1979 Euro-spec Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9: Luxobarge or Landshark?
What’s this? Another big, honking German sedan on TTS? Well, yes. Despite my recent commitment to myself to talk about some more sporting hardware, I somehow naturally tend to gravitate toward big beasts like this cool 1979 Euro-spec Mercedes 450SEL 6.9 for sale on CraigsList in Hopewell Junction, New York for a very reasonable $8,500. We’ve covered 6.9s before and talked about the bargains that they are in the current market, but this one stands out for its low price, good condition, and Euro-spec goodness. I admit, I’m smitten with it.
Here at TTS we love the cars and the options that were either unusual or unavailable on U.S. cars. This car’s got them in spades from the rectangular headlights with wipers to the manual HVAC controls to the petite and far better looking bumpers to the coveted velour upholstery. It also reportedly has only 46,000 miles which, judging by the photos, just may be accurate. But there’s more: the previous owner(s) of this baby also went a little rogue with the bolt-ons in contemporary German youngtimer style with the 3-piece BBS 16″ alloys, chrome wheelarch trims, and the old school plastic sunroof deflector. Anybody remember the ads for those in the back of old Car & Driver and Road & Track magazines? LOVE the look the same way I still enjoy an episode of Magnum or the original Knight Rider once in a while.
I’ve owned three 6.9s over the years, and each one has been a fabulous car to drive. The M100 motor has a reputation for being very expensive to fix – and rightfully so – but I’ve never had to do much to them beyond regular maintenance. While it is a large car, the hydraulic suspension has a remarkable ability to absorb any imperfection that the road can throw at it. They do lean a little in corners, but they will pound the back roads with some of the best big cars out there. With the velour (and apparently additional sheepskin covers) you don’t slide around during spirited driving the way that you do on more commonplace leather seating surfaces.
Another benefit to buying a Euro-spec 6.9 is that they weigh less AND deliver almost 40 additional horsepower over U.S.-spec cars with 286hp and 405 lb-ft of torque, meaning a difference you can really feel. Top speed for one of these is around 150mph, and 0-60 takes about 6.8 seconds. It’s not the fastest thing on today’s roads, but it’s no slouch either. One thing is certain: this is not your dad’s old diesel Benz, and in 1979 it was the fastest production sedan you could buy. Period.
In order to make the big M100 motor – shared in modified form with the Grosser 600 and the earlier 300SEL 6.3 – fit in the W116 body, Mercedes went with a dry-sump lubrication system, which explains the oil tank mounted on the passenger side of the engine compartment. A peek in the engine compartment on this car reveals that the hydraulic suspension components are still present and appear to still be connected. Coupled with the car’s present stance that would suggest that the suspension is operational and hasn’t been hacked with conventional springs and shocks which really do a disservice to the 6.9 driving experience. The Euro-spec cars offer another benefit in this department as well: the ability to raise and lower the car from the driver’s seat. Somewhat common on luxury cars today, that was a feature exclusive to a highly exclusive few in the 1970s.
These cars are rare: Mercedes only officially imported 1,816 6.9s to the U.S. out of a relatively small worldwide production of 7,380 from 1975 through 1980, but they still haven’t achieved the collector status of the 300SEL 6.3, Maserati Quattroporte, or even the later first generation BMW M5. Part of that is due to the fact that to the untrained eye, they look just like every other W116. The styling is still just modern enough to appear to many to be just old, but not classic. However, the TTS theory on the 6.9s is that they have bottomed, and just like the 6.3s did a handful of years ago they will start ticking upwards in value and will earn their place as proper collectible cars from a period where there are few to choose from. This train is definitely boarding, and it won’t be long before it leaves the station.
Love it! Fly in, drive it home…
When I took the Bondurant Driving School around 1980, on the first day, Bob B showed up in a Mercedes 450 SEL 6.9 in a nice dark green.