The Swiss company Caruna was best known for their Mercedes-Benz SE/SEL based convertible and it is probably the best known of all four-door convertibles of the W126 S-class (the others being the ones built by GCS Bennemann, Lorenz und Rankl and Schulz-Tuning). The conversion was introduced in 1984. If we look at the photos of the Caruna convertibles two different models can be distinguished: the versions based on the SE and those on the SEL. The SE-based cars a very high bump on top of the bootlid where the roof is stored when foulded down and the roof is placed more to the rear, when compared to the original SEL -design.
The SEL versions had a smaller hump (2 in the comparison photo) and the roof seems to be placed slightly more to the front of the car. However another big difference between the early an later cars are the rear doors (1). The SEL-based conversions had very small rear doors compared to length of the car (taken from an SE and fitted to the SEL) which probably left space for a reinforcing beam to maintain the car's strength and created space for the roof to be placed more to front of the car (3).
The Caruna car was the only one that was fitted fit a glas rear window, that folded away neatly in the trunk. The early Caruna Mercedes W126 convertibles were fitted with two separate seats in the rear. This was done because the car was only allowed to carry 4 people, carrying more people would possibly damage the car's strenght. The complete car used to cost 166.000 Swiss Francs for a regular 280SE in 1984 with prices increasing when more options were chosen.
A good comparison between an early model Caruna S-class convertible (prototype) and a later model car.
This is quite possibly the first W126 S-class Caruna cut the top from. Based on an 280SE it appeard in many magazines in the mid 1980s.
The prototype 280SE based car with the roof closed. Although elegant with the roof opened, the closed look makes the car look more like a stationcar than an elegant limousine.
It's quite possible this is the same car, however it does have a new leather interior with Caruna trademark shapes. Not very clear, but visible are the separate rear seats.
This car is most likely the car made for the former Queen of The Netherlands, Princess Juliana. Based on a 380SEL an built in 1985. The car was used at the Royal Family's house in Italy.
Another two views of the same car, showing the top opened and closed. The fact that this car was based on an SEL makes it look more elegant with the top closed than the SE-based car.
A third car, also based on an SEL, with a very bright red interior. It is based on the 2nd Generation W126 S-class as seen on the different (smoother) sideskirts.
Two photos showing the interiors of the Caruna SE/SEL Convertibles. The top photo shows the early 280SE-based car with a fairly stock looking interior appart from the separated seats. The botom photo shows the Mercedes 380SEL-based car for Princess Juliana with very special leather upholstery and special stitching-pattern which gives the car a very distinct and classy look. The same type of stitching also appears in the b/w photo of the 280SE. The 380SEL also seems to have been fitted with the regular rear seats, instead of the separated ones.
Text: copyright Bram Corts 2013