WANT to get your hands dirty with your 80s S-Class?
According to the web’s premiere W126 resource – Fuenfkommasechs.de – Daimler, AG will issue an updated “Information DVD” (which will be Windows 7 compliant) by April for the Mercedes-Benz S-Class that reigned from 1979-1992.
Included in this bilingual technical guide (the English is a rough translation original German), are the full schematics, owner’s manual, and, naturally, parts catalogue so that the do-it-yourselfers of the world can take back their grosser Benz from that dreaded “auto-werkz” hack down the street.
Yeah, that’s right buddy. You can take your $100 an hour and shove it.
By Gunnar Heinrich
280SE is not a model we typically associate with an 80’s S-Class – Stateside.
Europe being even more gas starved than America in the late 70s had a more urgent need to run on less dino-juice for longer stretches of kilometers. While interior space and luxury mattered, acceleration wasn’t a top priority.
Hence the strong desire in the first production years (1979 -1985) for the 2.8 liter, 12 valve, straight-six that powered the 280SE – a model that was sold worldwide save for these United States.
Manufacturing two versions, one using a carburetor and another featuring fuel injection, the 280’s engine made 154 and 185 1980s horsepower, respectively, and would haul the big Benz to 60 mph in a casual 11 and 10 seconds.
Amazingly, given enough time and tarmac the engines were good for pushing on to 124 and 130 mph, out running BMW’s 177 hp 733i.
In total Mercedes-Benz built 133,955 units of the 280SE. That’s more than 20,000 units over the next most popular W126 model which we in America did receive – the 300SE (105,422 units). By contrast, Stuttgart manufactured just 78,725 300SD turbodiesels
[Source: Oswald, Werner (2001). Deutsche Autos 1945-1990, vol.4. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag, 112-113 via Wikipedia | IMG via Ian Dunross’ S-Class Page]
By Gunnar Heinrich | Image von Johannes Schlörb
SIX HOURS of labor went into the photo shopping.
Not too mention the time taken to shoot the same magnificent navy blue Mercedes-Benz 560SEL time lapse style over the course of 10 minutes – just before the sun rose over Germany’s verdant lands.
I’ve spent my own time waxing enthusiastic on just how talented I find Herr Schlörb’s photography. Lucky for him, I’m not the only one. The image you see will be the front cover of one Germany’s Mercedes enthusiast publications.
Johannes seems circumspect about just which one that is…
There’s poetic justice to the photo’s location. Apparently, to replenish the 23.8 gallon tank full of premium unleaded requires a stout heart and pockets deep enough to stomach $200 fill-ups.
Dark times to be sure. But as we’re shown, even the grayest horizon can act as canvas for the most brilliant rainbow.
Now if only there’s a Shell card on the other end.
By Christopher P. Davis
IN a perfect world, the elves from the Black Forest pictured a three-car garage.
In it sat a 560SEL – which would propel you to your daily slayings in the corporate world – to the right, a 560SL – for open-top boulevard cruising and of course the occasional weekend picnic – and, finally, the 560SEC.
Sporty yet refined. Classic yet modern. Sadly, one of Benz’s best is now just some forgotten coupe. Perfect for a night at the opera, and maybe a Friday car, like the current CL-Class, the SEC was an expensive, low volume choice. So much so, the “E” is SEC should have stood for “exclusive.”
Arriving in an S-Class coupe, you made a statement, frankly, that money was no object and that practicality was for “the little people.” Sure, for a little less money (the coupe’s MSRP was north of $70,000) you could have a 560SEL and two more doors, but who bothered to count? You had accountants for that.
Confronted by a 560SEC, there’s little room to doubt that it is a true Mercedes-Benz. The Tri-Star logo, representing land, air, and sea is prominently featured, much in the way it currently is on the CL and on the new C-Class Sport.
The star has an angular front, which through former Benz Design Chief Bruno Sacco’s genius avoids being overtly “sporty” or ostentatious. Simply told, it’s the embodiment of the balanced design ethic that was part of every model Mercedes produced in the 80s.
On the headlamps rest diminutive wiper blades, a feature that I always thought to be rather cool and somewhat practical, but overall, just plain cool. On top of the hood where a star ornament would usually stand, is a larger blue-white star and laurel roundel that’s featured on nearly every Mercedes two-door.
From the side, your eye sweeps across the car, as the design is completely fluid, there is no rough spot, just one beautiful automobile. The 560 SEC is a pillarless coupe, a fact that greatly enhances that sweep.
In a December 2006 edition of British Mercedes-Benz magazine Mercedes Enthusiast, Bruno Sacco was reported to have recently acquired, as the writer put it, “(A) low mileage 560SEC in Anthracite with black leather and burr walnut. ‘It is now almost perfect,’ he murmured, eyes twinkling.”
From the rear, the 560SEC is very similar to any other W126. The only difference between the rear of sedan is that the coupe sports a slightly larger rear windscreen.
On the interior, a 560SEC has all the sharp fit and finish of its four door sibling.
One novel feature is a seat belt presenter – a think black plastic arm that extends the belt out for you from a chrome ringed cavity beneath the rear window sill. Although novel in the 80s, it’s a feature that time has shown to be just a tad temperamental.
Between the back seats of the SEC was a beautiful burled wood retractable console. Similar to that found on current CL-Class models, although on the 560SEC it is much larger; the amount of burled wood is stunning!
The 560SEC is a big car by any measure. It weighs in at over 3960 pounds and covers just over 199.2 inches of asphalt stem to stern.
In today’s world of Prius’ (or is it Prii?) the 560SEC is a throwback to a bygone era – the decadence of the 80’s.
Owning one today is as much a statement as it was then. It denotes success, style, intelligence, and class. It’s a designer tank, engineered unlike any other car in the world and styled to please even the most fashion conscious.
“Luxury cars” abound, but 560SECs do not – with only 28,929 of these beauties made. What’s more, a well cared-for example will mechanically stand the test of time at least as well as its classic good looks.
The 560SEC is the perfect coupe to complete anyone’s garage.
[Images: 1986 Brochure by Mercedes-Benz of North America, Inc.]
*Note* An avid reader since early 2007, Mr. Davis is a new contributor to Automobiles De Luxe.
By Gunnar Heinrich
GOTTA love the 80s. As any Saab aficionado will attest, it was the decade when turbo was king.
It really didn’t matter how fast your car was or wasn’t; as long as it wore a “Turbo” badge, you and everyone else could think your car was quick because Turbo = Speed!
Trouble was getting up to speed. In the case of the “300SDL Turbo Sedan,” that meant 10 seconds to 60.
That’s quick time in its day for a 3,800 pound diesel, but generally lagging four seconds or so behind what was then considered a fast naught to 60 time.
And despite being “the most supremely civilized diesel ever designed,” the 300SDL was a W126 generation S-Class that – along with the premium powered 380SE – didn’t really sell.
Mercedes brought the 300SDL to market in ’86 to 86 the legendary 300SD, whose five cylinder engine was (and remains broadly) a true, stout, bomb-proof workhorse of an oil burner.
But die volk auf Stuttgart were looking for a little, no, a lot more refinement and a bit more balance. So, they engineered a sixth cylinder and constructed some sound deadening measures around the engine to keep down das funk.
“The 300SDL simply refuses to sound like a typical diesel-engined automobile -even at idle,” The US MB brochure intones, “The engine is acoustically encapsulated within its compartment, and even underneath, to absorb and contain running noise. These and other ingenious measures help make it one of the more quietly capable automobiles in the world, gasoline or diesel.”
Having driven two examples of the 300SD and witnessed one 300SDL at idle and then under acceleration, the extra cladding really paid off.
For US based diesel collectors, this softer spoken Benz that rests on a longer (121.1″ wheelbase) represents the last of the great and grand diesel powered S-Classes.
The following 350SDL introduced in ’88 tarnished Benz’s sterling reputation for die-hard diesels by dying hard before the clock saw 100K (heresy for the typical Benz diesel which sees more than 300,000 miles).
By the time the dreaded 3.5 liter powerplant had been put to not working in the W140 generation’s 300SD and 350SD, owners of both gens brought a class action lawsuit against Mercedes-Benz – and won.
The 300SDL, theretofore, is likely any S-Class aficionado’s prime diesel choice. Even if the performance promise behind the Turbo badging is just a little lagging.
[Click brochure spec sheet to enlarge]
By Gunnar Heinrich with Photos by Kevin Kusina
CLARKSON once wrote that car guys who are all about the classics are more interested in reliving the past than actually having interest in cars. Of course his philosophical observation was put in typical slapstick J.C. terms, but the bone of what he meant has real marrow.
You didn’t grow up in the 80s and 90s in New England without spending sometime, any time in a Saab.
Whether it was your teacher’s, your friend’s, your dad’s, your mom’s, or your postman’s ex-girlfriend’s second cousin’s, somebody drove a Saab which you at one point got a ride in or drove, yourself.
And in all likelihood, the Saab that you were most likely to experience was none other than the iconic 900 Turbo of the 80s and early 90s.
When I saw the old GM Heritage vehicle parked beneath shade of tent, I made a beeline straight for the driver’s seat. Of all the late model Saabs that we could drive (each with rallying stories to tell) this standard 900 Turbo was the only classic to capture my interest. And naturally, it was the only one we couldn’t drive.
Which is actually alright. Some idols are better left to live on in memory’s warm glow.
Not nearly as safe as a Volvo 240, nor nearly as swift as a BMW 325i, the 900 Turbo still bested both in terms of comfort and character.
The leather, as exhibited in this black on tan Concours piece, was flawless and Lexus soft.
The paint felt and looked factory fresh. This 900 seemed right off the showroom floor. It all made me of think of times past; great friends and childhood memories that featured various N.E. roadtrips in several 900s.
I’d buy that very car tomorrow just for the feelings it stirred. What a wonderful example, superbly maintained.
[Linked: Saab History]