The Mercedes-Benz S-Class (or Sonderklasse, German for “Special Class”) is oft considered the gold standard for technology and luxury in automobiles. Both the buying public and automakers alike look to Mercedes-Benz S-Class to get a glimpse of the technology that will trickle down into ordinary cars in the coming decades. Airbags, ABS Brakes, advanced traction and stability systems, and brake by wire technology were just some of the features to make their appearances on the S-Class.
The S-Class name first officially appeared with the introduction of the W116 of 1972. The W116 sedan replaced the outgoing W108 and W109, and with the new car, styling was conservative and measured, with every surface of the body carefully contoured with an eye toward occupant and pedestrian safety. It certainly wasn’t flamboyant, yet at the same time it was elegant and purposeful. It is said that the designers were obsessive in their quest to design the safest vehicle on the road and every detail was considered – the windscreen surround had deep channels to help guide rain water up and over the car at speed, the ribbed taillights stayed cleaner and thereby more visible in dirty conditions, sharp edges were slightly contoured to soften the blow should a W116 encounter a pedestrian. Four wheel independent suspension and disc brakes were also fitted as well as impact bumpers and a padded steering wheel. This was the car that started Mercedes-Benz’s obsessive quest for safety and technology.
The W116 was offered in standard or long-wheelbase form – denoted by SE or SEL nomenclature. Quite typical for Mercedes, a variety of engines ranging from a 2.8 liter inline six to (initially) a 4.5 liter V8 allowed customers to specify their car to suit their exact needs and wants. Soon, however, Mercedes took a brief reprieve from its conservative, safety-minded approach and introduced the bonkers 450 SEL 6.9 for 1975. As the name would suggest, Mercedes took the long wheelbase W116 and shoved a massive 6.9 liter V8 into the engine bay. With 286 horsepower on tap, the engine could push the 5,300 pound sedan to sixty in just over 7 seconds and on to a top speed of 140 mph. This was performance that could give a contemporary Porsche or Ferrari owner a serious scare. In addition to the massive engine, Mercedes engineers adopted a variation of Citroen’s hydro-pneumatic suspension, which allowed for a superb ride along with automatic self-leveling and cabin adjustable ride height. Less troublesome than previous air-suspension systems, it had been proven by Citroen since the 1950s and delivered superior ride and control. Power was sent through a three speed automatic transmission and to the rear wheels via a limited-slip differential. The resulting performance was deeply impressive, as renowned journalist David E. Davis once quipped, the massive Merc could be “tossed around like a Mini”.
This beautiful 1979 450SEL 6.9 is a two-owner example with just under 30,000 miles from new. It was originally purchased by William M. Keck of Los Angeles, alongside another 6.9 in the identical specification of Milan Brown metallic paint over Bamboo upholstery. It has been exceptionally well kept, and presents in completely original and unrestored condition. The paint and trim are simply outstanding, with the rare and attractive color suiting the car beautifully. Chrome plated “Bundt” wheels have been fitted from new and they are wrapped in brand new and correct Michelin XWX tires. The Bamboo-colored upholstery is in excellent order, showing virtually no wear on the seats or carpets. The wood trim is complete and shows a deep gloss and even the original and desirable Becker radio resides in the console.
Rather than being stored away and forgotten, this 6.9 was loved and properly cared for from day one. That care is reflected in the fact that all electrical functions work as they should and that it feels mechanically tight and perfectly sorted. Performance is mind-bending, and the ride and handling absolutely on-par. This big Mercedes “hot rod” is the spiritual successors to today’s AMG sedans, and its thumping performance is impressive even in today’s terms. They are becoming ever more collectible, and this example is surely one of the finest, more original and correct examples available today. Included in the sale are original manuals, original window sticker, a bill of sale and factory-correct tool kit.
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