We recently had the opportunity to purchase a 560 SEL which had been traded in on a newer car at a local dealer. Surprisingly, with just under 200k on the clock, we found only minor repairs were needed. The sunroof did not function, the power seats were not working, the self leveling suspension did not function, front brakes were in need of replacement and all the vehicles systems were in need of a thorough service.

This vehicle is a perfect example of the effects of delayed repairs. The previous owner let small repairs build up until the cost of the combined repairs was high enough to motivate the sale of a wonderful vehicle and the purchase of a lesser vehicle as a replacement. This 16 year old vehicle is timelessly stylish, has most of the features of new vehicles and a build quality which has yet to be matched by any contemporary manufacturer. There is very little plastic, the interior is burlwood and leather, the body is heavy gauge steel, the paint was of such quality that even today it looks better than most new cars.

The Mercedes W126 series has been an icon for luxury car builders, Among other features premiered by Mercedes on the W126 were ABS Brakes, Air bag, Automatic seatbelt tensioners and the passenger safety cell - all have become standard features on all luxury cars today. The W126 was actually the first car to incorporate these features as well as being the first car specifically designed to withstand offset crashes.


These safety features mades the W126, when produced, the worlds safest car. They and 2500 other inventions were the products of Bela Barenyi, doyen of passive safety technology. He was born in Austria and worked as a design engineer, in passenger car development, for Daimler-Benz from 1939 until his retirement in 1972.

Most current safety standards in the automotive sector are based on one of Barenyi's original ideas. Whether it be the safety body shell, the crumple zone or the safety steering system, more than 2500 patents bear the Mercedes-Benz engineer's name - patents that have saved countless lives. Nobody in the world has given car safety more thought than Bela Barenyi. His specialty was "thinking ahead": many of his ideas where so visionary that it took several years for them to actually come to bear. They revolutionised the car industry.


Mercedes-Benz Major inventions:
rigid occupant safety cell
crumple zone
multi piece steering column
safety steering wheel
protection against side impacts
seat belt
Volkswagen beetle

Safety call patent


Historical note:

The design of the Mercedes-Benz W 126 S-class (1979-1991) dated back to 1972, when the first S-class (W 116) made it debut. Factory codenamed as project W 126, this S-class range was designed with a mission to retain the title as the world's best luxury car series for the next decade. After six years of numerous research and dedicated hard work, the long-awaited W 126 saloon range was successfully launched in 1979. The saloons' coupe siblings joined the S-class family a couple of years later in 1981.

Just as its predecessor and successors, the W 126 S-class series possesses Mercedes-Benz's every effort to shape and show the world the future trends of the automotive industry, in both styling and technological aspects. The aesthetic designs of saloon (W 126 & V 126) and coupe (C 126) models are all-time designer's masterpieces, a pair of true hallmark designs that perfectly seam elegance, road presence and authority. Both designs have captured numerous hearts of royal fans and highly praised by people from all over the world, and the designs have set a benchmark for later Mercedes models as well as opponents from other makes for many years to come. In engineering terms, the W 126 S-class had set a new record in aerodynamic efficiency (0.36 Cd) in the late 70s, along with world's leading structural construction and safety standard. It was the first volume produced car range to offer the world's very first ABS and SRS Airbag systems, which were available as optional features.

The W 126 S-class has long been praised and highly recognized as one of the the world's finnest and the most comprehensive lines of luxury automobile. With a total sale volume of over 890,000 units sold worldwide and a distinguished production span of more than thirteen years, W 126 is certainly one of the most successful and ever-green luxury car series the Mercedes-Benz has ever made. - Ian Dunross


The 560 SEL features the Hydramatic Self-Leveling suspension (SLS) which, as the name implies, keeps the vehicle level regardless of differences in the loading of the vehicle as well as replacing standard shock absorbers with Nitrogen filled spheres. The system is designed to maintain the vehicles ride height by use of a hydraulic pump, a level sensing valve and twin hydraulic rams and when working provides what is arguably the finest ride of any large sedan. A diagram and description of the functioning of this system is available here.

On our 560 we discovered that the leveling valve actuation rod had slipped from its brackets causing the rear of the car to ride low giving the impression of a sagging suspension, in addition we discovered that the gas filled "Accumulators" were ruptured and providing no bump dampening. Once the leveling system was readjusted and the accumulators replaced the vehicles suspension performed faultlessly and provides the best ride of any large luxury car I have driven. If your vehicle has Hydramatic suspension I can not strongly enough advise that you repair it or have it repaired rather than replaced (if, however, you would rather replace the system, the 420SEL did not have SLS and these parts may be used to replace the SLS on a 560SEL).

To date the following repairs have been carried out:

Removal of the window tint which had begun to turn purple.
Replacement of the Accumulators and suspension adjustment.
Replacement of the sunroof mechanism.
Repair of the seat motors in both front seats.
Complete detail including buffing, polishing and waxing of the paint.
Leather treatment and repair.
Replacement of the Grille assembly.
Replacement of the headlamps and turn signals with European units.
Complete tune and service.
Complete transmission service.
Replacement of front brake rotors and pads.
Repair of wiring for rear power windows.
Replacement of several courtesy light assemblies.
Flush of brake system, refill with DOT4

Installation of H&R Sport springs

Planned work:

Mounting of 18" AMG Monoblock wheels and Perelli tires.
Installation of UV blocking tint to windows
to protect leather.
Flush of cooling system and refill with German Phosphate free coolant.


The original grey plastic grille was removed and replaced with a new grille which had been painted satin black. At this time the grille chrome strips were also replaced.

In this image the stock US Spec headlamps and turn signals can be seen clearly. At the time of production all US Spec vehicles were required by law to be fitted with DOT headlamps and turn signals, while European models used the headlights and signals which Mercedes had designed for the vehicle.

We dicided to replace the DOT lamps with Euro lights and signals.

Here the right headlamp and turn signal have been replaced with Euro spec units, while the left is still fitted with the DOT lamps.

The conversion process is not as simple as it looks. The wiring, wiring connectors, headlamp wipers and associated panels and motors are completely different on the Euro models.

For information on headlight aiming go here.