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1979 MERCEDES-BENZ 450SEL 6.9

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thamesvalleycarstorage
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thamesvalleycarstorage

1979 MERCEDES-BENZ 450SEL 6.9

  • Location: Abingdon
  • Odometer Reading: 112850
  • Chassis Number: 116036 12 006475
  • Engine: 6900
  • Gearbox: Auto
  • Color: Milan Brown
  • Interior: Brown Velour

Background

Innocents view the W116 Mercedes 450SEL 6.9 as just another old seventies German taxi with an improbably large engine. But the cognoscenti, the sort of folk with whom we’d want to have a drink, know there is much, much more to it than that.

For a start, it is suspended via self-levelling, height-adjustable hydropneumatic suspension (developed from the Citroen concept) that automatically compensates for squat and dive under acceleration and braking respectively.

This sublime combination gives immense cornering forces as well as a silky smooth ride and the chuckability of a Mini (almost!). It was quick in a straight line, too; with 286bhp and 405 lb/ft of torque, the two-tonne 450SEL can reach 60mph in a shade over seven seconds on its way to a top speed of 140mph. Impressive numbers now, but imagine how staggering they were in 1975? The full list of technological and safety features engineered into the 6.9 is extraordinary and the reason why it features so high on collectors’ wishlists.

You want pedigree? A list of Mercedes 450SEL 6.9 owners is a Who’s Who of seventies legends and dictators: James Hunt had one that he used to smoke around London in, Bernie Ecclestone had one too, although his was presumably fitted with a bespoke booster cushion to enable him to see over that huge steering wheel…

The French film director Claude Lelouch must have been similarly impressed with the big Merc’s performance and image; while the final soundtrack might have featured a Ferrari 275GTB’s sonorous exhaust note, the Mercedes 450SEL 6.9 was the vehicle Claude used for his dawn run through the streets of Paris in C'était un rendez-vous. And, let’s not forget, Ronin featured one in what might just be the greatest car chase of all time.

Legendary muttering rotters LJK Setright and Mr. David E. Davis, Jr. both lavished praise on the Mercedes 450SEL 6.9, with the latter noting that it was “an exclamation point on the story of an entire automotive era.”

However, the best story… (enough of the stories, let’s get on with the car, this excellent account can be read at the bottom of the listing, ed.,)

The Vehicle

The Market is proud to be offering this European-spec, left-hand-drive 6.9 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL as a NO RESERVE auction. This example was first exported to Qatar and is believed to have been first used as an Embassy car. The records show it was fitted with an AMG body kit from new, although, before you all become excited, that (and possibly the curtains) does appear to be the extent of the AMG modifications that were made.

It then moved from Qatar to Germany, where a wealthy German family exported it to the USA, whereupon it was bought by a diligent Mercedes enthusiast, who owned it for the next fifteen years. It was pampered and wanted for nothing during its time ‘Stateside; the service history makes for fascinating reading, as every ‘advisory’ point was seemingly rectified without fail during the next annual service. Expressions like “maintained regardless of cost” might be over-used but are wholly appropriate in this case. 6.9 enthusiasts will be pleased to see major suspension works and a complete retrim in the receipts.

The current owner bought and imported it to the UK sight unseen, a bold move but one taking into account the recent service history. He has since rectified a number of small niggles during the two years he has owned it, whilst, at times, running it as his main day-to-day car!

On the Outside

Finished in Milan Brown, the bodywork is in outstanding condition thanks to a recent partial respray of its wings, doors and roof (photos pre-respray are included in the Gallery). The shutlines are tight and even, there is no sign that the car has ever suffered any accident damage. There are a few minor blemishes and stone-chips, but nothing untoward for the age and mileage. The subtle AMG bodykit suits the car perfectly, lending it an air of unobtrusive menace and a purposeful stance.

The electrically operated sunroof seals and opens perfectly, but can be a little sluggish occasionally. The headlight wash/wipe works too, which is unusual.

On the Inside

The interior of this nigh-on thirty year old example is a glowing testament to Old School Mercedes engineering. Recently retrimmed, the Tobacco velour upholstery (leather was an optional extra and contemporary reviews suggest that it was so hard and slippery that velour was widely seen as the better material for spirited driving…) is in superb condition, with the seats being as supportive as the day it left the factory thanks to the installation of new horsehair padding.

The rear screen and doors are fitted with curtains, which lend a wonderfully decadent, period touch (You're spoiling us, Ambassador....) and the switches, gauges and trim still have the same crisp solidity as we’ve come to expect from well-maintained old Mercs.

The air-conditioning system has been converted to run R134a but there is a small leak somewhere in the system which will need attention. However, the central door locking (the system keeps its vaccum for a few days), insulated electric windows, interior lighting, dashboard and new CD/USB/radio all operate perfectly. The photos show a couple of repaired cracks in the dash top. 

Underneath

The dry-sump, V8 petrol engine features a 12-litre oil capacity, fuel injection and electronic ignition, a combination that endowed the car with a then barely believable 12,000-mile service interval. Under-stressed and over-engineered, it is practically bulletproof providing that the fluids and filters have been changed regularly, which they have. The engine breathes via a part stainless steel exhaust. It also leaves no tell-tales on the driveway in the morning...

The complex suspension system has had its spheres replaced and rises and adjusts as it should; fitted with the correct alloy wheels and tyres, it goes without saying that the ride and handling are sublime (if the spheres are in need of replacement, the ride becomes very harsh). It also holds it pressure extraordinarily well; the owner tells us that it maintains the correct ride height for many weeks at a time when stored, which is indicative of the care that has been lavished on.

The underside of the vehicle has been cleaned and shows no sign of rot, although there is some slight surface corrosion where the underseal has fallen away. There was a small repair made to the rear of the driver's side sill, but otherwise the car is thankfully free of rot or repairs - presumably testament to spending part of its life in a hot dry climate. The new owner may want to have it professionally undersealed to protect it but for now it has been left bare to enable prospective bidders to view it in all its unmolested glory.

History Highlights

The car benefits from a comprehensive recent service history. The US owner pampered the car with trips to the same 'foreign car' specialist at least once a year for over a decade. Amongst regular servicing and oil changes, this includes repairs to the suspension spheres, the air-conditioning and a full retrim of all seats and door trims. The bills total more than $24,500 on visits between 2007 and 2016, with more money having been spent since being imported into the United Kingdom. Sadly, the car’s earlier service records prior to 2007 have been lost.

Please visit the Gallery section of this listing where you will find a comprehensive display of 112 photos and 26 invoices and other paperwork including the original spec sheets and Mercedes' records of the car's first delivery.

What We Think

After years in the doldrums, the Mercedes 6.9’s time has come. The very best examples, in the UK and in Europe, are now fetching close to £70,000, taking them beyond the reach of all but the very wealthiest enthusiast and collector. It's engineering excellence and excess, peak of contemporary German engineering and limited production make it a regular addition to the discerning petrolhead's collection, a far more important car than the standard 450 W116.

Which makes estimate of £19 - 25,000 for this beautiful left-hand-drive example seem very conservative.  And who knows, as a No Reserve auction, it may be sold at a real bargain price. With a small amount of non-significant work needed to bring it back to perfect condition, there is headroom galore for a canny enthusiast to buy and run it for a few years before selling it on for a profit.

Viewing is always encouraged, and this car can be seen here at Patina HQ in Abingdon; to arrange an appointment please use the ‘Contact Seller’ button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

If needed, please remember we have a network of trusted suppliers we work with regularly and can recommend: Thames Valley Car Storage for storing your car, AnyVan for transporting it, and Footman James for classic car insurance.

6.9 story continued from above:

The best story belongs to the well-respected Mel Nichols, a former CAR magazine editor, who recounted the following to Pistonheads:

"At the old SMMT Test Day at Silverstone in 1975 or 1976, Mercedes brought a LHD 6.9 with Fangio to drive it. LJKS (LJK Setright) and I jumped in with him. Leonard sat in the front with Juan Manuel, I was in the back right side and someone else I can't remember in the left rear seat.

"Fangio took us around the Grand Prix circuit flat out, beautifully smoothly and uneventfully. We didn't appreciate quite how fast we were going until, approaching the old, fearsome, mega-fast Woodcote corner Fangio pulled to the left to overtake a racing Pantera that was being shaken down. It was flat out, on the racing line. Its driver was working away at the wheel as it twitched and hopped around through the corner.

"Fangio, driving with one hand, making just tiny movements at the wheel and talking to Leonard all the while, slipped up alongside the Pantera and eased past him. I looked out the side window and grinned at the Pantera driver as we were alongside, just a couple of feet away. I'll never forget the stunned look on his face as he realised he was being overtaken, in the middle of one of racing's most challenging corners, by a Mercedes saloon with four people on board. It was too much for him. He backed off and just trundled around slowly until we did a couple more laps and pulled off the circuit. I wonder if he ever knew it was Fangio behind the 6.9's wheel."

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