Rare Rides: A 1991 Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC, End of an Era

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides a 1991 mercedes benz 560 sec end of an era

Today’s Rare Ride was the ultimate display of Germanic automotive wealth in the early Nineties. Always rarer than its sedan brother, the SEC was the S-Class with two doors and no pillars.

Let’s check out a hardtop from the arguable height of modern Mercedes-Benz engineering.

This is not the first time we’ve covered an SEC on these pages. That honor goes to the 1986 SEC AMG, a car which was heavily fettled by AMG. With its flared arches, white-on-white color scheme, heckblende, and general cocaineyness, it was a much different animal than today’s later executive express.

The W126 S-Class was arguably the most important one in the history of the model. It was considerably more modern than its W116 predecessor, and set precedents in technology, safety, and luxury equipment. It was the car for non-American heads of state for a long time, and established Mercedes’ flagship as a default of the large German luxury sedan class. Audi V8 Quattro? I think not.

The W126 S-Class had a long development period, and Mercedes started on the project in 1973. The sedan didn’t enter production until December of 1979, with the C126 coupe following in September 1981. The C126 was based on the short-wheelbase sedan platform, with a three-inch chop to make it 112.2 inches. Overall coupe length remained three inches shorter than the sedan as well, though the coupe grew from 193.3″ to 194.3″ over its tenure. SEs were short-wheelbase sedans, SEL meant long-wheelbase, and SEC was of course a short-wheelbase coupe.

Extensive renovations occurred for the 1986 model year, with changes to the front and rear bumpers, side moldings, wheels, and a new assortment of engines. Prior to ’86 the top engine was the 5.0-liter V8, in the 500 SEC. The revamp saw the introduction of the 560 SEC, a bored-out version of the old 5.0. The large 5.5-liter M117 mill produced 275 horses and 317 lb-ft of torque, which were not inconsiderable figures in 1991. While other countries had an optional four- or five-speed manual transmission on some models, North American consumers received only four-speed auto S-Class cars.

Through the long run of the W126 S-Class, Mercedes built 818,063 sedans but just 74,060 coupes. Production of the W and C126 ended in October 1991, apart from one plant in South Africa which continued to build cars through 1994. The W140 and C140 replacements were much larger, much more complicated, less elegantly styled, less durable overall, and in your author’s opinion, less desirable today than any of the W126 cars.

Today’s Rare Ride is everything. Stunning in two-tone white over silver, with a light grey interior and more modern looking wheels than most examples. With 158,000 miles it looks absolutely perfect and is on offer now in Washington for $10,950. One of you should buy it and let me do a review.

[Images: seller]

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2 of 29 comments
  • Tele Vision Tele Vision on Oct 27, 2020

    A friend had one. He owned it past the point of feasibility. By 2001 it was gone. His was a lovely car but replete with problems from bodge fixes performed before his tenure.

  • Mark Mark on Oct 28, 2020

    Now this is a Mercedes Benz. Simply gorgeous. Never owned one, but always admired the SEC. On Classic & timeless design... I put it up there with my most 'should have never sold' car, '95 BMW 540i What a stunning automobile.

  • Bobby D'Oppo Great sound and smooth power delivery in a heavier RWD or AWD vehicle is a nice blend, but current V8 pickup trucks deliver an unsophisticated driving experience. I think a modern full-size pickup could be very well suited to a manual transmission.In reality, old school, revvy atmo engines pair best with manual transmissions because it's so rewarding to keep them in the power band on a winding road. Modern turbo engines have flattened the torque curve and often make changing gears feel more like a chore.
  • Chuck Norton For those worried about a complex power train-What vehicle doesn't have one? I drive a twin turbo F-150 (3.5) Talk about complexity.. It seems reliability based on the number of F-150s sold is a non-issue. As with many other makes/models. I mean how many operations are handle by micro processors...in today's vehicles?
  • Ravenuer The Long Island Expressway.
  • Kwik_Shift A nice stretch of fairly remote road that would be great for test driving a car's potential, rally style, is Flinton Road off of Highway 41 in Ontario. Twists/turns/dips/rises. Just hope a deer doesn't jump out at you. Also Highway 60 through Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. Great scenery with lots of hills.
  • Saeed Hello, I need a series of other accessories from Lincoln. Do you have front window, front and rear lights, etc. from the 1972 and 1976 models