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Tuner Tuesday – El Benzamino: 1988 Mercedes-Benz 420SEL Pickup

Every once in a while I see something that’s so horribly wrong it’s somehow right, and when it comes to 1980s German tuning there was plenty to go wrong. But while some wrong is predictable (I’m looking at you, Keonig Testarossa strakes on everything), sometimes the very wrong is unpredictable. Take today’s unassuming 1988 Mercedes-Benz 420SEL. I’d like to think when it was conceived and born, no one in Germany would have thought “Do du what we can do with this know?” and then sketch out a 2-door pickup truck. No, that takes American know-how and strategery. And if you were going to do it, why not do it poorly? As in, take a mid-range model (so not cheap, but also not as powerful as it could be!), make a very awkward transition to the bed which, by the way, doesn’t have a tailgate, adorn said unusable bed with plenty of diamond plate and then throw in some extra taillights for good measure? And then make it two-tone and fit some later model AMG wheels. Yet, again, somehow this goes so full-on horrible that it becomes kitschy. This is dogs playing poker art for cars:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 Mercedes-Benz 420SEL Pickup on eBay

Year: 1988
Model: 420SEL
Engine: 4.2 liter V8
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Mileage: “33,715” mi
Price: $16,995 Buy It Now


Air Conditioning, AM/FM Radio, CD Player, Cruise Control, Defrost, Driver Airbag, Four Wheel Disc Brakes, Heat, Leather Seats, Power Brakes, Power Locks, Power Seats, Power Steering, Power Windows, Seatbelts


Need a parts chaser with a bit of German flavor? How about the most attention-grabbing hauler you’ve ever seen? However you slice it, this 1988 Mercedes-Benz 420SEL pickup isn’t your average Autobahn stormer. Custom built by the guys at German Motorcars in Florida, it’s a beautifully rendered German version of a purely American invention.

Starting life as a prestigious 420SEL luxury sedan, this awesome truck/car now has an ultra-clean look that looks like it could have come from the factory in all of this glory. The silver and blue paint combination looks vaguely reminiscent of the factory’s dealer service vehicles, and that might be purely intentional on the builder’s part. Of course, it’s like nothing the factory’s ever built for public consumption, but that doesn’t make it any less cool. The original S-Class sedan was sectioned behind the front seats and a custom bulkhead was built to separate the passenger compartment from the bed. Then the entire bed was hand-fabricated and the bodywork was extensively modified to keep its Mercedes-Benz identity but with an entirely different shape. The doors, quarter panels, and trunk lid were all sectioned and salvaged to retain the OEM look, but they’re so seamlessly stitched together that you’ll never spot the modifications. It’s got a few signs of use here and there, but that’s hardly a demerit for a car this useful. A few chrome pieces keep its upscale vibe, and with the big grille and three-pointed star emblems, nobody will ever mistake this for anything but a high-end luxury cruiser.

The interior keeps all its Mercedes-Benz bits as well, including the supportive blue leather bucket seats. In fact, the door panels, carpets, dashboard, and all the controls are completely stock and fully functional, making this one of the most luxurious pickup truck ever designed. A big steering wheel frames familiar Mercedes-Benz gauges, the Teutonic shifter still manages the transmission, and the stereo system was heavily upgraded to fill the modified passenger compartment with sound. Things like automatic climate control, power windows and locks, cruise control, and those cool pictograms for the power seats all remain in place, so from behind the wheel, you’ll never even notice the modifications. Everything works, too, which is always a nice perk.

Although the badge on the tail says “KOMPRESSOR” (which is German for supercharger), this is a stock 4.2 liter OHC V8, the same one that has powered these cars for decades. Smooth, torquey, and capable of cruising for hours on end at triple-digit speeds, it’s still an awesome choice for a truck, er, car like this. It was rebuilt when the truck conversion was done, which was about 35,000 miles ago, and given the durability of these machines, it should out last us all. Bright blue cam covers highlight the largely stock engine bay and you can see that there are quite a few new components throughout. The A/C has been converted to R134a refrigerant for ease of maintenance and many of the belts and hoses are new. The 4-speed automatic overdrive transmission changes gears without any drama and the fully independent suspension still feels supple and sophisticated. Four-wheel discs are standard equipment, too, and a recent exhaust system has just the right V8 rumble, but it’s ever so hushed. Late-model AMG alloys complete the OEM look and carry a recent set of 235/45/17 Continental performance radials.

It’s definitely unusual, but the build quality and the awesome look will make this Mercedes the star of any show it enters, and it’s remarkably practical to boot! Call today!

Whew, this dealer went into overdrive with hyperbole trying to justify the creation of this caruck. Let’s break down a few – “ultra-clean look that looks like it could have come from the factory” – well, it’s not dirty. So, there’s that. From the factory, though? Do you seriously think that the Germans would have made a utility truck without a tail gate? How about “looks vaguely reminiscent of the factory’s dealer service vehicles”? I guess in the dark on a rainy night, that might be true. I particularly like “might be purely intentional on the builder’s part” as a descriptor. I mean, pretty much everything in life might be purely intentional. Well done! Good too is “extensively modified to keep its Mercedes-Benz identity but with an entirely different shape”. Really? Looks pretty much exactly like a 420SEL’s shape if you ripped the roof and trunk lid off. But that you might not notice that is another overstatement – “they’re so seamlessly stitched together that you’ll never spot the modifications”. Are your eyes closed? Then, indeed, you might not spot the modification. Of course, you wouldn’t be spotting anything, so maybe that was a pointless statement. I suppose if someone were reading this to Stevie Wonder then it would be poignant. This is a good one, too – “It’s got a few signs of use here and there, but that’s hardly a demerit for a car this useful”. Why do all sellers not use this line? Brilliant! Stevie might not also be in the market for any recent top-tier pickups, since “making this one of the most luxurious pickup truck ever designed” belies the current trend in luxury pickup trucks. Seriously, have you ever seen the inside of one of those Lincoln Blackwood things? Unlike the plebeian Lincoln though, the “the Teutonic shifter still manages the transmission” – whatever that means. I mean, the Teutons were a Germanic tribe from northern Germany, but I doubt that the shifter speaks German. But it’s this over-the-top attitude that is frosting on the frosting on top of the frosting-flavored cake that is the El Benzamino.

And all this fun is only $16,995? “Everything works, too, which is always a nice perk”!

Yet, I want one. But a V8 quattro version. Off to the drawing board!



  1. Maxwell Rich
    Maxwell Rich April 5, 2016

    I second your V8 Quattro suggestion Carter, far more utility!

  2. MGT
    MGT April 5, 2016

    420, indeed…

  3. Early8q
    Early8q April 5, 2016

    ROTFLMAO! Keep them coming Carter!

  4. Carter
    Carter April 6, 2016

    Thanks John, I forgot about that one! Great find by you!!

  5. MDriver
    MDriver April 6, 2016

    now this would sell in Australia….they love their UTEs there no matter how garish.
    as an aside…pro golfer Stuart Appleby made a UTE out of an E39 M5 and it actually came out nicely done…though not my cup of tea at all.,bs.1,d.dmo

  6. Molefunken
    Molefunken April 6, 2016

    And the “mileage” in quotation marks is the icing on the cake. This car is priceless!
    (As in no value added.)

  7. MDriver
    MDriver April 7, 2016

    has this started a trend?????….read about not 1 but 3 cars being mentioned as being available in a “Shooting Brake” style….the Porsche Panamera, a Corvette (made by Callaway) and the Merc CLA & CLS
    read about them in Autoweek….

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