Maxim Vintage Car Shopper: 1991 Mercedes 500SEC

Nothing cruises like a vintage Mercedes coupe. 

The Year: 1991

The Model: Mercedes 500SEC

The Drivetrain: A five-liter, butter-smooth, 250-horsepower V8 mated to a four-speed automatic (the world’s first to sense inclines) routing power to the rear wheels.

Favorite Five Points:

1.     Bruno Sacco had an incredibly productive career at Mercedes, and was responsible for icons like this W126 and the W124, two examples of understated elegance. While we have a personal preference for the sedan, the W126 coupe is the purest expression of Sacco’s lines.

2.     This 1991 500SEC is a European model, which means slender bumpers, flush headlamps, and no catalytic converters, so this smaller 5-liter provides more power than an equivalent, American-market 5.6-liter. The work of importing a Euro-market car is totally offset but their superiority.

3.     While this is definitely a “young” classic, it’s one of the few Mercedes of the past 25 years that we put on the same scale as the venerable 280SE coupes of the early seventies. The shape is gorgeous, the build-quality is world-class, and the serenity and cush of the driving experience mark a time long before Mercedes began chasing BMW in terms of handling characteristics.

4.     The color scheme is fantastic. While many American SEC’s are stuck on the grey-beige scale (it was the early nineties…) this maroon-over-cream is luscious and interesting, only increasing the chance that this car might soon be a true classic.

5.     The interior of this car is perfection: before navigation systems and digital dashes, but after airbags became standard equipment. And, again, look at the quality—this 24 year-old car shows no signs of wear.


– Importation: this car is in Canada, and while the seller has offered to assist, there will be more paperwork than buying an American car. Still, we think the low-mileage, top condition and Euro features are worth it.

– Weak-spots on W126’s include the Becker stereo, AC, window regulators, though this car appears to be in near-perfect condition.

– This once was the top of Mercedes’ range, and repair costs should be expected to be in-line.

Good Buy?

 With a BIN of $30,000—and a selling price likely a couple thousand less—we think this is a spectacular deal. Incredible beauty, a solid driving experience, and a low-entry price make this 500SEC a solid buy. For the price of a Toyota Avalon, experience some of the best engineering Mercedes ever undertook, in a package so pretty, you’ll glance back every time you park. A big Mercedes coupe makes a statement, surely, but the lion’s share of the joy of this car will be all yours. [Find it here on Ebay.]

Photos by Ebay