Luxury And Power: 1989 Mercedes 420SEL

I’m sure we all have heard of the mighty Mercedes 450SEL 6.9, which packed an incredible 6.9 liter V8. Sadly, Mercedes only built 7,380 of these mighty Autobahn cruisers. They however received so much acclaim and media attention, that Mercedes continued to develop the S-Class with a variety of engines. This 1989 420SEL might not have the stump pulling torque that it’s ’70s predecessor has, but it’s 4.2 liter V8 is no slouch and can easily propel this luxury cruiser to impressive speeds. It appears to be in amazing survivor condition and is being offered here on eBay in Anderson, California without a reserve and a current bid of just $1,800.

For a number of decades, rather than develop entirely new platforms, Mercedes simply refined and improved the cars they were already build. This car is based on their W126 chassis, which is essentially a slightly improved and lightened W116. Through the use of new alloys they were able to reduce weight from the 4,200 pounds of the 450SEL 6.9 to under 3,600 pounds for this 4.2 liter sedan. So while this car’s V8 might not produce 405 foot pounds of torque, it also isn’t carrying around as much mass.

If your primary concern isn’t with acceleration or top speed (although I can’t see why it wouldn’t be) and you care more about comfort and style, you really can’t go wrong with this car. Not only does it offer an impressive amount of leg room, but just look at that beautiful leather and wood grain. This isn’t the top trim level, that title would go to the 560SEL, it still have every bell and whistle you could want in a high speed luxury car.

These are well built cars and while they can get expensive to fix if not properly maintained, they will go for a very long time with just basic maintenance. This one has just 86k miles on the clock, so as long as it has been serviced, it should have a lot of life left in it! It will be interesting to see if they ever achieve the collectibility of their predecessors. While Mercedes built a large number of S-Class sedans, there really aren’t that 420SELs out there.

Fast Finds


  1. Alan

    2 years ago I bought All original survivor 1979Mercedes 6.9 black with bamboo leather interior. Has 59K original miles. Car is almost new condition as was 25 years in storage by previous owner. All books & original owners manual. Car was perfect inside out. I had issues with hydropneumatic suspension & rear differential also. The 6.9 is the True Muscle big sedan from Mercedes. My second best must be the 80s 560SEL ! I paid 38K

  2. Fred W.

    These are quite a car, smooth and quiet with the bigger engines being unnecessary. Had an identical car (’87 model) I bought for my wife in the early 90’s. Sold it later fearing the high cost of mechanical trouble, but never once experiencing any. She’s never quite forgiven me.

  3. nessy

    If this era Mercedes did not say “560SEL” on the trunk, people were not as impressed. With the big body S class, it was all about that nameplate on the trunk. The 560 is pretty fast. Very nice cars for sure but make mine a 560.

    • Jakob

      That is exactly what I look for when I see the older S class. 560SEL.

  4. Charles H.

    While not an almighty S Class, I have a 1994 E Class, they could be had with up to a 5.0 V8 in the E 500, but were still pretty powerful with the 3.2 inline six, that my E 320 has. I picked up a 2 owner beauty, with all service records from new, for only $875.00! Tried posting a pic of it, but for some mysterious reason, the site blocked me from posting it.

    • Ex Benzo Tech.

      You ever wonder why you got German’s best for only $875.00
      Never a free lunch. Good luck with the throttle body and wiring harness.
      Will run you 3x as much to replace them.

      • Sam

        German over-engineering does not equal reliability. The Japanese seem to have the yin/yang balance between performance and reliability.

        Your best bet for Audi, BMW, MB, Porsche etc is to lease what you can afford for a couple years, enjoy and return.

      • Jody

        Well yea if your a dumbass that can’t hold a wrench or turn a screwdriver. Throttle body is a breeze, and the harness can be had for $300

      • Thorsten Krüger

        Sam’s opinion is quite simple…. same as Mr. T. is

      • Dan

        I have 2 W124 E 320. Both bought new. Engine wiring harness was a warranty repair on both (94 and95). Both have been maintained by the book No TB probs. 150K miles on both. Only non warranty probs have been a.c. evap (both) and radios. Will have them til Im gone! Best car (small tank) ever built!

    • Jakob

      I have a 2004 E500 Sport. Yes that V-8 is verrry nice.

  5. Luke Fitzgerald

    Outstanding cars that can be had for buttons – find the right, and I mean right monkey to twist spanners, you’ll never get a better bang for you’re buck. I like the early ones with chrome bars better, or the contemporary coupes of this era- but for a car that was once house money – well, someone give me an alternative – there isn’t one.

    • Jody

      Couldn’t have said it better. Let the masses forget these, and I’ll buy them all day long.

  6. Bob H.

    If you can buy this under $15K, you’ve got a fine driver. I put over 175000 miles on mine other than oil change, etc. I replaced the battery once, exhust, and a starter. That’s it. One warning when buying a low mileage example. Removing the fuse to the the odometer will disable it. It also disables the speedometer and A/C, but lots of that went on during mild weather.

  7. joe palmer

    the word is descendant not decedent which is a dead person

  8. Charles H.

    Ex Benzo Tech. The wiring harness was replaced 5 yrs. ago with the upgraded type, I have all the service records, since new. Everything on this car works as it should and the biggest problem the car has, is the paint is faded on the hood, trunk lid, and top. I agree that a lot of cheap priced ones do indeed need a lot more work than they’re worth, but sometimes, people get lucky.

    • Ex Benzo Tech.

      Good for you.

  9. Dwight

    I bought a 1989 Mercedes 420sel with 134,000 miles on it. I ran it 317000 Mi with no major repairs

  10. Pete in PA

    The W124 and W126 cars of this era are the best that Mercedes ever built and probably ever will build. Design simplicity/elegance, build quality, unsurpassed.

    This is a very fine automobile and will go for 3X the current mileage. I’m a W124 guy but if this were on the east coast I’d be going to see it.

    Good luck to the seller.

  11. Charles H.

    I couldn’t agree more, Pete in PA, I’m a W124 guy, myself, they’re both as good as they got, for reliability, etc. and they’re pretty simple to work on, as well.

  12. Ian

    were once considered……prices are def on the up with these in the UK now !

    This looks a good deal-and paint is not a huge issue…..

    (ps I am also a W124 fan…but could be swayed but garages in general not big enough over here

  13. Bruce Best

    My 560SEL had 400K on the clock and you could not tell it from a 1 year old car. I have worked on Rolls Royce, to Ferrari and Maserati and including the newer Mercedes and I must agree that these were the highpoint in Mercedes cars in many ways. If you had to replace something it was going to be expensive but you might never have to replace it again. The paint was first class as was all of the other materials used in the car.

    In some ways so simple but so well done. Everything you needed and nothing you did not. Mine would easily cruse at 100MPH all day with a ride similar to sitting in your living room sofa. The details like the sun visor over the mirror in case the sun would come in at that angle was both funny and very nice.

    Mine was destroyed when a road collapsed below me when I was going down an interstate and the pavement in front of me dropped 7″. I was doing over 80 MPH at the time and blew out three of my four tired and very nearly rolled the car. Damaged all the suspension the drive train up to and including the transmission and the state said that because it had such high miles it was worth nothing. That was a lie. Do your self a favor if you want the best combination of status and luxury and pick up one of these and care for it. Not the best mileage and not the best performance but presence it has in spades.

  14. Peter R

    I’ve owned a number of both 380 and 560 SEC and SEL models. These are great cars and while maintenace is not cheap, they run forever with style – classy cars. My personal preference is the two door 560SEC models. Euro spec is best
    Good ones can be had for under $10K

  15. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    There is a beautiful dark blue 88 560SEL just down the road from me. 120K miles for $5950.
    I’m not a big Mercedes fan, but if I was, I would think that is a steal.
    It’s been sitting there for months with no takers.

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