Mercedes-Benz has always maintained a tradition of building a vast array of vehicles ranging from basic transportation to magnificent, technologically advanced luxury cars. For example, in the 1930’s, the 170 was popular among police and taxi drivers, while an extremely wealthy individual could have a 100 mph 540K in any number of coachbuilt configurations. But if you were more than just your average wealthy customer, you may have stepped up to the 770K, also known as the “Grosser Mercedes”. These incredible 7.6 liter, supercharged eight-cylinder monsters were reserved for heads of state, military leaders – with owners including a pope and a Japanese Emperor and featured some of the most advanced engineering ever seen on a pre-war automobile.
During WWII, Mercedes Benz factories were hit particularly hard and it took some time to bounce back. But by the 1960s, their post-war recovery was complete and the company recognized sufficient demand for another ultra-luxurious limousine to take on the likes of the Cadillac Series 75 Fleetwood and Rolls Royce Phantom. The 600-series was born in 1963, known internally as the W100, reviving the “grosser” moniker. Available in four-door short wheelbase or six-door, long wheelbase Pullman configuration, the 600 was quite simply one of the finest and most thoughtfully engineered and over-built cars in history. Unlike a body-on-frame Cadillac or Rolls Royce, the 600 used advanced unitary construction that was so strong, the rear roof could be cut off without the need for additional bracing. Of course, options were limited to the imagination and budget of the buyer and 600s are often equipped with front and rear air conditioning, separate stereo systems, refrigerators, even television and telephones. Power was via an all-new M100 6.0 liter V8 with Bosch fuel injection, developed specifically for the 600. It produced 250 hp and a whopping 370 ft-lbs of torque, enough to allow the 6,100lb Merc to hang with a contemporary Porsche 911T in a straight line. A complex but ingenious hydraulic system operating at 150-bar (2,176 psi) powered the suspension as well as the window lifts, power seats, sunroof, and even the trunk closure. The 600 quickly became the ultimate symbol of power and prestige; favored by government officials, royalty, movie stars, dictators and cult leaders alike. The 600 remained in very limited production from 1964-1981 with total of 2,677 built in all configurations.
Of the 600 family, the sleeper of the group is the short-wheelbase four-door sedan, as presented here. Performance was surprisingly brisk for such a large machine, and in spite of their limousine roots they make surprisingly good driver’s cars thanks to that sophisticated suspension and torque-laden 6.3 liter M100 V8. This 1969 model presents in very handsome and understated dark, non-metallic green over a Cognac interior. It presents in very tidy overall condition, having been well maintained in very nice running order. Importantly, the body is very straight with consistent, precise factory panel gaps and attractive paintwork. Like the bodywork, the chrome is in similarly good condition and it rides on a set of correct wheels with color keyed wheel covers and blackwall tires. These big 600 sedans have spectacular road presence, especially when presented in a dark color such as this, and the driving experience is thoroughly modern. The engine bay presents well showing plenty of signs of maintenance – a critical consideration on any 600.
The lovely and luxurious interior is trimmed in Cognac leather with matching carpet. The leather is in very good condition, handsome and inviting. The cabin is trimmed in extensive wood work on the dash, door caps and windscreen frames which all presents well, with some minor cracking apparent on the dash top, though the fascia wood remains very clean. A proper Becker Grand Prix radio resides in the dash, and this example is optioned with the refrigerated console and privacy curtains for the rear quarter windows.
The big, grand 600 is one of the ultimate luxury cars of the post-war era. Its unrivaled luxury and stunningly strong performance made it the choice for dictators, heads of state and captains of industry alike. This short-wheelbase version delivers an excellent drive in a package that is more approachable than the long-wheelbase Pullman, and of course with swifter acceleration and easier handling. With any 600, maintenance and care are of utmost importance. This example has benefited from regular use and care, with records going back to the 1990s. It has recently been treated to an “E” service, including a conversion to optic distributor pickup replacing the points. Shown at the 2012 Greystone Mansion Concours, this attractive and usable 600 sedan is ready for its next keeper to enjoy the fantastic performance and exquisite quality that only the Grosser Mercedes can provide.
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