King Juan Carlos I of Spain’s 1978 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9

Some of my favorite cars to look at are special builds from manufactures to serve a specific purpose or person. One of those purposes is diplomat cars and all the crazy modifications they receive compared to the normal civilian version. Today, we have an already special 1978 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 that was modified for Juan Carlos I during his rule as King of Spain. This M100-powered S-Class is fully armored and a rear sunroof was added so he and his wife, Queen Sofía, could stand on the rear seats to wave at people during parades and events. This W116 was also equipped with the customary flag holders on the front fenders and a siren to alert all the mere normal citizens to get out-of-the-way. But now, Juan Carlos I is 80 years-old and while he still gets driven around in a S-Class, he also prefers some faster toys too.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1978 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 on Mobile.de

1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9

1The 450SEL 6.9 was the top of the range, high performance version of the W116 S-class, produced between 1975 and 1981. To make it, Mercedes took an ordinary W116 and shoehorned the largest V8 into its engine bay that they could find: a mammoth 6.9 liter unit making 250 hp and 360 ft-lb of torque in US spec. They then added a sophisticated hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension system that gave these cars a dual personality. On ordinary roads they had a magic carpet-like ride that would soak up bumps in a manner entirely befitting a W116, while on the track they would handle far more nimbly and capably than their size would have led you to believe. The result was an early luxury super sedan; a 70s incarnation of today’s souped up AMG S-classes. But unlike their modern counterparts, on the outside the 6.9s didn’t look any different to the rest of the W116 lineup. Distinguished only by a discreet “6.9” badge on the trunk lid, the understated menace of these cars meant they quickly found favor among the sorts of people who wanted to go very fast and had lots of money, but didn’t always want you to know just how much money they had. Driven by Hollywood moguls, gangsters and foreign dictators alike, these cars were expensive, fast and technologically advanced.

Jumping forward to today, these cars have rather languished on the classic car market. You can still find tired examples on Craigslist costing only a few thousand dollars, often resting on their emergency bump stops as a result of failed suspension, with faded paint and sad interiors. Lately however, nice 6.9s appear to be climbing in value, with more and more nice condition examples coming to market with large price tags attached. And that leads me to today’s car.…

U.S. v. Euro Double Take: 1977 and 1978 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9s

Tuner Tuesday posts usually focus on cars that have been turned up a few notches by aftermarket companies, but for some time Mercedes-Benz did all the magic internally. Indeed, if you go back to the 1920s and 1930s, Mercedes-Benz had a habit of taking the largest motor they could reliably produce and sticking it in their luxury cars. Such was where the legend of the 500 and 540K specials came from, but while the War postponed many further developments Mercedes-Benz were back at it in the W109 300SEL 6.3. Apparently not satisfied by that factory hot rod, engineers conceived its replacement with an even larger 6.9 liter V8 – mind you, in the midst of an international fuel crisis. Churning out 286 horsepower from the now legendary M100 V8, the 450SEL 6.9 was effectively a land-bound aircraft carrier and about as powerful. Long ignored by the market, the 6.9s have heated up over the past few years as large classic Mercedes-Benz models have become increasingly sought after and the rare 450SEL with the big motor is a solid draw. Today I have two examples to consider – a desirable European version and a less powerful and not quite as attractive American-spec car. Which is the one to choose?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 on eBay

1977 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 with 48,900 Miles

The W116 has been a star on the rise in the Mercedes-Benz world; long unappreciated and forgotten, like most of the models in the company’s history a great recognition of the first “S” Class means that prices have been steadily increasing. The most valuable in terms of collectables really seem to be the 6.9 models, for obvious reasons. Perhaps the original bad boy super sedan, the 6.9 predated cars like the M5 by the best part of a decade. The recipe was simple: take a giant car and insert the largest possible motor. Due to low residual values in the 1980s and 1990s, though, finding a good one can be quite difficult – but today we have quite a gem:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 on eBay

1978 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 Euro-Spec – REVISIT

The stellar looking two tone 1978 European specification Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 with unique Ronal Racing 3 piece Turbos is back on eBay, this time with a “Buy It Now” of $30,000. That puts it about about a condition 2 price level by Hagerty’s valuation guide, which overall seems pretty appropriate. Appreciation of these big Benz models is growing and it’s expensive to repair one to properly sorted level. Period mods can go very wrong, but somehow I really love the look of this car – it may be the coolest 6.9 I’ve ever seen. What do you think?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1978 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 on eBay

The below post originally appeared on our site July 2, 2014:

1975 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9

What, the 500E AMG 6.0 AND 500SL AMG 6.0 weren’t enough? Okay then, how a 6.9, this time lumped under the long hood of a W116? Well, if I’m honest I’m disappointed, as this spot was originally supposed to be filled by a rare 1990 560SEC. It’s not that the 6.9 isn’t rare, it’s just that particular SEC was a claimed AMG widebody 6.0 with full documentation. The highlighted text brings you to the auction. You know when they put “seller reserves the right to end the auction early”? Well, apparently that’s true. In any event, though I’m fairly disappointed that car disappeared early, it does give us the chance to look at this lovely early European-spec 450SEL 6.9:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1975 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 on eBay

1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 with 44,000 Miles

While the M5 may have the notoriety of being the first serious super performance sedan, it’s easy to forget that Mercedes-Benz really started the trend. As early as the 1930s, Mercedes-Benz was building some of the fastest large cars in the marketplace. They were expensive, complicated, and beautiful works of engineering. It took a while post-war for both the marketplace and the company to come back to full strength, but two cars created in the midst of an international oil crisis I really think point towards the character of their respective companies. First was BMW’s hard-edged, barely disguised racer for the road, the 3.0CSL. It was expensive, relatively lightweight, stunning to look at and pretty quick to boot – a sporting nature that would carry through to the current generation of BMWs, still considered the benchmark in sporting sedans. On the other side of the fence was the 450SEL 6.9; who else but Mercedes-Benz would put the largest production V8 into a sedan when there was a gas crisis? If the 3.0 shouted about it’s racing prowess, the Mercedes was subtle and understated. Indeed, option number 261 even removed the displacement badge on the rear, and outside of that you’d only see hints of the car’s performance by the bulging tires and slightly more showy exhaust. But stomp on the loud pedal and the best part of 290 horsepower was on tap for you – and this was 1975. Remember 1975? It was when the base Corvette had 165 horsepower and if you wanted to just break 200, the L-82 was your only option at 205 horspower. A full 40% more powerful, the Benz was the match for sports cars of the day in a straight line but offered extreme luxury at the same time:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 on eBay

1978 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 Euro-Spec

I’ll get this right out of the way, and I’m sure that it won’t be the most popular statement: I’m not a big fan of the Ronal Turbo wheels. It’s strange, because I like many, many wheels, but something about the recent editions of the Ronal Turbo just leave me flat. Perhaps its the racing look put onto cars that aren’t racing cars, or the wrong offset, or the wrong finish – I’m not sure. But whenever I see a set pop up on a newer Audi, Volkswagen or BMW I’m just not impressed. However, throw an original set of 3-piece Ronal Turbos on an iconic car from the late 1970s and suddenly they work. Oh, how they work!

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1978 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 on eBay

1978 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 Euro-spec

Ah, the wonders of the “grey market”. I long for the days when it was apparently fairly easy to import and legalize European versions of the cars that were turned down for the U.S. market. They were more powerful, better looking and lighter; but best of all, for most of these designs they were much closer to the original design language than what we were sent in the U.S.. The perfect example of this is the W116 Mercedes-Benz, though it’s not alone. The W116 came to the U.S. with Texas-sized bumpers and somewhat unattractive DOT-approved headlights. When those items are returned to their natural state, the transformation is nothing short of miraculous:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1978 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 on eBay

1979 Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9 Euro-spec

I recently read a report by Esurance which indicated that green cars were the least common amongst all cars owned. Now, truth be told I’m not sure how much accuracy or scientific research there was to this study. Perhaps my skepticism is rooted in my history with British cars and my family’s history of having green cars; I count 6 that I remember. Or it could be that my automotive youth matured in the early 1990s, when it seemed that only green cars were produced. Either way, it’s rather irrelevant, because if owning a green car sets you apart from the beigeness that is the normal family sedan I’ll gladly accept the most usual tone in the automotive world. Further, there are some great greens out there to enjoy; Viper, Mint and Signal from Porsche, Ragusa Metallic from Audi, Oak and Montana from Volkswagen, Tiaga, Java and Urban from BMW, and from Mercedes-Benz there were some neat tones available on the 450SEL – colors like Citris Green, Nickle Green and what I think is Moss Green on this model:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 on eBay