What do you get when you want to make a Mercedes-Benz more luxurious than a Rolls-Royce Silver Spur: the "Carat Diamond" by Carat by Duchatelet.
The Carat Diamond was introduced at the 1981 Geneva Motorshow. Allthough the actual conversion was yet to be called "Diamond", but simply "Carat" by Carrosserie Duchatelet at this point time, the layout of the modifications were the same as what later would become the Carat Diamond. Being the top-of-the-line in the Duchatelet-catalogue, positioned above the "Carat Clarity" and the "Carat Cullinan", the Carat Diamond was equiped with all the luxury options imaginable by the early 1980s-standards. The Carat Cullinan (the next best thing in the Duchatelet pricelist) would be the Mercedes-equivalent of a factory-standard Rolls-Royce Silver Spur; the Carat Diamond had options that would only be found in a Hooper of London-catalogue. Remember, this is 1981; the automotive world had left behind the era of the traditional coachbuilders (James Young, Parkward, Mulliner, etc) where everything was possible and the tuning- and modification boom had yet to start. Frederic Duchatelet was truely a pioneer when it comes to upgrading a relatively modest luxury limousine like the Mercedes 500SEL and the Diamond was the car that would make the Duchatelet-name synonimous for qualitity and style.
So let's get to the point: what would Duchatelet make you when you ordered a Carat Diamond? I simply cite from the options-list:
- A full-length Centre-console that holds:
- Storage compartment for the specially made glasses
- Remote control
- Roof-mounted console which holds a stereo-system (Clarion G80 or other)
- Sun-roof for the rear passengers
- A Microprocessor / computer with remote control that allowed the car's owner to remotely control and/or check vital functions of the car.
The most interesting part and novelty of the Carat Diamond (or Carat as it was called at it's introduction) was what Duchatelet called "the Microprocessor", basically the car's internal computer. This device was installed to remotely control functions like the Engine-startup, Airconditioning (including the Microprocessor checking if the windows are closed before turning on the A/C). Also vital functions of the car could be checked like lighting, locking of the doors, engine oil level, state of the battery and handbrake position.
1981: Frederic Duchatelet standing next to his creation: the super-luxourious Duchatelet Mercedes a.k.a. the "Carat Diamond".
A drawing that shows the layout of the earliest of the Mercedes Carat, at the time based on the W116-model Mercedes-Benz S-class.
An early Carat Diamond (1982). It has the sunroof for the rear passengers, complete Diamond interior, Centra type 32 wheels, the early model roof aerial for the TV.
An early Carat Diamond (1984) with what looks like Lorinser front- and rear bumpers, 16" Centra type-31 wheels and a typical TV-aerial mounted on the roof of the Mercedes.
A interesting photo showing Hollywood-actor Ernest Borgnine and his wife Tova Borgnine (née Traesnaes) standing next to the same Carat Diamond. Tova Traesnaes, the CEO of her own cosmetics company "Beauty by Tova" was involved with the introduction of Carat by Duchatelet to the US-market in the early 1980s. The photos in this press-release apear to be made in Belgium.
Tova Traesnaes sitting in the back seat demonstrating the in-car telephone.
Ernest in the front, Tova in the back, both enjoying a drink....
Lambs wool rugs, completely redesigned seats, picnic tables, centre console
Text: copyright Bram Corts