Winning Amount: £ 13,000.00
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“The SEC was arguably the best coupe in the world when it was launched - but then it had a good starting point, being based on the S-Class saloon. The post-1985 facelift 420SEC was a much more accomplished all-rounder. Formidable then, fast and comfortable now, all SECs offer a lot of car for your money.” honestjohn.co.uk
When Mercedes-Benz launched their new W126 mid-range saloon at the 1979 Frankfurt Motor Show it was a significant improvement over its W116 predecessor with a raft of technologically ground breaking features such as high strength low alloy steels, seatbelt pre-tensioners, crumple zones, antilock brakes and airbags to improve the lot of the occupants while lower drag coefficients (a Cd of just 0.34 in the case of the Coupé), fuel consumption and emissions did their bit for those outside the car. Automatic gearboxes (when fitted) were able to detect gradient and throttle position and for example reduce the fuel supply when going downhill so negating the need to keep reigning in the car’s speed with the brakes. Disc brakes (ventilated at the front) and multi-link independent suspension via coil springs and telescopic dampers were the order of the day (unless the somewhat troublesome self-levelling hydro-pneumatic suspension was specified).
Despite these giant steps forward, Mercedes didn’t rest on their laurels and a Second Series of the W126 was launched, again at Frankfurt, in September 1985. Some cosmetic refocusing in areas such as bumpers, side trims and wheels was carried out along with improvements under the skin, most significant of which were both all new and revised engines which were aimed at not only improving performance but lowering consumption and emissions further still. In the case of the 420, the 3.8 litre M116 OHC V8 engine of the earlier cars was enlarged to 4.2 and fitted with a new electronic ignition system and Bosch KE-Jetronic fuel injection to give 221 BHP and 240 lb ft of torque, which whisked the Coupé version to 60 MPH in 8.3 seconds and on to a top speed of 137 (when conditions allowed obviously). A switchable economy mode was added to the four speed automatic gearbox for when you didn’t feel like enjoying the Mercedes’ performance.
Staying with the Coupé, as it shared the wheelbase and indeed floor pan of the saloon, it sported far more interior space than one might expect, being more of a stylish two door saloon than a fixed head version of an open two or two plus two seater. The other spin-off of its saloon car base was that the SEC carried over the luxury features of its four door sibling such as courtesy lights on the bottoms of doors, heated and powered seats (with memory facility), climate control and electrically adjustable steering column to name but a few and it was a configuration that appealed to the wealthy owner/driver who wanted the sporty good looks of a Coupé but still occasionally required a full four seater; niche certainly but what a niche to occupy.
Before we come onto the physical ‘nuts and bolts’ of the subject 420 SEC we are offering here, it is worth highlighting its impressive history. The Mercedes was bought new on 3rd August 1990 from his local Mercedes-Benz dealers, B & K Thomas Ltd. of Nottingham, by the Chairman of a successful PLC and it was registered to his address in the eponymous company’s name. Seven years later it was put into just his name and more recently into his wife’s though the same surname has remained on the registration documents throughout the Mercedes’ life. From new the 420 was serviced religiously by B & K Thomas, sometimes as often as three times in six months and always on a ‘money no object’ basis. From 2002 the Mercedes has enjoyed a cosseted retirement being gently exercised for four or five hundred miles every year and MOT tested pretty much annually. When Mercedes opened a dealership in geographically more convenient Lincoln in 2011, its care was transferred to them for a further three years (in 2011 the bill was some £2,284.55) after which, as the 420’s use had tailed off significantly, for the last 2,800 miles it has been serviced closer to home.
A summary of the service history:
3.8.90 Pre-delivery inspection
15.8.90 @ 651 miles
19.12.90 @ 8,113 miles
15.4.91 @ 14,332 miles
2.8.91 @ 22,178 miles
23.10.91 @ 28,142 miles
10.6.92 @ 39.497 miles
27.10.92 @ 47,925 miles
29.7.93 @ 61,717 miles
31.1.94 @ 72,250 miles
21.7.94 @ 83,136 miles
12.4.95 @ 94,948 miles
11.10.95 @ 106,937 miles
7.6.96 @ 112,409 miles
16.9.97 @ 120,426 miles
20.12.99 @ 129,289 miles
31.8.01 @ 135,304 miles
7.8.02 @ 135,910 miles
17.1.11 @ 140,153 miles
2.3.11 @ 140,159 miles
19.4.12 @ 142,250 miles
22.7.13 @ 142,750 miles
13.6.18 @ 145,305 miles
24.1.19 @ 145,373 miles
MOT tested on 10th February this year the 420’s mileage has now crept up to just over 145,500 miles.
Close inspection of the Mercedes reveals the Signal Red (Code 568) paintwork is original, untouched and very smart. It is only when one looks in places protected from ultra violet rays such as door shuts that one realises it has faded very slightly. No attempt has been made to attend to the paint but it looks very much as though a good polish would more than likely restore it to its former glory. There is one minor rust spot by the rear screen in the boot channel as shown in the photo gallery but this is not visible when the boot is shut. The plastic base of the electric aerial has cracked and broken up and been touched in in body colour paint but either a new base or complete aerial would resolve this. There is a slight chip to trailing edge of the driver’s door and the aluminium boot lid along with a light brush to the offside of the rear bumper, again all shown in the photo gallery.
Beneath the paintwork the bodywork looks dead straight and true with no car park dings or dents let alone any sign of corrosion in the susceptible rear wheel arches or indeed anywhere else.
On this era of Mercedes chrome was used sparingly, really just as a trim highlight and what there is on the 420 is in excellent condition with no pitting or dulling evident. Potentially expensive to replace, importantly all the light units are in good condition with no chips of cracks to their lenses.
The 15” Gullideckel alloy wheels of the Second Series cars are correctly finished in silver though this is flaking very slightly in a few places but they show no evidence of any kerb-inflicted damage or oxidation. Uniroyal tyres are fitted all round with the exception of the full sized alloy spare wheel which appears to be wearing its original and unused Michelin rubber.
Inside the pillarless Coupé the perforated cream (actually Mushroom, Code 265 in Mercedes-speak) leather and carpets are pretty much perfect. Yes, there is marginally more creasing to driver’s seat and the lightest of wear to its outside bolster but this would be easy to recolour. Far from the most forgiving of shades, a feed of the leather is probably all anyone would want to do. The burl walnut dash, centre console and door inserts are perfect and tasteful in both scale and finish. An electric tilt and slide sunroof is set within the perfect headlining while the SEC’s original Blaupunkt Atlanta radio/cassette is still in place, adjacent to the controls for the automatic climate control. In keeping with its executive status, pretty much everything is powered; seats (with memories), steering column, windows and mirrors. The capacious boot contains the jack and original Mercedes-Benz tool roll.
The engine bay is to absolutely factory specification as one might expect, with the hansom V8 filling it, topped by a substantial chromed air filter housing. A little dusty and with a certain amount of road grime, it however looks to be well cared for with a plethora of bright clips, clamps, hoses and housings all in excellent condition, framed by rock solid inner wings.
Underneath the Mercedes all looks to be in good order with just some light surface rust on the coil springs and wishbones and the factory protective coating to the floors and sills intact. There is the slightest seepage of oil around lower part of the differential housing and higher up from the back of engine but this is minimal.
Twist the key and the muscular V8 fires instantly with the oil pressure gauge’s needle sweeping to the top of the scale immediately. All the warning lights extinguish promptly and the 420 settles into a smooth as silk idle. Manoeuvring the Mercedes for photography the engine, gearbox, brakes and steering all performed beautifully, accepting this was all carried out at low speeds. Electrically everything worked well (we even found ourselves thanking the seat belt presenters) though we understand that the seat heaters are not currently functioning.
In the Mercedes’ history file the key item is obviously the all-important Maintenance Booklet which we have summarised above. This is accompanied by a full set of Factory books, the instructions for the original Blaupunkt Atlanta, original Factory build and specification sheets, MOT certificates from 2014 to date and four V5Cs including the current one; a very full house indeed.
With cars from the mid-1980s to early 1990s increasingly in the sweet spot from an investment perspective this 420 SEC is off to a good start. From the tail end of production which ended just a year after this example rolled out of the Sindelfingen factory, it is arguably one of the last properly engineered and built Mercedes’ before cost considerations overruled those who realised the true value of real quality to the brand. Though the W126 was the most successful iteration of the “S Class”, Coupé variants are very rare with just 3,680 of the uber-luxurious two doors produced, less than 10% of total. To find one in such outstanding condition, in the custodianship of essentially one gentleman owner all its life is rare indeed and in our view an opportunity not to be missed.