Project cars are a very slippery slope. I’d say for every 100 projects that someone buys, maybe only a handful actually see the end of the line as “completed.” People love to get in over their heads in terms of what it will cost or the amount of skill it requires, with most of the time being a solid combination of both. Most of the time it is cheaper, easier, and much less painful just to buy the example you want totally original or already finished, then leave the projects for the professionals and retired folks with unlimited money.
However, there is one car that will bring anyone to it’s knees if you aren’t totally flush with cash and have a very specific set of knowledge: the Mercedes-Benz 600. I don’t need to go over the reasons why, but rather what it would take to get this 1965 up for sale in California back to its glory days. Also, this one has another little surprise.
While we’re probably all familiar with the legendary Mercedes-Benz 600, one little fact of which enthusiasts may be unaware is that these behemoths were produced all the way up until 1981. It’s fairly amazing this über sedan that was introduced in 1963 outlasted the W116 S-class that was introduced in 1972 and lived on to see the birth of the W126 S-Class. In its time, this was quite possibly the best car money could buy, favored by dictators, celebrities and the well-to-do alike. The car wasn’t just a pretty face, however. It was also a technical tour de force, with a SOHC 6.3 liter V8 under the hood, a hydraulic pressure system that powered everything from the windows to the self closing doors and trunk as well as adjustable air suspension. This right-hand drive example for sale in London is not only rather uncommon due to its late build date, but has a rather muted cloth interior in place of the usual leather we see in these limousines.
(lights lift slowly over a sole figure on stage, the band strikes up the first notes to the familiar tune Jailhouse Rock. The singer breaks into verse…)
“Seller threw an auction up on eBay’s site
He was hopin’ that the listing got his price just right
He thought that the famous owner would take bidding far
‘Cause that giant Mercedes-Benz was Elvis’ car
Let’s bid, everybody let’s bid
Anyone who remembers who Elvis was
Will want to get in his old cars…”
I was going to make a concerted effort to write this entire post without referencing either a Twinkie or the signature catch phrase “Thank you, thank you very much”, but I’ve just failed. Look, I’m not here to give you a history lesson on Elvis or his importance. I’m not here to recount the leather jump-suited Vegas years, whether I like fat old Elvis or young vibrant Elvis, or even debate if he stole music from African Americans. I’m not going to give you a history lesson on the Mercedes-Benz 600, either. But let’s consider a few things about this car. The 600 was expensive. Really, really expensive. Arguably, in the late 1960s it was the nicest car that money could buy, and since it took a lot of money to buy, some really famous people owned them. Only about 2,600 were made, mostly in short wheel base variants like the one that Elvis bought. We learn he put $5,500 down and yet still had 36 monthly payments of $344. That equates to $17,844 in 1969; a figure which doesn’t seem particularly outrageous today and even inflation corrected it’s “only” about $116,000. But it was far more expensive than your average car, and it took near royalty to get into the 600. You needed to be someone like Elizabeth Taylor, John Lennon, or…well, Elvis to buy one. And if you weren’t an A-list celebrity , you were probably a dictator; Chairman Mao, for example, was a famous owner, along with Tito, Ceausescu, Pol Pot, Papa Doc, Hirihito, de Klerk, Marcos, Kim Jong-il, and Saddam Hussein. Basically, you go through history, and everyone the West considers a “baddy” owned a Mercedes-Benz 600. But, universally they’re still lauded as one of the most impressive automobiles ever made, and when you couple a celebrity owner (which, proportionally, is perhaps more likely than any other single model car in history other than some really low-volume models of Ferraris and Duesenbergs) you’ve got a recipe for a high asking price:
For a car manufacturer with a history spanning over 100 years, it’s fairly impressive that historians and enthusiasts still regard the 600 as one of the most notable models from Mercedes-Benz. This was a landmark vehicle not just for the company but the whole automotive scene. It was one of the most expensive and complex vehicles of its day and as such, anyone who was anyone seemed to own one, from movie stars to dictators. These cars are highly valued today and many that come up for sale have been treated to lavish restorations costing thousands of dollars. This 600 SWB for sale in Illinois, however, is a driver quality car, showing the wrinkles of age as it closes in on 200,000 miles. But it wears its patina in a dignified manner in which only a Grosser Mercedes can.
With the discontinuation of Maybach, the S class once again becomes the flagship of the Mercedes-Benz lineup. There has been talk of an über S-class of sorts, but nothing yet has materialized. Back in the early 1960s, however, Mercedes was toying with the idea of going up against the world’s best with the 600, available in short and long wheelbase forms, as well as Landaulet version with a rear convertible roof. There’s a few 600s floating around the auctions this week, beginning with this short wheelbase (SWB) example for sale in Miami.
Besides the good weather, one benefit to living in California is the never ending stream of privately imported vehicles that arrive regularly from the Far East. Most coming into the ports these days are Japanese machinery forbidden to us, such as Nissan Skylines, Toyota Soarers and the odd, diminutive Kei car. Occasionally, a few European motors will be sourced, such as this 600 SWB. Just a few days ago, we featured a very nice, original 600 SWB, but this one is a bit different. This 600 comes equipped with the divider between the front and rear passenger compartments, a rare option for the “smaller” variant of the 600 range. Also, velour upholstery is present in the rear compartment in place of the more common leather.
If you think back over the last century, what are some of the greatest cars to have ever roamed the streets? Sure, vehicles such as the original Volkswagen Beetle, Porsche 911 and Alfa Romeo Spider come to mind, but all of these cars had a multitude of variations and generations that it is hard to point to one single model of each that you would classify as significant. If I had to pick one single model that moved the chains, it’s this car: the Mercedes 600. While there were short and long wheelbase versions and an open roofed Landaulet version on offer, the 600 was relatively unchanged over its 18 year production cycle.
In that time, this became the de facto car for celebrities, heads of state and executives that wanted the most advanced, luxurious car money could buy. Advanced it was for its 1963 introduction, with a fuel-injected V8, hydraulic actuation for everything from the seats to the trunk lid and a host of other options available which would allow owners to customize their chariots to their every want and need. This restored 600 short wheelbase model for sale in New York allows the discerning collector to strike a decided chairman of the board pose.
Year: 1965 Model: 600 SWB Engine: 6.3 liter V8 Transmission: 4-speed automatic Mileage: 31,173 mi Price: $215,000 Buy It Now
This is a 1965 Mercedes 600 SWB in stunning restored condition. This car, VIN# 100012-12-000312, is an original #040 Black car and has been extensively restored by Classic Car Restoration LLC of Wausau, WI, perhaps the leading restorers of 600’s in the country. This car was repainted in its original Glasurit Black ( #040) and the finish is stunning. In addition the following work was performed:
full engine rebuild
full transmission rebuild
full rebuild of front and rear axle and brake system
new red leather interior and refinished Makassar wood
all hydraulic switches serviced and replaced as necessary
re chromed front and rear bumpers
all rebuilt air suspension components
and much more.
This is a unique opportunity to own a highly restored Mercedes 600. For more details call 631-283-8819
There are few other color combinations I enjoy more than this one on the 600. The red interior just looks lush and sets off well against the classic black paintwork, a color that lends itself well to pretty much any large Mercedes sedan. So the big question is whether the $200k plus asking price is worth it? Most well to do consumers eyeing the new S class or one of the very last Maybachs to be produced won’t be cross shopping a vintage machine like this. But if you must have one of the biggest crowning achievements of Mercedes-Benz this side of the 300SL and Silver Arrows, there are few better examples than the Grösser Mercedes.
When someone uses the phrase “the best,” you tend to take it with a grain of salt, right? We’ve featured a lot of cars on GCFSB this week that might come close to living up to that phrase, but for me, there will always be one car in history that is head and shoulders above the rest: the Mercedes-Benz 600.
The 600 was designed as an prestige vehicle for heads of state and VIPs that would offer little compromise in a money no object package. Unveiled in 1963 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, this car cost a hair over $20,000, making it the most expensive new car on the market. This new car packed a new engine, the M100, 6.3 liter V8 with 300 horsepower and 434 lb ft of torque, enough to launch this behemoth at a rapid pace and cover a quarter mile in 17.2 seconds, faster than some small sports cars of the period. Whether you opted for the short wheelbase (SWB) model you see here or the longer Pullman variant, passengers were treated to a high level of luxury, with beautiful wood veneers throughout, rear curtains, an available rear compartment divider and a choice of leather or this car’s plush velour.
This 600 SWB for sale north of Stuttgart looks the business in dark blue over gray cloth.
Two rear curtains, console bar with freezer. The mechanicals and hydraulics are fully functional, interior is in excellent condition. Recent service. Vehicle was completely repainted in the original color. No non-standard modifications.
A 600 SWB in good condition that has been used as intended will run you around $70,000 to $100,000, with examples that are near concours or with exceptional provenance pulling into the $100,000 to $150,000 range. This car is in good shape and sorted, but it is a bit of a hard sell at close to $200,000 with almost 100,000 miles and a repaint. Perhaps the market is a bit different in Europe right now, but with an economic crisis upon them, I tend to doubt it.
If I was part of the 1% and needed a car in which to be drive, this would be my ultimate choice for transportation. It’s not a logical choice and it would certainly be more cantankerous to maintain than a modern day machine. It would be worth it, though, to see people stop and stare at this car’s sheer presence. So big was this car that it was nicknamed the Grosser Mercedes, or “larger” Mercedes. Is it any wonder, then, that this car was popular with dictators the world over?
The 600 was a legend in its time, but a lot of real life legends selected this limousine for their personal transport. This particular 600 SWB featured in the following clip from Mercedes-Benz was owned by Elvis Presley.
The Mercedes-Benz 600, or Grosser Mercedes as it is sometimes called, is one of those vehicles where I find myself reaching for words to describe it. This awesome car set the bar extremely high not only for luxury vehicles but for automotive technology itself when it was introduced in 1963. Available as a short wheelbase sedan, a long wheelbase limo with four or six doors, such as the Pullman you see here, or as a special order Landaulet convertible, these imposing rigs debuted the M100 SOHC V8 engine. With Bosch fuel injection, this unit produced 250 horsepower and 370 lb. ft. of torque. Even though this car was in production from 1964 through 1981, only 2,677 600 models were manufactured, and under 500 were the Pullman version. That makes our feature a rare car, one which had an overarching affect on many Mercedes-Benz model generations to come.
1964 Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman. As a Pullman model only 487 were made over an 18 year production. These are very rare and highly collectable. With just over 99,000 original miles this will be a great addition to any collection. Starts right up, very smooth driving and engine. No knocking or engine noises. All options are in excellent working order including the very important ones: air suspension, windows, power rear seats, window divider, A/C system, and power closing truck. This well maintained example has beautiful wood trimmed veneers that are in excellent condition. The interior as you can see is also in very good condition. Paint, body, and chrome over all show beautifully.
Almost $100,000 is about standard fare for a well sorted Pullman these days; vehicles with celebrity ownership tied to them can bring more money at times. To get more of a sense for just how monumental of a vehicle this was, here is a video from Mercedes-Benz’s Fascination series illustrating the 600:
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