Much has changed with the world around us since Magnus Walker wrapped up season one of Hagerty’s The Next Big Thing. But what remains the same is Walker’s unending passion for exploring the cars he feels could be primed to become sought-after classics of the future. And here’s the next – the Mercedes 500 SEC, which kick-starts season two of The Next Big Thing.
In so many ways, the SEC is a big thing. The four-seat coupe was big in the physical sense, being based on Mercedes‘ late ’70s flagship, the W126 S-Class. It was almost 17 feet long, and its expansive glasshouse with the pillarless windows gave those around the car an uninterrupted view of whoever was behind the wheel of the most expensive Benz on the road. And it was big symbolically, suggesting its driver had risen to the top of the pile.
Despite its size, the look of the car – the work of Bruno Sacco – was comparatively understated, perhaps one reason it appears to be ageing so well, to our eyes at least. In a way it was understated beneath the bonnet, too. The V8 engines were put through what Mercedes called an ‘Energy Concept’ development that was claimed to improve fuel economy by as much as 25 per cent, although one rather suspects few owners spoke highly of their 500 SEC’s fuel economy.
There was a host of technological innovation elsewhere. In line with its S-Class derived status, a driver’s airbag was optional from the start and standard on the 500 and 560 SEC after a facelift, while the passenger’s became optional in 1988. Other notable features included seatbelt pre-tensioners, heated and electrically-adjustable front seats featured, an outside temperature display and cruise control. And to tame the V8’s power, traction control was also fitted.
A favourite with city high-fliers, more than 74,000 were sold between 1981 and 1991. However, as is often the case, flagship cars like this sink in value from the moment they role out of the showroom, and over time subsequent owners feel less inclined to spend banker-bonus sums of money required to keep them in A1 condition.
Today, enthusiasts are waking up to the fact that the 500 SEC and 560 SEC models are great value for money compared with a contemporary Aston Martin V8, Ferrari 400i or 412 and Porsche 911.
Magnus Walker gets a taste of what you’ll find for himself, driving a 1984 Mercedes 500 SEC AMG. And because it was the power car of the 80s, sold during a time when stockbrokers were all business during the day and all party (and more business) during the night, he simply had to take the big Benz to Wall Street.
Find out why he thinks yesterday’s status symbol can still be a presence today.
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