GRR

Dan Trent – Wideboy Merc comes of age

12th September 2016
1960s-revival-fashion-guide-main-07032022.jpg Dan Trent

From grafted on fibreglass Testarossa-style flares to snake skin interiors many an indignity was visited upon the Mercedes SEC in the name of '80s excess. Even at the time many of these cars looked terrible; today some hold kitsch appeal but would require fairly sturdy sense of irony to drive today.

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I think back to the horrendous Styling Garage example I once saw at a used car lot in Palm Springs with its gullwing doors, red leather, polished wheels and tacked on rear wing and still shudder at the thought - those of a strong stomach may wish to check out 1000sel.com for some examples of what I'm talking about… 

This is not one of those cars. This is seemingly a proper AMG widebody SEC, handbuilt at the tuner's factory in Affalterbach outside Stuttgart when such cars were bespoke commissions of incredible quality and integrity. Plenty of SECs were done up to look like this, some even with parts supplied directly from AMG. But this would appear to be a proper one, converted from a stock 560SEC at the factory and one of six exported to Japan in the late 80s before landing in the US where it's now up for sale.

It's a glorious looking thing too. I once met Bruno Sacco, the pivotal design boss who took Mercedes styling from chrome-addled chintz to coolly conservative '80s modernism. Over a ristretto served in a thimble-sized cup he admitted one of the cars he was most proud of was the SEC. And you can see why. Imposing, elegant, respectful of Mercedes tradition but also defiantly modern it's a wonderfully elegant piece of design.

Image courtesy of 1000sel.com

Image courtesy of 1000sel.com

In the context of some of the other bastardisations AMG's aesthetic upgrades are, therefore, restrained and respectful. There's a bodykit – this is an '80s car of course – but it's actually quite understated and those squared off arches are properly done, not fibreglass stick-on jobs. Not easy – or cheap – but the quality stands out.

Further evidence of the substance of a true '80s AMG conversion can be found under the bonnet. All SECs were V8s but this one's a bit special. And, again, it says much about AMG's mindset that when it sought to increase the power of the lazy 5.6-litre V8 from the standard 560SEC it didn't take any shortcuts. These days tuning is relatively easy; turn up the boost, tweak the ECU map and off you go. But for this car AMG developed its own four-valve heads to replace the standard two-valve ones, bored out the block to 6.0 litres and generally beefed up the engine front to back. Not the work of a moment. In a modern context 'up to 360hp' as the accompanying delivery note claims doesn't sound like much – it's less than AMG offers in an A-Class these days in fact. But in a car like this it'd be enough to be going on with and the harder edge and provenance of the conversion complements the understated aggression of the looks perfectly.

Images courtesy of Symbolic International
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I absolutely adore it. The car is advertised on PistonHeads but the dealer's own page has more pictures and detail but no price. Another of the Japanese SECs sold earlier in the year for $154,000 so that offers a ballpark. Given the prices asked for contemporary Aston Martin Vantages this SEC would have competed with back in the day that seems like an absolute bargain. It's even got some miles on it so I wouldn't need to panic too much about enjoying it as intended.

Lead image courtesy of RM Sotheby's.

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