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.

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

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Sbarro Gullwing Mercedes 450SEL 6.9 powered

Here is an interesting situation. I posted this car on this blog almost exactly three years ago and now the car is back up for sale and the seller has copied the text of that post to use as description in the ad. Here is the original post.

Sbarro Gullwing Mercedes 450SEL 6.9 powered on eBay

1979 Sbarro 6.9016Year: 1979
Model: Sbarro Gullwing
Engine: 6.9 liter V8
Transmission: 3 speed automatic
Mileage: 9,100 miles T.M.U.
Price: Auction with a $21,995 Buy It Now

These are pretty unique cars and like many custom cars could be had in multiple flavors. What is surprising though is that Sbarro built the same car on different Benz chassis depending on the engine option that was chosen. This car having the awesome M100 6.9 liter V8 comes on the W116 chassis from the 450SEL.

While later twin turbo 5.0 liter Sbarro Gullwings could be had with a 5 speed manual, this car has the Mercedes 450SEL 6.9’s 3 speed auto built to handle the gobs of low end torque the powerplant generates.

We didn’t get mileage figures from that listing three years ago, but with the odometer showing just over 9,100 right now the car hasn’t traveled far. Pictures show the odometer listing 8,894 so the car has traveled a bit with this seller. The seller is calling that figure true mileage unknown, which is refreshing to see a seller actually come right out and say that. Chances are that mileage is accurate.

Three years ago this car had an ask price of an unreasonable, despite the rarity, $90,000. Now the seller has a much more sane $21,995. It appears the current owner is the same owner who had the car three years ago, but now the car appears to be at a dealer being sold on consignment. The seller gives the history of the car as being ordered by a member of the Seattle Supersonics before being sold to a Washington state businessman. The current owner purchased the car in 2002 and spent five years restoring it with a claimed $85,000 invested.

The underlying mechanical being from the 450SEL 6.9 don’t make finding parts quite on the level of unobtainium as you might expect with a custom coach built car. However it is worth noting that upon looking under the hood you can see the hydraulic reservoir that would indicate this car has maintained the 6.9s somewhat costly to fix hydro-pneumatic suspension rather than the far less complex, but ultimately not as cool or smooth, standard spring setup on the run of the mill W116 cars.

I had mentioned in the comments of my earlier post that I have documentation on previous sales of these cars. One of those sold in 2002 and I had thought it was a different car than this one, but with the seller of this one saying it changed hands in 2002 I could be wrong, how many Sbarro 6.9s changed hands in 2002. The photos don’t quite look the same. If the car is in as good an operating shape as it looks the price seems fair, look at what some W126 AMG coupes we have listed have sold for, twice this price. I have one of these changing hands at $40,575 so perhaps not an invest back then, but at this price making a little $ down the road seems much more likely. The car is just a bit too much of an odd duck with polarizing styling to bring the kind of money that similar era AMG cars have brought.

As I said in my previous post I’d probably axe those wheels and replace them with something more in line with the 80sriffic look, not because the wheels are on it are bad, but a car with such crazy 80s look styling needs wheels that also come from that time. I hope this car finds a good home, it is special and true Benz historians will recognize what it is. With bidding currently sitting at just over $7,000, I’m tempted to throw a bid in on this; as a 450SEL 6.9 owner, I appreciate the engine and I’m not holding out for the other famous tuner Mercedes Gullwing, the Isdera.

~Evan

Mercedes 6.9 powered Sbarro Gullwing

The seller has had this listed a couple times on eBay and it hasn’t sold. It is listed as a 1976, but while that may be how it was registered I’m certain this car was converted in the early 1980s. It is riding on the W126 500SEC based chassis, not as the seller states the 116.  The engine is the 6.9 liter out of the 116 based 450SEL 6.9, though. (edit: This model is on the W116 chassis, unlike the 5.0 liter versions that came on the W126.)

While this one is an automatic, these cars were available with a 5 speed manual and with a bi-turbo engine 5.0. When new these cars started at 250,000 German marks.

The Swiss based Franco Sbarro company still does business on high end vehicles.

The seller might want to go with more classic rims and include more information and pictures of the engine bay if they want to get anything close to the $90,000 ask price.

UPDATE

At first look this indeed looks like a W126 chassis vehicle. This has the W116 dash, something I easily recognize from my days of 6.9 ownership, and distinctive U.S. market 116 servo climate control center console, something my 6.9 didn’t have being grey market.

Two sources I used in digging up some info, Customizing and Tuning Mercedes by Heitz and Neff and Extraordinary Automobiles by Vann and Asaria both list Sbarro as using 500SEC W126 chassis as the basis for these conversions, calling it first the Shahin 1000 and then the 500 Portes Papillon Gullwing. It turns out they did use 116 chassis parts when using the 6.9 liter engine as opposed to the 5.0 or the 5.0 twin turbo option. Apparently the 6.9 motor was not available with the twin turbo option. It was one or the other, though who knows, money could lead companies like this to do strange things for customers.

There is also some wonderful additional photos and information available over at 1000sel.com and this Sbarro Shahin website which quotes directly from the Vann book and uses the same photos from that book.

~Evan