Pick of the Day: 1986 Mercedes-Benz 420SEL

“You gotta pay to play,” sang Denise LaSalle in a 1988 song. Those words could very well have been written about the idea behind driving a V8 luxury car like this one.

The Pick of the Day is a 1986 Mercedes-Benz 420SEL listed for sale on ClassicCars.com by a private seller in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (Click the link to view the listing)

“I purchased the car in 1994 and am the second owner,” the listing says. “For the life of the car, it has been garage-kept and covered.”

The 420SEL rides on the W126 platform which was used in Mercedes assembly lines for a little over a decade between 1979 and 1991. Cars from 1986 onward (including today’s feature car) were referred to as the “Second Series” and had undergone a mid-cycle refresh to design and engineering.

This car has a long-wheelbase body style and evoked a feeling of executive elegance from every angle – including its price tag. The retail price of this car was a staggering $50,950 when new – and this included a $1,050 gas guzzler tax. I don’t think I have written about this before, so I wanted to dig a little deeper on it. What is the gas guzzler tax anyway? The 420SEL had a combined rating of 17 miles per gallon, so keep that in mind as we set the stage for the conversation.

The guzzler tax came about due to the Energy Tax Act in the late 1970s and is assessed by the Internal Revenue Service on new cars that do not meet certain fuel economy standards. The tax starts at $1,000 for vehicles with a (combined city/highway) fuel-economy rating between 21.5 and 22.5 miles per gallon. It can go as high as $7,700 for cars that achieve a rating of less than 12.5 miles per gallon. The idea here is to promote energy conservation. Manufacturers pass along the tax to the buyer, which is why the 420SEL had had a little extra fee tacked on top of its pricetag.

The motor responsible for that 17-mpg rating is the “M116” 4.2-liter V8 which used a Bosch KE-Jetronic fuel-injection system. The only available transmission for the 420SEL, at least for vehicles shipped to the United States, was a four-speed automatic transmission. The seller outlines some of the maintenance that has been done recently on the 117,119-mile car. Included in the list are new shocks, struts, ball joints, a radiator, a power antenna, new tires, a coolant flush, new tires, and an alignment.

The listing concludes: “This Mercedes-Benz has been meticulously maintained with no costs spared to keep in mint condition. The reason I am reluctantly offering the car for sale is I am retiring soon, we do not need four cars, and to allow my wife to use the garage.” Priorities take precedence!

The asking price is $19,995 – and there isn’t a gas guzzler tax imposed on used cars, so you’re good there!

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

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