The Mercedes-Benz W126 S-Class was sold for the 1979 through 1991 model years, and it was the king of big, fast luxury sedans during the 1980s. Since these cars were so well made, plenty of them held on for 30-plus years and many owners before wearing out, and I see plenty of them in the big self-service wrecking yards I frequent. What isn't so easy to find in junkyards, however, is high-dollar gray-market W126s like today's subject: a genuine, not-available-in-America 1980 500 SE with Zender body kit.
Someone spent a lot of money to buy this car, bring it to the United States and make it street-legal.
I see so many W126s in these yards that I walked right by this extremely rare short-wheelbase W126 with Euro headlights. Fortunately, Autoweek contributor and Mountain Goats bass player Peter Hughes was in Denver for a gig and had joined me for a junkyard visit; he read every single car magazine available during the 1980s, and this car caught his eye immediately.
Whoever imported this car back in the 1980s must have felt 10 feet tall at all times.
At age 36, this car is pretty well trashed, though it's not rusty. Someone had grabbed one of the Europe-only headlights and the instrument cluster by the time I saw it, and the bumpers are sure to be next. How many 500 SEs still roam American streets today? The number must only be in the double - or even single - digits.