By on February 13, 2019

What happens when a tuning company takes an already luxurious coupe and adds more of everything? The answer is this Mercedes-Benz SEC AMG from 1986.

The now-legendary W126 sedan debuted in late 1979, a successor to the company’s flagship W116 platform. A year later, the S-Class range expanded to include a hardtop coupe.

Unlike its sedan brother, which utilized inline-six engines in addition to V8s, the SEC was strictly of eight cylinders. Original offerings included 3.8- and 5.0-liter displacements for the model’s initial run from 1980 to 1985.

Late in 1985 for the ’86 model year, Mercedes had a rethink of the S-Class. The lineup was refreshed in styling, with more integrated bumpers and exterior trim. The list of engines on offer expanded with more six- and eight-cylinder power.

The revised SEC for the North American market was available with a single engine option for 1986 and onward: Mercedes’ largest V8, the 5.5-liter M117. Badged as the 560 SEC, Mercedes figured it had provided enough power to satisfy American tastes. But AMG had other ideas.

At the time, AMG was independent of Mercedes, creating the modifications they desired. Founded in 1967, AMG remained independent until the Daimler-Chrysler era, when said company purchased a controlling stake in the tuner in 1999. The automaker subsequently became AMG’s sole owner in 2005. But let’s stay in the Eighties where everything is good and nobody has cocaine.

Though AMG offered body kits across the W126 line, they went out of their way a bit for their edits to the SEC. First up was a wide-body kit to make the luxury cruiser much more aggressive, with color-keyed trim, wheels, and badges for the Fine Colombian look. Also fitted were new Recaro seats covered in rich two-tone black and white leather, and a sporty steering wheel replaced the tame factory fare from Mercedes. Then came the power.

Starting with the 5.5-liter M117.968, AMG bored displacement to a full six liters, then swapped the overhead cams for dual ones. This doubled the number of valves from 16 to 32. Torque from the modified engine was more than double that of the factory one, and an impressive 375 horsepower was available underfoot. The original asking price for all this? Undoubtedly ridiculous.

The SEC remained in production through the 1991 model year, when it was replaced by less dignified 500 and 600 SEC models on the C140 platform. Today’s Rare Ride was listed recently on eBay for an unsurprising $125,000, and didn’t sell.

[Images: seller]

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34 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Mercedes-Benz SEC AMG of 1986...”


  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Absolutely love these! 10 year old Cimarron had a poster of this very car right next to Countach ,288 GTO, and slant nose 911.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Same here. This car defined “AMG” to me. It features all of the 80s super car elements – mono paint job, huge rear light bar, chrome wheel lips, squared off fender flares. Even the dash gauges are white. I’ll just assume the radio has EQ sliders to complete the picture. Love it!

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    If Recaros could talk, they’d let us know exactly how much yayo was done in this vehicle.

    (My guess: a LOT.)

  • avatar
    ThomasSchiffer

    These elegant coupes were visually destroyed by AMG. I am not fond of the add-on treatments courtesy of AMG and these horrific 1980s body kits.

    The production history of these vehicles is perhaps the most interesting aspect. I read about an ultra rare W124 E60 AMG which started out as a base model 200D (diesel). AMG got their hands on this vehicle, removed the diesel motor and shoehorned their modified 500E/E500 V8 into it along with luxury features, leather seats, automatic transmission and all the other necessities that a 200D would never be ordered with.

    I wonder what the story behind this vehicle is.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Sorry but my eyes are going and the screen I am using is small. What is that rectangular, silver coloured device attached to the bottom of the instrument panel, under the headlight switch, and that seems to have at least one wire hanging loose?

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I have no idea what that is,my guess primitive 90s ignition lock anti theft device.Or a place to put a 9mm clip.
    I bet these and the 500E would be pretty damn fast if they weren’t hamstrung by their transmissions. A modern 7sp trans switch , or manual Tremec, would be the GenX silicon valley millionairres project car.I’m sure Mechatronic has or could pull this off for easily under 50k haha
    I do fell Merc is the only company that can pull of pillarless coupe hardtops.I was just admiring a 2014ish E class coupe this AM on the way to work.

  • avatar
    turbo_awd

    When trying to find actual numbers for torque, it looks like 238 hp/ 177 lb-ft was the original and 375 hp / 417 lb-ft was the AMG version – would have been nice to have included that for context. There were many different releases of the 5.5/5.6 in different trims/tunes.

    I first found a spec (probably not USDM) that claimed 300 hp / 335 lb-ft, and I was trying to figure out how they got > 670 lb-ft out of an NA 6.0 back in ’86. More than 2×177 makes much more sense. Yeah, they REALLY detuned those engines for the USDM. Malaise indeed!

    • 0 avatar

      It is difficult to track down all the variants in the S-Class and respective engine/market/trim/etc. Wasn’t worth researching more.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      It’s funny that a typo has become a reference point. The stock 560SEC made 287 ft/lbs of torque at 3,500 RPM and had a horsepower peak of 238 at 4,800 RPM. Horsepower = (torque*RPM)/5252 so a car with a torque peak of 177 ft lbs would have to make that horsepower peak at at least 7,062 RPM. I guess it really wouldn’t be a plus for a modern auto journalist to understand how things work, and there’s certainly no money to be made from a knowledgeable public.

      • 0 avatar
        SunnyvaleCA

        Ha! Thanks Todd. Yeah, 287 ft/lbs sounds much more realistic. With that figure, I could see a typo resulting in lowering the most significant two digits by one to reach 177.

        My initial guess was that maybe someone got the torque figure confused with the power figure of the 3.0L SOCH engine (popular in the 1986 300E and the like). That engine made 177 HP. Also telling is that engine made 188 ft/lbs of torque, so a V8 of similar technology would probably also have torque numbers higher than power numbers.

  • avatar
    Jake

    I ended up selling one of these on Bring A Trailer last year after my roommate passed away. As a result, I learned a LOT about how AMG treated the cars. Basically, the buyer would buy the car from a Mercedes-Benz dealership, send it to the AMG HQ in Westmont, Illinois, and AMG would apply whatever modifications at that point.

    The interesting thing is that there is no one way to option “an AMG SEC” as this article claims. Every single thing was a la carte. The quad-cam 6.0 V8? Option. Body kit? Option. Wheels? Option. Shocks, springs, exhaust pieces, steering wheel, shift knob, burlwood center console, carpeting, color-matched trim, chrome deletes, differential, Recaro seats, and so on? All options.

    The widebody cars are very rare, moreso if they have the quad cam V8. The car I sold was a narrow-body 5.5L with the full visual treatment, AMG-valved Bilsteins, AMG springs, and a full AMG exhaust.

    Here’s the options list, minus any “accessory” type of options (interior bits, really) direct from AMG:

    https://imgur.com/a/MZJ2cdl

    And here’s the car I sold:

    https://bringatrailer.com/listing/1991-mercedes-benz-560sec-15/

    They are tremendously cool, and no matter where you are headed or how you’re dressed, you feel like a million bucks behind the wheel.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    These early AMG-tweaked M-B SECs were quite significant (mind-blowing) for the time. The first one I saw was painted a sinister black. To a teen in the mid-’80s, the first AMG versions seemed the equivolent of throwing a body kit and an LS-motor into a Corolla of today. The combo didn’t seem to make sense on the surface. Like Korean bbq in a taco shell, it simply works!

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Cocaine white paint job. Subtlety? What’s that? Cheap cheap get the yayo. Peak 80s Mercedes. This probably cost $200K new after inflation

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    White, just like the blow that was snorted in it.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    cable tv fans can watch a Wheeler Dealer episode on a conversion of a stockish SEC to wide body. They ended up selling it back to original seller .

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Ahh, the Mercedes-Benz Securities and Exchange Commission; aptly named for the target market of the car who certainly would have had a run-in or two with them.

    I miss dished wheels like this.

  • avatar
    ChiefPontiaxe

    As a kid growing up in 1980’s Miami, I noticed that these AMG’s were driven by drug dealers who were too fat to fit in a 911.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Living in midwestern fly over country, the closest I ever got to one of these things was watching drug kingpins drive them in episodes of Miami Vice.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Oh Lordy, when will these start showing up at Barret-Jackson? Me wantee.


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