The Gemballa 1001SEL, basically Gemballa’s ultimate bid in the race to create the ultimate Mercedes S-class which gave the customer a car with noting left to desire. Granted, there's not "the one" 1001SEL since Gemballa made several of these ultimate W126s, but this dark-blue example that currently resides in the Abu-Dhabi "Emirates National Auto Museum" is the best known of the lot Gemballa built.
On the outside the difference between a standard 500SEL and the Gemballa car is obvious: 24-carat gold plated chrome parts, including the Remotec rims, the SEC bonnet and the 1001SEL badge. Something that’s less obvious is the paintjob. A massive twelve layers of Glasurit paint were sprayed to get a serious luxury finish.
The interior is where Gemballa’s 1001SEL really excels. Everything you can find in a living room can also be found inside this car. The catalog called this top-of-the-line conversion the Version V (five) Interior package; Plush seats (Gemballa’s own design), the finest leather everywhere, two television units, one for the front passenger in the glove compartment and a bigger one in the centre console which can be flipped away, leaving a nice wooden panel. The TVs are connected to a VCR in case you want to see a movie. If you don’t want to watch TV there’s a seriously expensive (Pioneer. Clarion was also an option) stereo mounted in a roof console just above the two front seats. This includes radio, CD- and cassette player. The latter is a bit outdated by 21st century standards, but we’re talking 1985 here. In the middle of the stereo an original Cartier clock is installed.
Between the two rear seats, which replace the original bench, inside the centre console we find the mini bar to store the champagne or whatever boos you prefer. Above the passenger seats there’s a sunroof and to create privacy curtains are installed which can be electrically operated by a push on a button. The headrests sport a couple of illuminated mirrors and below that electrically operated root wood picnic tables complete the house-like feel.
Not just the passengers get treated like kings in this car though, the driver also has some gadgets up his sleeve. The steering wheel for instance has integrated buttons that can be used to operate the stereo. Also a digital Gemballa speedo tells the driver his current speed and RPM of the engine. Much more interesting than those old fashioned dials.
Because of all the electronic gadgets in the interior the trunk is filled with all that is needed to operate the TV, audio, fridge and other electronics.
Well, as with many cars we find on this website you’d better forget about the price. If a regular Mercedes 500SEL was already too expensive for you (79.000 DM -German Mark- in 1985) the price of the Gemballa 1001SEL would be way out of reach: a staggering 350.000 DM.
The dark-blue Gemballa 1001SEL in front of Schloss Ludwigsburg in all of it's glory; the bonnet swapped for an SEC-version with gold-plated star and grille, Remotec wheels with gold-plated spokes and Gemballa logos (this was a Remotec catalog item by the way).
On the trunk there's the 1001SEL Gemballa badge, gold-plated of course and that also goes for the trim below it.
One of the 1980s most beautiful interiors in my opinion; the complete Version 5 Gemballa interior with all options available including roof console with Pioneer Stereo and Cartier clock, electrically operated fold-away TV in the full-length centre console, electrically operated fold-out tables in the seats, digital dashboard, everything covered in leather.
The 1001SEL dashboard with digital guages, R/C controlled functions on the steering wheel and a little TV for the front passengers.
A detail showing the small TV for the people in the front seats, including a small hinged cover that hides the functional buttons from plain sight.
A great shot showing the rear seats and the bar/cooler fitted between the rear seats, VCR (48 Hours in there) and a slight peak at the sun-roof for the rear passengers.
The trunk space of the Gemballa 1001SEL mostly filled with electronics to get all the interior functions to work.
Text: copyright Bram Corts