There is no greater example of a car I love but have no interest in owning than the Mercedes-Benz 600. I’ve opined for years about them and every time I see one for sale it’s a new treat. Today’s example, a 1966 up for sale in Portugal, has its surprises and little fun features that always impress me. It also carries a hefty price tag too.
I think sometimes we need to be reminded that old cars are in fact, old. As much as we romanticize them, at the end of the day they are just a bunch of parts pieced together inside a metal shell. We like to think that the older construction is somehow different, and that is the case for some cars, but a lot of times we experience Paris syndrome when it actually comes to driving them. These old cars often feel slow, sloppy, and can be a pain to live with just for basic creature comforts. Hello, Porsche 912.
The 912 has all the exterior looks of the big brother 911 with its long-hood design before the days of impact bumpers and can surely lure us in with its timelessness. However, you are soon reminded that it is powered by a flat-four that pumped out a little over 100 horsepower when it was new. Inside? Well, it has a radio. Maybe the heat works, if you’re lucky.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1966 Porsche 912 on eBay
A few months ago I took a look an early Porsche 912 that while the price was right, had a bunch of issues known and maybe more than weren’t yet found. As luck would have it, another 912 popped up, this time an even earlier car, that has a little high price tag but perhaps is a much better starting point. Dare I say that this is even a turn-key example? I maybe won’t go that far since it is a 1966 after all, but heavy lifting is not required on this one.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1966 Porsche 912 on eBay
I donâ€™t spend a lot of time talking about air-cooled models on these pages, and thatâ€™s a huge gap in Volkswagenâ€™s history. Itâ€™s also not so long ago that VW continued to crank out brand new Beetles alongside their water-cooled replacements. The proliferation paved the way not only for the water-cooled replacement models I tend to favor, but some pretty awesome air-cooled examples, too.
Of those my favorite certainly must be the Type 34. I dissected Volkswagenâ€™s first attempt to move upscale in an article on The Truth About Cars back in 2008:
Basically, like the Phaeton, the Type 34 was a sales failure. It was too expensive â€“ costing about 50% more than a normal Type 14 Ghia. But that didnâ€™t mean it wasnâ€™t a very good looking failure. While the underpinnings were shared with its less exotic 1500 cousins, the upscale Karmann Ghia was aimed squarely at making peasants feel like landed gentry and certainly looked the part. Sweeping character lines ran the length of the car, giving it its signature â€œrazorâ€ nickname. Added to the upscale look in terms of desirability today is rarity. Never imported to the United States, the Type 34 only achieved about 42,500 units â€“ less than 10% of the total number of the more popular and familiar Type 14 Karmann Ghia. But weâ€™re lucky to find one today in Mississippi, of all places:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1966 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Type 34 on eBay
Its hard to imagine a car that was more sought after and requested by the truly elite of the world than the Mercedes-Benz 600. I don’t need to regurgitate over and over again all the well-known individuals who owned these cars as I’ve done that in the past, but if you want to read about some of them, go nuts. Naturally, with great power and wealth comes with certain expectations and certain requests made to their favorite luxury car maker. I’ve seen some pretty crazy stuff that the Mercedes factory honored the request of, but today’s modification was so nuts that the Mercedes factory flat out said no to.
Nubar Gulbenkian, an Armenian oil tycoon, had a taste for eccentric luxury cars to say the least. He commissioned Rolls-Royce to build him some truly wild stuff and naturally asked Mercedes to do the same with their 600. The thing is, Mercedes said no. Why? Well, Gulbenkian had a thing for cars with fully transparent roofs. He had a 1956 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith with a transparent Perspex roof, among other body modifications, that is truly a one-off. The story goes, Mercedes wouldn’t do it on the 600 because the structure of the roof isn’t entirely flat. So bending a giant sheet of glass on a car that is constantly flexing and experiences temperature swings isn’t something they wanted to dive into nor stand behind when it breaks. Tycoons usually don’t take no for an answer, so Gulbenkian ordered a standard 600 through a fake name and asked coach builder Henri Chapron in Paris to do the work. In additional to adding the roof, they covered the entire interior in leather and added other little touches like tobacco pipe holders on the front seat backs. I told you this guy was eccentric.