Rare 560SE achieves classic status

560SE reaches 30
Low production classic

We’re all familiar with the muscular 560SELs that combined the sublime, crisp 126 design with the powerful 5.6 liter M117 powerplant. When introduced in September 1985 at Frankfurt’s International Motor Show these long wheelbase sedans immediately became the global benchmark for effortless, comfortable and safe high speed motoring. Build quality was unrivaled and 75,071 units found buyers during their 7 year production run.

The 560 SEL is “quite simply the largest, fastest and best equipped passenger car currently produced by Daimler-Benz,” wrote the motoring magazine “auto motor und sport” in edition 19/1987

North American enthusiasts know the 560SEL well and highly preserved low mileage examples are coveted. Of course we received ‘federalized’ models with 238HP rather than the European model’s more serious 300HP (and subsequently 279HP in catalyst form). And all were presented wtih long wheelbase coachwork.

The tail of one special touring sedan. Absence of an ‘L’ in the insignia means this is one of only 1252 short-wheelbase 560SEs constructed from 1988-1991.

Subtracting 5.5 inches

In an unusual move, Mercedes debuted a short wheelbase model in 1988 removing just over 5.5 inches in length from the center of the rear doors. The result was a sharper handling and slightly lighter 560 sedan for the more sporting high-output sedan customer. With only 1252 units constructed from 1988 to the 126s final year of production in 1991, a 560SE is rarer than both a 300SL gullwing and roadster.

As such, Mercedes-Benz classic recently anointed the ultra-are 560SEs classic status as the early models turned 30 years old this year, hence becoming eligible for the coveted “H” plates. Your author would love to have one to park next to his Euro (Japan) spec 1990 560SEC. Doesn’t seem likely with so few constructed.

The heart of any 560 series: 5.6 liter all alloy V8 producing 238HP in US form and 279HP-300HP in European form. (US specification 1989 560SEL shown.)

roy spencer/editor mercedesheritage
photography/daimler media – mercedesheritage.com

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2 thoughts on “Rare 560SE achieves classic status

  1. Eric Killorin

    The W126 SE variants seem like an entirely different vehicle from their L counterparts. Those extra five inches convey a limousine like appearance while the SE is every bit the sport sedan. Never ceases to amaze how many compliments I get for my 300SE. Though the baby sibling on the power curve, you gotta love the light handling only the six can offer. Nice article, thanks for posting!

  2. Gerald

    Great photos to highlight a worthy “anointing” Roy. Nicely done again. Though NOT the same offering by far, the US got a taste of this MB strategy in 2006 with about 1,200 SWB S430s in its final year of production.

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