1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9: No Replacement for Displacement, German Style

I came very, very close to buying this car. In fact, the only reason I didn’t buy it is that by the time my offer was accepted, I’d moved on to something else. That was only a couple of weeks ago, and I still think that this car will make someone a happy owner. I’ve been a member of the International M-100 Group since 2003 when I first attended one of their annual meets and found that most M-100 (the designation for Mercedes’ 6.3 and 6.9 motors) owners were certifiable Car Geeks like me. I also love the cars – the Grosser 600, the original “Banker’s Hotrod” 300SEL 6.3, and the car you see here: the 450SEL 6.9. Find this clean example here on Craigslist near Sacramento, California with an asking price of $9,500.

It was this photo of the trunk lid that really made me want this car. I mean, it looks very clean all around, but the depth of the paint on the trunklid is Mercedes-perfect, or so it looks, anyway. I’m not a fan of the U.S. DOT-mandated “park bench” bumpers, preferring the slim European bumpers instead. With only 7,380 6.9s produced worldwide these cars are rarities indeed, yet prices are down even from just a few years ago so the time to buy is now. I only expect that they will head up from here. The seller indicated to me in direct communication that the body is rust free with the exception of some very minor and superficial surface corrosion under the trunk mat. In addition, the Citroen-esque hydraulic suspension would seem to be in good order, not sinking without running for weeks at a time.

The chrome wheels and wheel arch covers are aftermarket add-ons to the 6.9, but I have to admit that with the deep black paint I really don’t mind the wheel arches. I would put silver alloys back on it, ideally the 15″ “Bundt” wheels available from the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, USA since OEM-spec tires for the 6.9 are nearly extinct, and the ones you can buy run about $400 per tire. The Parchment leather interior looks to be in remarkably clean condition, which leads me to wonder if it is all original. I am particularly impressed with the clean carpets. I know from past cars I’ve had that such light-colored carpets are nearly impossible to keep clean even for car folks wound as tightly as me about such things.

These cars, costing around the same as a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow at the time, came very well equipped from the factory. This one has air conditioning, power windows, power locks, sunroof, and even front and rear heated seats. The seller reports that everything works, but sometimes things work a little slower than they would in a newer car. Welcome to vintage car ownership! He also indicated that the car may take a little cranking to restart when warm, but that it always runs. Again, in my experience this is somewhat typical of 1970s-vintage Bosch fuel injection. The car apparently comes with a huge stack of records and paperwork dating all the way back to the original window sticker. Always a good thing when buying a collectible car.

And the 6.9’s collectability is really the key question: will these cars substantially increase in value over time? Working for them is the rarity and exclusivity of them new and even now. Working against them are expensive maintenance and repairs and the fact that they share the majority of their interior and exterior with lesser W116 Mercs from the 280S to the “ordinary” 450SEL. I think this car would even get more than what I think this one would sell for if sold on eBay – especially if a seller is willing to sell it internationally. I have sold 2 M-100 cars overseas: a 6.9 to Germany and a 6.3 to Dubai. Perhaps that’s where the market is? Then again, with 417 cubic inches, sub-8 second 0-60 times and a top speed over 140, combined with that silky smooth yet taut-when-you-need-it hydraulic suspension, perhaps the thing to do here is just buy and drive. As M-100 guru Dan Smith puts it: “Garages kill M-100s. Get it out and drive it!” Find several additional 6.9s for sale here.

~Reed

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