Rob Dern’s infatuation with Mercedes’s C126 platform began early: through movies and pop culture, the 560 SEC rose quickly to prominence as an end-all in automotive prowess through the ’80s and ’90s. Gangsters and rockstars alike turned to the massive coupe as a catchall for performance and poise, and understandably, Rob’s attention was fixed on the coupe for years and years to come. Now, decades later, he’s built one to call his own, with his vision revitalized thanks to motivation roughly 1/24th the size one might expect.
Though it was present through childhood, the dream of owning a 560 SEC eventually waned over the years, and into his teens and twenties, it was merely a distant memory. It was a scale model, perched upon a shelf in a glass case at a mate’s place, though, that reawakened the fever. The hunt began immediately, and for weeks, Rob sought, through both the internet and through specialist magazines, for the right example to bring home. “My vision was to restore the car exactly as the miniature form I saw in my friend’s glass showcase,” he says, “and that’s exactly what I did.”
It must have been one hell of a model, because Rob’s SEC coupe carries an unparalleled presence that commands attention and oozes style at the seams. There’s something impossible to ignore about its stature, both in width and its newfound low-slung height. Laying flat on the tarmac, it’s hard to imagine the car in any other form: if this is indeed the spitting image of the model that inspired him, we understand completely.
The build wasn’t without its hurdles, though. The car he bought was in need of total renovation, from the engine and driveline to the suspension and running gear. Inside and out, Rob sought to use original Mercedes parts, and says that since purchase, roughly 80% of the car has been rebuilt from the ground up. The bodywork came first, with rear window frame repair and fender work necessary to get the car straight and proper once again. The car wears a fresh coat of its original color, Obsidian Black, with all of the car’s brightwork, save for the side window trim, painted black for a unique touch.
Following the bodywork was a driveline overhaul, which Rob admits was the most challenging part of the build for him. He enlisted the help of his buddy Mike, and together, the duo swapped in a new M117, the same V8 found in the 500 and 560 SEC originally. An AMG exhaust was fitted to the car during the install as well, giving the car an audible presence without sacrificing its luxurious nature.
The suspension was overhauled completely, with an Air Lift Performance air ride kit acting as the centerpiece of the build, and 3P management doing the digitized legwork to make the system function both effortlessly and flawlessly. Together, the systems act in unison to give the car it’s incredible stance, which is, of course, accentuated by the wheel choice.
Such decisions can be difficult though, meaning Rob’s build sports not one but two sets of wheels: BBS RS for one style, and Gotti Axias for another, both sets measuring out to 10.5 inches wide in the front and 12 in the rear. The Gottis offer an OEM+ aesthetic, with Mercedes center caps and a spoke shape that pays homage to the AMG Aero wheels from the period. The RSs, on the other hand, liven things up with a sportier, more aftermarket vibe. Both sets, though, fit the build and the theme perfectly. It’s no wonder Rob hasn’t been able to pick just one set.
The inside of the car received similar attention, with most of the interior panels having been removed and replaced over time, as well as the seats. A Nardi steering wheel offers the only aftermarket touch to the car’s interior, save for the Air Lift Performance touch pad mounted to the center console. Rob opted for an OEM look in favor of something more “spiced up,” and the result makes for a car that, in some ways, appears as though it could have been a Mercedes design concept of sorts, if not a bit low.
Or, perhaps that’s wishful thinking. In any case, it’s a car that commands attention and possesses an undeniable presence: wide, low, and black make for success, time and time again. Just as the model did for Rob, Rob’s car does for others… including us. With Craigslist open, the hunt begins…