Nearly three decades since it rolled off the line in Stuttgart, this 1989 example still impresses for its graceful lines and exclusive image. Designer Sacco delivered a fetching 2-door shape which, although clearly derived from his larger S-Class, is well balanced and distinct enough to hold its own. In retrospect, his efforts are far more accomplished than the C107 (SLC) series which was technically the forerunner to the SEC but which was based on a stretched R107 SL wheelbase.
The fact that the C126 has aged so well can be attributed to various subtle design tweaks, such as the rain channels hidden in the windscreen pillars and the windscreen wipers which are stowed under the rear lip of the bonnet. Those details may seem common now but they were hugely advanced all those years ago – as was the use of aluminium for the bonnet, boot lid and the car’s rear bulkhead structure. All that was in a bid to offset the weight of the added engineering required to accommodate the lack of a B-pillar.
Pulling on the distinctive handle – which was set in a stylised insert to keep it free of road dirt – is the first taste of how good that engineering was: even after close on 220 000kms the vast driver’s door of this example still shuts with a solid thunk, with no evident drop. Inside, the electric seats and adjustable steering column all whir away according to one of two memory settings to deliver your exact driving position, while the seat belt arm proffers the tongue of the seat belt: all seemingly de rigueur now but no doubt captivating by late ʼ80s office carpark standards.
There are other gadgets too, including an electrically-controlled rear blind and a switch to set one of two tones on the hooter (town or country), while the roof-mounted sunroof switch is a masterclass in ergonomics: pull back or forward to open or close respectively or push up to tilt. It’s a bit like Mercedes-Benz’s famed cruise control which uses a simple column stalk: pull to engage; push to switch off and with acceleration or deceleration possible by lifting or depressing it. The cockpit ergonomics aren’t just for the sake of it, mind: the passenger door mirror can be adjusted electrically from a toggle switch but the driver’s mirror has a manual lever jutting out. That’s because it’s in reach so there’s no reason you can’t do it yourself.