After the COVID-19 pandemic hit the whole world in 2020, most businesses catering to the publication and entertainment industries suffered a sharp decline in their earnings. Our company was not immune to the worldwide economic slowdown. One of the initial measures we took to save our dwindling precious resources was to temporarily mothball our project cars, including our Mercedes-Benz W126. While it was gathering dust as it sits idle, we decided to take a closer look at its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and the stamped metal Trim Plate that’s screwed on top of the radiator support frame.
We ran our car’s numbers through two online VIN decoding websites – Mercedes-Benz Decoder (mbdecoder.com) and Last VIN Decoder (lastvin.com) – and found out more facts about our 500SE. Astute readers might notice that we changed the model-year of our W126 from “1986”, which was indicated in our car’s Land Transportation Office (LTO) Certificate of Registration (CR) and Official Receipts (OR), to “1983” because we learned through the decoding sites that its production date was March 10, 1983, which confirms that it is officially a 1983 Mercedes-Benz 500SE. Its Production Number 3416883 also confirms that it was made in 1983.
We found out that our 500SE was ordered through the Mercedes-Benz Regensburg Branch under Order Number 0220301944 finished in Lapis Blue metallic paint (Paint Code 932U) with mushroom-colored leather interior (Code 255). We found traces of the original paint under the gas filler flap as well as some Japanese stickers, which would indicate that our car was exported from Germany to Japan before it was imported into the Philippines. We can also guess that the color change from blue to black was done in Japan because of the quality of the work.
Looking at all the 3-digit numbers stamped from the middle until the right side of the Trim Plate, we were able to confirm the original equipment that were installed in our 500SE as it moved along the production line at the Daimler-Benz factory in Sindelfingen, Germany in March 1983. We were not surprised to find that our car was equipped with a limited-slip rear differential (256), which explains the tenacious grip under hand acceleration. We bought a Hirchmann power antenna to replace the inoperative one that came with the car (532) when we bought it in 2013. However, trim code 354 indicated that our W126 also came with a roof-mounted antenna for a Becker stereo or Tekade car phone. Interestingly, code 682 says that a fire extinguisher must always be on board.
We decided to decode the 3-digit trim code numbers just to see if our 500SE kept most of its original equipment and here’s what we found:
222 RIGHT FRONT SEAT, ELECTRICALLY ADJUSTABLE
404 AHRERLEHNE ORTHOPAEDISCH LINKS (LEFT FRONT SEAT, MULTI CONTOUR)
410 ELECTRIC SLIDING ROOF
442 AIRBAG IN STEERING WHEEL
452 CODE VORLAEUFIG UNGUELTIG (TWO-TONE HORN)
470 ANTI-LOCK BRAKING SYSTEM (ABS)
504 OUTSIDE REAR VIEW MIRROR, RIGHT, ELECTRICALLY ADJUSTABLE
570 FOLDING ARMREST, FRONT
583 FENSTERHEBER ELEKTRISCH 2-FACH (ELECTRIC WINDOW LIFTERS, FRONT DOORS)
590 GREEN HEAT-INSULATING GLASS, ALL-AROUND, HEATED REAR WINDOW PANE
611 COURTESY LAMPS IN DOORS
640 LIGHT ALLOY WHEELS
673 HIGH-CAPACITY BATTERY
812 REAR-MOUNTED LOUDSPEAKERS
870 / 871 ELECTRIC SEAT HEATER FOR LEFT FRONT SEAT / ELECTRIC SEAT HEATER FOR RIGHT FRONT SEAT
After knowing all the original equipment that came with our W126 when it left the factory in 1983, a couple of questions now beg to be answered: Should we restore it back to its original color of Lapis Blue and fit it with Bundt wheels or will we leave it as it is, black with Benz-2 wheels? Should we maintain it as documented or should we add other equipment such as electric lifts for the rear windows, headlight wiper/washer, and a more modern audio head unit with CD player and USB/Bluetooth connectivity? Or should we take a great big plunge and turn it into a replica of the late former Beatles George Harrison‘s 500SEL AMG? The state of post-pandemic business developments will determine our next step. Watch for it soon!