The Mercedes 380-500SEC Gullwings made by Styling-Garage (SGS) from Hamburg are absolute legends when it comes to 1980s styling and coachbuilding. And although the versions made in Hamburg are the best known, they're not only company that made them. About two years after Styling-Garage unveiled their 500SGS Gullwing, Swiss car creator Franco Sbarro displayed a very similar car at the 1983 Geneva car salon. The car was named Sbarro Mercedes 500 Portes Papillon "Gullwing". Quite a mouthfull.
At first glance the car looks quite similar to the 500SGS Gullwing by Styling-Garage, but in details there are huge differences. The biggest difference is the amount of plastic involved: the Sbarro Portes Papillon has doors made from plastic, which are shorter than the regular doors of a Mercedes SEC, with the bottom part now integrated in the doorstep. This makes entering the Sbarro Gullwing much harder.
A big difference over the Gullwing-doored 500SECs built by SGS was that Sbarro also offered performance upgrades: the regular 5.0 litre engine from the Mercedes 500SEC could be swapped for the 6.9 litre V8 engine from the W116 450SEL 6.9.
As with the cars made by Styling-Garage, the majority of the Sbarro Gullwings went to the Middle-East. Who other than Arab Sheiks and Royals could pay a pricetag of 180.000 Swiss Francs / 200.000 DM?
Funny: the first Sbarro 500SEC Gullwing had the name "Shahin 1000" written on the back. The name had a stripe running right through it which had some press puzzled so they came up with names like "Shahia 1000", "Shahina 1000" and "Shanin 1000". The Arab word "Shahin" stands for "peregrine falcon", which is commonly used in hunting.
The "Sbarro Shahin 1000" on display at the 1983 Geneva Motorshow, next to it is the Sbarro Golf 300S.
This is the Sbarro 500SEC Gullwing "Shahin" that was present at the 1983 Geneva Motorshow, and the first car shown in public.
Although everybody knows there's a 500SEC Mercedes under all of this, the new nose gives the car a very different appearance. The grille Sbarro used for his W126 conversions resembles the Wood and Pickett Sheer-Grille that was seen used on modified Range Rovers.
This view from the left side of the car shows very well the difference between the Styling-Garage 500SGS Gullwing and Sbarro Gullwing doorsteps: the doorsteps on the Sbarro Gullwing are much higher, all so reinforcing steel beams could be fitted to keep the structural regidity of the car.
Franco Sbarro had a hard time being noticed with this car at the 1983 Geneva Motorshow since Styling-Garage (who unveiled their first 500SGS Gullwing at least one year earlier) were showing their legendary red 500SGS Gullwing Widebody with gold-leather interior.
A nice photo showing the Sbarro Shahin 1000 with it's doors closed. The B-pillar has been painted black on this one to disguise the pillar which absence makes the factory SEC Mercedes such an elegant car.
Rear view of the Sbarro Gullwing. It shows very well the Sbarro bumpers with the typical triple-groove that goes all around the back of the car. Also note the quadruple exhaust and the trunk with integrated spoiler. The wheels Sbarro used on the 500SEC Gullwings are very often these rims produced by Gotti.
Most likely the same car, but this time fitted with stream-line wheels (also seen on the 1984 Sbarro Bi-Turbo).
This is my personal favorite, if only it were for the colour of the car: candy-apple red with a cocain-white interior.
Sbarro wasn't known for his elegant interior solutions, hence this TV contraption fitted in the dashboard.
The seats are stock Mercedes, covered in white leather. The car is standing still with the doors opened, but the story goes that Middle-Eastern Sheiks were driving the Sbarro Gullwings with the doors opened at speeds up to 200km/h! Obviously the way the doors were constructed didn't allow this at first so doors sometimes just fell off...
Another Sbarro 500SEC Gullwing, at first glance similar to the above car. Differences are to be seen in the choice of rims (BBS), the B-pillar that's left red instead of camouflaged in black and the different interior which is beige rather than white.
Text: copyright Bram Corts 2013