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.
The last report I saw had 97% of the world’s governments owning a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. By process of elimination of car manufacturing countries, you can probably figure out which countries don’t need the services of the S-Class. Statistically, this means that some governments with less than stable political climates have been subject to attacks on politicians riding in the S-Class with some ending up OK while others ending tragically. A big part of that has to do with armoring.
In 1980, Anastasio Somoza, then President of Nicaragua, was attacked by a Sandinista commando team while riding in an armored W116. Two machine guns, two AK-47 assault rifles, two automatic pistols, and a RPG-7 rocket launcher with four anti-tank grenades and two rockets were used to bombard the car. One rocket even hit the upper part of the windshield and blew the roof off. Amazingly the car still ran but sadly, no one inside survived. In 1995, then Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze was attacked while riding in an armored W140 by a group yielding AK47s and was hit twice by RPGs. One hit the hood, the other hit the grill. Two body guards in the front seats didn’t survive but Shevardnadze? Riding in the rear of the car, he survived. In 2008, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s motorcade which included a model similar today’s featured car, an armored W220, was hit twice in the windows by gunfire. No surprise – if a rocket couldn’t get through, neither did the bullets.
That record of survival alone is worthy of us taking a look at this 2001 S500 Guard for sale in Los Angeles.
This is one battle ready S class. If you are just looking for regular luxury transportation this is not for you. If your ride to work may lead you through an area known for IEDs or near that former business partner you screwed over who happens to also own a collection of sniper rifles, this may be perfect. This car was built for the Sultan of Brunei by TRASCO a company that was known for building the ultimate in specialized urban protective vehicles. TRASCO is now one of the companies that falls under the Centigon nameplate. The original cost, and you can be sure no expense was spared, was $400,000 you also can be sure that whatever this sells for now it will include a lot of priced in depreciation, the buy-it-now price is $85,000.
With 3″ thick glass and 1/2″ steel plating the car meets European level B6 armor standards, or in other words it’s capable of fending off 7.62mm rounds from the guy parked next to you with a machine gun. Naturally all that armor is going to add a literal ton of weight, the car weighs 7600lbs, but thankfully you have Mercedes’ 6.0 liter V-12 helping put plenty of power through run flat tires and also an upgraded suspension. The car comes with the stock rims as well as a nice set of big Carlsson wheels.
With 20,000 miles the car looks brand new. It even is coming off of a year long stay as an exhibition car in the Petersen Automotive Museum. Here is a link showing the car at the museum.
This is not really a collectible car and should not be seen as an investment, but should go to someone who will use it for what it was built for. Someone who has a chauffeur and is genuinely concerned for their own and their family’s security.