8,000 miles just sold at Amelia Island for $78,400. Yes, that car is an outlier because of its outstanding condition and rare color (plus some competitive bidders), but it sets an interesting example. For the past decade or so, $10,000 could buy you an average SEC. Not cheap in terms of old German luxury cars, but still reasonable for what it is. Now the big auction houses are touting the ”Youngtimers” from the 80s and 90s, and suddenly everyone is running to Craiglist to see what is out there. Are they suddenly going to be doubling or tripling in price like a 190E 2.3-16v? Probably not. However, find a worthwhile example and you can enjoy it maintaining its value for years to come. Today’s car, a 1990 560SEC painted in the rare Signal Red, seems to still priced competitively but I’m willing to bet that this one won’t last long at all.
A few weeks ago I checked a wonderful Signal Red Mercedes-Benz 560SEC. I explained that on some Mercedes, red looks pretty good and suits the car well. Other cars, like sedans, red is a pretty tough sell for me. Encase you haven’t noticed by now, this 1991 300E that I am looking at today is painted in that same Signal Red. It is a very clean W124 that has under 100,000 miles and I really dislike it. Let me tell you why.