Friday, April 25, 2014

Mercedes W126 Mania

Photo ©Mike Spicer
When it came time to get a safe car for my growing family it was an easy choice to get an MBZ. I had been driving a 1969 280SE coupe as a daily driver and wanted the find a more modern car to accommodate baby seats and all the stuff that goes with today’s child care. I have always liked the 126 SEL and SEC styling so I started to shop for a 420 or 560 SEL. The entry price of 4-5k is very attractive as these were a flagship car for MBZ in the late 80’s, a lot of car to for the money. The key is to find the cleanest car available and pay more up front as ownership of these cars is not inexpensive. I found a 1989 420SEL that was well kept and had lots of records from the previous owner. The 420SEL does not have the adjustable rear bench seat or self leveling rear end that the 560SEL has. The 420 was so nice I decided to get a 1991 560SEC to compliment it for good measure. Going back and forth between both cars allowed me to see the subtle differences between the two and four door examples. The SEL seemed to be a little nicer on the freeway but the SEC was quieter.  Both cars are big and have a very nice ride, I can see these were both made for all day cruising on the autobahn. I like to keep cars stock and the stereo is more than adequate I just had to dig out my old cassette tape collection to enjoy it.
Photo ©Mike Spicer
After moving from daily driving cars from the 60s & 70s into cars from the 80s & 90s it was obvious the cars were over engineered and did not have to compete on price points or margins. They just built the best car they could and put the price tag they wanted on it. One test I have is to see how many 126 cars are still in use and if you look you will see a lot of them on the road. This tells me they are still loved and very useable in today’s driving arena.
Photo ©Mike Spicer
The 126 is in a place where they are not quite collectible yet but old enough that the styling is classic, kind of in limbo (sleeper) but a great car to own. They do need some attention to keep running properly, I noticed the SEL had a new radiator when I got it and I put a new one in the SEC, the plastic part where the hose connects is a weak point from the factory and replacement radiators have metal necks. The entry price is low due to maintenance costs to keep them on the road. But if you find a good one it is well worth the investment because they don’t make them like this anymore. It is like driving a bank vault with a radio. I feel confident that the family will be safe and I can enjoy a semi classic at the same time.

Photo ©Mike Spicer

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1 comment :

  1. Bought my first 560SEC in '96 (an '87) and got a 560SEL in 2003. I do agree that these are amazing cars. I was on for about ten years and now on for five or six, and I have yet to find a report of any of "our" folks having much more than minor injuries from accidents. One guy got smushed between two jack knifed 18-wheelers, walked away. Another had the lady in the little pickup truck (S10?) behind him get *killed* when the drunk hit her at about 70mph at the stop light. Dave was the car in front of the pickup and got out the SEC to basically ask "what was that?" My wife drives the SEL here in Vegas because if you want to hurt her in the car, come big or stay at home. Plus they're gorgeous cars!!


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