Carat by Duchatelet offered the modifications for the Mercedes-Benz S-class in different stages. Each stage was given a classy name:
The "Carat Clarity" was what you could call the mid-range spec upgrade for the 500SEL/560SEL (all other W126 SE and SEL models could be fitted as well, but I doubt many were done on a model other than the top-spec 500SEL and later on the 560SEL). It was positioned between the "Carat Clarity" and the top-spec "Carat Diamond". The specifications for the "Carat Cullinan" were as follows:
First and foremost all exterior parts of the Carat Cullinan, including bumpers, sideskirts and wing mirrors, were sprayed using the "Japan Technique", which was a very exclusive finish and involved 48 layers of paint, 30 of which were clear varnish. The exact way of aplication was kept secret, even journalists visiting the Duchatelet factory weren't allowed to have a look in the spray booth. Carat The Carat Cullinan could be fitted with new Duchatelet designed bumpers and sideskirts. The Carat Cullinan could be fitted with new rims, which usually were the Centra type 31 wheels. An electrically operated sun roof above the front seats with a special air rim in the roof which reduced wind noise.
The most important modifications on most Carat by Duchatelet cars are however to be found on the inside and there were plenty: the finest leather everywhere, 15 hides were used to cover the complete interior including the roof liner, steeringwheel, seats, all pillars, dashboard and centre console. The seats were completely re-designed for better back support. Easy to spot are the new headrests which are much larger than the standard Mercedes-Benz items, and make it easy for anyone to recognize a Carat by Duchatelet car. Except for leather Duchatelet also added a lot of very high quality walnut-veneer wood. Lambswool carpets were placed to cover the floor of the car. A small centre console was added to function as an armrest with storagespace and the dashboard was modified by Duchatelet to accomodate a small storage compartment for a carphone or other personal items. An optional TV could be placed filling the glovecompartment. The obvious high-end stereosystem could of course also be ordered from Duchatelet.
Needless to say the Carat by Duchatelet "Carat Cullinan" conversion was rather pricey. A 1985 pricelist shows there was a "Standard Carat Cullinan" and a "Luxury Carat Cullinan": the standard 70.000DM (German pricelist) and the luxury version 100.000DM. But prices could rise considerably when you went to the options-list: 9.000DM for the in-dash color TV, a video-system placed underneath the rear seats 10.500DM and a Cartier-clock for 1.300DM. The list of option was rather endless, so it would be no problem to convert your 500SEL for another 200.000DM. Remember, the prices are all without the basevehicle!
A Mercedes-Benz 500SEL converted to "Carat Cullinan" displaying it's 48 layers of paint. Most "Carat Cullinans", especially the cars from the earlier years, were fitted with the very popular Centra Type-31 rim, as is this one.
The "Carat Cullinan" could also be fitted with an SEC bonnet. This also included the front-bumper of the SEC.
A rather stripped version of the "Carat Cullinan" interior: equiped with modified seats, both front and rear, burr-walnut capping, deep-piled carpets on the floor, leather on every surface, picnic tables mounted on the front seats, a small centre console which doesn't have the Cartier clock. Much better than a standard W126 S-class, but a "Carat Cullinan" could be so much more....
A more complete "Carat Cullinan" interior. The car has retained it's original non-airbag steering wheel, though re-upholstered by Duchatelet in creme leather. In the frontdoor we see a special ashtray with lighter. What's most interesting about the car are the seats. These appear to be different from the ones that are fitted in the above interior. Th design of the seats fitted to this car (and thus the car as a whole) are of an earlier design with triple stitchlines and the more shallow encravings in the surfaces, compared to the invisible stitchings and deeper encravings on Duchatelet versions made after 1984.
An enlarged view of the same interior. Most interesting is the configuration of the Clarion stereo. The basic components are positioned in the centreconsole, but an extra component which comes from the Clarion G80 series is placed on the right-hand side of the steering wheel. This was a common setup Duchatelet used for "Carat Cullinan" and "Diamond" interiors. Also note the plaque on the glovebox which probably contains the name of the owner.
A very complete "Cullinan" interior, featuring most options including the TV, new steering wheel, the Clarion stereo with remote and the storage compartment in the dashboard. The silver beakers were made by Cartier and were on the optionslist of the "Cullinan" as well. Next to the steering column we see the device that controls the "panoramic control", in other words the ballance front-rear and left-right for the speakers. Now that's 80s high-tech!
The 80s at it's best: a "Carat Cullinan" in all-white. Does it get any more "Vice"? Fitted with the complete set of Duchatelet bumpers and sideskirts and the "standard" Centras.
In white the car doesn't look as classy as most Duchatelet S-classes, but nice it is anyway. The antenna on the bootlid is a more low-profile version of the much seen boomerrang antenna, that was so common on 80s luxury cars.
Another Cullinan dashboard, with most of the options installed: the Carat television, special steering wheel, Clarion sound-system with remote and the storage compartment in the dashboard itself.
This photo shows the detailing of the door, completely in white leather and beautiful wood trim.
Text: copyright Bram Corts