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.
Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Writing things for TTAC since late 2016 from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find me on Twitter @CoreyLewis86, and I also contribute at Forbes Wheels.
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