My Fleet

Mercedes Benz 280SE W126 1979

The second car I bought was a W126 Mercedes; with one of the smallest engines from this lineup, it was still more than a two-fold increase in bhp compared to my first car. Those days I had a close friend – in some ways maybe even an idol or mentor – who owned a similar W126, and as I wanted to be as much like him as possible, I opted for the same type of car. A few years later it turned out that considering him a mentor was a big mistake on my end, one which cost me a significant amount of money (particularly in the context of the era), but I guess the passion for Mercedes cars was one of his positive qualities, one which I managed to adopt for my later life.

Mercedes Benz 280 SE W126 brown
The only decent photo I have of my MB 280 SE, with my young nephew (who by now has graduated from the University of Cambridge) standing in front of the car

The Mercedes was brown, and as it was produced in the very early stages of the W126 run (which actually lasted a total of 13 long years), it had the exclusive feature of only having one side mirror, on the driver’s side. I saw the car a couple of years after selling it and by that point, one of the new owners had removed this unique element of the car and installed a side mirror on the passenger’s side. This is understandable from a driving safety perspective, but I really liked having the car in its original condition. As all of this took place in the mid-1990s, though, and thus many years before the W126 started to develop some collector value, I cannot really blame anyone for doing so.

One thing that I remember from my W126 is that it was really convenient to drive even back then, as one would expect from a proper S-Class – although, almost two decades later, my recent experience of driving the 500 SEC model (which is based on the W126) alongside more modern cars has made me question that opinion. Of course, at the time I had only owned one 3-Series BMW of a similar age, whereas by today I have driven many cars of different ages and types by different manufacturers.

For me, the most annoying aspect of driving the W126 lay in the steering wheel and in keeping the car going in a straight line. The W126 steering system is based on a steering box rather than the newer steering rack technology, which Mercedes introduced in the mid-1980s on its W124 cars. Other than that, in my opinion a good condition W126 is a fairly nice drive even today.