Man & machine – Edward Hall and his 1984 Mercedes-Benz 500SEL V126 Carat Cullinan

It’s a monument to ’80s excess… but enough about the owner! As a dealer in classic Mercedes, Edward Hall attracts rarities and unicorns such as the 1900km 600 Pullman on Qatar plates that’s currently on the ramps in his workshop, still with quite a lot of desert clinging to its underside. But this Carat Cullinan by Duchatelet will be his for a while. He can’t bear to let it go – and it’s in a rather niche market.

The Cullinan was Belgian coachbuilder Duchatelet’s take on an ultra-luxury bespoke W126, a lucrative art practised by several companies mainly for wealthy Middle Eastern clients. Complete cars were shipped from Mercedes to Duchatelet in Liège, stripped to a shell and rebuilt to the customer’s requirements. Unlike some of the outlandish creations of the period such as the Styling-Garage, Sbarro and Faust-Design gullwing W126 coupés (C126), the Duchatelet conversions were approved by Mercedes and kept the three-pointed star.

This one was built in 1984. Added to the fully loaded 500 SEL V126 with air suspension, climate control and electric rear seats were a Duchatelet bodykit, SEC boot trim and diamond-cut 16in Ronal wheels, plus a repaint in metallic black using the company’s secret ‘Japan technique’ involving 48 layers of paint. Inside, everything is not as it left Sindelfingen. ‘Every surface is leather-covered,’ explains Edward, marvelling at the cost. The centre console houses three separate, gold-edged Pioneer stereo units (with obligatory graphic equaliser), bespoke dials and Rolls-Royce ashtrays and lighters. There are all-round curtains and the backs of the front seats contain fold-out walnut picnic tables, electrically operated of course. Why not?

It was found in an underground car park in Paris. ‘The Middle Eastern market was the biggest for these cars. When the sort of people who own these cars finish with them, they are often abandoned in the desert but rarely sold. But this one had been forgotten about in a dry, dark, secure car park. The family’s accountant, curious to know why they’d been paying for a space in central Paris for 17 years, went down to the parking lot – and found this.’

It was covered in dust, but nobody had messed with it or ‘modernised’ it. ‘It had only 54,464km and was always kept in Paris on diplomatic plates. It was chauffeur-driven up to 2001, then stored off the Rue des Belles Feuilles in the 16th Arrondissement.

‘It was like a time capsule, with no fading or damage to the interior. I recommissioned it over six months, including the fuel system, the suspension and some sympathetic paintwork. Then I drove it to Techno-Classica Essen, where there was another W126/V126 with the AMG Hammer engine but not as clean as this and without the lavish interior. It sold for €96,000. ‘It’s an incredibly rare thing. I don’t know how many were built or how many still exist. It even has the original special jack, as the side skirts mean you can’t use the factory item.’

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