Car Show Outtakes: 1979-1991 Mercedes-Benz W126 And C126 S-Class – Timeless Autobahn Gliders

Its predecessor, the W116-series S-Class, is a downright classic. But by now it also looks very classic, as in old. And its W140-successor is a pompous barge, although I must admit that an all-black V12 coupe with matching Drug Lord rims is one of my automotive guilty pleasures. But whenever I see a clean W126, I admire its timeless grace and perfect dimensions. In other words, this Benz flagship model -introduced almost 40 years ago- has aged very well.

During my recent visit to a Mercedes-Benz show, open to all models and ages (which applied to both cars and visitors), I found seven of them; five sedans and two coupes. All of them were in a very good condition.

Starting with a 1984 380 SE (3.8 liter V8, 204 DIN-hp).

1982 280 SE (2.8 liter inline-6, 185 DIN-hp).

1985 500 SEL (5.0 liter V8, 231 DIN-hp). That’s S-Klasse (Sonderklasse) – Einspritzung – Lang, or in English: S-Class – Injection – Long. The L had a 14 cm longer wheelbase. Too bad this one isn’t all-black…

The only S-Class of this generation with a carb was the 1979-1985 280 S. Diesel engines -always turbocharged- were only offered in the US and Canada; an inline-5 (the OM 617 engine) from 1980 to 1985 and an inline-6 (the OM 603) from 1985 onwards.

1986 300 SE (3.0 liter inline-6, 188 DIN-hp).

The S-Class was updated in September 1985. The revised version can be easily identified by the fully flat body side protection mouldings, available in 4 different colors (16 from late 1989 onwards, when the series got its final update). In Germany, these mouldings are often called Sacco Bretter, (Bruno) Sacco boards.

1989 300 SE (3.0 liter inline-6, 180 DIN-hp).

1990 C126 420 SEC (4.2 liter V8, 224 DIN-hp). C for coupe, introduced in September 1981.

Now we’re talking, the last one, a 1986 560 SEC (5.6 liter V8, 242 DIN-hp).

A grand collection and variety of other Benzes will follow, including the classic & old W116 and the pompous W140. Granted, it did have a V12.

Related reading:

CC Capsule: 1987 Mercedes-Benz 560 SEL – The Flagship Of The Eighties

Vintage Review: Mercedes-Benz S-Class W126

Vintage Road Test: Mercedes-Benz 380 SEL W126